DLF logo Front Page
Printer-Friendly Page

DLF Home

Editorial Page


Reports to the DLF

Recent and Future Events

Technical Reports

Digital Library Federation. Report from the Office of the Director for the period July - October 2000

Daniel Greenstein
4 October 2000


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

1. Work within DLF program areas

1.1. Metadata harvesting (architectures and collections)

As reported in the last issue, the DLF is working along two lines to support practical evaluation of the Open Archives initiative (OAi) - a lightweight technical framework that adopts an approach known as metadata harvesting to the development of Internet portal services that integrate access to educational and cultural information maintained by libraries, museums, archives, and others. The harvesting approach involves both data providers and service providers. A data provider agrees to support a simple harvesting protocol and to provide extracts of item-level metadata in a common, minimal-level format in response to harvest requests from trusted service providers. It then records information about its metadata collections in a shared registry. A service provider uses this registry to locate potential data providers, and uses the harvest protocol to collect metadata from them possibly after reaching some kind of formal agreement on terms and conditions of use. The service provider is then able to build intellectually useful services, such as catalogs and portals to materials distributed across multiple sites. The framework applies to a wide range of information resources of academic and scholarly interest including printed and electronic texts, 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.

Significant progress has been made on several fronts since the last issue of the Newsletter was published. Organizationally, the OAi has established a Steering Committee to be responsible for developing, maintaining, promoting adoption of, and publicizing the Open Archives as a technical framework. In fulfilling its mission, the Committee will provide strategic oversight of the framework's maintenance, development, and public accessibility. It will also convene and monitor the work of any ad hoc technical or other advisory groups as may be appropriate. DLF and the Coalition for Networked Information have also agreed to provide financial support to the Computing Science Department at Cornell University which will act as an Executive or Secretariat of the OAi Steering Committee. Activities to be undertaken by Cornell include:

  • maintaining the OAi web site and e-mail lists;

  • developing a registration service that lists OAi conformant harvesting and registry services;

  • conducting appropriate promotional activities for the OAi and speaking officially on behalf of the OAi and its Steering Committee;

  • liaising with other bodies that want to learn about OAi and/or host OAi related events;

  • administering any OAi business including that of its Steering Committee and technical groups; and

  • managing an alpha testing group convened to test revisions to the OAi technical specification as recommended at the technical meeting held in Ithaca in September 2000.

Technically, the OAi convened a working group to review details of the OAi technical agreements as mandated by experiences obtained with the implementation of those agreements as documented in the Santa Fe Convention (SFc); and the emerging interest for the application of SFc-concepts as a general interoperability framework for resources outside the domain of Eprints. The group convened in Ithaca in early September 2000. A report on the meeting, including the numerous revisions that are currently being developed in detail is available from http://www.openarchives.org/oai-tech-cornell/cornell_report.pdf. Revisions will be finalized in early November initiating a period of public review and comment that is expected to include two open meetings, one in the US (on 23 January 2000) and one in Europe (date to be set).

Practically, the DLF was invited by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to issue a call for expression of interests from institutions and consortia interested in contributing metadata to or developing harvesting services. The call produced 13 responses offering nearly 50 metadata databases that together represent nearly a millions records including hundreds of thousands that are attached to publicly accessible digital objects (texts, images, digital film and sound). Proposals also outlined 11 possible Internet portal services that could be developed using a harvesting approach. The services fell naturally into several categories including:

  • format or genre based services dealing with data of a particular type such as electronic texts, EADs, electronic journals, GIS;

  • thematic services focusing on metadata of interest within specific disciplines or subject areas (e.g. American studies);

  • domain specific services dealing with information managed within a specific curatorial tradition such as museums information;

  • regional or local implementations services seeking to harvest available metadata and combine it with that which is available to a particular institution or consortium and creating a service tailored to the needs of a specific user community; and

  • general or union catalog-style services that harvest all exposed metadata irrespective of format, theme, etc. and present it through some Yahoo-style interface.

A meeting for those who put forward expressions of interest was convened in New York City in October 2000 to identify next steps and will be reported length shortly. The process is intended to result in a pool of harvestable metadata (much of it derived from databases managed at DLF institutions) and a small number of Internet services that harvest those metadata and present them in various ways.

