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Digital Libraries Issues of Scholarship and Literacy in the 21st Century



Digital Libraries: Issues of Scholarship and Literacy in the 21st Century
John J. Leggett, Peter J. Nürnberg, Erich R. Schneider Center for the Study of Digital Libraries, Texas A&M

University, USA Email: {leggett, pnuern, erich}@csdl.tamu.edu
Abstract: This paper proposes that we are in the midst of a major societal transition and takes a very broad perspective in an attempt to uncover and characterize fundamental changes that are occurring in our libraries, our methods of scholarship and in what it means to be literate. Implications for health sciences are given. Keywords: digital libraries, scholarship, literacy, orality, hyperliteracy, artifact, virtual world, electronic documents, electronic publishing, copyright, education, botanical taxonomies, health sciences.

1. Introduction
Major societal transitions, while self-evident in retrospect, are difficult to recognize and define in the midst of their occurrence. These transitions take place over decades, while economics and common practice force us to focus on the next few years. In this paper, we take a very broad perspective in an attempt to uncover and characterize fundamental changes that are occurring in our libraries, our methods of scholarship and, indeed, in what it means to be literate. We begin our analysis by exploring the characteristics of modern day libraries. We take as a starting point the excellent analysis of the cultural legacy of modern day libraries by Francis Miksa [Miksa 1996] and expand upon his analysis to describe the fundamental driving forces behind the digital library [DL 1994,1995,1996; D-Lib 1996; CACM 1995] phenomenon. Based upon the distributed virtual artifacts of the digital library, we then discuss the major changes/transitions beginning to occur in scholarship today. In a more theoretical approach, we then argue that scholarship in the digital library will lead to a new kind of literacy, termed “hyperliteracy,” in which automated external symbol manipulation is essential for everyday scholarship. Finally, we discuss the implications of all of this on health sciences. We are not seeking hard definitions or universal truths - we do not believe this would be a worthwhile venture at this point - but only to explore some of the issues that should be studied and remembered in the future.

2. Libraries are Changing
In his historical analysis of the cultural legacy of the modern day library, Miksa [1996] compared libraries on four dimensions: the type of library (in terms of who it is designed to serve), the owner of the library (financially responsible party), a characterization of the users of the library, and a characterization of the access methods employed (see Table 1).

Based upon this analysis, Miksa identified three eras of modern day libraries: before 1850, after 1870 until the present, and the present. A transition period of two decades or so took place between the first and second eras. Miksa believes we are now in another transition period. We find Miksa’s arguments to be quite compelling and have extended his analysis by adding two dimensions that help to identify the digital library phenomenon. These dimensions are: a characterization of the physicality of the artifacts archived in the library and a characterization of the “architectural” space of the library. In the remainder of this section, we will discuss these three library eras. We begin by stating assumptions about all libraries, including digital libraries. Then we briefly discuss the characteristics of libraries in each era. Finally, we contrast all three eras and provide supporting evidence for Miksa’s assertion. Table 1: Characteristics of Libraries. (Adapted from [Miksa 1996]). Library Before 1850 After 1870 Now
Private

Artifact
Physical

Owner
Private

Users
Prescribed Set

Access
Homogeneous

Space
Centralized Private Real Centralized Public Real Distributed Pub/Priv Virtual

Public

Physical

Public

Heterogeneous

Heterogeneous

Personal and Group

Digital

Individual and Group

Individual or Group

Personal

2.1 Assumptions
We assume that libraries will not a priori exclude any artifact - information bearing entities of all types and media will be accepted and archived. We take an ever expanding bibliographic universe as the rule. The major functions of libraries and librarians are selecting, collecting, organizing and delivering information bearing entities to users. The library exists in a social setting and is a social organization. Finally, we assume information access is a fundamental right of all citizens.

2.2 Where did we start?
The libraries of the period before 1850 can be characterized as private libraries of physical (having a physical presence in the real world) artifacts. The artifacts were expensive and only the rich or well organized could afford to provide access to a prescribed set of users. Homogeneous access methods sufficed since the set of users was well known. These libraries might be characterized by “the best reading for our prescribed set of users at the least cost.” Architecturally, the private library was a centralized (in one place), real world facility. In order to have access to the information bearing entities, patrons of the private library had to collocate in the real world with the physical artifacts of the library.

