Virtual Is Reality

Presentation in Malmo, Sweden

April 16, 1999

Kenneth E. Dowlin

Distinguished Visiting Professor
San Jose State University
School of Library and Information Science


My Vision is the Global Village Library.

My Quest is the Eradication of Ignorance

Libraries are in A Time of Parenthesis, which means that we are not what we were, nor what we will be. (Margaret Knox Goggin)

Where are we going?

"Skate to where the puck’s going to be, not where it has been. Anticipate. Anticipate" --Walter Gretzky (Wayne Gretzky’s, the all-time great hockey player, father)

In its early days the Internet was characterized as A Cloud of Users, but now the development of the search engines and the meta search engines is providing powerful indexing and access tools to any user. Carla Hesse, in a chapter in the Future of the Book points out the similarity of new technology's impact on communication between the end of 18th century paradigm shift and the end of the 20th century. She sees the experimentation with micro technologies as a means of putting the power of publication into the hands of every individual citizen. Condorcet saw the new technologies for communication at the end of the 17th Century as the opportunity to bring all of France into a dialogue with itself. Unfortunately, the French revolution intervened and it took centuries to be realized. That time did lead to recognition of intellectual property. Is the promise becoming reality as we enter the 21st century? There is some evidence that it is and there is other evidence that conflicts. The Internet is a new medium, a cultural phenomenon, a tool for uniting the world, and great equalizer for access to libraries. It provides access to the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian Institute, as well as to the Homer, Alaska, Public Library (the great institutions to the small). But is it a vehicle for the virtual university?

The Virtual University

There are signs that it may be over hyped for education. Is the Virtual University Vaporware? The Western Governors Virtual University in the United States had a huge buildup in the press is rumored to have very little actual enrollment after two years of planning and hype. The California Virtual University quietly closed its doors about a year after a grand announcement by the Governor. Perhaps education over the Internet requires a broader perspective than just looking at what the technology can do. Perhaps the University is an artificial construct that doesn't translate into the virtual world. Cliff Lynch states that

" One of the purposes of a university is to create a community of scholars, and to prepare students to join that community."

So, the question is how do we create a community of scholars in a virtual university? It will probably take a number of elements, but perhaps a clue is to distinguish between a college or school and a university. It is my own thesis that Virtual education must start with a smaller, more cohesive unit such as a school within a University.

The Virtual Library

At the same time that the California Virtual University closed its doors, the California Digital Library (a new library in the University of California System that is only about two years old) is thriving. If we consider the totality of the library resources that are available on the Internet we see that the Virtual Library is global, dynamic, expanding by the second, and, is being cataloged by the commercial world (Yahoo, Lycos, etc.) as well as the public institutions. The Virtual Library reached the size of the New York Public Library in less than 5 years. At least 85 % of the Public Libraries in US provide public access to the Internet. Public Libraries are one of the largest public access mechanisms outside of the home, office, or school.



Paradigm Shift

We are at a transition point and it is time for new definitions. The previous definition of the library no longer serves our communities well in the digital age. The earlier definition as a community collection of books is too limiting. We must have a definition that works for both the traditional library and the virtual library. The library should be redefined as a space to practice librarianship. So, what is Librarianship? Librarianship is the people who practice the craft of selecting, collecting, organizing, preserving, and disseminating the vessels of knowledge. They also apply the values and ethics of the profession, and advocate for access to information, knowledge, reading, and learning.




How do we transform Libraries and Librarianship into 21st Century institutions?

We create a Virtual School of Library and Information Science







The Virtual School of Library

And Information Science



An internationally recognized program that creates and sustains LIS professionals whom will transform libraries into 21st Century institutions


Change Elements


Public Distributors

Public Content Producers

Private Partners




Development - Phase A

Development - Phase B

Institutionalization - Phase C


Project Staff Elements

Coordinator & Principle Investigator

Communication & Marketing


Production & Technical Support


Transformation Training Unit


Quality Assurance

Accreditation by the American Library Association for Librarians

The Learners

Recruitment in undergraduate schools


Lifelong Learning

Virtual Library (universities, and community) Architects


If the federal funding is received for the fall of 1999, the courses will start on the Internet in the spring semester of 2000. Some of the parts, such as the Digital Media Management System are being developed now. A Beta test of the LSTI DMM is being set up at this time.