NOTHING STAYS THE SAME
Change is a constant feature of contemporary society, and much of it seems to be instigated by the rapid and continuing development and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). This is certainly true as far as the information professions are concerned, as ICTs modify how information is collected, processed, communicated, stored, retrieved and even interpreted, effectively creating different understandings of three of constituent elements of information work : the containers of information (documents); the means by which they can be communicated; and the tools which are used to manage them. One of the more significant recent technological developments is that of digital libraries (DLs), which have provided LIS educators with the opportunity to reconceptualise and retheorise their academic zone as well as assisting in rejuvenating and enhancing professional practice.
What are DLs – and how are they different from traditional libraries or, indeed, ‘digital repositories’, ‘digital curation’ and ‘digital archives’? It is agreed that the term ‘digital library’ remains unclear and contested and still has a variety of potential meanings which range from ‘database’ to ‘a digitised collection of material’ similar to that which one might find in a traditional library. The definition most frequently quoted and used is that developed by the Digital Library Federation (DLF):
Digital libraries are 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 avai...
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...ple are able to find information and use it. The social implications of a world in which information is distributed almost without institutions are not understood. What does this mean for universities, for education, for publishers? (Lesk, 1997, p. 5).
There is little doubt that the general public now have access to a great deal more information (from the internet, in particular) than has ever before been possible – so much so, that many think that information was invented by the internet. Whether people always find what they want, whether the information they find is of the best quality, whether they understand the information they retrieve and what they do with the information once they have located it, are all questions that remain largely unanswered, along with Lesk’s important question which he asked over a decade ago, but which will be considered here.
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