The digital library, as many people have suggested, is everywhere. New technologies allow us to gather a massive number of information in digital format and carry it with us in a myriad of technological devices such as laptops, pen drives, mobile phones and e-readers. Never in history have we had this easy access to information. The problem we all face is how to deal with this new digital situation: which sources to use for the retrieval of pertinent information? What to select and how to archive materials in electronic format for future generations? How to deal with issues of preservation in the digital world? As one might guess, the First Conference on National Digital Libraries held in Santiago (Chile) last week had more questions than answers. We all agreed that ours is an age of ‘infoxication’ and that national and academic libraries have to act quickly in order to find the antidote for the treatment of this new syndrome. Many of the presentations in the conference raised common issues faced by National libraries when dealing with electronic publications, including the lack of depository laws for digital-born material and the development of new tools and standards for managing electronic information. Participants had also the opportunity to learn about international digital initiatives such as the World Digital Library set up by the Library of Congress and other similar projects being developed in Latin America and Spain such as the Biblioteca Digital Pedro de Angelis, a digitisation project led by the national libraries of Argentina and Brazil; and the Biblioteca Digital Iberoamericana, a collaborative project between various Ibero-American national libraries. The message that came across in the conference was straight forward: by creating strategies for effective selection (especially by avoiding duplication of collections and coordinating digitisation programmes), sharing access to digital information and setting up best practices for preservation, libraries will be in a better position to take decisions and lead the discussion on digital information, providing efficient and innovative service for our users.
Patricia Figueroa (Brown University) visits colleagues Geoff West (left) and Aquiles Alencar-Brayner (right) at the British Library on January 12, 2010 (following a monumental snow fall throughout the UK).