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D-Lib Magazine
March 2006

Volume 12 Number 3

ISSN 1082-9873

A Special Issue on Digital Library Evolution

One time each year for the past several years, D-Lib Magazine has collaborated with a guest editor to produce a special issue on a particular theme. This year's special issue is on the topic of digital library evolution, and the guest editor is Dr. Gregory Crane, Tufts University.

The first article in this issue provides an overview on the topic and sets the stage for the five articles that follow it. In the overview article Crane writes:

...the digital library automatically learns as it grows larger: automated systems scan new documents for references...; language models update themselves to provide better contextual clues to disambiguate phenomena such as morphology...the documents can learn from their users, both implicitly (by examining patterns of use to determine important questions and sources of information) and explicitly.

A real world example of this process can be seen in this month's Featured Collection, the Perseus Library at Tufts.

The work being done at Tufts – and at the other organizations whose work is described in this issue of D-Lib – brings to mind an article by D-Lib's former Editor in Chief, William Arms: "Automated Digital Libraries: How Effectively Can Computers Be Used for the Skilled Tasks of Professional Librarianship?". He envisioned a time when, due to the costs involved in building and maintaining large research libraries, those libraries would need to automate many of the tasks traditionally performed by skilled, professional librarians. Dr. Arms wrote:

The term "automated digital library" can be used to describe a digital library where all tasks are carried out automatically. Computer programs substitute for the intellectually demanding tasks that are traditionally carried out by skilled professionals. These tasks include selection, cataloguing and indexing, seeking for information, reference services, and so on.

As the articles in this issue of D-Lib Magazine illustrate, a great deal of progress has been made toward achieving what Dr. Arms had envisioned in the article he wrote six years ago.

Bonita Wilson


Copyright© 2006 Corporation for National Research Initiatives

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