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Digital Library Federation. Report from the Office of the Director

Covering the period 16 April - 15 July 2000

D Greenstein
14 July 2000


  1. DLF Membership
  2. Work within DLF program areas
  3. Office of the director

1. DLF membership

The DLF is pleased to report that the Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) will join the consortium. UIUC is developing a strong digital library program and is already well known for its work in digital library architectures, human factors analysis, and digital collections development. It will undoubtedly make substantial contributions to the DLF in these and other areas. Paula Kaufman, University Librarian, will be representing UIUC on the DLF Steering Committee.

2. Work within DLF program areas

2.1. Digital library technologies and architectures

Metadata harvesting. The DLF has completed a planning process funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to investigate how and to what extent emerging network technologies may make scholarly information resources more readily accessible via online gateway or portal services. The planning process developed a framework which combines the harvesting technique employed by the Internet search engines and a technical framework (the Santa Fe Convention) developed by the Open Archives Initiative. The framework envisages data providers and service providers. A data provider agrees to support a simple harvesting protocol and to provide extracts of its metadata in a common, minimal-level format in response to harvest requests. It then records information about its collection in a shared registry. A service provider uses this registry to locate participating data providers, and uses the harvest protocol to collect metadata from them. The service provider is then able to build intellectually useful services, such as catalogs and portals to materials distributed across sites maintaining catalogues and other bibliographic databases, eprints, science and social science data sets, visual materials, archival collections, geographic information system (GIS) data, sound and music, video, and any other type of resource for which metadata is typically created. A fuller statement of the possibilities is available in a vision statement prepared to reflect discussions that took place during the planning process.

A next step is to evaluate the framework through some coordinated testbed activities. To effect this evaluation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has invited the DLF to propose a coherent set of projects that will help evaluate organizational, technical, legal, and economic issues associated with the development of gateway and portal services constructed with harvested metadata. In addition, the DLF and Internet2 are seeking to work within the framework to develop a harvesting service or services that exposes broadband application content (e.g., film, video, sound, live performance, etc.) for educational and research purposes.

The development of testbed services will require some organizational stability for the Open Archives Initiative that agreed at a meeting held recently in San Antonio to focus on application-independent development and maintenance of the technical framework referred to above. With the Coalition for Networked Information and the Open Archives Initiative, the DLF is exploring ways to achieve that stability at least for the duration of any testbed activities.

Reference linking. The DLF continues to be active in this area, particularly in respect of the "appropriate copy" or "localization in reference linking" problem. As a result of discussions involving CrossRef, NISO and the DLF, a workshop has been planned "to begin community-wide discussions of possible solutions". It is hoped that the meeting will lead to practical prototypes and more coordination between existing prototypes and developments in this area. Excerpts from a document introducing the purposes of the forthcoming workshop are supplied below.

    "At two NISO workshops on Workshops on Linkage from Citations to Journal Literature held last year [see DLF/NISO workshops on reference linking], the issue of how linkage should work when there are multiple on-line copies of an article (the "Appropriate Copy" problem) was discussed in passing, but not resolved. In the year since the last NISO workshop much progress on reference linking has taken place (particularly in the working of CrossRef), and it is likely that wide-spread implementations of name-based links will happen in the near future. This progress makes it even more important to begin to address the "appropriate copy" problem (or perhaps, more accurately the "localization" of linking, as it appears there may be other areas where generic links to a single publisher site will not suffice).

    Localization is a complex problem that will only be solved by collaboration. To begin community-wide discussions of possible solutions, another NISO workshop is being planned. Please find attached a draft agenda and attendee list for a proposed "NISO/DLF/CrossRef Workshop on Localization in Reference Linking". Our hope is to bring a small group together to pick up where the earlier NISO Reference Linking Workshops left off. To be useful, the work of this initial small group should lead to practical prototypes and more coordination between existing prototypes and developments."

2.2. Developing digital collections

The Academic Image Cooperative. Working with an independent consultant and building upon the strategic direction supplied through a review of the AIC progress to March 2000, the AIC has developed a business plan including detailed operational, marketing, and financial strategies and projections. Key points included:

  • the staged development of trusted, high-quality image collections and image services (in this respect the plan developed considerably from the AIC's original starting point in small collections of image surrogates sourced exlusively from individual scholars and visual resource professionals); and
  • an innovative stewardship-based marketing strategy.

The business plan has been presented to representatives of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with whom members of the AIC are discussing possible follow-up activities.

Strategies for Developing Sustainable, Scaleable, Digital Collections. The DLF has commissioned three reports that seek to survey and synthesize the policies and practices adopted by libraries in developing their digital collections. Working to a common high-level outline and adopting a life-cycle approach which promises to illuminate how collection development decisions impact horizontally across the library (e.g. on the work of cataloguers, user support services, library automation systems, etc.) and longitudinally through time, each report will focus in a distinct area:

  • on collections developed by digital reformatting;
  • on collections developed through subscription to or purchase of commercially supplied third-party electronic information
  • on collections developed as Internet gateways to third-party public domain Internet resources.