2.3 Where have we been?
The libraries of the period after 1870 until the present can be characterized as public libraries of physical artifacts. The artifacts were still expensive but accessibility of the information was deemed “in the public interest” and taxes were levied to maintain public ownership, control and funding. Heterogeneous access methods were necessary since the set of users was no longer well known. These libraries might be characterized by “the best information resources for the largest number of users at the least cost.” Architecturally, the public library was (is) a centralized, real world facility. In order to have access to the information bearing entities, patrons of the public library had (have) to collocate in the real world with the physical artifacts of the library.

2.4 Where are we going?
The libraries of the near future can be characterized as being personal and group libraries of digital (either electronic or digital representations of physical) artifacts. With terabyte stores available in the next few years, individuals and groups will be able to have million volume repositories if they desire. The artifacts will be inexpensive and access methods will become personalized. This library might be characterized by “the best information resources for the individual or group at the least cost.” Architecturally, the future library will be (is) a distributed, virtual world facility that may be either public or private. In order to have access to the information bearing entities, patrons of the digital library do not have to collocate in the real world with the physical artifacts of the library; instead the digital artifacts collocate with the user on demand through global networking.

2.5 Discussion
If we take the values in the rows of Table 1 to represent the characteristics of unique types of libraries, then we can see that the transitions between the columnar values represent major changes in all but two cases. These two cases are the characterization of the physicality of the artifacts archived in the library (Physical) and the characterization of the “architectural” space of the library (Centralized, Real) between the private and the

public library. While the four dimensions described by Miksa (Library, Owner, Users, Access) were the most important for the transition from private to public libraries, we believe the major changes in the dimensions of Artifact and Space are the most important for the transition from existing libraries to digital libraries. The simple fact of not having to collocate in the real world with the physical artifact is the key change.

3. Scholarship is Changing
The process of conducting scholarly work is radically changing due to the addition of computer-based tools that support critical thought. These tools include those that produce electronic documents and allow electronic publication, as well as the repositories of digital artifacts discussed above and their computer-based finding aids. We are seeing a shifting of responsibilities for reading, writing and publishing across the dimensions of time, space and process. For example, writing is shifting from a mostly personal process done in the same place and time to a collaborative effort among authors distributed in both geographical space and time, and publishing is changing from a communal or social effort to a more personal process. In this section we briefly describe some of the characteristics of the new processes of scholarship by investigating properties/issues of electronic documents, electronic publication, copyright and education. Space does not permit a lengthy discussion of these topics; we seek only to give an indication of the types of issues that are important. We conclude this section by describing the publication strategy of a professional society that is striving to satisfy its members in this new electronic age.

3.1 Electronic documents
Electronic documents have many characteristics that are not shared by paper documents. We may include new types of publishable artifacts in our electronic documents including simulations of physical processes, original data, active citations, and entities that have previously been embedded in different media (video, audio, etc.). The structure of electronic documents is available for querying and full-text indexing can be a natural byproduct of storage in an electronic repository. These documents are more fluid, in the sense of being changed easily, and multiple versions may be stored and referenced.

3.2 Electronic publication
As mentioned above, new computer-based tools and global networking are bringing the capability to publish to the individual and small group. Time to publication of an accepted work is approximately halved in electronic publication due to the elimination of production time from the existing publishing cycle. Serious problems exist concerning the ease in which plagiarized and derivative works can be made, and workable economic models for electronic publishing have yet to be discovered.

3.3 Copyright
Intellectual property rights are possibly the most difficult problem we face in the information age. Copyright goals of promoting the progress of science, publishing and public access to knowledge must remain our utmost concern, but our copyright laws must be rewritten for the new realities of electronic publishing and digital libraries. Phrases such as “fixed in a tangible medium” and “work distinct from embodiment” in copyright laws need clarification when being applied to virtual artifacts. In addition, the doctrine of “fair use” must undergo refinement.

3.4 Education
World-wide information resources are now available to local schools and, indeed, to many homes. Local and regional perspectives are now mixed with global perspectives and local libraries are struggling to find the right mix of access to physical and electronic artifacts. Librarians and educators are finding that ownership is not as important as it used to be, but that access to the most up-to-date information has become critical. Educators (and students!) are beginning to build personal digital libraries of electronic artifacts and references to Internet information resources. Collaborative inquiry-based learning (learning as one tries to find the answer to an outstanding question of real importance) strategies among teachers and students in the shared information space of the digital library is becoming commonplace.

3.5 Example: ACM’s publication strategy
In these changing times, professional societies are scrambling to remain solvent as much of their income has traditionally been derived from publication products. The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), a professional society dedicated to the computing profession, has developed a publication strategy that it will follow in the near future [ACM 1996]. ACM’s strategy provides a good example of the changes occurring in professional society publishing. ACM’s publication strategy includes provisions for: digitizing all back issues of all journals, a single publication repository, a single subscription fee, networked-based access, user profiles, multiple versions of articles, and the capability for automatic notification to potentially interested users when an article is placed in the repository. More interestingly, they are encouraging self publication before or at the time of submission to the ACM. If accepted, an archival copy is sent to ACM and a standard statement indicating ACM as the copyright holder is attached to the personal, selfpublished version.

