Digital Library

1. Introduction: The IT has almost converted the whole world into a global village.  The revolution in the IT sector is influencing the information industry at its peak and revolutionized the concept of libraries where it has been used extensively to record, store, and disseminate the information in the digital form. Each and every library step by step shifts over to this dimension to meet the demand put on it.

A digital library is nothing but a large database of organized collection of information which are globally available directly or indirectly across a network and eventually act as a portal site providing access to digital collections held elsewhere for the people who are working on hypertext environment.


2. Definition: In 1938 H. G. Wells dreamed of a world encyclopedia in which all-human knowledge would be available elsewhere. Today, Internet in collaboration with digital libraries are moving fast to fulfill the dream of H. G. Wells.

The term Digital Library has a variety of potential meanings, ranging from a digitized collection of material that one might find in a traditional library to the collection of all digital information along with the services that make that information useful to all possible users. In simple, a digital library is a library having all its holding in the digital form or in a form that can be stored, processed by the computer system. It is nothing but a large database for the people who are working on hypertext environment. It is a system of organized collection of multimedia, data that are globally available directly or indirectly across a network.

According to Lesk (1997) “Digital libraries are organized collections of digital information. They combine the structuring and gathering of information, which libraries and archives have always done, with the digital representation that computers have made possible”.

According to Arms, a digital library is a managed collection of information with associated services where the information is stored in digital format and accessible over a network.

The digital library federation in the USA defines the digital library as organizations that provide the resources, including the specialized staff, to select, structure, offer intellectual access to, interpret, distribute, preserve the integrity of, and ensure the persistence over time of collections of digital works so that they are readily and economically available for use by a defined community or set of communities.

A digital library is a library in which a significant proportion of the resources are available in machine-readable format (as opposed to print or microform), accessible by means of computers. The digital content may be locally held or accessed remotely via computer networks. It comprises digital collections, services and infrastructure to support lifelong learning, research, scholarly communication and preservation. It is an environment which supports full life cycle of creation, storage, preservation, dissemination and use of data, and information. It is a process of democratization of information.


3. Characteristic: A digital library is an organized collection of digitized material or its holding in the digital form which can be accessible by a computer on the network by using TCP/IP or other protocol. The main characteristics of digital libraries are as follows

a) Functions are Carried Out by Using Digital Technology: The function of acquisition, storage, preservation, retrieval is carried out through the use of digital technology.

b) Holds Digital Collection: Organized collection of information objects may be a digital text, image, audio or video.

c) Holds Diverse Resources: The collection of online thesis or online dissertations may not be called as a digital library as they hold only one type of material. Again, the institutional repositories may not be called as a digital library as all the resources are from a single institute. To be called a digital library it should hold collection of diverse resources.

d) Access is Available Over Network: Access to the entire collection is globally available directly or indirectly across network.


4. Need for a Digital Library: Digital libraries are needed to provide quality based service at the user desktop. Some need and purpose of digital libraries are as follows-

a) To Satisfy Present Generation Need: The new generation user becomes only happy when they will be able to read from the computer screen. The new generation whose demand for information is never met demands that traditional libraries should be developed as a well equipped and interconnected digital library.

b) To Deal with Information Explosion: Digital library is expected to be able to handle the problem of information explosion somehow. It will be able to handle and manage large amount of digital content by simply providing link, without actually procuring the document.

c) To Overcome the Searching Problem in Traditional Libraries: By using digital library one will be able to retrieve information specifically for e.g. a particular image, photo, a definition, etc.

d) To Provide Services beyond Boundaries: Time is a major factor for each modern user of the library which is otherwise spent in coming and going to the library, but digitization will facilitate learning from home, office or other places which are convenient to the users.

e) To Provide Services round the Cloak: The digital library can be made open round the clock so that the library user can access the information they need at the moment itself.

f) To Overcome Limited Buying Power of Libraries: The collection of every library is limited to only a fraction of the total. Introduction of digital library will help to enhance the collection considerably by acquiring the open access publications.

