The Digital Libraries Manifesto
"Markets are conversation. When you think of the Internet, don't think of Mack trucks full of widgets destined for distributorships, whizzing by countless billboards. Think of a table for two".
"Markets are conversations" is the first of the 95 theses of the Cluetrain Manifesto: the end of business as usual, a document published in 1999 that re-defines the nature and the typical processes of markets in the web age as conversations among human beings. In the context of networked on-line markets, corporations, producers, service providers and goods vendors are losing their central role and their capacity of mediating market demands, while individuals are now acquiring new powers and appear to be less and less the passive users or consumers of the past. According to the authors of the manifesto, the companies that aren't able to take part in these human "conversations" and speak the language of their markets are doomed to the side-lines. Acting on an idea of Giovanni Bergamin's, the Italian library Association (AIB) Working Group on digital libraries has tried to transfer these ideas into the context of digital libraries. The result is the following document, consisting of three parts (Principles, Models, Functions) and 30 theses.
1. Digital libraries are conversations
This manifesto is about digital libraries, not THE Digital Library. Digital libraries are not a single system or grand systematic narrative; rather they consist of many conversations held together by a common language and a communicative structure which is based on different communities commitments to different groups of users.
2. Digital libraries provide services
Digital libraries are communities that offer services to their users; they are distinguished according to their disciplinary specialization, geographical distribution or institutional affiliation.
3. Digital libraries promote knowledge
Digital libraries must aim to support access to knowledge and help people exercise their rights as citizens, including that of life-long learning.
4. Digital libraries are libraries
Like all other libraries, digital libraries can be defined as services that mediate the access to knowledge and are historically determined by the interrelation with their environment. In the specific context of the hybrid library, digital libraries must aim to integrate digital and non-digital resources in order to best create services that meet their users' needs.
5. Digital libraries integrate communities
Digital libraries must functionally integrate the services offered by many different communities: archives, libraries, museums, educational and research institutions, public administrations, cultural businesses, and ITC industries.
6. Digital libraires disseminate documents
Digital libraries must guarantee the conservation and the diffusion of all documents; among these are pre-prints, internal reports, teaching materials, research projects, experimental procedures, institutional records and other e-prints that would otherwise be relegated to the category of so-called "grey literature".
7. Digital libraries respect everybody's rights
Digital libraries must seek fairness and balance between the rights and interests of intellectual property or copyright owners and the right of users to full and unimpeded access to knowledge. Digital libraries safeguard the individual's right to privacy as well.
8. Digital Libraries share their problems with their communities
Digital libraries must establish an interactive relationship with their users: they must promote the active participation of individuals in community life and try to speak their language.
9. Digital libraries hardly tolerate centralism
The old model of central control and administration has caused the failure of many digital libraries projects. Their coordinated development, on the other hand, is guaranteed by the adoption and diffusion of technological standards that ensure inter-operability and also by organizational models that promote co-operation.
10. Digital libraries are on-line
All those who can access Internet are potential users of digital resources.
11. Digital libraries are accessible
To ensure access to the largest number and variety of users, the infrastructures of digital libraries must facilitate finding and using all digital resources; this means implementing measures designed to combat the "digital divide" and respecting criteria of usability and accessibility of web sites, including multilingual solutions in order to guarantee worldwide content diffusion.
12. Digital libraries make themselves known
Digital libraries ought to promote every aspect of their activities and teach their users about the correct use of services and resources.
13. Digital libraries are open to discussion and innovations
Digital libraries must constantly evaluate ( through auditing, benchmarking) and update their structures, services and contents, in order to carry out their intended purposes in the most appropriate way and to direct their actions towards new emerging objectives.
14. Digital libraries are funded in a transparent way
Funding assigned to digital libraries must be documented, transparent and publicized. All projects must be evaluated on the basis of their innovative characteristics and the benefits they provide to the public.
15. Digital libraries have nothing to do with 'techeology'
Discussions about digital libraries often represent technological tools as mixture of ideology and technology, as though, i.e., they were the ultimate goals, and not simply a means, of providing services.
16. Digital libraries have flexible models
The models of digital libraries must be flexible enough to be easily updated in accordance with technological innovations. They must be open to synergic integration with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) applications that go well beyond the specific field of digital libraries and archives (e-commerce, digital rights management, public key infrastructure, e-learning, e-government).