4. Literacy is Changing
For many reasons, archaic work practices of varying "inappropriateness" to modern scholarship linger on despite their known flaws. In information-intensive fields, the derivation of possible new work practices can be suggested by differentiating those aspects of current practice that are archetypal to the problem addressed from those artifactual to the technologies currently employed. In particular, orality-literacy studies are here proposed for this purpose in fields where the mutable cognitive artifacts that scholars employ are known to be poorly reflected in the static artifacts produced by preelectronic work practices for pre-electronic distribution methods. The following argument is also presented in Nürnberg et al. [1996b].

4.1 Orality, Literacy, and Hyperliteracy
Since the 1960s an interdisciplinary research area within the humanities known as oralityliteracy studies has existed, concerned with differences in the modes of thought and expression exhibited by individuals in cultural situations which exhibit primary orality (where writing is not used as an adjunct to thought and memory) and those exhibiting pervasive literacy (where it has become indispensable for those activities).

4.1.1 Orality and Literacy
A seminal work in orality-literacy studies is Preface to Plato by classicist Eric Havelock [1963], whose starting point is Plato’s attack on poetry in the Republic [Waterfield 1993]. Plato’s proposal that poetry be banned from his ideal state, because it degraded the intellect, is found odd by many modern students of Plato. Havelock sets out to examine what this apparent oddity in the philosopher’s thought implies about the cultural situation of Plato’s Greece. Havelock contends the extensive ground of common knowledge and world views required by classical Greek culture were encoded in the great poems of the time, most notably Homer’s epics. To the ancient Greeks, these were a "tribal encyclopedia" of cultural ways and norms. Poetry was also well suited to the problems of information storage in a non-literate culture, namely retention in living memory and contentpreserving transmission [Havelock 1963]. In essence, recitation of the epics was able to induce in reciters and listeners an almost hypnotic state that assisted correct remembrance. It also encoded cultural knowledge situationally. Both of these were anathema to Plato, who was promoting reflective thought on the nature of abstracts. Plato’s literacy allowed him to encode knowledge externally as a thing "in itself" and allowed him to examine concepts and their abstract structures without forgetting them. Thus, Havelock concludes, arises Plato’s excoriation of poetry as education method, as inhibitor of abstract speculation on the nature of the true, good, and beautiful. For our purposes, we note that Havelock showed the consideration of ideas as eternal "things in themselves" is an artifact of literacy, not an archetypal aspect of thought.

Table 2: Differences Between Orality and Literacy. Orality Ideas as ... [Havelock 1963] properties of concrete situations Literacy abstract and eternal “things in themselves” fixed objects

Socially relevant truths as ... mutable objects [Ong 1982] Language use as ... [Ong 1982] requiring consideration of situation

manipulation of abstract placeholders

Among other artifactual properties of literacy (examined in another seminal work of the field, Walter Ong’s Orality and Literacy [Ong 1982]) is the notion of written truth as permanent truth. Today, it is common for material to be written down and remain unchanged for extended periods of time. If that material had some veracity when it was recorded, we tend to regard its "truth" as a permanent property that can be redemonstrated at any time. This is not the case with orally transmitted knowledge, which cannot be "recorded" except in living memory. As a result, material for which there is no call is forgotten, and changes to the material that give advantage will occur. Revisionism is reality in primary oral cultures; the beliefs that the written retains its truth for all time and that, by extension, publication implies truth are artifacts of literacy.

4.1.2 Hyperliteracy
Many believe that we are entering an era where electronic tools for storing and manipulating information will be considered indispensable for everyday thinking and remembering. Douglas Engelbart [1968] expressed this belief when he described a "certain progression of our intellectual capabilities," from concept manipulation (manipulation of concepts in the mind alone) to symbol manipulation (expression of concepts through language) to manual external symbol manipulation (manipulating linguistic symbols using writing) and finally to automated external symbol manipulation (manipulation of symbols using computers). Engelbart’s second stage corresponds with the concept of "primary orality," and his third stage with "pervasive literacy." We extend the concept of orality and literacy by positing a new property of culture, pervasive hyperliteracy or simply hyperliteracy, corresponding to Engelbart's fourth stage. Why posit hyperliteracy? If we are indeed entering an era where automated external symbol manipulation tools have become prerequisites of serious thought, then the designers of such tools should be interested in which aspects of thought are intrinsic to language-using human beings and which aspects are products of the use of non-electronic writing, since some of the latter may decrease in strength or disappear altogether in the residents of this new era. As can be seen from the above, these artifactual properties are not trivial, and they are precisely the concern of orality-literacy studies.

