Module 10: Digital Libraries Retrieval

This week’s assignment is to search and review three articles that describe the “good” and the “bad” of digital libraries as the new frontier for storing and retrieving data.  As the last article does not touch on it as much, I want to stress that no matter what route a library takes in deploying a “digital library,” careful planning regarding how that library’s bibliographic assets are going to be coded needs to be considered.  MARC records are available from vendors like OCLC and can be edited to suit cataloging purposes; the challenge with MARC is that the metadata is housed in a “silo” and partitioned off from the rest of the web where other valuable information might be found.  Dublin Core is also an option.   An exciting concept also under development is the Library of Congress’s BIBFRAME initiative, which leverages linked data concepts and expresses data in RDF “triples” so that information can be purposed and repurposed.  This will help users discover and retrieve library and web data in new ways that improve relevance.

The “Good” – Cottrell, M.  (2013). Paperless Libraries. American Libraries.  Retrieved July 7, 2015 from:

Some libraries have made the move to a completely digital environment and are serving their patrons in ways that are not possible in print or other media. The first article I have chosen offers some real-life examples of libraries that have migrated to digital, and the benefits to their patron populations.  In “Paperless Libraries,” featured in American Libraries magazine (2013), Megan Cottrell describes the bookless facility opened in Bexar County, TX called “Bibliotech,” as well as the all-digital Applied Engineering and Technology Library at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), and the services and benefits that they provide to their respective audiences.

The Bibliotech library leverages the 3M Cloud Library, one of the more prominent eLending solutions libraries can choose to implement for digital services, bringing more than 10,000 titles to patrons for digital downloading.  The physical library itself host workstations, meeting spaces, and a coffee shop, but no books.

The advantages and benefits are many, according to the head librarian.  They include many of those summarized in the material assigned in the Chu textbook this week:

  • Cost savings for materials and physical space: The efficiencies found in these areas enabled the library to deliver a brand new library service to an area where there previously was none
  • Easy customization of library “holdings”: The licensed service allows the library to quickly acquire books based on patron demand
  • Budget predictability
  • Delivery of technology education to a traditionally underserved population area

Similarly, the UTSA facility allowed its library staff to efficiently use its funding to provide information services while providing workspace for students to study and meet.  If a physical library were needed, the library knew it could not serve all of those needs.   Its librarian stated that she felt because the materials were technical in nature for an audience that is naturally tech savvy, that the learning curve was not steep, since many of the materials were already online anyway.

In both instances, the librarians felt that going digital enabled them to maximize the value received from their spend while continuing to provide the information services their patrons need – plus all of the other community services patrons are demanding from their libraries.

The “Not Necessarily Bad,” but Important ConsiderationsBreeding, M. (2012). Coping with complex collections: managing print and digital: the increasing richness and corresponding complexity of library collections are a reality that isn’t likely to abate, nor would we want it to. Computers in Libraries, (7). 23.

This article echoes some of the socio-economic and technical deployment considerations implicated in management of a digital library collection discussed in the Baeza-Yates and Ribeiro-Neto readings this week.

Acquisition Planning:  The author classifies two important considerations in this discussion, specifically budget planning and legal issues.  In addition to procurement of physical materials through standing orders and selective purchases, curators of digital collections must also navigate demand driven acquisitions, where a certain number of “clicks” on a title triggers a “purchase,” bundled ejournal subscription packages, up front charges to open access resources, and other business models.  These purchase choices, together with investigation and curation of truly no cost access materials, as well as maintenance of materials created in house, are essential to ensuring library patrons receive the most, high quality information resource access for the library budget spent.  Additionally, with the addition of digital materials to a library collection, the library must decide on policies and enforcement of ownership versus licensing and philosophies regarding how much of a collection is permanently “owned.”

Patrons’ Openness to Digital Adoption:  The author acknowledges that patrons’ comfort with digital access must be considered as practical constraints inhibit libraries’ abilities to provide access to the same resources in multiple media to serve individual tastes.

Searching Multiple Media for Easier Resource Discovery – ILS Integration:  The author also points out that in sourcing multiple media types from multiple providers that for patrons to easily discover and retrieve relevant resources, a single access point for patron experience of the library’s holdings is needed.  As such, selection of an Integrated Library System that supports connections to disparate digital resources, in addition to the print, through metadata such as MARC records must be considered.  For example, the popular platform OverDrive, used in over 22,000 libraries worldwide, supports access to a myriad of ILS/Library Management Systems.  Depending upon the ILS provider and available APIs, integration can be supported such that not only search and display but also checkouts, holds, etc. can also be performed from within the ILS interface, creating a unified patron view regardless of the resources integrated on the back end.   

Additional Considerations in a Specialized Library:  O’Grady, J. (2015, January 5). 12 Building Blocks Of A Digital Law Library – Law360. Retrieved July 7, 2015, from

In this final article, Jean O’Grady, a popular blogger in the legal information space, discusses the trend for large law firms – traditional users of printed materials in the most traditional types of libraries – to adopt digital libraries.  In this article, O’Grady focuses on digital libraries comprised of electronic versions of print legal reference books vs other types of media, as opposed to the popular legal research databases or other media a legal library might curate for reference purposes.  I found this article interesting, even though it does not touch on search and retrieval, because it demonstrates the stance of a conservative profession towards digital adoption.  In full disclosure, this is also the business I work in professionally at this time.

O’Grady notes that while younger attorneys have a preference for electronic access, print might need to be retained for a certain period of time to serve partners whose preference is print.  It is often though, the reduction of valuable office space, particularly in larger cities where real estate is a premium price that starts a firm on a quest to move to digital, and in these instances even traditional print researchers can be convinced to go digital.  Some libraries, for example, have converted almost entirely to digital, including Kaye Scholer, one of the AmLaw 50 firms.

O’Grady then notes twelve issues that must be considered in moving to digital in a law firm environment.  I will highlight a few of them as relevant to our studies/profession:

  • Licensing: Similar to the copyright/ownership issues raised in the Breeding article above and mentioned in the Baeza-Yates and Riberio-Net readings, O’Grady points out that licensing agreements for eBooks should be carefully reviewed and considered so as to ensure the firm is comfortable with vendor policies.  O’Grady points out newsletter licensing in particular, as assumedly a resetting of expectations regarding  permissible practices may be needed here.
  • Authentication: ID and Password management to ensure attorneys can always access their digital materials when and where they need them is important.  Digital library systems can offer integration with network authentication protocols, but the firm’s IT professionals will need to be involved to ensure compliance and functionality.
  • Return on investment: While implementation of a digital library can require significant technical investment, there are opportunities for cost savings including reduction in filing services, reduction in lost updates, time saved in check-in/check-out/routing, as well as improved analytics for learning what materials are used/unused so as to repurpose spending on less used resources in favor of materials that will be more highly valued.  (Again, in full disclosure, I’ve had librarians tell me that previously the only way they knew whether a book was being used or not was through tricks like cancelling publications and seeing whether anyone noticed, putting pennies on top of the books and seeing whether they’d fallen off, etc.)
  • Skills of a strategic information professional: O’Grady emphasizes that only a true information professional with legal research/practice skills as well as library/information management experience can truly assess how a digital library might integrate into a firm’s workflow and improve its attorneys’ ability to search and retrieve the research resources needed to support their practices, and work with the right technical sources within the firm to deliver those resources to the firm via desktop/mobile access.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s