17. Digital libraries consist of contents and services
Digital libraries are to be defined in terms of contents, services, users, providers and technologies. The contents, or resources, consist of digital objects and their metadata (descriptive, structural, technical, administrative, and those to do with conservation and rights management). The services make the digital objects available to the different communities of users according to the information provided by their metadata.
18. The contents and the services are heterogeneous
Digital libraries contains different digital objects with different life-cycles. They may use different schemas of metadata and provide different services.
19. The access to contents and services is homogeneous
Digital libraries must prefer advanced search interfaces that can provide integrated access to diverse and multimedial objects, thus permitting the retrieval of resources represented by different descriptive standards and belonging to different types of creative expressions.
20. Digital libraries have a complex architecture based on standards
Fundamental architecture components are:
a) web portals to present contents and services in an organized way;
b) models (cross-searching, metadata harvesting, reference linking, ...);
c) protocols (SRU/SRW, OAI-PMH, NISO OpenURL, ISO-ILL, LDAP, ...) and technological standards (HTTP, WebServices, XML, PKI, ...) that form the middleware for the integration of research services and access to Internet resources;
d) standards of metadata (DC, MAG, ODRL, METS, MPEG-21, RDF, ...).
21. Content and service providers interact
The infrastructure of digital libraries is based on the co-existence of a variety of digital repositories and service providers, according to the model as defined by the Open Archives Initiative (OAI). The repositories display descriptive and administrative metadata according to the OAI-PMH, and the service providers harvest them to implement disciplinary, institutional or territorial portals.
22. The contents are organized in a variety of collections
Each repository may host one or more of the collections that content providers maintain in full autonomy. Incentives must be given to co-operation initiatives, however, for the purpose of harmonizing contents and reducing duplications.
23. Access and fruition are decided in autonomy
The content providers responsible for the repositories autonomously decide the access and usage policies to be applied to the different service providers, according to the type of resource or service and the different groups of users.
24. Digital libraries focus on users
They take advantage of the technology of portals and users' registration, profiling authentication and authorization to integrate retrieval, search, localization and access services with users' guides and instructions, selected content lists, customization of the interfaces and personal web spaces.
25. Digital libraries maintain a relationship with education systems and academic and research institutions
Digital libraries freely offer their repositories and their services for accessing digital resources in support of the activities -- especially e-learning -- of education and research institutions at all levels.
26. Digital libraries co-operate to preserve the digital cultural heritage
In line with legislation on legal deposit, certain repositories are committed to the permanent preservation (or necessary weeding out) of digital cultural heritage. In this respect, they co-operate and integrate their functions, adopting the most suitable standards (i.e. Open Archival Information System, OAIS ISO 14721). At the same time, legal depositories implement the technology that best guarantees data conservation and long-term readability.
27. The "Digital Libraries National Portal" is the access point for the services offered by the different providers
The Digital Libraries National Portal provides a homogeneous access point for the various service providers and offers an integrated view of the resources available on a national level. It must function as a meta-index and national directory.
28. The adoption of open source software and open standards help the diffusion of digital contents.
To help the diffusion of the contents of the digital collections, it is vital to promote the adoption and the development of open source software and standards that could contribute to overcome access barriers, instead of creating new ones.
29. The communities of digital libraries share management utilities and services
Appropriate services must be developed, tested and managed co-operatively for the attribution of univocal and enduring identifiers to digital resources, for digital rights management (DRM) and for the creation of commonly shared thesauri.
30. Digital libraries promote their functional integration with search engines
Digital libraries must promote the establishment of functional relationships with search engines, in the role of aggregators and distributors of metadata on digital resources.
Open Access, Digital Literacy
The authors of "The Digital Libraries Manifesto" describe what digital libraries are and how they work. Written prior to the broad adoption of Dublin Core Metadata Standards, this manifesto describes the structure, organization, and function of digital archives.
Gruppo di studio sulle biblioteche digitali
© Associzione Italiana Biblioteche (AIB)
November 28, 2005
Digital Anthropology, Media Archaeology, & Media Ecology,
Digital Literacy, Digital Preservation