Technological advancements have occasioned several changes in the present world. The impacts of these changes have affected all human activities and organisations. Among the affected organisations are the resource centres or libraries. Due to the changes instigated by technology, several individuals are currently shifting their search of information from libraries located in buildings to sites that are accessible via the Internet.
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Although the libraries in the digital arena are easily accessible, have huge capacities, very convenient to use, and occupy a little space, they have cons like hacking, unreliable Internet connection and use of software, as well as limited the knowledge of using the Internet. Therefore, the purpose of the assessment is to examine digital libraries in terms of pros related to capacity, durability, location, security, portability, convenience, access, efficiency, and quality in relation to cons such as vulnerability to cyber crimes, high dependence on the Internet, and huge costs of maintenance.
Critical Evaluation of the Literature
The assessment uses literature that delves into the arguments advanced by various scholars concerning digital and traditional libraries. In the assessment, it is apparent that the arguments, which support of digital and traditional libraries prevails. The study employs literature that explains the fact that those supporting digital libraries dwell on the benefits that accrue from the use of digital sources of information such as the Internet. Furthermore, the assessment looks into the arguments of scholars, who support the retention of traditional libraries and explain the various benefits of traditional libraries citing the negative aspects of digital platforms in their quest to promote the retention of traditional sources of information.
According to Chowdhury, the roles that digital libraries play extend beyond the common roles of a traditional library and encompass communication and quick search of information (262). In contrast, Ratha, Naidu, and Gawde argue that with an effective cataloguing system, traditional libraries can yield positive results and outsmart the new digital libraries (14). Evidently, the arguments that various scholars advance in the contention between traditional and digital libraries is bound to continue in a simultaneous manner with the search for information.
Pros and Cons of Digital Libraries
Pros of Digital Libraries
Capacity and Durability
Digital libraries have the capacity of storing large amount of information in a singular and relatively little space. Evidently, the capacity of digital libraries is higher than that of traditional libraries. The amount of information stored in a personal computer, a smart phone, or in the Internet is higher than the amount of information available in a number of traditional libraries. Borgman asserts that a single digital library can serve millions of individuals across the global arena, irrespective of its size and location (232). Therefore, it is imperative to understand that, while traditional libraries can be efficient, digital libraries outsmart them as they provide a platform that serves a wide range of people due to its ability to store and avail large amount of information.
In traditional libraries, which use printed mediums such as books, periodicals, and journals as the main sources of information, the extent of damage relating to wear and tear is high. Users of the library are likely to tear books or journals in their process of reading. Moreover, natural calamities and disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and outbreaks of fires can occasion the destruction of these sources of information. Conversely, in digital libraries, the information is safe and durable.
According to Ratha, Naidu, and Gawde, the providers of digital library services understand the significance of preserving the information for a long period in accurate and intact states (25). Essentially, when a book, a journal, or a periodical is stored in a digital format its durability materialises because it is free from natural calamities and disasters. Additionally, the sources of information stored in digital libraries stay for longer periods as they are not subject to wear and tear, a factor that catalyses ageing in books, journals, and periodicals.
Location and Security
Digital libraries are accessible anywhere provided the individuals intending to visit the site have the required computers such as the smart phone, ipads, or laptops. It is easy access to the digital library without visiting a specific location, as is the case with traditional libraries increases its significance in the contemporary world. Continued availability of information in the digital libraries and its access in any location substantiates their critical nature in the modern world (Pavani 4).
Several traditional libraries are in specific regions and locations that dictate the movement of people from their places of work or residence to these locations. The dictation of individuals to visit certain locations so that they can access a library is a factor that drives some potential library users away. Imperatively, in the modern world, people have busy schedules, and as a result, their willingness to visit a library to look for information decreases.
The security of information stored in digital libraries is high as opposed to traditional libraries. High security of information in digital libraries is due to the customisation that limits the access of information by the untargeted individuals. Moreover, individuals cannot steal, edit, or tamper with the information in digital libraries. Schatz explains the crucial significance is accorded to the rules that govern retrieval of information in the digital libraries (332).
The limited retrieval and use, which prevents editing, tampering, and theft, makes the information contained in books, journals, and periodicals in the digital libraries safe and secure. In several instances, individuals steal pages or parts of books or journals from a traditional library without the notice of the library staff. The ability to steal parts or pages of information from the traditional libraries without the staff noting is a factor that makes the libraries insecure in storing information.
Portability, Convenience, and Access
Since digital libraries are virtual and accessible through the Internet, individuals can easily carry the gadgets that access it as they undertake their daily activities. By carrying the gadgets like smart phones, laptops, and iPads, the portability characteristic of digital libraries becomes achievable. Greenberg argues that digital libraries have made it easy for individuals to access information via the Internet (1).
The portability nature, which transpires by using portable gadgets like smart phones, is a phenomenon that outsmarts the role of traditional libraries. Additionally, quick and easy access to the digital library is a factor that makes the libraries convenient. In essence, navigation and search of information in a digital library are easy since the user types the required information and gets the wide variety of options to select. The case is different in traditional libraries, where a user has to search through several books and journals before getting the required information.
