Aquifer. A progress report
November 11, 2004
Digital libraries add value to information by organizing it into coherent, highly differentiated collections that are developed to support particular modes of inquiry and/or user communities. Users access these collections with the current generation of sophisticated search tools, but also through a range of highly specialized end-user services.. Google, by contrast, adds value to information by amassing it into vast, largely undifferentiated collections which users examine with increasingly sophisticated search tools.
A. What is Aquifer
Supporting research, teaching, and learning with high-quality online special collections and distinctive information services. Aquifer is an initiative of the Digital Library Federation (DLF). It leverages DLF members’ extant digital collections, their institutional capacities, curatorial expertise, and historic service to scholarly communities.
Aquifer members are committed to interoperability, resource sharing, and adherence to agreed standards and information architectures, as well as to the participation in fulfilling shared development agenda. Membership in Aquifer requires financial commitment of its members. It also requires alignment of organizational goals and investments.
B. Some Aquifer development directions
1. Collections. Aquifer will build virtual online collections of openly accessible materials that support innovation in research, teaching, and learning. Initially, it will build a virtual collection illuminating American history, society, culture, geography and the environment. In this effort it will leverage two related multi-institutional initiatives: The American South (based at Emory) and The American West (based at CDL) by:
Aquifer will look to the American South and American West projects to define collection development paths and processes for collections of cultural materials bearing on American history and society. It will commission collection development strategies for American literature and American Music.
2. Standards. Aquifer will adopt a range of standards that enable and encourage interoperability and co-development. It has already adopted standards for data providers. The standards are considered to be 1) in development and 2) an initial layer of the standards that will ultimately endorsed and required.
Adopted standards include those recommended for data providers by the DLF OAI best practices working group. In addition, the group agreed that data providers should:
Although Aquifer emphasizes standards for its data providers, it recognizes the limitations on this means of collection building. Accordingly, it adopts two other collection development strategies:
3. Technology. Aquifer will focus initially on the development of tools and practices that enable implementation of OAI harvesting best practices in the development of virtual online collections. As a starting point Aquifer will
The process will result in the identification and further development (co-development where appropriate) of essential tools that aid Aquifer in developing virtual collections.
4. Basic infrastructure. Aquifer will develop and maintain basic infrastructure to supports resource sharing and co-development and including
5. Organizational infrastructure. Aquifer will employ a Director. It may seek to employ a number of program managers concentrating in key areas (architecture and technology, collections, etc).
Aquifer’s work will be guided by a variety of small working group focusing in functional areas as necessary and including an Architecture, Design, and Implementation Group, a Collection Development Group, etc.
Key working groups may be assisted by fulltime program managers who will administer and provide facilitated leadership for their work and also follow up for on actions that required investigative and other efforts over and above those which volunteer members might be expected to contribute. In addition, program managers will provide the coordination necessary for successful co-development effort that the Aquifer partners will undertake
A full draft business plan with details about the funding, organization, and governance of Aquifer will be available for initial review in January 2005
C. Partner commitments
Aquifer partners commit themselves to:
 Thus a collection of online texts may be accessible with a range of analytical features that support computer-based literary and linguistic analyses; a collection of social science data is surrounded with visualization and statistical processing tools, etc.