[UKOLN] Follett Lecture Series

Organised by UKOLN on behalf of JISC

Synopsis: 19 June 1995

Why Digital Libraries?

Michael Lesk, Bellcore, USA.

What does technology makes possible; what are different countries doing, and what are the benefits and potential costs of the different approaches? Digital libraries can enable us to access vast quintet of text, sounds and images, but we can see two approaches: libraries following their traditional model of providing free access to enormous quantities of information, albeit hard to find at times; and publishers following their traditional model of trying to see a smaller number of items in larger quantities. Can we manoeuvre to a world in which all kinds of information, from both models, are readily delivered in electronic form? And if so, what will we gain? Can Web pages substitute for laboratory research the way simulation in architecture substitutes for building structural models?

What technology can help people find what they want without forcing them and their information requests into a traditional classification straitjacket? Will we see different approaches in different countries? For example, the US has digital text via a variety of people donating individual texts to Project Gutenberg and similar operations, while the French had a national effort to key the greatest works of French literature. What is the impact of digital libraries: education, business or individual enlightenment? Will they push us towards more or less diversity in what we can read?

Based on experience putting 300,000 pages of chemical journals online, this talk will review the technologies behind the digital library world, and consider their possible impact on society, and thus point to which technologies (better authoring tools, for example) will help move us to desirable social ends (more diversity).

[Biographical Note] : [Full Paper]