g) To Overcome Storage Problem in Traditional Libraries: Libraries are spending much of its budget by way of maintaining the collection in a usable form that also demands a huge physical space. Digitization hopes to overcome this as digital Medias come with a huge storage capacity.

h) To Cut the Budget in Running the Library: The cost of technologies is much more less than that of traditional libraries and it made it possible for the libraries to manage digital collection at a much cheaper rate than that of managing the traditional collection.

i) To Provide Multiple Accesses to the Same Information: In case of digital libraries by using hypertext it is possible to structure and organize the same digital information in a variety of ways which serve multiple functions.

j) To Provide Access to Online Publication: As more and more information are published over internet, digital library needs to procure and provide link to the online publication and other important sources of information.

k) To Save the Environment: The use of digital libraries is one of the cleanest technologies to fulfill the slogan “Burn a CD-ROM save a tree”.

l) To Make People Easy to Understand: The visual or graphical information system of digital libraries is more popular as compared to text based information system of traditional libraries.

5. Requirement for Digital Libraries: The internet and World Wide Web provide the impetus and technological environment for the development and operation of a digital library. The internet provides the TCP/IP and or its associated protocol for accessing the information and web provides tools and technique for publishing the information over internet. Still, for introducing any digital libraries, the following infrastructure will be needed:-

a) Electricity: Electricity, Inverter, U.P.S., etc.

b) Computer Hardware: Server, P.C. with multimedia, etc.

c) Computer Software: Any suitable software from EPrints, Greenstone Digital Library Software (GSDL), DSpace, etc. or other suitable platform.

d) Network: LAN, MAN, WAN, etc.

e) Scanner: Overhead scanner, H.P. Scan jet, flatbed, Sheet feeder, Drum scanner, Slide scanner, Microfilming scanner, Digital camera, Barcode scanner etc

f) Printer: Laser printer, Dot matrix, Barcode printer, Digital graphic printer, etc.

g) Storage Devices: Optical storage device, CD-ROM, juke box, etc.

h) Other Audio Visual Aid: Color T.V., V.C.R., D.V.D., Sound box, Telephone, etc.

i) Humanware: Well trained manpower for online help, to manage the collection, etc.

      The use of search engines, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and metadata will allow digital library to operate.


6. Resources of a Digital Library: The resources of a digital library are those, which the computer can store, organize, transmit and display without any intervening conversion process. The resources of a digital library mainly consist of e-book, v-book, electronic tax, map, image, sound, and video. The digital material may be of multimedia types or any other i.e. only digital audio, video, full text information, photograph, drawing, digitized sound, 3D representation, etc. The collection may include structured / unstructured text, scanned images, graphic audios, video recording, etc. In the digital environment anyone who has access to the internet can be a publisher by merely posting messages to an online discussion group or other. So, digital library’s collection should also be enhanced with links to such resources. The resources of a digital library can be grouped into the following categories

a) Online Resources: The online resources may be free resources available over the web or the subscribed resources by the library.

i) Subscribed Resources: The subscribed bibliographic and full text database, E-Journal, E-Books, etc.

ii) Free Resources: Electronic resources accessible on the web for free are undeniably major and important constituent of a digital library. To build a digital library all these resources need to go through the process of selection, acquisition (by way of linking) and management. The information contents of a digital library, depending on the media type, may include a combination of structured / unstructured text, numerical data, scanned images, graphics, audio and video recordings. Different types of resources need to be handled differently in digital library environment. Local database of traditional books in machine-readable form, E-book, v-book, electronic tax, map, image, sound, video, and multimedia, E-journal, etc. can also be liked from the digital library.

b) Off line Resources: The offline resources can be of the following types:

i) Born Digital: The Library may have a section devoted to accessing the growing collection of computer readable materials, C.D-ROM, Juke Box, etc.

ii) Make Digital: A twenty first century library at least should digitize the portion of the collection whose copyright expired and make available to the user.

