Different libraries around the world: digital library

Photo: 'Server' by Alex CC-BY

Photo: ‘Server’ by Alex CC-BY

Digital libraries have existed for more than a decade now, yet for many library users, they remain somewhat in the shadows, especially in comparison to ‘bricks and books’ physical library spaces. However as more and more information moves into a digital-only space, digital libraries continue to boom and skills in managing digital information are in high demand. As the excellent Wikipedia article about Digital Libraries points out “Digital libraries can vary immensely in size and scope, and can be maintained by individuals, organizations, or affiliated with established physical library buildings or institutions, or with academic institutions. ”

There is an incredible variety of digital libraries out there across the web and there are nearly as many roles working ‘in’ digital libraries as there are kinds of digital libraries. Just like ‘regular’ libraries there are roles for content specialists, ‘cataloguers’ aka metadata specialists, client-focussed roles which look at user experiences, management roles and more. Often working in digital libraries involves working as a subset of a larger library like a public or university library, but digital libraries are increasingly also offered by corporative, government or non-government organisations – as a form of digital special library.

Digital libraries from across the web: 

Some digital libraries are curated around a theme such as the:

The Historical and Illustrated Fairy Tales Collection from University of Colorado, Boulder 

“Once Upon a Time” includes a sampling of fairy tales from the collection housed in UCB Libraries’ Special Collections Department. Covering a three hundred year time frame, the print collection encompasses European, American, and Asian tales, including several rare editions by Charles Perrault, Mme d’Aulnoy, Giovanni Straparola and the Brothers Grimm as well as the illustrator Arthur Rackham

Some digital libraries seek to serve a specific community such as the:

International Children’s Digital Library

The ICDL Foundation’s goal is to build a collection of books that represents outstanding historical and contemporary books from throughout the world.  Ultimately, the Foundation aspires to have every culture and language represented so that every child can know and appreciate the riches of children’s literature from the world community. This digital library also offers some interesting alternatives to traditional discovery interfaces, including the option to search by the colour of the cover.

And some digital libraries seek to be lots and lots of things to lots and lots of people such as:


Explore millions of items from a range of Europe’s leading galleries, libraries, archives and museums. Books and manuscripts, photos and paintings, television and film, sculpture and crafts, diaries and maps, sheet music and recordings, they’re all here. No need to travel the continent, either physically or virtually!


Trove helps you find and use resources relating to Australia. It’s more than a search engine. Trove brings together content from libraries, museums, archives and other research organisations and gives you tools to explore and build. Trove is many things: a community, a set of services, an aggregation of metadata, and a growing repository of fulltext digital resources.

Internet Archive

Including the fabulous Wayback Machine – the Internet Archive was founded in 1996. In late 1999, the organization started to grow to include more well-rounded collections. Now the Internet Archive includes: texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages in our collections, and provides specialized services for adaptive reading and information access for the blind and other persons with disabilities.

World Digital Library

The World Digital Library (WDL) is a project of the U.S. Library of Congress, carried out with the support of the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO), and in cooperation with libraries, archives, museums, educational institutions, and international organizations from around the world. The WDL makes available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from all countries and cultures.

  • Do you have a favourite digital library? Share it with us in the comments section below.
  • Have you ever worked on a digital library? What was that like?
Posted in Discussion topics, Round 2015A and tagged , , , , , , .


  1. Great article! I follow World Digital Library’s publications through my rss aggregator, I think they have a good representation of global resources. It is so interesting to view digitized old arabian manuscripts along with western resources, which are usually more common.

    Internet archive is also great, valuable classical books that someone couldn’t have access to in their hometown library.

    Project Gutenberg is also a good example, not mentioned here, I use it a lot to read classical literature in my e-reader 🙂 . There is also a nice review blog of public domain resources which can lead to interesting digital libraries or collections, the Public Domain Review (http://publicdomainreview.org/)

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