The Evolving Virtual Library II: Practical and Philosophical Perspectives

Gobinda G. Chowdhury (Nanyang Technological University)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 1 August 2000




Chowdhury, G.G. (2000), "The Evolving Virtual Library II: Practical and Philosophical Perspectives", Online Information Review, Vol. 24 No. 4, pp. 329-344.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This is actually a second edition of The Evolving Virtual Library: Visions and Case Studies (1996). “Digital library” appears more frequently than “virtual library” throughout the book, and indeed all of the articles in the book deal with digital libraries. The editor, in the first article, suggests that “virtual library” is a synonym of “digital library” or “electronic library”. This is a debatable issue, and analysis of the definitions of these terms indicates some fundamental differences among virtual and digital libraries.

There are ten papers or chapters in this edited collection, their intention being to “address many of the practical and philosophical issues encountered in the process of developing the virtual library”. The first chapter introduces the concept of virtual or digital library and explores the impact of digital information and communications on users and staff of libraries. The second chapter begins with a historical view of library automation in special libraries. This article discusses the basics of intranets and extranets and their impact on special libraries. The third paper describes a digital library called Making of America (MoA) <http://www/>, developed by the University of Michigan, and containing primary sources for nineteenth century American history. The author briefly describes the features of MoA and also narrates the various stages of the development of MoA. Gail McMillan, in the fourth paper, describes the activities of the Scholarly Communications Project (SCP) within the libraries at Virginia Tech. Through SCP the author shows how libraries can use existing resources and evolving technologies to improve services and create digital resources for the user community.

In the fifth contribution, Tore Brattli describes how the University of Tromso in Norway used off‐the‐shelf databases and customised tools to create Internet‐accessible files to organise physical library resources such as the new books and recently received journals. In the sixth paper, Napoli reports on how the St Joseph County Public Library in Indiana became the first public library in the USA to run its own Web server and home page. Joyce Valenza outlines how school libraries are changing in the IT age. She also highlights model home pages that school librarians have created as effective tools for teaching. The eighth chapter describes how digital libraries can play a vital role in distance education. George Machovec, in the ninth paper, provides a general overview of network technologies. In the tenth and last article in this book, Marshall Keys gives a brief overview of certain recent developments in different areas of libraries, and then makes some predictions for the future of libraries.

The book suffers from some basic editorial problems. For example, the reference structures in the articles are not standard, with each author following his or her own style. As far as the content is concerned, the strength of the book is a weakness too. All the papers have been written in a non‐technical style and are directed mostly at librarians. Consequently, readers with technical minds may not find the articles very enlightening. Nevertheless, it is a good addition to the small collection of books on digital libraries.

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