7. Examples of Digital Libraries: Most of the libraries started providing OPAC terminals to the user to access the bibliographic records of the library holdings. Internet browsing and searching, E-Mail, Chat, Video Conferencing facilities are also provided under the broader term of Internet Section in the library. Along with the access to the internet, it also provides access to the subscribed databases. The downloaded articles from the subscribe databases can be printed upon request. Back issues of selected journals and newspapers are also available in some library as digital or microfilm copies, with readers and printers provided for access. Some libraries already more or less switched over to digital mode i.e. they are making the digitized images of printed books, periodical which are not available in electronic format and there after no new procurement are being made on print media. Some of the digital library initiatives in India and abroad are mentioned below-

a) Project Gutenberg ( Project Gutenberg is a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works, to encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks. It was founded in 1971 by Michael S. Hart and is the oldest digital library. As on 30th January, 2017, Project Gutenberg offers over 53,000 free ebooks collected from free epub books and free kindle books. The ebooks are downloadable or can be read online.

b) Word Digital Library ( The World Digital Library (WDL) is a project of the U.S. Library of Congress, carried out with the support of the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO), and in cooperation with libraries, archives, museums, educational institutions, and international organizations from around the world. The WDL makes available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from all countries and cultures. The project brings together on single website rare and unique documents – books, journals, manuscripts, maps, prints and photographs, films, and sound recordings – that tell the story of the world’s cultures. The site is intended for general users, students, teachers, and scholars.

c) Google Books ( Google Book previously known as Google Book Search and Google Print is a service from Google Inc. that searches the full text of books and magazines that Google has scanned, converted to text using optical character recognition, and stored in its digital database. Books are provided either by publishers and authors, through the Google Books Partner Program, or by Google's library partners, through the Library Project.

d) Ancient World Digital Library ( AWDL is an initiative of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University. AWDL identify, collect, curate, and provide access to the broadest possible range of scholarly materials relevant to the study of the ancient world.

e) Universal Digital Library (  Universal Digital Library also known as the Million Book Project, was a book digitization project, led by Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science and University Libraries. Working with government and research partners in India (Digital Library of India) and China, the project scanned books in many languages, using OCR to enable full text searching, and providing free-to-read access to the books on the web.

f) Digital Library of India ( Digital Library of India, part of the online services of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and partner in the Million Book Project, provides free access to many books in English and Indian languages. The scanning of Indian language books has created an opportunity for developing Indian language Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. The publications are mainly in PDF or QuickTime format.

g) National Digital Library ( Ministry of Human Resource Development under its National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology has initiated the National Digital Library (NDL) pilot project to develop a framework of virtual repository of learning resources with a single-window search facility. Filtered and federated searching is employed to facilitate focused searching so that learners can find out the right resource with least effort and in minimum time. NDL is designed to hold content of any language and provides interface support for leading vernacular languages (currently Hindi and Bengali). It is being developed at IIT Kharagpur.


8. Advantages of the Digital Library: A digital library is not confined to a particular location or so called building, it is virtually distributed all over the world. The user can get his/ her information on his own computer screen by using the internet. Actually it is a network of multimedia system which provides finger tip access. The spoken words or the graphical display of a digital library is again having a different impact from the words that are printed. In the new environment owning a document will not be problem for the library because the library can provide a link to it and the the user will pay for its uses if required.

a) No Physical Boundary: The user of a digital library need not to go to the library physically; people from all over the world could gain access to the same information, as long as an Internet connection is available.

b) Round the Clock Availability: Digital libraries can be accessed at any time, 24 hours a day and 365 days of the year.

c) Provide Multiple Accesses: The same resources can be used at the same time by a number of users.

d) Provide Structured Approach:  Digital library provides access to much richer content in a more structured manner i.e. we can easily move from the catalogue to the particular book then to a particular chapter and so on.

