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D-Lib Magazine
June 2005

Volume 11 Number 6

ISSN 1082-9873

Time to Reflect

In today's supercharged information environment, it's easy to feel like the performer on a variety show who has a bunch of plates spinning on top of poles, trying to add more spinning plates without allowing any of the others to slow down and crash to the floor. In simply meeting the demands of a day's work, all too often there is no time left over for reflection about where that work is leading or, even more important, where it is supposed to lead. It is possible to lose sight of long-term goals when you're busy dealing with more immediate challenges.

I just returned from the ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries 2005 where keynote speakers, panelists and those presenting papers shared not just information about their completed work, but also their visions for the future of digital libraries [1]. Somehow, in the midst of getting their day-to-day work done, they have carved out time to think and reflect, and to move from "We've done that." to "Should this be done?" to "How can we do this?"

Research in digital libraries – like research in any other domain – is of two kinds: evolutionary and revolutionary. We need both, but it is the revolutionary kind that has the potential to move things forward fast and in world-changing ways. It is also the kind that requires time for thinking "outside the box."

We seem to be moving toward what Dr. James Billington, Librarian of Congress, termed a "Digital World Library" [2]. To make this vision a reality, many difficult challenges – such as how to deal with copyright issues, to name just one – will need to be addressed and resolved. It is only by making time to step back, view the big picture, and reflect on new – and possibly even revolutionary – ways to meet these challenges that substantial progress toward this and other worthy goals can be achieved.

Bonita Wilson


[1] A full JCDL 2005 conference report, as well as reports from the associated workshops will appear in an upcoming issue of D-Lib Magazine. The Proceedings of the 5th ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries – Digital Libraries: Cyberinfrastructure for Research and Education, ISBN: 1-58113-876-8, is available from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Order Department, 1-800-342-6626.

[2] Dr. Billington's talk "A View of the Digital World Library" was presented at the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO Annual Conference, June 6, 2005. The talk will be posted on the Library of Congress website in the near future, and D-Lib Magazine will provide a pointer to it when it becomes available online.

Copyright© 2005 Corporation for National Research Initiatives

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