1.2. Open Linking (architectures)

The DLF, with NISO, and other bodies, has been involved for some time in the issue of citation linking in the commercial e-journal world (see http://www.diglib.org/architectures.htm). Over the past couple of years there has been an enormous amount of activity related to the building of persistent links for e-journal articles. How these links are implemented will have profound implications for the freedom of individual libraries to select appropriate services for themselves, and for the development of competing commercial systems and services.

The most notable development in recent years has been the creation of the Digital Object Identifier (DOI), and its use in systems such as CrossRef. Use of the DOI is filled with enormous scholarly promise; users are afforded an opportunity to navigate seamlessly between citations (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.

Yet there are problems with the current implementation of the DOI. Right now 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.

Since a great deal of linking will be based on the DOI, this limitation will have significant consequences. In the current environment, it means that articles loaded into local systems (such as OhioLink, or the University of Toronto) or in aggregator databases (such as OCLC, ProQuest, or Ebsco) will not be linked to. Rather users with access to such alternate copies will be sent to the publisher's site and either turned away or asked to pay. As our environment becomes more complex with the development of e-print aggregations and archiving services, this limitation will become even more problematic. The effect of this limitation may well be to create a monopoly for publishers not just in the original marketing of articles, but in their long-term accessibility.

Recently a group of libraries acting under the DLF and NISO umbrella approached CrossRef, the first major implementation of cross-publisher reference linking using the DOI. 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, most notable a recent 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 resulted in a general agreement on a possible solution to allow what is now being called "localization" in linking.

Journal publishers have gained a heightened awareness of the issues involved in linking, and seem increasingly inclined to accept the opening up of their linking infrastructure. But resistance remains. Because the DLF believes it is important that libraries make clear their vital interest in these developments at a time when many publishers are debating what stance to take, it has written on behalf of its members to the Crossref Board encouraging to work with the library community to develop and then adopt open linking solutions. The DLF has also written to other library organizations asking them to join us in expressing our concern. We have been rewarded thus far in a communication from Crossref indicating its willingness to participate in a testbed that will evaluate the open linking solution developed earlier this summer.

1.3. The Academic Image Co-operative (collections)

The DLF has completed a planning process funded in part by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The process developed a scaleable database of curriculum-based digital images to be used for teaching the history of art and a framework for a service capable of launching and sustaining an unparalleled and comprehensive scholarly resource that will promote innovation in research, learning, and teaching in the history of art and other arts and humanities disciplines that depend fundamentally upon the use of visual resources as evidence. Key deliverables include an image collection, technical and operational frameworks, and a business plan with fully costed operational specifications, a cash-flow analysis and detailed strategies for collection building, service development, marketing, and pricing.

The DLF is currently in discussion about possible next steps. In the meantime, work on the AIC continues apace under the guidance of recently appointed DLF Distinguished Fellow, Max Marmor (Yale University). Activity includes:

  • completion of the AIC collection which will become available for evaluation in 2001;

  • prototype development of a shared repository for descriptions of visual resources;

  • identification of methods that can be used to assess what image resources are used in teaching with a view to focusing collection development further efforts. Methods will be evaluated by developing a strategy for collecting image resources that support teaching in American studies.

A report on the AIC, based on the final report that was submitted to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in August 2000 is available from http://www.diglib.org/collections/aic/pubfinrep.htm

1.4. Endorsing good best practices (standards and best practices)

A stated objective of the DLF is to leverage its members' collective investments and reputations in order to exercise some influence over the scholarly information landscape. With this mandate, it has given considerable attention to the development of benchmarks - practices which support the library's interests in developing, managing, and preserving reliable, secure, high-quality, and exchangeable digital information content.

At its meeting in September, the DLF Steering Committee also agreed a process whereby members could review best practice guidelines as recommended by DLF-sponsored initiatives, with a view ultimately to formally endorsing and promoting use of such guidelines.

The review process was initiated with three sets of guidelines that have recently been developed. These are currently out for review at DLF member institutions. Comments should be sent to the DLF office by 15 December 2000.

