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Digital Library Federation. Report from the Office of the Director for the period November 2000 - January 2001

Daniel Greenstein
12 February 2001


  1. Work within DLF program areas
  2. Office of the Director

1. Work within DLF program areas

Program areas are indicated in parentheses.

1.1. Open Archives Initiative (architectures and collections)

The public launch of version 1.0 of the Open Archives Initiative (OAI) metadata harvesting protocol took place in Washington DC on 23 January 2001.

The OAI's potential significance for libraries is outlined in a "vision statement" that is available from the DLF website.

The DLF is pleased to support the OAI. With the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) the DLF supports the OAI as an organization. The DLF is also helping to organize a small number of projects that will evaluate the OAI's metadata harvesting protocol by using it to construct a small number of Internet gateways through which users will gain access to distributed library holdings as if they were part of a virtual uniform collection.

More information about the OAI including the protocol, an FAQ, the papers presented at the January open day, and information about a second open day to be held in Berlin, Germany, on 26 February 2001 is available from the OAI's web site (http://www.oai.org/).

More information about the DLF's involvement with the OAI, including its evaluation effort is available from http://www.diglib.org/architectures/htm.

1.2. Localized linking (architectures)

The DLF, with NISO, and other bodies, has been investigating technical options for linking between citations of digital works (whether they appear in an abstract and indexing service or as a footnote in an electronic journal) and the works themselves where they are available in electronic form.

The most notable development in this area has been the creation of the Digital Object Identifier (DOI), and its use in systems such as CrossRef - a major implementation of cross-publisher reference linking. Use of the DOI is filled with enormous scholarly promise. Yet there are problems with the current implementation as it is only capable of finding a single copy of a work. In practical terms, since the publisher deposits the DOI and the associated location, the copy pointed to by the DOI is generally the one stored at the publisher's own site.

Recently, a group of libraries acting under the DLF and NISO umbrella approached CrossRef. The libraries urged CrossRef to participate in work on a solution that would open up the process of locating an article to support multiple copies and systems. A series of meetings and discussions resulted including a July 2000 workshop involving representatives from the CrossRef organization, several major scholarly and commercial publishers, the International DOI Foundation, the digital library research community, NISO, and research libraries. The workshop produced general agreement on a possible solution to allow what is now being called "localization" in linking.

After receiving petitions from DLF, ARL, the International Consortium of Library Consortia (ICOLC), and other organizations, CrossRef has joined in a demonstration project to try the solution in a real-world setting. Participants in the test include the DOI folks (formally the International DOI Federation) and CNRI (their technology provider), CrossRef, Ex Libris (provider of SFX), the University of Illinois, Los Alamos National Lab, OhioLink, and Ohio State University. Several major publishers (Elsevier, Academic, IOP) have been observers during the discussions.

For the technically motivated, the test involves the following:

  • CNRI will put a facility in front of the Handle resolver system (which converts the DOI to a publisher address) to redirect users in the test to the appropriate local resolver systems for the 3 test libraries.

  • The University of Illinois is writing their own "localizer", which will query a local database of DOIs for the e-journal articles U of I has in a local system.

  • Los Alamos and OSU/OhioLink will use SFX servers to determine where to go for e-journal content (OSU users will be directed as appropriate to e-journals at OhioLink, and LANL users directed to journals mounted internally at the lab). These SFX servers will use the DOI to query the CrossRef database to get the bibliographic information for the article the DOI identifies, and then will use that information to figure out where to go for the described article.

An interesting issue that came up during the design of the demonstration project is that certain publishers have required that there be the ability for a publisher to specify that DOIs for their content NOT be subject to alternate resolution/localization. There is provision being made in the experiment for this. When/if we move to a real production implementation, there will be an important market question about whether subscribers will object to a publisher "opting out" of localization.

Software to support the demonstration is under development right now. The hope is to have some real world experience at the three test site in time for reports to be made at the summer ALA and SLA meetings. We will hopefully also be presenting a project update at the April CNI meeting.

1.3. The Academic Image Cooperative migrates to ArtSTOR

With funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the support of the College Art Association, the AIC was initiated in January 1999 as a planning process to develop a scaleable database of curriculum-based digital images for survey courses in the history of art. The planning process was completed formally in August 2000 and resulted in a prototype database and image collection. It also developed technical, organizational, and policy frameworks that have the potential for sustaining a more ambitious online service; one capable of identifying, developing, and disseminating a far large number of curriculum-based and scholarly image collections.

