Volume 6 Number 1
Content and Users
As D-Lib Magazine begins its sixth year of production, David Levy's story, "Digital Libraries and the Problem of Purpose," seems an especially appropriate one to include in this issue. Once in a while, it is a good thing to step back and take a broader view of digital libraries: What has been accomplished? Which challenges demand immediate attention? And where do we hope to go from here? Levy seems to suggest that an examination of purpose may point the way to the answers to these questions.
As Levy describes the history of libraries in the United States, he tells us that the first public libraries were created with the mission "to serve as a new kind of educational institution." One can still hear echoes of that mission statement in the rhetoric about digital libraries today.
In a mid-1998 story for D-Lib Magazine, Stephen Griffin, Program Director: Special Projects Digital Libraries Initiative at the National Science Foundation wrote:
Digital libraries research is essential to enabling more people to better create and use vast amounts of distributed information and to contribute to the quality and quantity available via the web and future access frameworks. But it is often not sufficiently appreciated that it is the content that motivates most people to use the Internet and digital libraries.
A year earlier, D-Lib Magazine interviewed Ben Shneiderman, Director of the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory at the University of Maryland. He said, "...it is important to make the statement: designers of digital libraries must think about people; digital libraries will fail unless the designers understand how to create communities of shared interest."
Content and users, then, are the two fundamentals that drive digital library research. As we reconsider the purpose of digital libraries, we should keep foremost in mind the people who will be using the technological systems we design, and the content to be held within those systems.
Copyright (c) 2000 Corporation for National Research Initiatives
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