Definition of digital libraries

Digital libraries are also referred to as electronic libraries, virtual libraries, systems, libraries without walls or hybrid libraries. In general, the phrase "digital libraries" is not well defined in the literature and there is a lack of consensus of what constitutes a digital library.

There are a number of definitions of Digital Libraries available on the Internet and in the literature.

Digital Library Federation offered the following definition in 1998:
"Digital libraries are organizations that provide the resources, including the specialized staff, to select, structure, offer intellectual access to, interpret, distribute, preserve the integrity of, and ensure the persistence over time of collections of digital works so that they are readily and economically available for use by a defined community or set of communities" (DLF, 1998).

Sun Microsystems (2002) defines a digital library as:"the electronic extension of functions users typically perform and the resources they access in a traditional library".

McLean and Lynch (2004, p. 5) consider digital libraries as one of the components of the broader and so called "information environment" which also includes "records management, publishing, and scientific and scholarly data management".

Christine Borgman defined in her presentation at the LIDA conference "Libraries in the Digital Age", (Dubrovnik, 30 May 2005) digital libraries as follows:

  • Systems that support searching, use, creation of content
  • Institutions with people, digital collections, and services
  • Repositories of digital data and documents, as a component of cyber-infrastructure, e-research, e-science, e-social science, e-learning... (Institutional repositories, open archives, data collections (Borgman, 2005)

Sharifabadi (2006, p. 392) presents what could be regarded as a visionary approach, by explaining that "in the e-learning environment, digital libraries are considered as a federation of library services and collections that function together to create a digital learning community"

iDevice icon Reflection
Please analyze these definitions provided above: what are the similarities/differences between the definitions provided?

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Sirje Virkus, Tallinn University, 2010