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Volume 1 Number 1 July 2000

An Evolving Form

It is a pleasure to introduce the first issue of the DLF Newsletter. Through this quarterly web-based publication, DLF members exchange information about their respective digital library developments and develop a practical information resource for those interested in networked educational and cultural information resources.

The Newsletter is doubly significant for the DLF. To a membership organization that emphasizes collaboration, it fosters essential information sharing and community building. To a leadership organization committed to developing the library's institutional roles and the library profession, it is a means of educating a broader community.

In each issue the DLF reports its consorital activities and includes reports from about half its members who introduce their:

  • recently launched online collections, services, and systems;
  • new projects and programs including research, development, and strategic initiatives; and
  • immediate digital library challenges.

Members' 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 developed to inform or reflect upon local digital library development activities.

Items reported here are not polished publications. They frequently point to work only recently completed, in progress or in design. As such, they accurately reflect the state of digital libraries - rapidly evolving entities that are grappling with numerous, complex, and unresolved organizational, technical, economic, legal, pedagogical and other issues. Items are also brief, providing pointers to more detailed (typically web-accessible) information for those who wish to know more. In these respects, the Newsletter provides a unique look all aspects of the working digital library, and from the range of perspectives available to its staff; from the technical to the strategic.

The Newsletter may also contain the occasional feature giving fuller treatment to a topic of special interest. This issue includes a brief article by Ann Marie Parsons that recommends strategies for promoting use of digital library collections. Ms Parsons's perspective is a unique one. An MLS student working as an intern for the Council on Library and Information Resources, Ms Parsons has created a registry of the DLF members' digital collections. Digital collections were defined narrowly to include web-accessible collections in the public domain and developed in whole or in part from digital surrogates created for library holdings. Her task as defined was a simple one: to locate, review, and describe those collections. Operationally, it was less straightforward. Now that it is completed, Ms Parsons reflects on her experience in a way that should introduce a distinctive and very sobering perspective into our perennial discussions about access and interoperability.

In closing, it is worth a word about the Newsletter's format. Like the digital library about which it reports, it is very much evolving. Reports are presented as they were received with only some modest editorial intervention. Recent and forthcoming events and references to technical and other documentation have been taken out of the context in which they were supplied. The former are presented in a single chronological timeline, the latter have been entered into a database that the DLF will maintain as a valuable information resource in its own right. We expect to launch the database as a web-searchable service in September 2000. Given the extent and richness of the material uncovered in only this first batch of reports, we have decided to make the data available in static HTML files even though work editing, checking and categorizing them is nowhere near complete.

The current view of the members' reports will be maintained. We hope to supplement it in the next issue with a very different view that permits more interactive exploration. Thus, we will support readers interested in specific topics (e.g. access management systems, online user support and reference services) wherever they are being addressed, as well as those who want to browse the very substantial activities at any one of the DLF's members. These at least are our goals. We welcome comments about yours and invite you to send them to dlf@clir.org. D Greenstein 14 July 2000

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© 2000 Council on Library and Information Resources

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