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Digital libraries extend traditional library tools, collections, and metaphors in new and sometimes radical directions. Geoscience information, traditionally found in libraries in the form of maps, reports, books, and journal articles, can potentially gain enormous benefits from digital interfaces that allow geospatial information to be effectively searched and displayed in context. However, to many users of such a collection, the concepts within geoscience represent a barrier to use and understanding.

The Georgia Basin Digital Library (GBDL) Project examines community-based decision support for sustainable development, using digital geoscience information as a fundamental component. The context and relevance of geoscientific and other information in the GBDL is explained and represented through the use of semistructured representations based on architectural pattern languages, where a web of connected concepts are each contextualized using storytelling with supporting graphics. The GBDL allows multiple coexisting pattern networks, so that multiple perspectives on an idea, a situation, or a region are possible and in fact preferable.

The GBDL interface makes use of geographic information systems (GIS) components to show maps, such that the point of engagement for a user might alternatively be a story, a map, a photo, or a text heading. Linking the mapping component directly to the pattern framework allows for community-level contextualization of ideas and stories.

For geoscientists, the ideas in the GBDL are relevant both as novel approaches to sharing geoscience information with the public and as approaches that can be applied to specialized scientific discourse in the future. As the Web evolves, geoscience information systems and communication must evolve along with it; the GBDL shows one such evolutionary pathway.

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