In March this year, the Institute of Museum and Library Services ( IMLS) and the University of Missouri-Columbia co-hosted Web-Wise: A Conference on Libraries and Museums in the Digital World. Approximately 200 people, including museum and library representatives as well as information technology leaders, convened in Washington, D.C., for the Agency's first large-scale forum to discuss the ways that museums and libraries are providing digital content and services. A combination of presentations, demonstrations and poster sessions, discussions, and networking opportunities, one museum representative described the conference as a "best practice clinic for how to share resources and could be seen as a model for meaningful presentation-based conferences."
The conference demonstrated that there is a great deal of interest and activity in digitization within the museum and library communities. Of the approximately 100 participants who completed conference evaluations, 75 percent said they are currently engaged in digitization activities and another 15 percent are planning such activities. Over 80 percent found the conference "very relevant" to their needs and virtually all of the attendees who responded to the follow-up evaluation stated that they had made contacts that will be valuable to them in their future endeavors concerning digital libraries. Comments included phrases such as "consciousness-raising," "a hotbed of inspiration," "it gave us our first 'sophisticated' project idea" and "[my colleagues have not] grasped the enormity of what is going on in the realm of digital libraries. With the background provided by the substance of Web-Wise, I have improved my chances of influencing policy decisions at my museum." Many participants encouraged IMLS to convene more conferences on this topic.
Participants particularly praised discussions of standards for managing digital resources, preservation, collaboration and partnerships, evaluation, and "just seeing what everyone is doing." There was a consensus that more coordination is needed at the national, state, and regional levels to build a framework for wide-area digital libraries that will provide access to the valuable resources of museums, libraries, archives, and historical societies across the country.
The Institute of Museum and library Services is an independent United States federal agency that fosters leadership, innovation, and a lifetime of learning. IMLS supports all types of museums, from art and history to science and zoos, and all types of libraries and archives, from public and academic to research and school. IMLS expands the educational benefit of these institutions by encouraging partnerships.
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Paper received 1 May 2000; accepted 10 May 2000.
Copyright ©2000, First Monday
Web-Wise Conference: A Conference on Libraries and Museums in the Digital World
First Monday, volume 5, number 6 (June 2000),