A framework and forum for evolving digital library
OCKHAM was conceived of as a series of discussions about key
architectural and technical issues confronting digital library
developers. An initial
meeting to establish an agenda for these discussions was held
in conjunction with the DLF forum in Chicago on May 10, 2002.
This think-tank group met several times during 2002/2003, at Emory and at DLF Forums, resulting in a the collaborative writing of a successful grant of $425,000 from the NSF to the Ockham network -- Emory, Notre Dame, the University of Arizona,
and the Computer Science Department of Virginia Tech -- for "The
OCKHAM Library Network: Integrating the NSDL into Traditional
Library Services." The goal of the project is to improve usage
and access to the National Science Digital Libraries by learning
communities through the existing national infrastructure of
To accomplish its goal, OCKHAM is combining theoretical work
and practical application development. On the theoretical side,
OCKHAM will articulate, describe and illustrate the definitions
and relationships of various information-related activities. Such
activities include searching, browsing, annotating, reviewing,
evaluating, disseminating, creating, editing, deleting, etc.
Based on these definitions and relationships, a set of computer
communication protocols will be created and adapted for the
purposes of standardizing the activities. Finally, a number of
sample Web-based services will be implemented and shared as open
source software demonstrating the project's feasibility. For more
information, see this
Initial Proposal, April 18, 2002
D. Greenstein (DLF) and Martin Halbert (Emory University)
Even at their different stages of development, digital
libraries are beginning to look for generalizable technical
solutions and for an architecture or framework within which such
solutions can be implemented, shared, and discussed.
Some of the DLF member library programs (Harvard, NYU,
Columbia perhaps) focus from the outset on the design an
implementation of such a framework. Others (Michigan, Indiana,
Virginia, perhaps) develop this orientation after a period of
experimentation that produces a legacy of different, potentially
incompatible collections and services.
What is interesting is how so many are now actively engaged in
trying to define and build some over-arching digital library
architecture. Indeed, it is arguably the one activity that DLF
members (digital libraries perhaps) share most in common.
In light of this, DLF is initiating a series of discussions
about key architectural and technical issues confronting digital
library developers. A proposal prepared by Martin Halbert (Emory
University) is supplied below as a contribution to seed
discussion at an initial meeting. It focuses on the need to
surface a high-level architecture. It is recognized, however,
that OCKHAM may evolve in different as a venue where developers
share information and insights about a variety of technical
approaches and issues that confront them.
The initial meeting will be held on May 10th in conjunction
with the DLF Forum in Chicago.
Martin Halbert's contribution follows.
There is a rapidly emerging arena of knowledge management
systems that squarely lands in the middle of many of the needs of
digital library endeavors these days. Many research libraries are
currently having to cobble together our own ad hoc approaches to
such systems, often built on top of software that is not based on
the emerging standards of the library field. A group of digital
librarians believe that a dialogue concering this issue should be
initiated immediately, and that our respective efforts could be
mobilized around the development of an open framework based on
key standards such as METS, OAI, Dublin Core, EAD, TEI, and
OpenURL. Systems developed using this framework would embody the
modular design of new systems such as the Open Digital Library
architecture from Virginia Tech, the National Science Digital
Library, and other such systems. Components developed in this
framework would share interoperabilty and could interchangeably
provide the functionality of portal, metadata repository/PURL
server, and content management systems.
Many research libraries have realized that we are individually
working on pieces of such a system, and many feel that we are at
a point where a face-to-face meeting would give us the
opportunity to develop a set of development specifications and
API protocols. Our working name for such a framework is OCKHAM,
for Open Community Knowledge Hypermedia Administration and
Metadata. The intellectual linkage to the philosopher William of
Ockham is intentional, as his notion of not proliferating
entities unnecessarily is similar to our concepts of not
proliferating standards and development efforts unnecessarily if
we can collaborate to achieve common goals.
As librarians who are part of a community that has devoted
great effort to developing standards, we feel we can surely
collaborate on the development of a system that is at least as
good as other ad hoc non-standard open source efforts that are
being adopted in many arenas, such as the rapidly spreading *Nuke
family of content management systems.
And perhaps we can lead the way with a system that walks the
walk we have been talking about for years now.
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