Since the completion of this planning process, ongoing discussions between the DLF and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, have focused on how the AIC's image collection - and the learning derived in its development - might contribute to a broader initiative under consideration by the Foundation and provisionally named ArtSTOR. Briefly, ArtSTOR is looking to do with visual resource materials something analagous to what JSTOR did for periodical literature in the humanities and social sciences: create an essential digital library that responds to widespread scholarly needs.

The result is a collaboration whereby the DLF is helping the foundation to develop circumscribed, strategically identified image collections that respond to widespread teaching and other specialist scholarly needs. It is envisaged that these collections, including the one developed by the AIC, will be incorporated into the evolving ArtSTOR service, which eventually will be managed as a project of the Foundation or an organization that they designate.

For a programmatic and preliminary description of the ArtSTOR initiative, please consult the 1999 President's Report available from the Mellon Foundation website at http://www.mellon.org/President annual report 99.pdf. For a history of the DLF's involvement with the AIC, including a copy of its final report to The Andrew W. Mellon foundation see http://www.diglib.org/collections/aic.htm.

1.4. A shared cataloguing tool for visual resources

The DLF is supporting a planning process to design and then prototype a shared, web-accessible cataloguing tool that will assist professionals in the production of high-quality descriptions of art historical works. A framing document was prepared to focus discussion at an initial planning meeting held in January 2001. The framing document and a report of the meeting outlining a fuller specification for the cataloguing tool are available from the DLF's website.

1.5. Structural, administrative, and technical metadata

The DLF has initiated a process to identify standard structural, administrative and technical metadata as needed to successfully manage digital objects. Through the process it will build on and extend the work of the Making of America II project that developed a well-documented set of metadata elements for a limited range of digital objects. A planning document has been prepared to frame discussion at an initial meeting that will be held in New York City in February 2001.

1.6. Registry of digitized monographs and journals

In recent months there have been any number of discussions about registry services, in particular those that record information about printed monographs and journals that have been digitized.

These discussions have generated a lot of interest and pointed any number of very interesting potential directions for digital libraries. They have also given rise to a new DLF initiative that will help to articulate the purposes, potential uses, and essential requirements of a registry service and also to outline a process that might see one developed at least to some prototype stage.

An initial meeting, to be held sometime in early spring 2001, will address a range of questions including:

  1. What uses do we envisage for a service that registers digitized monographs and journals (e.g. avoid duplication of digitization effort, enable access to digitized content)? What benefits would the registry and its use bestow and upon whom? What new digital library services might be built if such a service existed that could not be built today without it?

  2. Would a registry include only those objects that met some minimum or benchmark standard e.g. with regard to their format, description, etc? If so, would the community need to agree a single benchmark or could it survive with different levels each, perhaps, recommended as fit for one or more specified purposes?

  3. To register digitized monographs and journals, could we use existing registry services (e.g. as maintained to record information about microfilms) or do we have to build new ones. If we choose to use existing services:

    • could we meet the aims and goals specified in our consideration of question (1) above?

    • would those services require some modification?

    • what information would have to be recorded about digitized objects and how would that information be recorded?

  4. What promotional activities would be required to build consensus around and promote the use of a registry service?

  5. What organizational and business models if any would need to be developed to sustain both the service and its use?

1.7. Review of DLF good practice recommendations

In September 2000 the DLF initiated a review of three good practice recommendations that had resulted from various of its funded initiatives. The three recommendations included:

  • a model licensing agreement developed by the CLIR/DLF-funded Liblicense project for use between university libraries and commercial e-journal publishers;

  • guidelines for using TEI text encoding in libraries;

  • visual imaging guides developed with RLG.

DLF members were asked to review these recommendations including any supporting documentation with a view to endorsing them where appropriate as an organization.

Thanks to directors and staff at DLF member institutions who took the time to prepare and submit very careful analyses. The result of our review is reported below. Further action (including formal endorsement of recommendations where appropriate) will follow in due course.

Liblicense model license agreement. The model was enthusiastically received. A number of very useful suggestions were made for amendment and some re-organization to the model license. These suggestions are being incorporated into a revised model agreement that the DLF membership will be requested formally to endorse in March 2001.

Recommended use of TEI guidelines in libraries. These, too, were very well received. Some respondents felt a need for more specificity as a means of ensuring a greater degree of interoperability amongst TEI-encoded texts. In response to these comments, Perry Willetts (Indiana) who chaired the working group responsible for the guidelines, has agreed to reconvene a small group to see what further progress might be made along these lines. Accordingly, DLF members will be asked to endorse the guidelines and to encourage their fuller elaboration.

