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Libraries in Net Environment

Libraries in the Net Environment

(Pramod Kumar Singh)

A new era in library automation has begun. It is marked by rapidly increasing computer power, mass storage capability and instant global communications. These events had caused an evolution in the concept of library automation. It began with the mere automation of manual processes, but has now went beyond this "manual mentality" to conceptually new applications and directions that will have a significant effect on the perception of a "library" and library work. The integrated online library system, which has eluded library automator’s for about last four decades, has become a reality by the evolution of digital library, virtual library and World Wide Web.

Digital libraries are like traditional libraries, in that they involve large collection of diverse information and there are common issues concerning organization, retrieval, access, storage, archiving and preservation of information. However, digital libraries are differen in that, the properties of physical location and storage of local copies for individual use no longer need apply. This decoupling of storage, organization and access along with the ease of authoring and support for collaborative work groups offers significant advantages.

The meaning of the term "digital library" is less transparent than one might expect. The words are invoked to describe some of the radically new kinds of practices for the management and use of information. And they are used to replace earlier references to "electronic" and "virtual" libraries. The working definition of Digital Library as crafted by the Digital Library Federation (DLF) is :-Digital libraries are Organizations that provide the resources, include the specialized staff, to select, structure, often-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."

The era of digital libraries perhaps began with emergence of electronic journals. They have now become very popular, especially because of the fast emerging networks. The networks help us to access such electronic journals from different servers. In the context of digital libraries, electronic publications refer to publications of primary journals or documents in machine-readable form. In the early days of electronic libraries even the Machine-readable databases were referred to as electronic publications. Electronic publishing and information access activities have become very easy and convenient because of the Internet and World Wide Web (www) technologies.

The purpose of digital library system are:-

To achieve all these, one faces quite a lot of problems, especially in three different

areas, like data and conversions, cataloguing and indexing of electronic data, and interface design. Problems are faced in these areas primarily because of lack of IT skills in librarians OR lack of co-ordination between librarians and IT experts. Basically, the success of digital libraries depends on how good the interface is ? The design of user interface is an important element in any digital library; ideally, the interface should provide assistance like that offered by experienced librarians, their knowledge in interpreting and responding to user request provides vital input to the interface design. This involves an endeavour and IT skill of the librarian.

Due to the evolution of the electronic networks such as Internet and world wide

web, e-commerce that is electronic commerce has become very popular between the librarians.

How e-commerce is going to influence the librarians ????

E-commerce is nothing but the ability to perform transactions involving the exchange , or use, of goods or services between two or more parties using electronic tools and techniques. The goods exchanged could be electronic documents and digital objects (e.g. text, data, images, videos, software programs, and composites of all the above)- the stuff one finds in digital libraries. In fact, information products, like electronic documents and digital objects are particularly important because they represent the purest form of Electronic Commerce. Indeed e-commerce, with its greatly reduced cost of production and distribution makes many new knowledge businesses practical that were previously impractical.

Basically there are three main categories of e-commerce:

  1. Direct commerce;
  2. Indirect commerce; and
  3. Digital commerce.

Basically we, the librarians are involved in direct commerce for acquiring a book

online, which is latter delivered by mail or courier. Direct commerce, refers to financial transactions that are conducted online such as purchase orders or breaking transactions. Often payment for the book or service is made online while the delivery is offline.

This type of business can be better explained by the following diagram:-

In this diagram,

In (1), Enterprise X (the Cybermediary/ electronic-broker) electronically sources quantities of the product or service from multiple suppliers or other Cybermediary

Over the Internet to source the best price and delivery terms.

e.g. www.amazon.com , serves as an electronic-broker for our business. And because Barnes and Nobles, itself is a publisher so it (www.barnesandnobles.com) serves as an supplier also.

In (2), the customer adds an product or service to his shopping cart.

In (3), the customer clicks the buy button, which prompts a query for credit card information and registration in (4)

In (5), the information is sent to a third party, such as a credit card company, and the company responds with an authorization number in (6)

Finally enterprise X sends the customer a notification that the order is confirmed. The order tracking service (7) allows the customer to check at what stage of delivery the product is at present time.

This model reduces the inventory management overhead in terms of staffing and space and reduces capital tied in inventory. Most importantly, it provides the specialization in areas of expertise (marketing, delivery, etc.) across the supply chain from the manufacturers to customers. Electronic-broker companies are marketing specialists while suppliers have experience in production planning, inventory management and product expertise. The more specialized the functionality, the better the quality of the service, and at lower cost.

As Melvil Dewey said, "Maximum number of books at least cost", so this business model suits to our, that is librarians purpose.

The technological advancement has posed certain aspects on individual member staff, like:-

  1. Demands placed on the individual member staff –e.g. the librarian may have to instruct users in database searching techniques, which adds a new dimension to the requirement, because a good searcher is not necessarily be a good teacher also.
  2. Skills required –e.g. the librarian of today may need to understand the principles of marketing in order to develop new user-responsive services and to promote them within the community, for a broad overview of the marketing of library services.
  3. Professional/ non-professional relationships
  4. Training needs.
  5. Job satisfaction and self image- It seems widely accepted within the library profession that automation has improved job satisfaction and the self-image of the professional librarians and other librarians and other library staffs.

Lancaster has suggested that the profession may well be losing its service ideal

because many librarians have become mesmerized by the glamour of technology, seeing automation as an end in itself rather than a means of improving range, scope, and quality of services.

In contrary Fine has pointed out that about twenty percent (20%) of the members of the staff may be resistant to technology even today. Much of this resistance stems from fear, which may be associated with the introduction of a new system or with changes in an existing system.

There are about seven possible reasons for employees fearing technology, that are-

  1. Technology itself;
  2. Cost of error;
  3. Ability to learn;
  4. Job security;
  5. Reduced specialization;
  6. Big Brother phenomenon; and
  7. Health effects.