  • The Liblicense Model Licensing Agreement. The Agreement resulted from the work of a CLIR/DLF-funded initiative led by Anne Okerson, Yale University. It represents an attempt to reach consensus on the basic terms of contracts to license digital information between university libraries and academic publishers. It represents the contributions of numerous college and university librarians, lawyers and other university officials responsible for licensing, as well as significant input from representatives of the academic publishing community. Liblicense also supplies valuable information resources for those involved in licensing information content from academic publishers including Liblicense software. Operating with Windows and NT, this freely available software systematically queries librarians (or producers) concerning the details of the information to be licensed and, based on that input, produces a draft license agreement. The draft license agreement can then be sent to information publishers (or customers) to serve as the basis for further negotiations for license agreements with acceptable terms.

    By endorsing and promoting use of the LibLicense agreement, the DLF will help to inform libraries in their negotiation of licensing agreements with electronic publishers while fostering a more uniform voice about issues of shared concern (e.g. preservation, use, service, user statistics, etc.).

  • Guidelines for the use of TEI encoding in libraries. The Guidelines grew out of a DLF-funded workshop convened to explore the use of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) and XML in libraries. They make recommendations pertaining to the application of the TEI Guidelines and particularly "best practices" for the encoding of electronic texts developed for different purposes. The guidelines have been endorsed and are already in use by leading text centers in the US and Europe.

    Leveraging its work on these guidelines the DLF can take on a leadership role within the library community but also in the broader educational and cultural arena. By so doing it can help to encourage the creation of scholarly resources that can be more cost-effectively managed and maintained by libraries, and served by libraries to their end users. The Guidelines may be:

    • used by DLF members to inform how they create and manage encoded electronic texts and recommended to other libraries and cultural organizations that create or manage such texts;

    • used by the DLF to evaluate claims made about the quality, interoperability, and long-term viability of encoded electronic texts on offer from third parties and recommended as a benchmark to other libraries and cultural organizations that also acquire (or acquire access to) encoded texts from third party suppliers; and

    • used by the DLF to encourage or require good practice from suppliers of encoded electronic texts and recommended to other libraries and cultural organizations for use in this way.

  • Visual Imaging Guides developed with RLG. Five guides on topics ranging from project planning to scanner selection, considerations for imaging systems, digital master quality, and masters' storage were commissioned by an editorial board of experts convened by DLF and RLG to review the state of the art in digital imaging of visual resources (original photographs, prints, drawings, maps, etc.). Charged to identify imaging technologies and practices for such visual resources that could be documented and recommended, the board arrived at a set of guides in the science of imaging-objective measures for image qualities and how they can be controlled in various aspects of the imaging process.

    Leveraging its work on these Guides the DLF and RLG can take on a leadership role within the library community but also in the broader educational and cultural arena. By so doing it can help to encourage the creation of scholarly resources that can be more cost-effectively managed and maintained by libraries, and served by libraries to their end users. The Guides may be:

    • used by DLF members to inform their own production of digital images and recommended to other libraries and cultural organizations that produce such images;

    • used by the DLF to evaluate claims made about the quality and long-term viability of digital images on offer from third parties and recommended as a benchmark to other libraries and cultural organizations that acquire (or acquire access to) digital images from third party suppliers; and

    • used by the DLF to encourage or require good practice from suppliers of digital images and recommended to other libraries and cultural organizations for use in this way.

1.5. Survey of digital libraries' institutional contexts. Roles and responsibilities

The DLF has developed a survey instrument that will help to identify the institutional contexts in which digital libraries are being developed and to create a profile of the programs and initiatives at DLF member institutions. Information gathered in the survey will be used to measure and compare a library's program with others for the purpose of building strength within the library and the institution and to encourage collaboration with other DLF members. It will also help to:

  • identify where DLF might focus its efforts to encourage and inform university-wide discussions regarding knowledge management and educational mission in a networked digital age;

  • compile and share existing policies and practices; and

  • create a baseline for future analyses.

The survey, which has benefited from comments fielded from across the DLF membership, will be issued in November 2000. Results are expected early in the new year.

