DLF logo Front Page
Printer-Friendly Page

DLF Home

Editorial Page


Reports to the DLF

Recent and Future Events

Technical Reports

University of Minnesota Libraries
Report to the Digital Library Federation
July 15, 2000

As reported by, Charles Thomas, Digital Projects Coordinator


  • Collections, Services, and Systems
  • Projects and Programs
  • Specific Digital Library Challenges
  • Announcements

    Research and development of digital technologies are a campus-wide priority at the University of Minnesota. A new Digital Technology Center (DTC), currently under construction, is scheduled for completion within two years, and will serve as a focal point for new technology initiatives and research. The University Libraries will play a central role in the DTC. Units within the Libraries already are engaged in a multitude of services and digitization initiatives that very easily could be described as part of our overall Digital Library effort. However, the Libraries have only just begun to identify many of these projects and services under a collective Digital Library identity. Since January 2000, several significant decisions have strengthened our Digital Library presence. The following report highlights many of the achievements made during the past six months, but is by no means comprehensive.

    I. Collections, Services, and Systems

    A. Collections

    EAD Finding Aids
    The University of Minnesota Libraries encoded another 75 archival finding aids according to the EAD document type definition, bringing the grand total for EAD documents to 150. XML and other transformations are being explored for content delivery to online users. An additional 108 archival collection abstracts were encoded in HTML.

    Online Scenery Collection
    625 additional historical scenery renderings were added to the online Scenery Collection, bringing the total to 1640 images and associated descriptive records.

    New E-Journal Holdings
    New electronic journals were added to the Libraries e-journal holdings, bringing the total to well over 100 full-text journals online in the humanities, social sciences and sciences. Some recent additions include all IEEE journals from 1998 to the present as well as selected conferences from 1998. A listing of available titles can be found at

    Through a deal with netLibrary (www.netlibrary.com), University of Minnesota students, staff, and faculty now have Internet access to over 1200 currently published books, with more on the way. The titles cover a broad range of subjects, from Java Distributed Computing (O'Reilly and Associates, 1998) to Aztec Ceremonial Landscapes (University Press of Colorado, 1999). Each book will be listed in the online catalog with a link to its location on the World-wide Web. This link to the book can be used from any campus computer. The Libraries are developing a mechanism to give authorized users access while off campus. The Libraries will continue adding to the eBook collection, purchasing titles that most benefit from Internet accessibility. Non-affiliated users of the Libraries site will be directed to netLibrary's offering of freely available texts.

    New Electronic Resources
    The University Libraries continues to add suitable electronic resources as they become available. Recent additions such as the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) online, the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics (a basic compilation of data fundamental to all the physical sciences), and Chemical Abstracts (1987 - present), are just a few examples of our commitment to providing online access to the tools and sources that support authentic research and teaching.

    Digital Collections Under Construction
    Other digital collections currently under construction include: 3,000 historic photographs of the University of Minnesota's buildings, people and events; 500 images related to the history of computing, owned by the Charles Babbage Institute for the History of Computing; 20,000 pages of United States Government Manuals, 1935-1970; and 300 still and multimedia images related to Chinese opera and performing arts. These projects should be completed and available online by the end of Summer 2000.

    History of Maps and Mapmaking
    The Libraries' James Ford Bell Library is continuing work on an internet course relating to the history of maps and mapmakers. Sample lessons will be available on the library's web site at http://bell.lib.umn.edu shortly.

    B. Services

    Interlibrary Loan Upgrades
    Continuing upgrades in ILL technology now permit the University Libraries to offer online ILL requests from within such databases as the CIC/Big 10 University Libraries & the Center for Research Libraries (VEL), RLIN Eureka files, WorldCat, and all FirstSearch indexes. Since February 2000, the Libraries have been testing Prospero ILL delivery software. Prospero converts incoming interlibrary loan articles into a PDF format, posts the article to a web server and sends an e-mail announcement of the URL [and PIN number] to the patron who requested the article.

    AskUs! Online Reference
    The Libraries' AskUs! Service was unveiled this summer. It combines a searchable database of Frequently Asked Questions, and online forms to submit reference questions to qualified public services staff.

    C. Systems

    The Libraries' new website, "LUMINA: The Digital Library Gateway," was officially launched June 15, 2000. User testing played a major part in the development of this new site.

    Research Quickstart connects students to information resources in over 200 subjects. The wizard-like tool generates dynamic Web pages that contain links to a variety of information resources including periodical indexes, Web sites, and writing guides. Resources are chosen by U of M librarians who are specialists in the subject areas covered.

