Information in the future will be produced, transmitted, and consumed in electronic form. The printed book will be replaced by new electronic forms and today’s static, paper-based library with its fixed indexing schemes will give way to dynamic digital libraries with flexible and efficient mechanisms for locating, organizing, and personalizing vast amounts of multimedia information. We will no longer be bound by the physical affordances of shelves, floors, and buildings, nor the single conceptual library structure mapping all information by “call numbers” onto the physical library building. Instead, we will use collaborative hypermedia library systems allowing multiple conceptual mappings, personalization of library resources, and sharing of digital library information spaces. Collections of all manner and type will be digitized and made widely available through ubiquitous high capacity networking.
Increasingly, scholarly work (reading, writing, critiquing, learning) involves a collaboration of geographically dispersed researchers, teachers, and students. Scholarly work in the digital library of the future will be mediated through coordinated access to shared information spaces. Patrons will organize their own private digital libraries, collaborate with colleagues through shared digital libraries, and have access to huge amounts of multimedia information in global, public digital libraries. A multitude of new media and new data types, and ubiquitous access to high-speed computer networks will revolutionize our conceptions of books, libraries, scientific research, scholarship, learning, commerce, and ownership.
Within the past decade the number and types of digital information sources have proliferated. Computing system advances and the continuing networking and communications revolution have resulted in a remarkable expansion in the ability to generate, process, and disseminate digital information. Together, these developments have made new forms of knowledge repositories and information delivery mechanisms feasible. Before these sources can be combined into realistic, full-scale digital libraries, fundamental research must be performed in areas such as information representation, presentation, and retrieval; human-computer interaction; hypermedia and hyperbase systems; computer-supported collaborative work; distributed multimedia systems; and broadband networking. Answering the question of how best to take advantage of these promising technologies requires significant theoretical and empirical results from well-designed studies and experimental prototypes set in the context of solving real problems for patrons of experimental digital library testbeds.