2. Office of the Director

2.1. Staff

CLIR/DLF Distinguished Fellows. The Fellowships program has been created in part to gain access to senior information professionals whose personal research and development agenda complement program aspirations of the DLF. In this respect, Distinguished Fellows supported by the DLF will take on a leading role in moving large initiatives or whole program areas forward for the DLF. Since the last issue of the Newsletter, Max Marmor (Head of the Art Library, Yale University), and Denise Troll (Assistant University Librarian, Library Information Technology, Carnegie Mellon University) have been appointed. Max will work to develop the visual resource initiatives in which the DLF has an interest (e.g. the Academic Image Cooperative, Imaging America, the shared repository of descriptive information for visual resources). Denise will spearhead the DLF's work in identifying, evaluating, and applying measures that prove effective in assessing use of digital library collections and services. More information about their work is available in the press releases published by CLIR to announce the appointments of Max and Denise, respectively.

Gerald George (formerly of the National Archives and Records Administration) has been appointed jointly by CLIR and DLF as a Special Projects Associate and will be assisting us in developing outreach efforts appropriate to a leadership organization.

New CLIR appointments. The DLF derives numerous benefits from its location within CLIR and the access that location provides to members of CLIR staff. Recent additions to CLIR staff are therefore worthy of note and include. Anne Kenney (Cornell University Library) joined CLIR as Program Director working initially on advancing strategies for the creation of short- and long-term digital archival repositories and promoting preservation education. Angee Baker (SOLINET) joined CLIR as a Distinguished Fellow where she will be helping to develop initiatives in the broad area surrounding the economics of information.

2.2. DLF registry services move online

The last issue of the Newsletter announced new clearinghouse services that capture both the extent and expertise of digital library activities within DLF member institutions.

  • Documenting the digital library is a bibliography with pointers to policies, strategies, working papers, standards and other application guidelines, and technical documentation that DLF member institutions have developed to inform or reflect their own digital library development activities.

  • Digital collections is 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.

Both are now available for review as web-searchable databases, mounted by the University of Michigan's Digital Library Production Service Documenting the digital library is at http://www.hti.umich.edu/cgi/d/dlf/dlf-idx, digital collections are at http://www.hti.umich.edu/cgi/d/dlfcoll/dlfcoll-idx. The DLF is indebted to Brian Sheppard and colleagues at the DLPS for their help in bringing this project to fruition.

Both feature keyword and fielded search and retrieval functions and return results which come complete with pointers allowing the user to link from a resource description to the resource itself.

Both databases will be updated quarterly on the basis of information supplied by members in their Newsletter reports and by other means. Updates will typically be available a month after a new issue of the Newsletter is announced.

2.3. CLIR and DLF digital library publications

White Paper on Electronic Journal Usage Statistics (October 2000) by Judy Luther. Electronic journals represent a significant and growing part of the academic library's offerings. As demand for e-journals increases, librarians are faced with a new set of decisions related to acquisitions and services. Librarians require statistics on usage, and in the electronic realm, such statistics must come from the publishers. CLIR commissioned Judy Luther to review how and what statistics are currently collected and to identify the issues that must be resolved before librarians and publishers feel comfortable with the data and confident in using them. In her extensive interviews with librarians and publishers, the author found significant common ground on the types of concerns held. The paper suggests a context for further discussion between the providers and consumers of electronic journals

Risk Management of Digital Information: A File Format Investigation (June 2000) by Gregory W. Lawrence, William R. Kehoe, Oya Y. Rieger, William H. Walters, and Anne R. Kenney. This report is based on an investigation conducted by Cornell University Library to assess the risks to digital file formats during migration. The report includes a workbook that will help library staff identify potential risks associated with migrating digital information. Each section of the workbook opens with a brief issue summary; this is followed by questions that will guide users in completing a risk assessment. The appendixes also include two case studies for migration: one for image files and the other for numeric files.

2.4. The Fall 2000 DLF Forum

The Director's Office looks forward to the Forum that is scheduled for 18-20 November in Chicago. At the Forum presentations and panel discussions will bring a variety of perspectives to bear on the development, maintenance, and use of high-quality digital collections and reflect upon how these activities affect the library's organization and its institutional roles. A full program is currently available and although nearly 100 people have registered, there are still additional places. Interested parties should contact Novera King at dlf_forum@clir.org.

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

CLIR Issue Table of Contents
Newsletter Index