Digital Libraries and Education
What are digital libraries?
Digital libraries are composed of books and publications in a digital format. Every piece is stored as an electronic file that can be accessed over computers. Digital libraries are thus much more compact and easier to navigate than their brick and mortar counterparts. One of the most well known examples of a digital library is Project Gutenberg which includes copies of many of the most renowned classic texts of the English language. Google Book Search is also effectively a digital library since it allows us to access many contemporary books in a digital form. The trend toward digital libraries and education has been driven primarily by cost considerations. It is much cheaper to store and distribute educational content in digital form then as hard copies. The digital systems also facilitate easy search and copying of relevant material. Digital libraries can thus save a lot of time for academics who are looking to research questions by surveying large quantities of material. Digital libraries do not need to be staffed by help desks and librarians and this brings added cost savings. The accessibility of such databases all over the world means digital libraries can reduce the educational divide by making such resources more universally accessible.
What is the curriculum on digital libraries?
The National Science foundation sponsored the development of a unified curriculum on digital library education. This curriculum specifies how to identify and tag texts in a digital format. It also outlines best practices in digital formats, developing redundancy within electronic systems and designing interfaces to be user friendly. It is this very curriculum that is offered as a course titled digital libraries and education. Students enrolled in this course learn about the intricacies of setting up and managing a digital library.
Career options after studying digital libraries and education
There is growing demand for professionals trained in the science of digital libraries. Technology giants like Amazon and Google have a strong focus on compiling and distributing digital content to consumers. As more content goes online, there is greater demand for people who understand how to categorize books, journals and periodicals in an electronic format. Employers are looking for people with the right mix of technical skills to set up the system and understanding of consumer behavior to make the interfaces as user-friendly as possible.
Challenges of digital libraries
That is not to say that digital libraries are not without their problems. At this point, the systems for categorizing and tagging digital books are not standardized. One of the purposes of the curriculum defined by the National Science Foundation was to facilitate this process. But those studying digital libraries are currently trained in the various acceptable formats so are prepared for all possibilities. Many digital libraries have also encountered regulatory and legal concerns. Google has been targeted by book publishers for digitizing content that is copyrighted. There is no clear legislation on these matters and those who study digital libraries and education are thus prepared for the ambiguities that may arise over these issues.