DLF Forum Hears Hopes for Collection Sharing
"DODL is back on the table."
So announced David Seaman,
director of the Digital Library Federation,
at the DLF's 2003 Spring Forum, May 14-16,
in New York City -- the largest DLF Forum ever, with 180 registrants from the Federation's 30 partner institutions and 4 allied
DODL (pronounced "Doddle") stands for Distributed Open Digital Library, the creation of which would make digital resources of major research libraries electronically accessible in a shared, unified collection of use for scholarship and teaching. The federation's 1995 charter called for building such a collective library, Seaman said, and after years of work by DLF initiatives to foster elements of digital resource development, representatives of partner institutions recently resurrected the original, overarching goal.
"Imagine," explained Seaman, "that you are teaching the writings of the Founding
Fathers, or some aspect of the Civil War, or nineteenth century American
fiction, or imagine that you are a librarian crafting a collection in support
of seminars on such subjects. You quickly discover, via the Internet, many
relevant books, images, and manuscripts scattered across dozens of
institutions. But 20 digital objects in 20 different locations cannot easily be
searched together, or enriched with information and design elements of value
for a local project, or dropped into desktop software that may allow annotation
by the user, or subjected to linguistic or statistical analysis that the
original Web site does not support, or delivered in a format (Palm Pilot,
E-book) that the producer did not think useful, or used in myriad other
ways." The DODL is intended to overcome such limits, providing a single
access point for material in multiple collections, and enabling users to
"combine those scattered objects into something new, improved, and shaped
for your local needs." A distributed, open digital library, said Seaman,
can "radically improve library services and achieve new efficiencies in
digital library production and collection building."
DODL Initiative Committee expects to report in the summer of 2003 on
development plans. Nothing except DODL's goal is
currently settled, including the name. The obstacles will be less technical than
conceptual, organizational, and emotional, but contributors will get back more
than they provide in materials of use to their patrons.
questioner from the audience asked whether access restrictions on material
under copyright would render the DODL just "a library of old
knowledge." The seriousness of that question became evident in another
major presentation at the forum. Professor James Boyle of the Duke University Law School, speaking on "Public and Private Initiatives in Copyright Reform," declared that copyright laws restrict access to almost all of twentieth century culture.
prevents huge quantities of material from being reproduced even though the
authors are dead and the works are out of print, generating no commercial
return to publishers. Regardless, legislation upheld by the courts has made
copyright automatic and extended its protection through the life of an author
plus 70 years. Only a small fraction of copyrighted material needs such
protection, Boyle said. Such an inefficient and unjustifiable system, in his
view, produces "invisible losses" -- the loss to the economy of
"locking up" so much material, the loss to cultural creativity from
"failed sharing," and the loss to teaching of material that
professors fear transmitting because of vagueness in the standards defining
action is needed through initiatives both public and private, Boyle argued.
Legislation could restore the once-prevalent system in which one had to apply
for copyright to obtain it, and could reduce the time that copyright would
apply. But because the trend is the other way, an organization called Creative
Commons instead generates licenses by which authors -- those whose works pay off
more in recognition and the advancement of knowledge than in financial gain -- can
authorize specified kinds of uses of their copyrighted products. Also, Boyle
said, librarians could seek an arrangement allowing libraries to digitize
copyrighted material by paying a specified, flat fee to anyone complaining of
harm to a commercial interest. Also he urged librarians to prevent
"fair-use" atrophy by vigorously asserting fair-use rights in the
digital realm. He called on librarians to "organize for change" and
to seek creative ways to "work around" the current copyright system.
themselves have become involved in publishing by providing support for
electronic journals and providing access to repositories of other scholarly
materials produced electronically by university faculties. A panel on
"Supporting Scholarly Publishing" dealt with electronic
publication-management systems including provisions for peer review. It
concluded with a proposal for collaboration within the DLF to create more open
and accessible publication-management systems in connection with e-scholarship
other sessions provided what DLF Director Seaman called "breaking
news," bringing Forum participants up to date on developments in various
areas of digital library work:
- The Bibliographic Enrichment Advisory Team at the Library
of Congress is enhancing electronic catalog records with information not
traditionally found in them -- with the unexpected effect of attracting users back
from search engines to the library catalog.
"Metadata Switch" project is constructing experimental modular
services to add value to metadata, meeting needs for pulling metadata from
different repositories, fusing differently formatted metadata, and disclosing
it in "union" services.
- In a project called "RedLightGreen,"
the Research Libraries Group is working on ways to make information in the RLG
Union Catalog available to a wider Web audience, and is learning much about
that audience's needs.
- The University of Virginia is
implementing its FEDORA system, which provides infrastructure for a digital
repository and associated user services.
- The University of California's Collection Management
Initiative is studying the use of print and electronic journals to see how best
to integrate those published in both formats -- and has discovered that opposition
is low to cancellation of print versions because e-journals are
- Indiana University's Digital
Library Program is studying user behavior as part of a project to use
"controlled vocabularies" to enhance browsing and searching of an
online photographic collection.
- Yale University is exploring the impact of digital
content on American studies courses with an eye to designing a library support
infrastructure for the use of digital content in teaching.
- The Library of Congress has put its reference service
online using a reference management tool called QuestionPoint
and engaging a global network of librarians in exchanging reference queries and
building a global knowledge-base.
- The University of Virginia is working
with "information communities" on campus to collaborate in building
information content and services, digital and traditional, for these
- Harvard and MIT
are working on a registry for digital format representation information.
- OCLC and RLG are organizing a working group on
strategies for implementing preservation metadata in digital archiving systems.
- The National Archives is working with other
government, industry, and academic organizations on an International Standards
Organization (ISO) specification for a basic subset of the Adobe Portable
Document Format, known as PDF/A, to govern creation of documents that are
self-contained, technologically stable, and have the basic properties that
- Cornell University is
developing a risk-management approach to monitoring and evaluating changes over
time in Web resources useful to the library's users but not owned or controlled
by the library.
- The University of Southern California selected a vendor for its
Collection Information System through a process of possible use to others.
- Through an E-Resource Management Initiative (ERMI),
librarians at the University of Washington are
working on metadata and standards for rights management in licensing and
- The Digital Knowledge Center at the Johns Hopkins University is
developing a framework for large-scale digitization and processing that
includes a robotic system for scanning and retrieving materials in remote
- Units of the Stanford Library are collaborating to
build a new digitization lab aimed at satisfying growing demands for digital
content while also ensuring long-term preservation of both original documents
and digital surrogates.
- A project at the University of California, Berkeley, is
exploring means for enhancing interoperability between libraries and
educational software systems.
- The Harvard University Library is working to
streamline processes by which metadata of various kinds can be collected.
- The research library at the Los Alamos National
Laboratory is undertaking research aimed at devising solutions to barriers to
the "harvesting" of metadata collections.
- Several campuses and museums are scheduled to begin
testing ARTstor, the new digital library for
scholarship and education in the history of art.
- The Beinecke Library at Yale University has
developed a model for collecting and delivering digital images of a range of
materials on which faculty may draw for classroom presentations.
- The National Archives continues its development of an
Electronic Records Archives capable of ingesting, preserving, and providing
future access, free from dependence on specific hardware software, to vast
quantities of government records, such as the 40-million e-mail records
generated by the Clinton Administration.
Two "firsts" for DLF Forums occurred at the Spring
2003 meeting. The program included the first panel of vendor representatives,
who explained systems for "federated searching" across digital
databases. And the audience included the first four winners of DLF Forum
Fellowships for librarians new to the profession. Finally, DLF Director Seaman
announced at the forum that the next one will be on November 17-19 in Albuquerque, NM.