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Information Architecture For Digital Libraries

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The libraries of the 21st century will be Web-based, but the technologies, standards, and architecture that future digital libraries will use are still being defined, writes University of South Florida information scientist Scott Simon. As defined by the Association of Research Libraries, digital libraries require multiple resources; transparent connections between the numerous digital libraries and information services; universal access to digital libraries and information services; and the inclusion of digital artifacts that cannot be represented or distributed in printed formats.

There is a difference between a digital library that offers digital content exclusively and one that offers both digital and physical content. Information architecture is a deep-seated element in the design and development of digital libraries, and the framework of a digital library is constructed through the integration of functional, technical, and landscape architectures. Defining and documenting those structures is the chief responsibility of the information architect, and among the common characteristics of digital libraries is the provision of user needs. User needs determine the spectrum of services that the architecture is designed to deliver, and these services are subsequently enabled by standards. Standards facilitate communication between components and effect interoperability, and a great deal of architecture boasts several interdependent layers of standards that come together to support specialized functionality. Scalability of architectural elements is enabled by standards to satisfy increasing demand, and the standards also enable extensibility. Therefore, a core architecture can support many design changes and enhancements that would be impossible otherwise.

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