Digital Libraries: Philosophies, Technical Design Considerations and Example Scenarios

Gobinda G. Chowdhury (Nanyang Technological University)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 1 August 2000




Chowdhury, G.G. (2000), "Digital Libraries: Philosophies, Technical Design Considerations and Example Scenarios", Online Information Review, Vol. 24 No. 4, pp. 329-344.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Beginning with a brief introduction by the editor, this book provides ten chapters by as many authors. The papers have been arranged under three broad headings: Philosophies (four papers), Technical design considerations (four papers) and Example scenarios (two papers). The articles cover: organization of digital libraries; collection assessment; end‐user assessment; search and navigation techniques; network infrastructure considerations; XML and related metadata issues; interface design considerations; object‐oriented interface design; GIS; and patent information systems.

The first chapter, on digital library organization, by Michael Lesk, discusses various issues related to the organization and management of digital libraries – staffing, budgeting, structure, collection building, evaluation, technology changes, as well as legal, economic and social issues. The second chapter, by Daniel Jones, discusses various issues related to collection development in digital libraries, such as the new media options, changing responsibilities of the staff, licensing and user authentication issues, compatibility, and user training and evaluation. The third contribution, by Barbara Buttenfield, explores the traditional usability evaluation methods for the digital libraries. It suggests a reliable method for evaluation and presents a case study of evaluation from the Alexandria Digital Library Project. The fourth chapter, by David Stern, discusses various issues related to searching and navigation in digital libraries. Stern addresses various issues ranging from Boolean searching to citation analysis, natural language, thesauri, customized interfaces, hyperlinks, metadata and relevance ranking.

The next set of four papers includes more technical analyses of the digital library infrastructure. The contribution by Robert Ferrer addresses issues related to the federated network of resources and talks about various technical issues such as client‐server, middleware, communication protocols, DBMS and SGML. Daniel Chudnov’s article discusses the integration of information storage, retrieval and delivery systems made possible by XML and RDF standards. Steve Mitchell’s article discusses interface design considerations, including the present interface design principles and trends, database structures and taxonomies, and future enhancement possibilities. The fourth paper in this group is by Eric Johnson and describes the IODyne system, illustrating object‐oriented user interface design. The first of the two example scenarios is by Patrick McGlamery and describes the development of a GIS mapping clearinghouse. The second, by Timothy Wherry, describes the digital libraries available in the area of patents.

The topic of digital libraries, a rapidly growing area of study and research, has not yet generated many good books, and this work is a strong addition to the small collection in this field. Although the book covers many areas of digital libraries, there are still many aspects that have not been covered; therefore, it does not meet the need for a comprehensive text in the area. The editor himself has identified certain issues that “call out for future analyses, but which time and space did not permit”, such as search engine comparisons, pricing models, data packaging, integrated media, educational technology, post‐search software packages, and new paradigms of information storage and retrieval and research techniques.

There are other points that detract from the quality of the book. For example, the book begins with “About the Editor”, but the person named is Arleen Somerville rather than David Stern. Some articles are more descriptive than analytical; for example, Stern charts the development of online searching through several generations but does not say much about information retrieval features of current digital libraries. The style of references varies from one article to another, and three articles do not have any references at all. Some figures and tables do not have any captions, while the captions for some figures are too long, often as long as a paragraph. Nevertheless, this collection contains a considerable amount of useful information presented in lucid language with appropriate illustrations, and as a lecturer and researcher in digital libraries, I would certainly recommend the book to my students and colleagues.

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