Today's libraries are built on technology. There are services, for example book lending, which, on the face of it, appear unaffected by technology. But the process of lending books is managed by check-out systems similar to those found in retail environments. The purchasing of books is handled by dedicated systems which function like general accounting and tracking systems. Book purchasing itself can be done in toto online, just like any other e-commerce application.
This part is intended to flesh out the background to the technological developments which drive today's libraries. It considers the fundamentals of information and communications technology, and delineates trends in this area. One feature of ICT, just like anything else people create, is its diversity. However, for success in applying ICT this diversity needs to be controlled and the best way of doing that is by the specification, development or imposition of standards, common ways of doing things. Standards apply to databases, structured repositories of data. Library collections chiefly consist of documents. Two ways of managing documents are to record their existence and track them (in databases) or to digitize documents and store and manage them wholly within systems (such as document management systems). Standards underpin markup languages, such as HTML, XML and CSS, which are fundamental to managing document-centric data. These standards support both the digital storage of content and information describing that content (metadata) for retrieval, preservation, management and other purposes. Finally, standards have facilitated recent developments in networking, especially those related to the growth of the internet. Prior to the internet, library networking was limited to cross-linking services between libraries. Post internet, library networking has taken on a much more fundamental service role, as it is becoming the library service itself, as physical services become virtualized. The rise of the networked age has also seen a rise in security issues. Once the context is understood, it is then possible to cover in detail library management systems (LMS), which are customized applications of databases to support library operations.
Of course, ICT has done more than just automate book lending: it has transformed the nature of library services. This is inherent in the concept and application of the digital library, which is essentially the rejuvenation and retooling of library services in a globally networked digital environment.