e) Post Coordinate based Information Retrieval: The user will be able to use any search term belonging to the word or phrase of the entire collection. Again, digital library will provide very user friendly interfaces, giving clickable access to its resources.

f) Protection against Damage: An exact copy of the original can be made any number of times without any degradation in quality.

g) Save Space: Whereas traditional libraries are limited by storage space, digital libraries have the potential to store much more information, simply because digital information requires very little physical space to contain them. When the library had no space for extension then digitization is the only solution.

h) Help in Networking: A particular digital library can provide the link to any other resources of other digital library very easily. Thus a seamlessly integrated resource sharing can be achieved.

i) Save Cost: The cost of maintaining a digital library is much lower than that of a traditional library. A traditional library must spend large sums of money paying for staff, book maintenance, rent, and additional books, digital libraries do away with these fees.


9. Disadvantages of the Digital Library: The following are the disadvantages of digital library-

a) Violate Copyright Laws:  Digitization of copyrighted materials without permission violates the existing copyright law.

b) Exposing to the Plagiarism:  In the digital environment the thought content of one author can be freely transferred by others without his / her acknowledgement.

c) Slow Speed of Access: As more and more computer is connected to the internet its speed of access is reasonably decreasing. If new technology will not evolve to solve the problem then in near future internet will be full of error messages.

d) Initial Cost is High: The infrastructure cost of digital library i.e. the cost of hardware, software, leasing communication circuit is generally very high.

e) Decreasing Bandwidth: Digital library will need high bandwidth for transfer of multimedia resources but the band width is decreasing day by day.

f) Focus on More Retrieval than the Accuracy: With the much larger volume of digital information, finding the right material for a specific task becomes increasingly difficult.

g) User of Print Information are Still There: Digital libraries cannot reproduce the environment of a traditional library. Many people also find reading printed material to be easier than reading material on a computer screen.

h) Quick Degrading Properties of Digital Information:  Due to technological developments, a digital library can rapidly become out-of-date and its data may become inaccessible. The different display standard of digital product and its associated problem are another dimension.

i) Health Hazard Nature of Digital Library: The health hazard nature of the radiation from monitor is another problem of the digital libraries.


10. Role of Librarian in Digital Environment: Though the digital environment is built as a system which can be used by its ultimate end user directly from their desktop, laptop, hand held devices but the role of librarian cannot be overlooked. In the digital environment, the librarian will be more or less a hypertext engineer. In digital environment also the librarian and information scientist will be needed for

a) Packaging and Repackaging of Information: In the new environment a whole lot of resources will be available in each field of knowledge. In such an environment, the librarian may help the user in providing pin pointed information by packaging and re-packaging of existing information.

b) Electronic Publishing: The librarian in the digital environment needs to assist the authors in electronic publishing.

c) Reference Purpose: The job of identifying, locating and obtaining document not procured by the library.

d) User Education: To advice the user about the strategy to identify relevant electronic sources, etc.


11. Conclusion: Digital libraries are not going to replace the physical existence of document completely but no doubt to meet the present demand, to satisfy the non local user digitization must be introduced so that at least libraries becomes of hybrid nature. The initial cost of digitization is high but experiment shows that once digitization is introduced then the cost to manage this collection will be cheaper than that of any traditional library. Day by day the cost of digitization is also decreasing, the online publication is increasing, the need of users are shifting towards a different environment so it is needless to say that in future all library will shift over to digital mode, if not fully at least to some extent. So it is the pick time to all library and informational science professional to gear themselves in building digital library and taking it as a challenge.

How to Cite this Article?

APA Citation, 7th Ed.:  Barman, B. (2020). A comprehensive book on Library and Information Science. New Publications.

Chicago 16th Ed.:  Barman, Badan. A Comprehensive Book on Library and Information Science. Guwahati: New Publications, 2020.

MLA Citation 8th Ed:  Barman, Badan. A Comprehensive Book on Library and Information Science. New Publications, 2020.