provide scientists with access to that information if the traditional process of scientific communication is maintained.

At the same time, we are now at an early evolutionary stage in the use of digital technology in scholarly communication. What will happen as this evolution continues—how scholars and scientists will eventually integrate digital information technologies into their work—is not yet clear. A number of issues like cost, ease of use, and academic culture are going to have a major impact on the future application of digital technology in this area. There are many who believe that the application of digital technologies to scholarly communication is as revolutionary as the use of the printing press, and indeed I think that is the case. But it is going to take several years to see how this evolves and what the implications are.

Solutions and Strategies

A number of universities are exploring optimal strategies for dealing with this transition in the management of scholarly information and optimizing the opportunities presented by digital technologies. The University of California (UC) has recently completed a 4-year planning process examining all of these issues. The following conclusions form the basis for strategic action:

  • Comprehensive access to information is going to replace comprehensive ownership of information. Remember when you expected to be able to get your favorite journal from your university or corporate library? In the future your library will provide you access to that information in some reasonable period of time.
  • Solutions will unfold organically. A traditional plan is not desirable.
  • The digital library is an agent of change.
  • UC should build one digital library.

The California Digital Library

As part of our planning for libraries and scholarly information at the University of California, we developed a shared vision of the library appropriate for the university: A World-class Research Library for the 21st Century Consisting of Complementary Paper and Digital Libraries Comprising a University-wide Knowledge Network With Services Delivered at the Point of Need.

The digital component of this library has been named the California Digital Library (CDL), to reflect its potential to serve all of California, not just UC. Created in October 1997 by the University of California Board of Regents and the president of the university, the CDL will open its “digital doors” in January 1999.

The digital library can be viewed as an integrated system for the management of scholarly information. This moves the library beyond its traditional roles of storage, preservation, and access to an active player in scholarly communication through support for alternative forms of publication, which exploit digital technology.

In this context, the digital library will have the following components:

  • High-quality digital resources;
  • Consistent network interface;
  • Distributed services integrated with digital resources at the point of service;


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement