The Virtual Library
A Service-based Architecture

William E. Moen
<wemoen@unt.edu>
School of Library and Information Sciences
Texas Center for Digital Knowledge
University of North Texas
Denton, TX  76203

 

This document can be used in conjunction with the powerpoint presentation, The Virtual Library: A Service-based Architecture. Each section below is tied to one or more slides.


SLIDE 1

Library leaders and librarians are embracing the idea of a virtual library.  The concept of a virtual library, however, appears problematic. It is problematic both conceptually and practically. 

Driving the embrace of the virtual library is a common agreement that the convergence of communications and computing technologies offers an opportunity for extending the reach and range of the traditional library.  A review of the literature that discusses the future of libraries indicates that the vision is often technology driven.  The Internet, the Web, the networked environment, digital collections of information provide a context for imagining and even acting on the idea of a virtual library. And typically, the vision focuses on providing faster access to more information.

Without a doubt, the technologies provide an impetus, or more often drive the decisions of library leaders.  Yet I suggest that the technologies are merely providing a potential infrastructure on which to build a virtual library.  

Rather than focusing first and foremost on the technology, a more pragmatic, and I think a more robust, approach is one focused on services. A service-based architecture rather than a technical architecture is where we must start.  This is due in part to the need to accommodate not only digital stuff but the vast treasures held by libraries that may never be transformed into bits and bytes.  A focus on digital technology immediately sets up an unnecessary tension between print and electronic information.  

The other reason to focus on services (rather than technologies or resources for that matter) is to accommodate the broad range of people involved in the preparation, collection, organization, and access to information.  The simple focus on providing faster access to more information generally has the end user of the information in mind.  A service-based architecture can highlight the roles and responsibilities of the people who staff the virtual library.


SLIDE 2:  A Library Is...

Naming a thing or a process is a powerful activity.  A name can highlight salient features or scope. It can raise expectations. It can be ambiguous allowing different people to come away with different senses of what it really is.  I would say we have a naming problem with labeling the emerging library.  

The library literature reveals names such as 

There may be others.  One that is used in England and Europe is hybrid library.  Some of these terms are now passť.  In other cases, people are combining various names to make sure all bases are covered.  New York has an initiative called NOVEL, for New York Online Virtual Electronic Library!  Still there are people expropriating the term library for describing things that one might question whether that is an appropriate label.

Let's start with the term library.  Depending on which staff members of your library you talk with, the focal features of the library may differ.  

The technical services folks most likely think the focal feature of the library is the catalog or other bibliographic tools.  The reference services folk will think of the end user services and instruction.  The collection development folks focus on the collection.  And administrators?   Maybe the budget.  

From the patrons' points of view, we would probably get another set of diverse descriptors of what constitutes the library.  

Combining these different descriptors and focal features probably brings us close to a common agreement of what a library is:

A library's mission, goals, and objectives provide the context, define, and operationalize these focal features.  Missions will differ from library to library, but there are likely some shared components across libraries such as: developing and managing a collection of resources and deploying services to assist users in connecting with appropriate resources.

What changes when we add the power of information technology and the network?  Nothing and everything.  Nothing in the sense that the library still deals with a collection, bibliographic tools, public services, administration, and a place.  

Yet each of these changes in subtle or radical ways. For example, the "collection" may incorporate new forms of materials (mostly in the form of bits and bytes) and the collection of resources available to the patrons may be housed not only outside of the physical place of the library but beyond the organizational control of the library. 

So, what do we call this incarnation of the library? Given the list of names above, I'm not sure I like any of them!  It's not because the names themselves are bad, but it's the connotation of each that concerns me.  

Of course, I may not be King for a Day and thus not get to pick a name.  But let me indicate why I don't think these names do justice in capturing the salient features of the emerging library of the 21st century.  

One of the major assumptions I make, and which sets a context for my thinking, is that the emerging library will house and provide access to resources in a wide range of formats, and there will be a physicality to the library, albeit augmented by access to networked information.


SLIDE 3: What Should We Call It

But on to some labels ....

Electronic Library and Online Library:  These terms are dated.  More importantly, they emphasize the bits and bytes -- the technology.  These terms don't reflect the range of materials that libraries manage and users interact with.

Digital Library: This is the term de jour.   There is momentum behind this label because of the National Science Foundation's Digital Library Initiatives, the U.S. initiative called the Digital Library Federation (DLF), and so on.  

Similar to the Electronic Library and Online Library labels, the Digital Library name focuses us on digital information and information technology.  Many of the digital library projects focus on digitization of resources, creation of digital resources, and software and hardware for managing and providing access to the resources. The definition provide by the Digital Library Foundation is (Waters, 1998): 

Digital libraries are organizations that provide the resources, including the specialized staff, to select, structure, offer intellectual access to, interpret, distribute, preserve the integrity of, and ensure the persistence over time of collections of digital works so they are readily and economically available for use by a defined community or set of communities.

Virtual Library: This term emerged in the early 1990. It may be a more expansive term than Electronic, Online, or Digital, but I think it suffers from a similar preoccupation with technology. And it has the problematic aspect of non-physicality.  

Richard Wiggins suggests a way of understanding "virtual" that gets a an important feature of the emerging library.  He points us to the term "virtual memory" in the context of computing: "virtual memory allows the user of a computer to pretend the machine has for more memory than is physically installed."  In this sense, a virtual library provides the user with a sense of access to information that extends far beyond the resources housed within a library's collection. 

Extending the reach and range of a user appears to be a focal feature of the emerging library.  Yet, the term itself implies a sense of not really there, ephemeral, and again, my assumption is that the emerging library will be an existing, tangible entity, with tangible, fixed media collections alongside the digital collections.

Hybrid Library:  This term explicitly acknowledges that the emerging library addresses all types and formats of materials and services: digital and analog; computer mediated and face-to-face.  Yet, when using the term, one best be prepared to answer the "what's that mean" question.  There is no intuitively correct and obvious picture that comes to mind with the term.

Does naming matter?  I think it does.  Think for a minute how we use the term virtual union catalog.  What exactly does that mean?  We use the well-known term (at least in the library community) union catalog, but when we add virtual, what have we?  Most physical union catalogs have a defined scope and purpose (e.g., the union catalog of Texas would reflect the holdings of all Texas libraries to support interlibrary loan, collection development, and cataloging).  The State of Texas now talks about a statewide virtual union catalog as part of the Library of Texas.  Such a virtual union catalog should represent the holdings of all libraries in Texas (as would a physical statewide union catalog).  With the naming and the marketing of the name, we raise expectations.  The question is, are we raising the right expectations?  

Assuming for the time being that we have a understanding of the emerging library and its features, let's use the term virtual library as shorthand to explore an architecture of such a library.


SLIDE 4: Architectural Components

Much of the euphoria surrounding the emerging 21st library is based on enhanced access to information resources through the use of information technologies deployed in the networked environment.  But focusing on these two aspects shrouds important components of this library. 

"A narrow focus on digital form alone hides the extensive behind-the-scenes work that libraries do to develop and organize collections and to help users find information" (Cleveland, 1998). 

Making visible the behind-the-scenes functions and tasks of any library, but particularly the virtual library, will keep administrators from assuming these vital functions and tasks can be carried out without recourse to budgetary impacts.  Further, it helps frame the potential changes in these functions and tasks that are implied in a virtual library.   

Existing libraries (dare we call them "traditional") are a product of an intersection and interaction of people, resources, procedures, etc.  Libraries have developed a range of services for internal and external consumption that make them what they are.  The provision of services to patrons and other users (including library staff) utilizes the collected resources (personnel, information, and technological) that constitute the library. 

A library does not collect books and other materials for their own sake, but to provide a service (e.g., providing access services to users).  Similarly, a library does not hire reference librarians to give directions to the bathroom but rather to enable services to patrons (e.g., ready reference services).  Since the library, by its nature, is primarily a service institution, we are well-advised to found an architecture for the virtual library on the services it intends to offer.

A service-based architecture for the emerging library is, I think, the logical starting point.

Another helpful perspective to conceptualize the virtual library is offered by systems theory. The library can be envisioned as a socio-technical system comprising subsystems of people, technologies, and resources.  The typical components of a system are inputs, processes of transformation, and outputs, with some feedback mechanism.  In addition, a systems view focuses attention on the goals of the system (and the goals of each subsystem) and the environment in which the system exists.  Viewing the virtual library as a system helps us maintain a holistic perspective while allowing an examination of the various subsystems and its components.  

So, I offer the following basic components of an architecture for the library: 

If services are the output of the virtual library, the other components serve as infrastructure for the creation and delivery of services.  


SLIDE 5-7: Architectural Components of a VL

The services are driven by and respond to users needs.  User needs help define and design appropriate services. 

Services are based on the available resources, where resources are people and information.  

Technology, in the form of many different tools, is used to support the delivery of services.  

Management identifies and prioritizes the services to be delivered. It acquires and allocates the funding necessary for the services and the infrastructure needed for their delivery (e.g., resources, technology).  Management further establishes overall policy for the library's services.  

With this in mind, let's examine the Service component, since Services are the focal feature of this architecture.


SLIDE 8: Foundation/Internal Services

Defining a virtual library in terms of services helps to identify what the library is about.  An intentional by-product of a service-based architecture is to frame the cost centers (i.e., each particular service). The creation and delivery of services incur costs.  Costs are associated with the people, information, and technology needed for delivering the services to the patrons.  

Assuming that the virtual library addresses services based on analog and digital resources and technologies, management must balance the needs of both.

To begin, there are at least two primary categories of services that can be identified: 

The first is usually highlighted because we are in the business of serving our patrons.  Yet the second is the behind-the-scenes services, without which, the patron-oriented services would be jeopardized.  Services may have both internal and external faces.  Let's look at the second one first.

A library typically develops its public services based on a collection of resources.  We begin by identifying the internal services related to the information resources. Other foundation services are related to access, inter-organizational arrangements, authentication, and preservation.

Collection Identification, Selection, and Acquisition/Access Service:  Typically referred to as collection development and acquisition, this service begins the chain of activities that bring to light information resources appropriate for a library's communities of users.  

Within the virtual library, this service faces unprecedented challenges in identifying important resources that are produced outside of the general regime of book and journal publishing.  Networked resources in the form of electronic journals, websites, and other genres are the staple of users in the 21st century library.  

More often than not, these resources are not brought in-house and owned but made accessible to the library's users through agreements with the source of the resources.  Some digital resources will be purchased outright or licensed, and will be brought in-house.  

A suitable collection development policy, adequate materials and access budgets, and appropriate technical infrastructure for access non-owned materials as well as licensed, locally housed resources are essential.  

Digital Collection Creation Service: One obvious feature of a virtual library is the provision of resources in digital format.  Many of the resources will be available from outside of a particular library.  Many libraries are building their own repositories of digital resources through scanning, OCR'ing, or birthing original digital content. 

This service is informed by the library's collection development policies and any collective digital creation agreements a particular library may have with others.  Certainly, given the cost of digitization, collaborative efforts in digitization can reduce the redundancy of recreating resources others have already created.  

Important issues for this service are standards, technologies, and preservation.

Collection Organization and Preparation Service: Once resources are acquired, constructed, or agreements made for accessing non-local digital resources, the Collection Organization and Preparation Service has the responsibility for preparing the resources for access and use.  

Typically, the technical services function of the library provided cataloging of materials.  The library catalog has been the center of bibliographic control of materials owned by the library.  Procedures, standards, principles, and tools provided a uniformity of cataloging across libraries that resulted in relatively easy sharing of bibliographic records.  

The nature of the catalog in the 21st Century library, and bibliographic control in general, is being re-examined (see Library of Congress, 2000). Instead of the catalog being the unitary tool for accessing the majority of materials in a virtual library, it will be one repository of metadata among many.  Local collections of digital resources may be described and brought under some form of bibliographic control using one or more schemes of metadata.  Non-local networked resources may be described locally in the catalog or in separate metadata repositories.  Harvesting tools for metadata or networked resources may be used to create local metadata repositories of those networked resources identified by the Collection Identification, Selection, and Acquisition/Access Service.  

The challenge will be to bring order to selected sets of resources, a responsibility library catalogers and indexers have traditionally had.  But as the networked resources identified for use by the virtual library's communities expand to include geospatial datasets, archives, museum collections, and more, the challenges of providing users with the bibliographic tools for identifying, selecting, and accessing relevant resources increase in complexity.  Tools and strategies such as vocabulary control, authority control, standard and uniform descriptions of resources will be vital.

Inter-Organization Access Service: Libraries have cooperated for decades to share resources.  No library can collect and own all the resources their patrons might need.  Organizational arrangements and automated systems have encouraged resource sharing through mechanisms of interlibrary loan and document delivery.  

The virtual library, which reaches across organizational boundaries with the click of a search button for a virtual union catalog, assumes a robust Inter-Organization Access Service that addresses the economic and organizational arrangements between parties to ensure local users are able to acquire the resources needed in a timely and effective manner.  

Interlibrary loan transactions and document delivery requests may increase as non-local users have easy access to the bibliographic tools (created by the Collection Organization and Preparation Service).  In some cases users will be requesting the physical delivery of a book or journal.  In other cases, a remote user may want access to locally-created digital resources or licensed databases.   

Trust and Authentication Service: The challenges of who can use what library resources has surfaced in recent years as libraries loaded licensed databases for their users.  Defining who those users were was sometimes quite easy.  

For example, in an academic library, only those people with university identification cards (e.g., faculty, students, staff) could checkout materials.  Limits to licensed databases could be enforced by offering such access only at machines within the library.  The networked environment that allows easy remote access via the Internet has created new complexities for authenticating and authorizing users.  So, instead of a password/ID scheme, maybe allowing access to anyone with a certain IP address would work.  

The virtual library requires a Trust and Authentication Service that address who can use what resources, whether those resources a locally housed or available through arrangements with organizations across the globe. So, on the one hand, there is a need to authenticate and authorize users of resources.  

On the other hand, the virtual library has an opportunity to provide a value-added service by guaranteeing trust and authentication of the resources themselves. How will users know to trust a particular document found on the Internet?  In what ways can the library serve as the clearinghouse for trusted networked information in a manner similar to the authority the library has with is print collection?  A Trust and Authentication Service emerges with the 21st Century library.

Billing and Payment Service: For many libraries, end-user fees for information are a fact of life.  This may become even more commonplace in the virtual library where a library provides enhanced access to more and more materials.  A Payment and Billing Service addresses the complexity of charging and collecting money.  

Preservation and Archive Service: Libraries have typically created collections of resources that they preserve for long-term access by users.  Conservation and preservation efforts provide a stability and offer assurance of availability.  Sometimes this is derided as the warehouse or just-in-case model of library collections.  

Digital resources are much more dynamic and time-sensitive than their analog counterparts.  Certainly there are ephemeral digital resources that may not be subject to handling for long-term storage and access.  Analog resources get weeded from collections as a matter of course.  

Since the virtual library incorporates digital collections within a library as well as access to digital networked resources, long-term access to networked resources is an critical issue.  The Preservation and Archive Service addresses the issues of making sure users have future access to appropriate resources (analog or digital). 

Although I have identified some key foundation, or internal, services necessary in a virtual library, this list is not meant to be exhaustive.  Instead, it provides a point of departure for identifying the services, their scope, tasks and responsibilities associated, and of course, identifies these as cost centers.  These, and other behind-the-scenes services provide the foundation to create, develop, and deliver patron-oriented services.


SLIDE 9: Patron-Oriented Services

Identifying and responding to users needs has always been a goal for libraries.  Mission statements that proclaim a service orientation to users assume that the library will identify those users, their needs, and develop appropriate services in response.  Yet the user-centered values proclaimed by libraries have often been revealed as good intentions rather than actuality. One only needs to examine some of the tools and resources purportedly meant for users.  Often these are designed by and for librarians rather than users (e.g., Library of Congress Subject Headings!).  

The emerging 21st Century library no longer has a captive market.  Non-library information providers are in abundance. The Internet and its Web offer users what appears to be a very attractive alternative to the staid and dusty (or even automated and online) library.  

Parent institutions have allocated funds over the years to create libraries.  They continue to allocate funds, and those funds are now used to enhance access to digital information, provide broad-band networking capabilities, and generally ride the wave of euphoria of information technology.  

For the virtual library, it is essential to clearly identify the 21st century library's services appropriate to its users.  Although I first discussed the Foundation Services (above), the real driver of services in the virtual library will be the users.  The worrisome question is whether libraries really know what their users needs are related to information seeking, access, and use.  Any service deployed by a library (whether patron-oriented or foundation) needs to add value for the user (such as saving them time or money, improving their ability to discovery and access relevant materials, empowering them to use tools, etc.).  

Generally, libraries serve many different user groups, and in the virtual library, this will be an even more important characteristic. In existing libraries, user groups are often defined by their affiliation (e.g., students and faculty of a university) or geographic location (e.g., live in a city served by the city's public library).  What defines a user of a virtual library?  

Focusing on services allows us to think about the types and levels of services we are going to provide to the different user groups.  Defining the services for a particular user group also directs us to the technologies appropriate to those groups.

A service-based architecture not only identifies components of the virtual library and indicates where funds need to be allocated, but allows the development of service quality benchmarks or metrics.  We need to identify and flesh out the service, indicate the goals and objectives of the service, and then propose performance metrics by which to assess utility and ultimately the value of the service to users.   

The candidate patron-oriented services I'll discuss are not meant as a comprehensive listing.  We assume that typical library services (e.g., reference services and interlibrary loan services) will be continued in the virtual library.  The following highlights aspects of the services enabled through the use of networking and information technology. Each of these services may really imply a constellation of subservices.

Resource Discovery Service: A fascinating and powerful feature of the Web is the possibility of discovering information no matter where it might be physically located or what format the information is in (cf., books and journal titles in a library catalog).  Yet discovering information relevant for a particular user at a particular moment is less than optimal in the Web (to put it politely!).  As a virtual library extends the reach and range of a user across organizational, collections, and format boundaries, users face a challenge similar to that in the Web: identifying relevant materials.  

The Resource Discovery Service provides users with a variety of tools and approaches for discovering the existence of appropriate resources.  Typically, a user will search one or more repositories of metadata to identify and select resources.  The specific features of this Service depend on the functional requirements.  For example, three alternatives for searching might be:

Different resource discovery approaches require different levels of technology integration and system interoperability.  Realism in the capabilities for interoperability is essential in keeping users' expectations realistic.

Access Service: Once a user has discovered resources, this service addresses getting the information to the user. Print materials found in other libraries may be delivered through traditional interlibrary loan or document delivery services.  Digital resources may be available with a click of the mouse.  But there may be licensing agreements, authentication, and permissions needed for a user in one library to access digital materials owned or controlled by another.  

To what extent will the access services be mediated and to what extent will the patron be in control of at least initiating access to the materials.  For example, patrons could initiate their own interlibrary loan or document delivery by completing an online form.  Billing and payment for accessing or acquiring resources (digital or analog) must be robust enough to handle the complexity of charging schemes. 

Reference Service: The networked environment provides interesting opportunities for expanding typical library reference services.  Already libraries are deploying email and live chat reference services to supplement face-to-face services.  Will a library provide access to ready-reference materials online for patron use (gazetteers, dictionaries, almanacs, etc.)?  

An important consideration is the quality of service and cost issues since users from other locales may be interested in using a virtual reference service offered by a library.  With limited resources available for reference services, what is the priority of serving various user populations. The Reference Service addresses this area of the emerging library and provides a way to rethink the types of reference and public services. 

For example, there have been many Ask-An-Expert services springing up in the networked environment.  What role does the virtual library have for deploying such services?  In a university setting that is filled with experts, does the emerging library offer a referral service to point the user with an information need to a local or international Ask-A service? 

Another interesting example developed by North Carolina State University is the My Library service. This service provides customized views of library resources relevant to a user's information interests and needs.  It also provides contact information to a librarian that is available to the user.  Dynamic and customized, this service heralds one future for an interesting reference service.

Instruction Service: Libraries traditionally have instructed patrons in the use of library's tools and technologies. With the wealth of networked information available, what are the new responsibilities for libraries.  The Instruction Service focuses effort on appropriate training and instruction activities to assist patrons.  Clearly, patrons will need to know how to use the new and emerging technologies.  But more importantly, they may need help in understanding the resources available, the costs, and authenticity, etc.  The emerging library can explore new modes in instruction service for patrons.

Patron Account Service: This service area addresses a range of patron activities including checking status of materials checked out, on order, in process of delivery, etc.  Patrons can access their account information through the network, use the service to order materials or pay for resources.   


SLIDES 10-13:  Users and Services as Drivers slide

In a service-based virtual library architecture, the other components of the architecture are informed, derived, directed or otherwise defined based on the requirements to support the services.  Services are the starting point.  Instead of focusing first on the technology, we define the functional requirements for the virtual library based on the services we want to offer.  Without a doubt, technology can be a driver and is often seen as such.  But the services need to be in the driver's seat.  As a reminder, we have the following components of the architecture:

We start with an understanding of our virtual library's user groups and develop a set of services we plan to offer one or more of those group (and possibly varying levels of services depending on the group). 

The services define or determine the resource needs, where the resources may be staff, information, etc.  

Closely tied to the services is the technology that will enable their deployment.  The functional requirements of the service drive the adoption and implementation of particular technologies.  


SLIDE 14: Management 

While users provide the starting point for service development, management provides the environment for their development and deployment. Management will be challenged in the emerging library since the levels of inter-organization cooperation and collaboration are likely to increase.  As cross-organization interaction increases, new policy questions, or at least new aspects of policy will challenge management. 

And one way of to see who these new policy issues emerge is to look at another major feature of virtual libraries, interoperability.


SLIDE 15: Interoperability 

In the networked environment, there is a fundamental operating assumption: systems and organizations will interoperate.  

Unfortunately, this term is problematic at best.  In its final report, the Task Force on Metadata of the American Library Associationís Committee on Cataloging: Description and Access provides an appendix with nine separate definitions of interoperability (Task Force on Metadata, 2000).  Some common themes run through the definitions: working together, exchanging information, interacting without special effort on the part of the user, operating together effectively.  For the most part, these are system-centric definitions of interoperability. 

A more expansive treatment of interoperability is offered by Paul Miller (2000) of the UK Office of Library and Information Networking (UKOLN). He begins by stating that 

"one should actively be engaged in the ongoing process of ensuring that the systems, procedures and culture of an organisation are managed in such a way as to maximise opportunities for exchange and re-use of information, whether internally or externally."  

He goes on to suggest multiple aspects of the concept:

For many of us, the concept of interoperability is generally focused on technical interoperability between information systems.   For example, we can offer a systems-centric definition:

the ability of two more systems or components to exchange information and use the exchanged information without special effort on either system. 

But I think we need to quickly move to another perspective on interoperability in the virtual library context, that is the perspectives of users:

the user's ability to successfully search and retrieve information or services in a meaningful way and have confidence in the results.

This perspective is more appealing (albeit more challenging) if we adopt a service-based architecture for the virtual library.  We may solve some of the technical interoperability problems, but yet our users -- for whatever reasons for the assessment -- may perceive systems and organizations as not interoperating optimally. 

Even if we get our virtual catalogs to be, and appear to be, interoperable, our users may find that organizational interoperability may be less than optimal.  Now, our searcher can reach out to many different online catalogs to find resources.  If our virtual library hasn't deployed out a robust Inter-Organization Access Service that has established borrowing and use privileges between organizations and doesn't provide effective patron-oriented Access Service for the user to acquire the materials, the user may determine that there is not adequate organizational interoperability.  

Needless to say, technical interoperability raises many new policy and organizational questions.  The bottom line is: 

The fact that systems can interoperate does not mean organizations want their systems and the information residing on those systems to be accessible to anyone. 

Take the example of an academic library that has licensed or purchased a large number of databases for use by faculty, staff, and students of its parent institution.  These databases may be accessible via a standard Web browser that supports HTTP and HTML standards; any user in the world may access these databases.  Easy interoperability enabled by the Web environment is wonderful for the users.  But the library director and library system staff must adhere to licensing agreements, and may need to limit access through userid/password schemes or other user authentication mechanism.

The implementation of standards such as Z39.50 enables interoperability among systems. But implementing such technologies and offering services based on the interoperable systems requires a clear understanding of the information access and use issues such interoperability implies. 

Library managers need to address the policy implications for opening or constraining information access and use that technical interoperability enables or promises. The best time to begin formulating policies for organizational interoperability is now, while we continue to address the tough problems of technical interoperability. 

Based on the functional requirements derived from  the virtual library' service-based architecture, we begin to make informed technology decisions.  What technologies need to be deployed to support the types and levels of services?  Knowing that no technology is an island in the networked world, how do we achieve the interoperability of systems that is key to the emerging library of the 21st century? And what is the role of standards in assisting interoperability?  But this is the topic for another colloquium!

SLIDE 16: Full Circle

What service defines the need for a virtual union catalog?  What are the users needs? We have oh so many interesting technologies to work with.  And we do so much work to get these technologies to work. 

But a few questions to leave you with:

Will the virtual library be:

Defining the problem is often the first constructive step in solving it.  In this case, defining a virtual library based on well-defined services that respond to users needs may be the point of departure for building it.

 


Cleveland, Gary.  (1998, March).  Digital libraries: Definitions, issues, and challenges. UDT Occasional Paper #8. Available. URL: <http://www.ifla.org/VI/5/op/udtop8/udtop8.htm>.

Miller, Paul. (2000, June) Interoperability. What is it and why should I want it? Ariadne, Issue 24  Available: URL: <http://www.ariadne.ac.uk /issue24/interoperability/intro.htm>.

Waters, Donald J. (1998, July/August). What are digital libraries? CLIR Issues, Number 4.  
Available. URL: <http://www.clir.org/pubs/issues/issues04.html>.

Wiggins, Richard.  The Internet for Everyone.