Visual imaging guides. These publications were also extremely well received for their help in setting out the issues confronting those involved in the production of digital images and supplying important instruction in key areas. As such, the DLF was urged to promote these volumes for their provision of important reference material but not as recommended standards or best practices since the volumes themselves did not set out to document such standards or practices. Review of the guides has also revealed enthusiasm for follow-up work to identify and document standard criteria that may be used to assess image quality. Further information on that initiative will follow in future editions of this newsletter.

1.8. Analyzing changing patterns of library use (user support and user services)

With CLIR and a small group of academic libraries large and small, the DLF is sponsoring a research process through which it intends to document and analyze changing patterns of library use. The research (based on data derived from participating libraries) will be brought to bear in a range of publications that attempt to understand the academic library's changing institutional roles and may be used to inform strategic library planning. The effort, we hope, will also have some significant impact on our understanding of research methods and use measures.

In order to focus discussion at an initial meeting of the group (to be held in early March 2001), CLIR and the DLF have commissioned a white paper from Denise Troll, DLF Distinguished Fellow, Carnegie Mellon University).

The white paper provides background for our work by documenting trends in library use and explaining why traditional performance measures do not adequately describe what is happening in libraries or provide any indication of why.

The white paper is wide-ranging. It is also self-conscious about not designating the specific set of measures that we will have to focus on to make our task a manageable one

This omission is not an oversight. We recognize that research priorities will be determined by the purposes and audiences for which we need to document and explain changes in library use. We will select the set of measures for our research based on clearly articulated and agreed purposes and audiences.

In order to gain a preliminary sense of where such agreement might exist the white paper has been circulated to a large number of library directors for their review and comment. Library directors have also been asked to supply brief answers to the following three questions:

  1. What are the five most important reasons for documenting trends in your library's use?

  2. What are the audience(s) to which you need to address yourselves in each of those five areas (e.g. faculty, students, provosts)?

  3. What are the two or three key indicators of use that you feel must be taken into account in each of those five areas?

1.9. Support for digital reference study

The DLF has agreed in principal to support a study of digital reference services that has been proposed by the Information Institutes of Florida State and Syracuse Universities. The purpose of the study is to develop methods to assess the quality of digital reference services, test and refine measures and quality standards to describe digital reference services, and to produce a guidebook that describes how to collect and report data for these measures and standards. Co-principal investigators for the study are R. David Lankes, Director, Information Institute, Syracuse University and Charles R. McClure, Director, Information Institute, Florida State University. The complete proposal and additional information about the study and how organizations can help sponsor the study is available at http://quartz.syr.edu/quality/"

1.10. Preservation of E-Journals

Increasingly scholarly journals are published electronically. What will it take to keep them accessible electronically in perpetuity? Can the property rights of publishers, the access responsibilities of libraries, and the reliability assurances that scholars need be reconciled in agreements to create archives of electronic journals?

In early 2000 the DLF along with CLIR and CNI began to address these questions with a view to facilitating some practical experimentation in digital archiving. In a series of three meetings one each for librarians, publishers, and licensing specialists, respectively, the groups managed to reach consensus on the minimum requirements for e-journal archival repositories.

Building on that consensus, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation solicited proposals from selected research libraries to participate in a process designed to plan the development of e-journal repositories meeting those requirements. Seven major libraries have now received grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation including the New York Public Library and the university libraries of Cornell, Harvard, MIT, Pennsylvania, Stanford, and Yale.

Yale, Harvard, and Pennsylvania will work with individual publishers on archiving the range of their electronic journals. Cornell and the New York Public Library will work on archiving journals in specific disciplines. MIT's project involves archiving "dynamic" e-journals that change frequently, and Stanford's involves the development of specific archiving software tools.

CLIR, the DLF, and CNI will continue to support the planning process in a variety of ways and the DLF will maintain the program's web pages with links to individual project sites, working papers, etc.

2. Office of the Director

2.1. Membership

The DLF is pleased to welcome the University of Washington Libraries as its most recent member, and Betsy Wilson as representative to our Board.

2.2. DLF Forum Spring 2001. Announcement and call for papers

2.3. DLF Forum, Fall 2000

Papers presented at the Fall 2000 forum are now available online.

Please send comments or suggestions.
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