VALA2000 Plenary 3 McMillan

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The Digital Library: Without a Soul Can It Be a Library?

VALA 2000 PLENARY 3: Gail McMillan
Thursday 17 February 2000, 09:00 – 10:15

Gail McMillan

Director, Digital Library and Archives University Libraries
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (USA)

VALA Keynote speaker

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For many people “digital libraries” mean information on the Internet that is available to them either directly or indirectly through search engines, indexes or library catalogs. While digital libraries imply abundance, they do not necessarily connote the broad range of services or quality resources that libraries provide. Digital libraries are perceived as being solely mechanical or electronic, providing only online resources and lacking people serving people. If the digital library is actually to be a library and not a soulless, heartless construct, then it needs to evolve beyond mere storage and access to digitized information.

A library is a fusion of resources in a variety of forms, including services and people supporting the entire life cycle of information beginning with creation, to dissemination and use, through to preservation. A digital library works best when it is an integral part of a library that provides its users with access to information that has been evaluated, organized, and preserved in the most useful formats. Digital libraries and traditional libraries share common goals and should interact as if they shared a common soul. If they do, the [digital] library will accomplish more than it could separately and serve its users on the highest order.