7 benefits of Digital Libraries for Schools – Acer for Education
Last Updated: 24/11/2023
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 physical barriers.
But this is not the only benefit: here are 7 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 7 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, books, papers, images, sound files, and videos – that are digitized and available on the Internet or on a digital support, for example, a computer or a hard disk.
Compared to hard disks and computers, 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.
Currently, there are many digital libraries available on the internet. For instance, World Digital Library offers diverse documents in a multilingual format. Instead, Universal Digital Library has one of the largest collections, counting 1 million publications. Also, Project Gutenberg has an extensive choice of free-to-download ebooks.
The benefits of digital libraries for students
Digital libraries give students all the knowledge of physical libraries with many practical benefits.
The main benefit is the saving of time and space. Researching for the right publication can become a time-consuming activity, especially when a library contains a vast amount of books and documents. Digital libraries, instead, allow immediate access to infinite content within the time of a click and at every moment.
Moreover, as well-stocked libraries may be, they can rarely provide everything students need because of the space limitations compared to the enormous amount of human content production. Of course, this issue is almost non-existent with digital libraries, providing on-demand access to a wide variety of documents.
Therefore, with digital libraries accessing materials for students is fast and easy. Also, content is always updated, and – in many cases – students can directly consult the library administrators if they need further information and clarification.
A heightened amount of choice
Digital libraries offer access to multiple contents with a potentially infinite number of resources and selections. The main limit for traditional libraries is represented by physical space: printed books consume a lot of it and people often have to walk around in search of a particular material.
Thanks to the Internet and cloud storage, digital libraries overcome this limitation, expanding students’ horizons in learning. They can access an enormous amount of knowledge and share content 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 long time, the physical records of scientific studies and research had to live with a critical issue: their distruction or loss.
But today, thanks to digital libraries, online copies of studies and research 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, students can access digital libraries 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 content 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 instant access to the information they need.
Fighting against deterioration
The digital storage of books and, above all, audio, solve the problem of deterioration. In traditional libraries, audio cassette tapes and vinyl records are shared among a lot of students posing the problem of standing a large number of playings.
Fragile photographs or ancient documents must resist several handovers and consultations, with the risk of risking 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.) that 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 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 to accomplish their searches independently. And the most encouraging thing is that, as the digital collections grow larger, the level of sophistication of these search features increases exponentially.
Conventional libraries may struggle with keeping content updated as it is expensive and demanding to stay up-to-date with the latest edition of each publication.
Today, most digital libraries offer pay-as-you-read deals that allow users to access the latest edition, contributing to reader engagement. This feature benefits all library users, but it is a significant innovation for students and the scientific community, as using updated information is the premise of quality research.
Simplified sharing and collaboration
Digital libraries often present the same structural properties to social media to allow users to communicate with library administrators or participate in a community of readers.
These features foster exchange and collaboration, contributing to turning research into a participatory experience that enriches knowledge flows. As libraries are places of cultural preservation, it is great to see how digitalisation can be instrumental in their development.
A community of students and readers can impact research positively, helping to corroborate information and create a network that can expand the reach of new knowledge.