    QuickStudy offers students the help they need to become effective researchers. QuickStudy is a Web-based tutorial written by University of Minnesota librarians to help guide students through the process of conducting library research at the U and on the Web. Users can navigate modules on choosing a topic, designing a research strategy and evaluating sources, assembling a bibliography, and finding online resources. Short quizzes and exercises also are available.

    II. Projects and Programs

    Digital Library Director Search Commenced
    A search committee composed of librarians, teaching faculty and administrators met for the first time in June to commence the search for a Digital Library Director. This is a new position, and the person hired for the senior position will exert considerable influence and responsibility for shaping the Digital Library at the University of Minnesota.

    Campus-Wide Image Portal
    To promote interoperability and campus-wide searchability for digital images, the University Libraries is working on a prototype IMAGES (Image Metadata Access Gateway) site, so that online users can come to one central search portal to discover and view images created in projects across campus. The IMAGES gateway will allow units on campus to maintain the autonomy they are used to in a decentralized structure (distributed content storage), while simultaneously exploiting the advantages of sharing their image database metadata with the University Libraries. In this effort, we hope to keep the Libraries a crucial element of any digital library efforts on campus. This effort will also promote some standardization of digital resource description across campus by creating crosswalks between different descriptive structures, so that metadata from various units can be aggregated into the IMAGES database. Initial roll-out for the IMAGES portal is scheduled for late August 2000. No publicly-viewable information is available yet for this project.

    Campus-Wide Digitization Standards
    Effective in the 1999-2000 academic year, some funding changes at the University of Minnesota sparked a wide range of digitization projects across campus. Specifically, proceeds from a student technology fee are now distributed to colleges across the campus, to distribute funds as they see fit for electronic initiatives that use technology to enhance teaching and student research. Representatives of the University Libraries and other stakeholders successfully lobbied some of the major distributors of such funding to make all future funding decisions contingent upon adherence to some campus-wide minimum standards of quality and intellectual access. This success is a significant achievement for all parties. The new student fees distributions support the traditionally decentralized approach most departments and units have taken regarding technology implementations. By imposing some conditions of quality and access on funding, however, the new requirements lay a foundation for more avenues of discovery and use of the growing number of digital library resources across campus. This example should encourage other colleges to follow suit, and we hope it will have a lasting impact. Although much work on drafting these standards and guidelines currently is underway, formal documentation is not likely to be available until late Summer 2000. However, partial drafts of some representative documentation may be found online at:
    http://digital.lib.umn.edu/scanguide.html and

    Collaborative Efforts
    The University Libraries currently are active participants in several collaborative efforts, including the Research Libraries Group's Cultural Materials Alliance, the Digital Library Federation, and a range of CIC activities.

    Social Scientific Data Initiative
    Working with international metadata standards planners, the Libraries' Machine Readable Data Center is an active participant in creating new web tools to view data sets such as U.S. census and regional data. This project was demonstrated at the recent meeting of IASSIST, the International Association for Social Sciences Information Service and Technology annual conference. It generated a good deal of interest. More information about our progress in this important area is available at:

    Collection Development Enhancements Through Technology
    Usage statistics of web activity relevant to Collection Development issues is increasingly managed (collected, evaluated, and presented) via web cgi scripts or other computer programs. These programs are especially helpful in evaluating usage of the Libraries' unique battery of on-line e-indexes and e-journals. For examples of our developments in this area see:

    III. Specific Digital Library Challenges

    Platform Selection
    The most consuming challenge at the present time is selecting the appropriate hardware/software platform for our future Digital Library development. Currently, we are operating numerous resources on a variety of legacy systems. A good portion of staff time is being spent this summer in discussions with vendors and others, weighing options. The Libraries are giving much thought to the best strategies for interoperability and scalability for our future work. We anticipate making platform decisions by the end of Summer 2000, then proceeding aggressively to implement our solution.

    IV. Announcements

    The next six months promise to be a time of rapid change for the University Libraries. Hiring a new Digital Library Director, rolling out a variety of new databases, and a concentrated effort to publicize existing resources and services, should all bring a new sense of identity and cohesion to our Digital Library program. New equipment, personnel and space for the Libraries' Digital Collections Unit this past Spring (http://digital.lib.umn.edu) have created a dynamic center for new initiatives, and already have reaped substantial rewards.

    Please send comments or suggestions.
    Last updated:
    © 2000 Council on Library and Information Resources

    CLIR Issue Table of Contents
    Newsletter Index