According to a report published by the National Center for Education Statistics, 97 percent of all teachers use computers in the classroom. Digital libraries are changing the way educators deliver content, and these changes are making information easier for students to access. Student digital library sentiment tends to parallel user Internet experience.
In response to the digitization trend, libraries and institutions are changing the way they view and manage content. Additionally, librarians are also providing educational services along with their traditional repository maintenance and guidance roles. As with any sweeping change, the transition from analog to digital is challenging, and some – but not all – literary supporters fear a fully digital future. Whether that will happen or not is yet to be determined, but digital achieving is certainly providing a new dynamic to the industry as a whole.
Same Information, Different Place
A digital library hosts the literature commonly found in physical libraries in electronic form. Modern digital libraries use the Internet to deliver content; however, digital libraries have evolved from compact disc (CD) storage. CD technology is now outdated as broadband Internet connectivity can transfer data at speeds equal to disc transfer. Additionally, digital content does not have the space limitations imposed by CD’s.
Digital content may exist in PDF form or restricted, licensed digital form that borrowers must check out just like hard copy materials. The one feature the digital library retains from its analog counterpart is that all materials are vetted and organized.
Digital Libraries Offer Versatility
Learners access digital libraries in several ways. Many libraries already use the Internet to host their card catalogs online while still keeping it within the library’s site or database. Using this method, learners can access the catalog from other locations in addition to available digital content. A great example of this is Google Book Search. The service is a boon to researchers because it maintains texts that have gone out of print. Mobile Computing is another platform readers use to access digital libraries. This tool lets users access content whenever and where ever there is data access.
Out with the Old, in with the New
Digital libraries have advantages over hardcopy literary facilities. Digital organization allows for easier access to materials, and learners can locate books by clicking links rather than combing through the stacks looking for a Dewy Decimal System number. The Dewy Decimal System still has utility as an identifier; however, borrowers are no longer hindered by lost books others have replaced in the wrong location. Another advantage students have with digital libraries is easier access to valuable materials. With digital copies, security and shelf life are no longer concerns but organizations need to be sure that they take the necessary steps for proper storage, as well as securing and backing-up files.
Keeping up with Change
The digital library rise does not necessarily mean friendly neighborhood librarians are a fading breed. Forward-thinking librarians, such as those from the Vancouver Public School District, are banding together to learn their way around the digital domain. The tech-savvy bibliophiles are redefining the modern librarian role. Librarian consortiums are pushing universities to include digital proficiency in librarian curricula to keep their profession relevant. For veteran librarians, the groups are promoting digital literary certification. For these new age knowledge guardians, it is important to retain a personal teaching connection in a detached digital world.
The New Librarian
Today, librarians are emerging as teachers in addition to their roles as content providers. These new responsibilities make some contemporary librarians feel more connected to the electronically influenced generation, and with the new information wealth brought forth by Internet connectivity, the job of relating real world information to young minds is simplified.
All Is Not Roses on the Digital Frontier
In a piece written by Professor Henry Boateng from the University of Ghana, the professor cites that one major drawback to the digital library is the cost and effort required to transition from a traditional library environment. Not only do institutions have to bear new hardware and software costs, they also have to train staff members with the new technology.
Transitioning staff members to the digital library presents another quandary. Institutions have to overcome personal fears, objections and motivations to move away from the status quo. Establishing a digital library is a challenge; however, it is also a requirement to remain relevant in today’s learning environment.
Knowledge in the Sky
Cloud based digital hosting is bringing affordable, manageable digital hosting to libraries operating on smaller budgets. Maintaining a server system is expensive. Institutions that self-manage these data storehouses have to consider hardware costs, storage expansions, in-house technical support staffing, utility costs, natural disasters, system redundancies and myriad other concerns that involve hosting a server farm. Cloud computing alleviates these concerns and mitigates digital footprint impact. The service allows institutions to make changes on the fly as service demands and the learning environment changes. One problem cloud computing does not solve is the need for extensive bandwidth. Library technical directors still have to make sure their digital library is fast enough to provide utility for its users.
Computers are beginning to dominate the modern learning environment. As a result, the way students acquire knowledge is changing as well. With technological advancement, learners can find and absorb more information faster. Students are adopting digital library use at the same rate as their familiarity with the Internet. Independent and school libraries are responding to this trend by embracing the digital domain and so are librarian profession advocates. The transition from analog to digital is not without difficulty and naysayers; however, as society evolves those that hold on to the old ways will not stop the digital evolution.
Information means more than knowledge, it means solutions. When technology, people and information intersect, society and industry benefit. You can harness the power of information with our online Master of Information from Rutgers School of Communication and Information.