The reports will recommend good practice where it emerges and provide decision tools that may be used to inform local planning. It is hoped that they will also contribute to some more formal reconsideration of library collection policies so they may take more adequate account of both digital and traditional, non-digital information objects.

In support of the research effort, the DLF has invited its members to contribute any policies, guidelines, or other documentation they have developed to inform local digital collection development activities. Documentation already notified is included in a database of digital library policies, practices, and technical reports, an initial version of which is now available. We are grateful for the very positive response we have received so far and encourage members to continue with their contributions.

2.3. Users, use, user support, and user services

The DLF has launched a critical investigation into the methods deployed by member libraries to evaluate use and effectiveness of their online collections and services. Based on interviews with relevant professional staff, the study seeks to document and share information about practice where it is proving to be effective. The study's success will rely in large measure upon our ability to locate informants willing to discuss what assessment activities they are involved with, how and why those activities are being conducted, how the results are being used, and how and to what extent they are successful in achieving their stated goals. A document describing the initiative is available from http://www.diglib.org/use/useframe.htm.

2.4. Preservation of digital scholarly journals

The initiative, originally described in the April 2000 DLF Director's report, has been developing a statement of fundamental requirements that would need to be met by any "trusted" digital archival repository of electronic scholarly journals. An initial statement (version 1.1) was discussed and agreed by a group of librarians convened by CLIR in April 2000. A revised edition (version 1.2.) incorporates the views of publishers convened by CLIR in May. The revised edition also outlines key hypotheses about the digital archival repository that can only be tested through practical experience. A further, final edition will be released shortly and will incorporate comments made by a group of licensing specialists convened by CLIR in June 2000.

The initiative is now moving into a second phase in which it hopes to foster the development of a small number of archival repositories working closely with selected libraries and scholarly journal publishers.

2.5. Standards and best practices

Guides to Image Quality. The DLF and Research Libraries Group (RLG) have issued Guides to Quality in Visual Resource Imaging. The Web-based reference, providing practical advice on designing and carrying out an imaging project, is intended for technicians as well as project managers at museums, libraries, and archives. The five guides address planning a digital library project, selecting a scanner, setting up an imaging system, establishing qualities for digital masters, and selecting file formats for digital masters and result from inclusive investigation into and review of current practice.

3. Office of the Director

3.1. Publications

The DLF Newsletter. We are pleased to announce the first issue of the DLF Newsletter, a quarterly publication through which members share information about recent digital library developments. Members' Newsletter contributions comprise information about:
  • recently launched online collections, services, and systems;
  • new projects and programs including research, development, and strategic initiatives; and
  • any specific digital library challenges they are currently confronting.

Reports also list recent and forthcoming digital library events and include references to policies, strategies, working papers, standards and other application guidelines, and technical documentation that members have developed to inform or reflect upon their own digital library development activities. The latter are being incorporated into a database that the DLF will maintain in order to inform its members and the broader community about digital library policies and practices being tried elsewhere.

3.2. Two new information resources

For some time, the DLF members have sought mechanisms to inform one another about their various digital library policies, practices, collections and services. The DLF has been thinking for some time about how to record information about members' digital library initiatives. In response to this near-universal need, the DLF is developing two new information resources for use by its members and the wider community.

  • Digital library policies and practices is referred to above and supplies a registry of policies, strategies, working papers, standards and other application guidelines, and technical documentation that members have developed to inform or reflect upon their own digital library development activities.
  • Digital library collections supplies a registry of public-domain, web-accessible collections that are created in whole or in part from digital surrogates of objects held by member libraries. The database has been populated from an initial survey of members' web sites that has revealed some 200 individual collections. Although not supplying the rich interoperability that users require, it will open out onto an enormous and growing wealth of online scholarly content. It also helps the DLF take a useful step toward achieving its chartered objective: "to bring together -- from across the nation and beyond -- digitized materials that will be made accessible to students, scholars, and citizens everywhere, and that document the building and dynamics of America's heritage and cultures."

The databases deploy the unqualified Dublin Core metadata element set, and we are developing the very light-weight infrastructure required to make them accessible via the web. At present we expect to launch both services in September 2000. As an interim measure the policies and practices data have been lightly categorized and are being made available thematically as a static HTML file available from http://www.diglib.org/pubs/techreps.htm.

Both databases will be updated on the basis of DLF members' regular contributions to the DLF Newsletter. Periodic automatic link-checking will also help to ensure reliability.

Please send comments or suggestions.
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