Traditionally librarian is known as a person located in the library building carrying out the tasks like acquiring, organizing, preserving the printed documents besides helping the readers in locating the information needed by them. In the last decades of the twentieth century this picture has rapidly changed under the influence of advances in computer and communication fields. The paper collections have given place to networked, computer resident, user searchable collections like bibliographic databases, Online Public Access Catalogues (OPAC) obliterating the need for the user to visit the library building. With the digitization of ever increasing number of collections and advances made in computer/communication hardware and software seamless access to digitized information located in geographically diverse locations has become a reality. The walls of library are thus pulled down and a "Virtual Library" in Cyber Space came into being. The Virtual Library brought in its wake new flavors in the form of digitizing not only printed material but also pictures, maps, scenarios, paintings and sounds and presenting them all in a lively show in a theatre like environment. Where do librarians stand in this scenario and where their profession is headed is the nagging question faced by one and all in the profession. This article tries to focus on the impact of Internet and World Wide Web on the traditional library profession and on the opportunities and options open to the librarians.
Traditionally librarians have been information providers for centuries. They now have the opportunity to use modern tools to provide quicker, more complete, and more sophisticated service to the users. Databases and reference sources can be queried via the Internet and World Wide Web; remote library catalogs are available on desktops; newsgroups and mailing lists provide a wonderful opportunity to discuss mutual concerns quickly and electronic mail allows librarians to find out and contact those who might be able to help in solving the problems. Perhaps no innovation has impacted the library profession to such a great extent as the Internet, World Wide Web and networked resources. The interconnection of world through the use of Internet and Web has changed the fundamental roles, paradigms and culture of libraries and librarians once for all.
The base of recorded information is growing at an accelerating rate in increasing variety of formats such as texts, numeric, graphic, video, audio, images, etc. In addition, increasing arrays of computing and telecommunication technologies are emerging to create new options and opportunities for the development of information capture, storage, retrieval and delivery. The seamless access of information available anywhere on the globe has brought people so close that the phrase "Global Village" is coined to describe the scenario.
In the prevailing situation the librarian is called upon to assume new roles and perform tasks like guiding, facilitating, sifting information resources and preserving the access to the information. The collaboration with computer and information technology scientists in the design and maintenance of information access systems for the effective use of Internet and Web in the interest of information seekers has become imperative.
Limitless Scope of Internet and World Wide Web
Internet, network of networks, connects several computers and resources around the world using the language called TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol). During the early years of Internet use, the access was mainly for basic database searching in large systems such as Online Computer Library Centre (OCLC), Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN), Bibliographic Retrieval System (BRS), and DIALOG. With the growth of the Internet and the addition of more diverse electronic resources, the capacity for searching the Internet also increased. Since 1993, the Internet has experienced unprecedented growth in terms of networks, host computers and users. Prior to the Internet dissemination of information was limited to the delivery of formal print publications. In contrast, nowadays a person is able to create a Web page or send an e-mail message for disseminating information. Furthermore, people are able to use e-mail or teleconferencing to exchange information with others in real-time collaborative sessions.
World Wide Web (WWW) or Web is the practical and existing real world application of the age-old dreams of a universal information database--information that would not only be accessible to people around the world, but information that would link to other pieces of information so that only the most useful information would be quickly found by a user. World Wide Web, developed by Tim Berners-Lee of European Particle Physics Laboratory (CERN), can be defined as a "distributed heterogeneous collaborative multimedia information system". The most fundamental and powerful features of the Web are its:
* Support to distribute information in a number of different sites all over the Internet;
* Capacity to incorporate all types of media objects (video, sound, images, text, etc.) into a single document;
* Utilization of hypertext or hypermedia-oriented architecture in which a document has embedded links to other documents, which can exist locally or anywhere in the world;
* Ability to span the depths of heterogeneous client/server platforms. One can view from any client platform (DOS, UNIX, etc.) a data object stored on virtually any server platform that supports almost all protocol types i.e. E-Mail (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol), Telnet (Telnet Protocol), FTP (File Transfer Protocol), USENET (Network News Transfer Protocol), Gopher (Gopher Protocol) and Web pages (HyperText Transfer Protocol);
* Ability to support construction of information resources all over the Internet;
* Revolutionizing the way people access information, and opening new possibilities in areas such as digital libraries, virtual libraries, scientific information retrieval and dissemination, education, commerce, entertainment, government and health care.
Many libraries are in transit from the traditional towards the digital library. Not only recent publications, but also many historical library holdings are being digitized. These digital collections allow users from anywhere at any time to consult the material without doing any harm to the fragile documents.
Despite numerous digitization projects, electronic media is still not as dominant as print media. There are still a lot of printed pages in our libraries, and we expect this to be the case for a long time to come. The paper-based library will coexist with the digital library for the foreseeable future, because electronic publications are not developing at the expense of print media, but in addition to them (Grothkopf, 1997). Also physical convenience and emotional attachment of people to printed books are factors that ensure their survival.
The tools used by the librarians in their daily work have changed vastly during recent years. In addition to traditional card catalogs and microfiche readers, most libraries now offer an …