The Digital Library: A Biography

Mark Shelton (Brown University)

Collection Building

ISSN: 0160-4953

Article publication date: 1 June 2004




Shelton, M. (2004), "The Digital Library: A Biography", Collection Building, Vol. 23 No. 2, pp. 103-103.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

One would think that a biography would, by definition, focus on the events in a person's life. In this case, the focus is on the evolution of a number of different digital library projects. The Digital Library: A Biography in reality is a comparison piece that compares how different digital library projects are developed under a variety of different circumstances. The differences in the projects include the age of the project, the focus of the work, the project organization, and the library's relationship to other departments at the institution.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part broadly looks at many of the different issues that affect the development of a digital library project. These issues include project development, funding, organizational and technical integration, competition, marketing and promotion. Different stages of development address these issues in different ways. For example, initial funding to get a project started may be less of a challenge than obtaining long‐term funding after the project is under way. After providing a narrative description of each issue, the book explains how the various institutions addressed the challenge and how the differences in the projects impacted the level of success.

The second half of the book reversed the process by providing case studies of six digital library projects. The case studies include projects at Harvard, Indiana University, New York University, University of Michigan, University of Virginia, and the California Digital Library. An historical narrative of each project's development is provided alongside a university and library profile. For each project, the book looks at the challenges faced and the issues that it had to address within its environment. At times, this part is a reworking of what was provided in the first part of the book. Each project looks at its future and what will be required to keep the project moving forward.

This is a very good book for those interested in the challenges that face a digital library project. By providing a variety of different cases, the reader has the opportunity to see what aspects may apply to his or her own situation. The book is also very good at showing how projects at different institutions may be connected to each other, especially as people move from place to place.

Related articles