Andrews, Judith and Law, Derek. (Eds.), Digital libraries: policy, planning and practice. Aldershot, Hants: Ashgate, 2004. xx, 263 pp. ISBN: 0 7546 3448. 5 £49.95
The book edited by Andrews and Law discusses various aspects of the management of digital libraries at the governmental and organizational levels. It also describes various initiatives and cases of the development of digital collections. The first two chapters provide the historical perspective and background of financial policies in the USA and the UK for the support of digital library initiatives. The coupling of these two chapters reveals two different approaches in these countries and different styles of narrative.
The first part of the book then deals with the financial issues, building the collections and preservation problems, creation of services, and evaluation of these. Each and every problem and aspect is discussed very professionally and may be immediately taken into notice and applied by others developing digital libraries.
The second part is a collection of the most interesting analysis of the cases of digital libraries: The Glasgow Digital Library, the Digital Library in the University of Central England (Birmingham), Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations (a truly international and successful attempt to provide access to research), a most interesting Digital Music Library Project at Indiana University, as well as the experience of the Library of Congress. These case studies provide an integrated picture of the problems, potentials, and outcomes that were introduced in the first part.
At the end, Mell Collier sums up the results of the decade and speculates on the future possibilities and directions of the development of digital libraries.
While reading, I was already marking the book with my notes not for this review but for my courses in Information Management. This edition deals mainly with managerial and policy issues and not with the technological or software details. Though written by various authors the book makes a coherent whole and every chapter has its particular role and place in it.
Only an article by Harnad on Open Access Archiving seems somewhat out of place. Though the problem is relevant to digital libraries, the chapter is written more in the style of propaganda and promotional texts and lacks the insight and analysis that might be used by the developers of the digital libraries and services. The author is convinced that political will of the university authorities and goodwill of the researchers may solve the problem of open access archiving, avoiding any financial barriers, and providing access to research immediately. However, the palpable irritation with the evidently slow progress of the implementation of the technically sound idea felt in the text suggests that it is not the case.
The articles are based mainly on American and British material, though the Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations has already transcended the borders and became a result of truly international effort. However, in some cases it seems that the authors do not even perceive the world outside English speaking countries. For example, Lesk's chapter on financial issues rests on the firm assumption that the whole of the Earth's information content is nothing but English. So, I would say that the claim to international representation made by the editors on page one is a little too bold. Certainly, twenty-three authors in the book come from five countries on three continents, but only five of them are from countries other than the USA and the UK, and four of these five have co-operated on one chapter about the NDL of Theses and Dissertations. However, in this particular case it does not matter, because the book offers examples of a universal character.
There is also some technical confusion of the tables 4.1 and 4.2 on p. 37, but, nevertheless, I would recommend this most useful and interesting volume to those who do research, develop or teach any discipline related to digital libraries.
Dr. Elena Macevičiūtė