The widespread global use of the open systems like Internet and World Wide Web (WWW) make it possible for us to experience the reality of all types of “virtual libraries” in the cyberspace. Thus, the “Global Digital Library” (GDL) can be a technological reality. While recognizing the importance of many other information infrastructure related problems and issues which are more global in nature, librarians need to be actively participating in working together with other groups in meeting the digital and global challenges. The current seamless GDL prototype has the capability to link many national libraries and some major libraries, archives, museums, and information organizations together.
Technologically, with the advent of microcomputers, optical discs and other mass storage media, telecommunications technology, digital image technology, computer graphic technology, multimedia technologies, compression technology, etc have dramatically changed the way we live, think, and communicate with each other, and certainly the way we use and view technologies. In the last couple of years, the development in communications technology has been so dramatic that we are truly experiencing the incredible power of the open system, Internet. The new technology buzzwords everywhere have been global village, electronic or digital information superhighway, information age, cyberspace, electronic frontier, virtual village, etc… In addition, communications satellites, global trade and investment, and global technology transfer have prompted dramatic social and economical changes as well. These have pushed the national economies into a more integrated world economy. Now, more than ever, as many political barriers are removed, we are able to communicate with each other openly and freely.
Clearly, with the ability for us to talk, write, confer with, or send textual, audio and visual information to anyone else in any part of the world, the landscape for information and for library and information services provision and delivery has changed dramatically. Instead of talking about networking and automation, we are talking about the reality of digital libraries and the delivery of information over cyberspace. Yet, we seem to be still a long way from having this kind of universal library on the open system with access to global information resources which include the collections of the world’s greatest libraries as well as others resources. We still need to pass many hurdles before we can reach this goal.
The current GDL prototype links the homepages of the following types of institutions together in one single global digital library system with a coherent and consistent interface: National Libraries ; National Archives ; Selective Museums of the World ;
Selective International Organizations; Selective Library and Information Networks; Selective Local Digital Libraries
By linking them together in the GDL system, the user community can easily access any site by a simple click of the mouse, without having to search and open the site with the URL address of each location.
Unquestionably, there is an urgent need for global cooperation in “digital” content building and sharing. Being digital with substantive knowledge content will be the key to a successful GDL. This will be a global challenge for librarians at a very tall order! Each library can be a dynamic and aggressive information provider of both its country’s enormously rich information resources, as well as an effective node of global information network which can provide access to all needed global information. Each contributes effectively toward the eventual realization of “The Global Library”, in which national and research libraries in the world can be linked together as nodes of the worldwide information network.
Being at these crossroads, in addition to speculation on the libraries in the next millennium, we must make sure that we can develop in this seemingly exciting networked environment, a vision for our global library’s future, and define its role in facing a new frontier. It is important for us to visualize that not only all types of libraries in our country would be connected to the super-network, but globally all libraries would be part of the network as well.