Digital libraries are quickly becoming the norm at colleges and universities since they combine technology and information resources to allow remote access to educational content, breaking down the physical barriers. But this is not the only benefit: here are 5 good reasons why teachers and parents should invite children and young learners to use digital libraries.
What is a digital library?
Before taking into consideration their 5 main benefits, let’s try to give a definition of what digital libraries are. A digital library is a collection of documents – such as magazine articles, book, papers, images, sound files and videos – organized in an electronic form and available on the Internet or on a digital support, for example a CD-ROM disk. Compared to CD-ROM disks, Internet-based digital libraries have a plus: they can be updated on a daily basis.
Many schools and institutions have already begun the task of converting their traditional collections of books and educational materials to electronic format: some files become available in HTML format while others can be downloaded in PDF format, to be printed if necessary.
A heightened amount of choice
Digital libraries give access to multiple contents with a potentially infinite number of resources and selections at hand. The main limit for traditional libraries is represented by physical space: books consume a lot of it and people often have to walk round in search of a particular material. Thanks to Internet and cloud storage, digital libraries overcome this limitation, expanding students’ horizons in learning. They can access an enormous amount of knowledge and share contents with others, facilitating the expansion of education.
Building a heritage for the next generation
Online libraries help the scientific society since they act as a reservoir for the storage of important research data, information and findings. For a very long time, the physical records of scientific studies and researches had to live with a critical issue: they were destroyed or lost. But today, thanks to digital libraries, the online copies of studies and researches can be protected and collected to create a virtual heritage of information for the coming generations.
Instant access to educational content
As long as an Internet connection is available, digital libraries are accessible anywhere and at any moment using a simple technological device, such as a PC, a tablet or even a smartphone. This means students can consult online books, images, videos and all the other educational contents without having to wait and go to the nearest physical library. They can do it in a formal environment, for example at school, or they can relax at their homes getting an instant access to the information they need.
Fighting against deterioration
The digital storage of books and, above all, audios, solve the problem of deterioration. In traditional libraries, audio cassette tapes and vinyl records are shared among a lot of students posing the problem to stand a large number of playings. Fragile photographs or ancient documents have to resist several handovers and consultations, with the risk of being subjected to breakages or other damages. Thanks to the digitizing of materials, it is possible to access contents how many times a student needs, using formats (mp3, digital images, online textbooks, etc.) which are definitely much safer to use.
An easier information retrieval
Over the years, digital libraries have developed a range of search features – such as boolean and proximity operators, truncation, etc. – that facilitate the access to information and data collections, allowing students to perform sophisticated searches for a variety of queries.
Thanks to intuitive search engine technologies – for example, ranking or automatic term expansion – even novice users can start using digital libraries accomplishing their searches independently. And the most encouraging thing is that, as the digital collections grow larger, the level of sophistication of these searching features increases exponentially.