Academic journal article Cartography & Geographic Information Systems

Towards a California Geospatial Digital Library: A Strategy for Networked Knowledge

Academic journal article Cartography & Geographic Information Systems

Towards a California Geospatial Digital Library: A Strategy for Networked Knowledge

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: In this paper, digital libraries, a new form of networked organization, are examined. Suitable organizational frameworks are necessary to develop and sustain digital library initiatives and to use them most effectively. This paper assumes that today's information network, in the broadest sense, will form the environment for tomorrow's organization. The technological and institutional factors driving and supporting the development of digital libraries are explored. The benefits of digital libraries are listed as are institutional impediments to their implementation and technical and organizational challenges to their operation. The core management needs of a digital library are discussed. Experience is drawn from the proposed California Digital Library and the emerging Alexandria Digital Library.

KEYWORDS: Digital library, GIS, spatial data, network organizations, inter-organizational networks, California Digital Library


This paper is intended to promote a better understanding of how emerging Internet technologies, together with the changes in the nature and methods of scientific inquiry being caused by these technologies, will shape the evolution of digital libraries as sustainable institutions. Its central premise is that today's network will provide an environment for tomorrow's digital library. The purpose of a digital library is to broker and exchange specialized digital information products and services through a networked information environment. In the case of spatial information, digital libraries formalize their linkages to information and expertise from a global network of specialist data centers, clearinghouses, and data archives. The standard university library or government data center may no longer be enough to meet the information and process requirements of the education community. Nor can the models that the university library and government data center represent completely describe digital libraries.

Digital libraries are flexible institutional frameworks that can adapt to the driving forces of technological change and enhance and encourage networked scientific processes, organizational restructuring, and inter-organizational cooperation--things which conventional libraries and data centers cannot do. However, to create this flexible, networked environment and operate it successfully, it may be necessary to transform existing organizations or to create entirely new ones. To meet the information needs of the geographic information science and technology community, we suggest the development of a non-profit enterprise charged to provide central coordination to decentralized collections of spatial data. This new extended enterprise will have a core competency that is complemented by the distributed resources and competencies of networked suppliers, intermediaries, and partners, thereby forming a geospatial digital library. Incentives and impediments to the development of this enterprise within academic and public institutions are identified in this paper, and the importance and impact of for-profit activities are also noted.

Distributed Knowledge and Organization

Traditional hardcopy and electronic information providers are being challenged to find effective means of handling the growing flow of scientific information. It is increasingly evident that the technology, expertise, and resources necessary to support the growing base of users is expanding beyond the capacity of any one individual, group, or institution. Comprehensive collections of distributed digital assets will be needed to support scientific, education, government, and commercial sector endeavors. These collections must be as complete as possible in terms of geographical extent, feature coverages, and attributes. In response, organizations must cooperate in order to advance science. This means leveraging network resources and distributed competencies to form a seamless information infrastructure that supports scientific and educational undertakings. …

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