Traditional libraries have limited access, as they require the presence of the individual for service delivery. If an individual does not visit the specific location of the library, the ability to get information is limited. However, digital libraries do not require the presence of an individual in a certain location as its accessibility takes place anywhere. Moreover, digital libraries are accessible to several individuals as opposed to traditional libraries, which serve few individuals in a region or location.
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Digital libraries serve individuals all over the world, who understand the language used and know how to employ gadgets like laptops or smart phones in the search for information online. Organised and well-planned use of digital libraries results in the delivery of information to thousands of individuals in the global arena (Babini and Smart 109). High connectivity to sites such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube has increased the amount of convenience that transpires with the use of digital libraries.
Efficiency and Quality
The level of efficiency provided by digital libraries is very high and facilitates quick search and retrieval of information. Provided the location and the gadgets used have the Internet connection and the required software, individuals are certain to get the required information at any given time and place. Beagrie explains that the efficiency of digital libraries improves with the use of a mechanism that upgrades the durability of information in digital libraries (6).
In addition, search for information in digital libraries requires few procedures as opposed to traditional libraries where an individual has to go through a long process of searching among several books. Few formalities involved in the search for the required information makes digital libraries very instrumental for several library users. It is important to understand that the several hours and minutes spent by an individual looking for a book or a journal in a traditional library can reduce from hours to a few minutes when the individuals uses a digital library.
The quality of information contained in books, journals, and periodicals in a digital library is conserved since the users cannot edit or steal the information. According to Greenberg, the managers and supervisors of digital libraries retain copyright of resources so that the originality remains intact (3). Therefore, the quality of the information contained in these sources remains intact and consumers, who visit the site, get relevant information in correct quality and state.
In traditional libraries, individuals, tamper with the quality of information by either scribbling on them or tearing some parts of the books or journals. Furthermore, the individuals can steal books, journals, or periodicals in traditional libraries, and thus, the absence of the required sources of information. Activities such as tearing, scribbling, or stealing of resources in a traditional library greatly affect the quality of information that is present in traditional libraries and makes the information insufficient.
Cons of Digital Libraries
Vulnerability to Cybercrimes and Dependence on the Internet
Among the demerits associated with digital libraries is vulnerability to cybercrimes. Since digital libraries are sites that several individuals visit, the vulnerability of the site to hackers and cyber criminals increases. As a result, countless amount of information available online in digital libraries is prone to damage by cyber crimes. Babini and Smart assert that absence of organised and planning in the management of digital libraries increase the chances of hacking or attachment of links by cyber criminals (111).
Moreover, cyber criminals attach attractive profiles and links, which mislead the person searching for information in some instances. In the quest of looking for information, a number of individuals come across links that mislead and direct t them to malicious sites. Significantly, the major victims of the insecure nature of digital libraries are youth and children, who search for information in the Internet.
Another challenge that is a major setback in digital libraries is the dependence on the Internet connectivity. Evidently, absence of the Internet connection in a region makes digital libraries functionless and users of the libraries have to look for places that have the Internet connection. The dependency on Internet by digital libraries has made several consumers in various locations that have a poor connection of the Internet miss the benefits of digital libraries.
Various regions located in the lowlands and areas with extreme weather conditions are the main areas that experience poor connection of the Internet, and therefore, people in these areas do not access digital libraries. As opposed to digital libraries, traditional libraries flourish in regions that have limited Internet connection. Rural areas, regions with extreme weather conditions, and developing countries are some of the places that do not enjoy the maximum benefits of digital libraries due to the low Internet connection (Pavani 3). The ability of traditional libraries to flourish in the regions, which have poor connection of the Internet, is possible because potential consumers of products offered by digital libraries opt to visit these libraries in their search for information.
To install a functional digital library, a region requires individuals, who have the required expertise in the field of information technology, computer applications, as well as the Internet. In addition, the procedures used and the equipments required to install the library should be present. A combination of these requirements and the human resources compounds the costs of commencing a digital library to a level that is relatively higher than the cost of a traditional library.
Beagrie explains that digital libraries require people, who are conversant with the use of the Internet and the application of computers (8). Since digital library requires training on the application and use of the Internet, some regions of the world that are still developing may opt to use traditional libraries, which they are user friendly. The high cost of setting up a functional digital library and the human resources required in maintaining and monitoring its use makes several regions choose to develop traditional libraries, which are less expensive to build and maintain.
Over the recent past, the Internet has transformed several areas of humanity. Among the areas that became subject of technological transformation is the institution of learning and resource centres. Resource centres and libraries have witnessed a shift from the use traditional libraries to the use of digital and online libraries. It is imperative to understand that the arguments concerning the benefits of using traditional libraries and digital libraries arose simultaneously with the introduction of digital libraries. Some of the benefits associated with digital libraries include high capacity of storage, durability, expediency concerning location, and security. Moreover, portability, convenience, easy access, as well as efficiency, and quality comprise the benefits of digital libraries. Increased vulnerability to cybercrimes, dependency on the Internet, and huge costs are some of the demerits that affect the use digital libraries in the contemporary society.
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Ratha, Bhupendra, George Naidu, and Manisha Gawde. “Information Research: An International Electronic Journal: A Bibliometric Study.” International Journal of Digital Library Services 2.1 (2012): 1-52. Print.
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