Defrosting the digital library: bibliographic tools for the next generation web

PLoS Comput Biol. 2008 Oct;4(10):e1000204. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000204. Epub 2008 Oct 31.


Many scientists now manage the bulk of their bibliographic information electronically, thereby organizing their publications and citation material from digital libraries. However, a library has been described as "thought in cold storage," and unfortunately many digital libraries can be cold, impersonal, isolated, and inaccessible places. In this Review, we discuss the current chilly state of digital libraries for the computational biologist, including PubMed, IEEE Xplore, the ACM digital library, ISI Web of Knowledge, Scopus, Citeseer, arXiv, DBLP, and Google Scholar. We illustrate the current process of using these libraries with a typical workflow, and highlight problems with managing data and metadata using URIs. We then examine a range of new applications such as Zotero, Mendeley, Mekentosj Papers, MyNCBI, CiteULike, Connotea, and HubMed that exploit the Web to make these digital libraries more personal, sociable, integrated, and accessible places. We conclude with how these applications may begin to help achieve a digital defrost, and discuss some of the issues that will help or hinder this in terms of making libraries on the Web warmer places in the future, becoming resources that are considerably more useful to both humans and machines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Database Management Systems / trends*
  • Databases, Bibliographic
  • Humans
  • Internet / organization & administration*
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data
  • Libraries, Digital / organization & administration*
  • Libraries, Digital / statistics & numerical data
  • Library Automation / trends
  • Library Collection Development / trends