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Draft report of a meeting held on 11 April 2001 to consider the potential uses of a service that registers digitized books and journals and to consider implementation

D Greenstein
April 24 2001

Present: Anne Kenney (CLIR/Cornell), Eileen Fenton (JSTOR), Peter Gorman (Wisconsin), Stephen Chapman (Harvard), Morgan Cundriff (LC), Irene Schubert (LC), Paul Conway (Yale), David Bradbury (BL), Dale Flecker (Harvard), John Price Wilkin (Michigan), John Ober (CDL), Tom Peters (CIC), Abby Smith (CLIR), Patric Yott (University of Virgina), Dainel McShane (University of Virginia)


  1. Introduction
  2. Statement of aims
  3. Chief characteristics of a registry service
  4. Uses of a registry service
  5. Other benefits/uses
  6. Registry service users
  7. Research issues that remain to be investigated
  8. Next steps

1. Introduction

The meeting resulted from a series of bilateral discussions about "registry services", in particular, those that are used to record information about the existence and availability of digitized books journals.

These discussions generated great deal of interest, particularly:

  • in the costs that libraries could potentially avoid if such registry services were in place (e.g. redundant digitization
  • in the new services and service functions that libraries could potentially supply by reallocating even a fraction of the avoided costs.

The meeting was hosted by the DLF which expressed an interest in developing a registry service to some prototype stage if a compelling case could be made for that investment either in terms of cost avoidance, new service, etc.

The meeting opened with a tour de tableduring which participants outlined their views and preferences about what a registry service might be expected to achieve. The discussion lasted the better part of the day and achieved consensus at key points about the primary aims that should guide the construction of the service and the various benefits its existence might bestow.

In light of this consensus and of the potential benefits seen in a registry service, participants agreed to five further steps that should be taken to develop the registry and hoped the steps could be taken in an 8- or 12-week period.

Rather than following discussion chronologically, this report is organized thematically under the following heads.

2. Statement of aims

"A service that records information about digitized books and journals may be a key infrastructural part or utility in an evolving network of organizations and services that support the efficient and responsible stewardship of our cultural heritage, all formats, old and new, and the economical and effective development of high-quality scholarly collections."

3. Chief characteristics of a registry service

  • Records information about digital surrogates (whether in existence or about to be created) for books and journals (in all languages and on all topics), that is for objects that are collected redundantly by libraries
  • By recording information about a digital object in a registry service, an individual or institution records their intention to ensure that the digital object persists.
  • Digital objects referenced in the service must be available to users, that is, accessible. The objects need not be freely accessible.
  • Terms and conditions of access must be recorded for information referenced in the registry service according to some agreed mechanism.
  • Records in the registry service must include a persistent link to a "use-copy" of the relevant digital object. Where archival master copies exist, they will be indicated in the record but need not be accessible
  • Rather than prescribe minimum requirements pertaining to the characteristics of digital objects that are referenced in a registry service, (e.g. formats, terms and conditions of use, etc), the service will simply implement agreement about how to record such information.

The service as described will act as key infrastructure. It is not intended to offer end-user services. Rather, its existence will potentially encourage the development of a wide range of end-user services which may include:

  • content services that aggregate or otherwise leverage off of existing digital content
  • print-on-demand services
  • copyright clearance services

The service is seen as one piece of key service infrastructure that exists within and must inevitably interoperate with other key pieces of service infrastructure including:

  • catalogues of books
  • microfilm registries
  • print repositories
  • digital repositories
  • digitization services

The service as defined is deemed to be a starting point. Its limitations are intended to focus effort in a way that will allow us to assess key assumptions and technologies with a definable set of information content. It is conceivable that such a service could be extended to include audio-visual and other non-unique materials.

4. Uses of a registry service

The registry service would enable institutions to:

  • locate information and potentially access digitized books and journals
  • avoid redunant digitization effort
  • co-ordinate digitization efforts (e.g. by divvying up responsibility for digitizating a common body of materials)
  • co-ordinate print deposit/preservation effort
  • support economical institution-level collection development decisions viz
    • acquisition / disposition of printed materials
    • digitization of books and journals
  • support a range of end-user services
  • identify collaborative opportunities

5. Other benefits/uses

These include its:

  • support for incremental development/improvement of existing digital objects
  • formal disclosure of preservation practice as it evolves and support for ancillary community discussion and debate about what constitutes good practice
  • cross-fertilization with commercial data producers and suppliers who, as contributors to and users of the registry would be sensitized to community awareness of needs, good practices, etc
  • Support for a range of end-user services as described above

6. Registry service users

The registry would be used primarily by collection managers (as described above) and service providers who would build end-user services that rely on the registry's existence

7. Research issues that remain to be investigated

  • Strategic issues
    • Costs of building/maintaining a registry (comparable data may be available from other registry and cataloguing efforts)
    • Costs that may be avoided by libraries and others if a registry service existed
    • How the existence of a registry service would leverage existing investment e.g. in print collections, digitization, and digital and print repositories
    • Models for organizing and sustaining a registry service
  • Metadata issues
    • Collection level descriptions; their structure and possible use in a registry service
    • How to describe an intention to ensure persistence of a digital object that is referenced in the registry
    • What granularity for registry entries (journals will be particularly challenging)?
    • How will the registry make it possible to update records, for example to reflect changes in access or preservation copies of the digital content?
  • Other issues
    • How is information in the registry accessed?
    • What inter-relationship exists between information about digital surrogates as recorded in the registry and information about print and microfilm editions as recorded in bibliographic and microfilm catalogues and registries respectively
    • Does the registry include references to digitized newspapers?

8. Next steps

It is anticipated that these steps can be taken within 8-12 weeks

  1. Develop a brief and compelling summary statement describing aims, goals, and potential of a registry service. The case can be used to generate buy in/enthusiasm/etc amongst key stake-holding groups. Some of the elements of a supporting case for a registry (including indication in parentheses of those who may be most swayed by those elements) are indicated below
    • Leveraging existing investment in digital content (libraries and their owners)
    • Helping to rethink collection development and management costs (library managers and their owners)
    • Helping more economically to re-think preservation / persistence strategies (library managers)
    • Maximum value for funds spent on digitization (funding agencies and others investing in digitization)
    • Key infrastructural component of national print and digital preservation strategies (information producers, information users, and repository managers /libraries)
    • Key support for a new generation of end-user information services (information users but also information providers and libraries)
    • Exploration of costs involved in doing nothing; that is, in continuing as we are (all)
    • Professional development/training and awareness-raising
  2. Expert workshop develops a detailed functional specification for the registry service as defined above. This work should by a commissioned review of Michigan's Making of Americas records as currently recorded in OCLC. The review would ask what more would the OCLC service have to do to support the registry functions outlined above.
  3. Approach made to OCLC to discuss possible role for OCLC developing a registry service.
  4. Expert workshop documents the extended metadata set required by the registry, mechanisms and incentives for creating and supplying those metadata, and discusses issues of granularity, metadata updating, etc as recorded above.
  5. Expert meeting to review existing preservation reformatting guidelines with a view to identifying agreed benchmark practices if possible. The review should include institutions with such guidelines in hand including Cornell, JSTOR, Harvard, Library of Congress, University of Virginia, University of Michigan, California Digital Library, RLG, University of Chicago, Indiana University, University of Wisconsin, Yale University. The review might also include Jerry McDonough (New York University) and McKenzie Smith (Harvard) who are currently developing a dtd for technical, administrative and structural metadata.

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