4.2 Example: botanical taxonomic scholarship
A curious aspect of some scholarly work practices is that often, these practices are known to depend on false assumptions or over-simplifications of a problem. In some cases, such as in certain economic models, these false assumptions are taken as reasonable because they produce good results and make the models tractable. In other cases, however, these false assumptions are simply products of tradition, based in part on artifacts of old technology and literate mindsets. We take as one very specific example our experiences with botanical taxonomists. For several years, we have worked together with botanists to build a digital library of herbarium collection data. We have been able to observe several common current work practices that have changed as our botanist colleagues both gain access to new technology and re-evaluate those parts of their old technology that dictated how they did their jobs. As a particularly good example of a current work practice dictated by current technology, consider that there are botanical journals that use taxonomies that everyone (including the journal editors!) acknowledges are outdated. The editors of the journal, however, are reluctant to correct the errors in this standard taxonomy, partly because some of the fixes are not universally agreed upon, but also because changing the taxonomy now would "invalidate" articles just published. The current common practice, then, is for researchers to carry out their work using a more realistic taxonomy, and then literally "uncorrect" their terms to match the journal standard. For reference, the object of taxonomic classification is the taxonomy, which consists of taxa, which themselves consist of other taxa or specimens. Taxa are composed in a hierarchic fashion. Taxa at different levels in the tree have different names, such as family, genus, species, etc. We briefly describe three interesting problems we observed the taxonomists encounter in their current work practices. Different groups of taxonomists produce different taxonomies, even if the specimen set examined is identical. Groups in which particular specialists work on a given taxon may show more detail in the expansion of that taxon, or different groups may use different measures of similarity when composing taxa, weighting various kinds of evidence differently. It seems contradictory to have multiple solutions to a classification problem. Separate taxonomic groups produce separate taxonomies, which are then identified with the groups that produced them. This identification (“ownership”) is despite the fact that the taxonomy may always be used in conjunction with other taxonomies, or that it is based on the prevailing attitudes in the community. It seems contradictory that a communally defined, communally used product is identified with a small set of taxonomists.

The products of the work are often taxonomies, not simply revisions to existing taxonomies. Whether updates or new full revisions, the products are viewed as closed, well-defined entities, representing an opinion of a group at some time. However, new evidence, new analysis methods, and new interpretations are constantly being introduced. It seems contradictory to produce a well-defined, static analysis of an ill-defined, dynamic phenomenon.

4.3 Hyperliterate work practices
Addressing the three examples of seeming contradictions in current work practices requires different artifacts than those present in the physical library with its literate artifacts. What is required here are new digital library elements and tools, not derived from physical antecedents [Nürnberg et al. 1995, 1996a]. Of course, it is impossible to say what all of these artifacts will be. This section outlines some possible artifacts that begin to address these contradictions.

4.3.1 Single/Multiple taxonomies
One artifact of literacy is the notion of single-valued, static truths [Ong 1982]. The work practice of developing and publishing taxonomies separately from one another is a particular instantiation of this artifact. The product of this work is a taxonomy, a "taxonomic fact" or truth, presented and interpreted as such. However, the notion of truth is changing from the literate view of static and single-valued to the hyperliterate view of dynamic and multi-valued. Consider the Guides project approach to teaching history in which various persona contextualize history from a particular point of view [Solomon et al. 1989]. The "truth" of the matter is a space, in which various points of view are represented. This contrasts sharply with the notion of the authority of the book as conveyor of a single, coherent message as in the literate world [Chartier 1994]. Perhaps instead of viewing the primary goal of a taxonomist as the generation of a new taxonomy, which then must be related to previous and competing taxonomies by the consumer, the product may be viewed as a change to the existing body of knowledge. In fact, in essence, taxonomists do view the purpose of their work in this way, but the actual product of their work, the printed taxonomy, is only a means to this end. Reconciliation and contextualization is the responsibility of the consumer.

4.3.2 Ownership of taxonomies
Literacy promotes the concept of idea ownership by the individual, even when the idea represents a communally held truth. In this case, taxonomies are identified with their producers or publishers. There is no way to recognize the contextualization of a taxonomy in itself. However, the notion of authorship is changing from owner of a document and by extension its ideas to recorder of ideas that are the product of several people, past and present. Consider an analogy from the business world - the growing role of the analyst [Reich 1991]. The analyst provides a filtering or ordering function for data that is oftentimes already available. Many new companies focus no longer in the

production of information, but its compilation. This reflects a situation in which the problem of information is what to do with the overabundance of it (the "information explosion"), and not how to find and retrieve data [Chartier 1994].

4.3.3 Definition of taxonomies
One artifact of literacy is closure of ideas. The product of taxonomic work is a welldefined, discrete entity. Products no longer must be closed. They may exist as changing entities over time, with poorly defined borders. Consider World Wide Web [Berners-Lee et al. 1992] sites with links to many other sites. These sites have no closure per se. Where one chooses to draw boundaries is contextually and individually defined. This is in opposition to the closure engendered by books and other written entities [Chartier 1994]. As above, one new possibility is a communally maintained set of taxa, with various notes, modifications, and addenda separately maintained over these taxa. The boundaries of the communal knowledge could only be determined by a given consumer at a given moment.

5. Implications for the Health Sciences
What implications can we draw from the above for the health sciences? Organizational tasks will be to provide and organize access to global information resources for their users. The necessity for ownership will decline and the organization will act more as a filtering agent that provides regional perspectives on the global information space. Professionals, researchers, and educators will have to take responsibility for personalizing and maintaining access to global information resources. They must also recognize the fluidity of digital artifacts and will be responsible for synthesizing the multiple points of view for their constituents. Professionals will provide the needed local perspectives, researchers will work collaboratively with their colleagues to provide and organize access to their research results and educators will provide and organize access to educational information resources for life-long, inquiry-based learning.

6. References
[ACM 1996] Association for Computing Machinery. http://www.acm.org. [Berners-Lee et al. 1992] Berners-Lee, T. J., Cailliau R., Groff, J. F., Pollermann B. (1992). World-Wide Web: The information universe. Electronic Networking: Research, Applications and Policy 2 (1), 52-58. [Chartier 1994] Chartier, R. (1994). The Order of Books: Readers, Authors, and Libraries in Europe Between the Fourteenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. [CACM 1995] Communications of the ACM Special Issue on Digital Libraries, April, 38 (4). [DL 1994] Proceedings of the Digital Libraries ‘94 Conference, College Station, TX. http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/DL94. [DL 1995] Proceedings of the Digital Libraries ‘95 Conference, Austin, TX. http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/DL95. [DL 1996] Proceedings of the First ACM International Conference on Digital Libraries (DL‘96), Bethesda, MD. http://fox.cs.vt.edu/DL96. [D-Lib 1996] D-Lib Magazine. http://www.dlib.org. [Engelbart and English 1968] Engelbart, D. C., and English, W. (1968). A research center for augmenting human intellect. AFIPS Conference Proceedings, 1968 Fall Joint Computer Conference, San Francisco, CA. [Havelock 1963]. Havelock, E. (1963). Preface to Plato. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press. [Miksa 1996] Miksa, F. (1996). The Cultural Legacy of the “Modern Library” for the Future. http://fiat.gslis.utexas.edu/faculty/modlib.html. [Nürnberg et al. 1995] Nürnberg, P., Furuta R., Leggett, J., Marshall, C., and Shipman, F. (1995). Digital Libraries: Issues and Architectures. Proceedings of the Digital Libraries ’95 Conference, Austin, TX. [Nürnberg et al. 1996a] Nürnberg, P., Leggett, J., Schneider, E., and Schnase, J. (1996). Hypermedia Operating Systems: A New Paradigm for Computing. Proceedings of the Hypertext ’96 Conference, Bethesda, MD.

[Nürnberg et al. 1996b] Nürnberg, P., Schneider, E., and Leggett, J. (1996). Designing Digital Libraries for Post-literate Patrons. Proceedings of the WebNet’96 Conference, San Francisco, CA. [Ong 192] Ong, W. (1982). Orality and Literacy: the Technologizing of the Word. New York: Methuen. [Reich 1991] Reich, R. (1991). The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st Century Capitalism. New York: A. A. Knopf. [Solomon et al. 1989] Solomon, G., Oren, T., Kreitman, K. (1989). Using Guides to explore multimedia databases. Proceedings of 22nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Kailua-Kona, HI. [Waterfield 1993] Waterfield, R. (trans.) (1993). The Republic of Plato. New York: Oxford University Press.

Acknowledgments: This research was supported in part by the Texas Advanced Research Program under Grant No. 999903-230.



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