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Author: Julie Holcomb
Title: William Y. Arms's Digital Libraries
Publication info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
April 2001

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Source: William Y. Arms's Digital Libraries
Julie Holcomb

vol. 4, no. 1, April 2001
Article Type: Book Review

William Y. Arms's Digital Libraries

Julie L. Holcomb

  • Arms, William Y. Digital Libraries. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000).

It would appear, from an examination of recent library literature, that libraries everywhere are undertaking digital library projects. However, managing a digitization project is not as easy as slapping a few images on a scanner, for example, and then mounting them on a web page. William Y. Arms, author of Digital Libraries and founding editor of D-Lib Magazine, has written an excellent overview of the field of digital libraries. Arms' synthesis of librarianship and computer science provides a history of the development of the two fields and a survey of their interaction in the dynamic and complex field of digital libraries.

Digital Libraries is not a manual or guide for creating a digital library.

Digital Libraries is divided into fourteen panels "each addressing a significant aspect of digital libraries, technology, application, or research." (x) For example, Arms' chapter on text presents definitions and concepts such as converting print text to digital, encoding text for electronic presentation, and page-description languages. Using a lucid prose style, Arms explains non-traditional library topics like Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) and Extensible Markup Language (XML). Short, highly-focused panels, which are set off from the main narrative, further illuminate topics such as Document Type Definitions (DTD) and Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). The advantage to these short panels is that readers who are familiar with these concepts, or projects, need not interrupt their reading of the main narrative to review what is for them old material.

One of the flaws of Digital Libraries may be found in the chapter, "Repositories and Archives." to other relevant material providing greater depth on a given topic. While the constant theme of digital libraries is change, documentation even in unconventional formats is critical to the developing narrative of this emerging field.

Digital Libraries should be required reading for anyone who is considering a digital library project.

Julie Holcomb