University of Minnesota Libraries
Report to the Digital Library Federation
January 15, 2001


  • Collections, Services, and Systems
  • Projects and Programs
  • Announcements

    I. Collections, Services, and Systems

    A. Collections

    100 New EAD Inventories
    As the final phase of a multi-year NEH grant, the University Libraries recently mounted 100 EAD-encoded finding aids for collections held by the Children's Literature Research Collections (CLRC). These collections represent some of the most significant and heavily used groups of papers, illustrations, and books in the archive. Adding 100 new finding aids constituted a major expansion of the University Libraries online archival inventories.

    New Public Data Access System
    The Public Data Access System (PDAS) pilot project is developing an online data extraction and display system for public access data. The project uses Minnesota and limited US-level data from the 1990 Census Summary Tape File 4 (STF 4). This information includes population, economic, educational and housing data for 49 racial and ethnic groups, and covers standard Census geographies. The information provides detail not found in the commonly available data from the 1990 Census and has not been mounted on the Web by other institutions. This file is of particular interest to researchers who need to analyze the condition of specific racial groups in small geographic areas. It has satisfied numerous requests for data from the Libraries' Machine Readable Data Center, and wider use is anticipated when Web access solidifies. The project's completion will result in an innovative web tool for accessing large sets of aggregate data. Successful completion of this project will enable the Libraries to expand the amount of online data available to researchers, and to provide specialized data from the 2000 Census.

    Digital Collection Added to RLG Cultural Materials Initiative
    The University Libraries is among the first to contribute metadata and image thumbnails to the RLG's new Cultural Materials Initiative database. 1,682 records and thumbnail images were shared with RLG for the Scenic Spectacle database. The Scenic Spectacle consists of digitized historic scenery and theatrical settings from the early 20th century. RLG has made available to early contributors a preview of their test database for contributed metadata. Within just the few months since the University Libraries' initial contribution, record revisions and additions in the database will require an updated metadata transfer in the near future.

    Electronic Texts
    To date the Electronic Text Research Center (ETRC) has provided analytical tagging for 48 texts in the Women's Travel Writing project; 17 texts in the Early Modern French Women Writers project; and 29 texts for the Early Nineteenth- Century Russian Readership & Culture project. The ETRC also is a participant in the CIC Wright text-encoding project, and have submitted a proposal to fund digitization and encoding of nineteenth-century Russian periodicals.

    B. Services

    Teaching students how to navigate, locate and use print and digital information is a high priority for the University of Minnesota Libraries. As a leading innovator in systems and programs for this purpose, the Libraries recently have unveiled several new tools.

    The University Libraries currently is prototyping a tool for generating customized Web pages to support the library research components of academic courses. CourseLib is a unique tool because it provides an easy authoring environment; does not require knowledge of HTML; and utilizes templates in the formation of customized course pages. It enables library staff to create customized pages in the most efficient, scalable way possible, by linking to and reusing descriptive data stored in other University Libraries databases such as Research QuickStart and QuickStudy. Library Web pages are dynamically generated for overall course content, or for specific assignments. Examples of pages developed using CourseLib may be viewed at:

    Library FAQ Database
    Lists of frequently asked questions are common on library Web sites. However, it is less common to find FAQ sites that go beyond basic questions, and help users zero in on specific pieces of information. A database-driven resource, the FAQ site archives common questions, contains information on using specific tools and sites, and helps ensure consistent, correct responses to recurring inquiries.

    LC Collaborative Digital Reference Service Pilot Project
    The University Libraries have elected to participate in the Library of Congress' Collaborative Digital Reference Service. As a participant, Libraries staff will utilize technology to provide reference service to researchers any time anywhere, through an international, digital network of libraries and related institutions.

    Ask Us Live!
    This new, experimental service utilizes real-time chat and co-browsing software to provide library assistance. The service currently is only available on a part-time, intermittent basis for evaluation. It is open to University of Minnesota - Twin Cities students, staff and faculty, or to outside researchers with questions about holdings that are unique to the University Libraries.

    C. Systems

    At the end of February, the State of Minnesota reached agreement with Ex Libris on the terms of a contract for use of the Aleph 500 system by the members of MnLINK, a statewide library automation project. Aleph will be used on all four campuses of the University of Minnesota Libraries, and by all other state funded higher education institutions, the state agencies, several private colleges, one regional public library system, and some K-12 school districts. Final revision of the contract language is underway, and the contract should be complete and signed in March. The Libraries on the Twin Cities Campus intend to switch to production use of Aleph in June, 2002; the coordinate campuses will switch shortly thereafter.

    The Entomology, Fisheries & Wildlife Library has developed a resource that can be described best as a dynamic pathfinder. When fully completed, it will organize and present reference sources in ways that are more dynamic than traditional pathfinders, but not as general as the online catalog as a whole. Library staff have entered about 800 books, serials, and URL's into it for a full-scale test. Functionality includes browsing by scientific names and subject headings specific to the Entomology, Fisheries & Wildlife Library. Boolean annotation searching, staff data entry screens, and a multi-level security system are part of the package. It was developed using open source technologies available freely, and the programming code is owned by the University Libraries. A closely related project is underway for the Science & Engineering Library, allowing users to browse sources for chemical compounds and properties.

    II. Projects and Programs

    A. Projects

    Papers in Agricultural Economics
    In 1996, the University Library digitized 60 working papers in agricultural economics, and showcased the result at the annual meeting of the American Agricultural Economics Association. Since then, the AAEA and the Western Agricultural Economics Association have contributed papers from their annual meetings. Today, the Libraries' AgEcon Search database contains more than 2,400 papers from these associations, and other sources. Now five years old, AgEcon Search has become the digital library for electronic scholarly literature produced in agricultural and applied economics. The recent installation of a new search engine now provides more accurate searches. Statistics for last year show that searchers reached the point in the database where they could read, download or print the actual paper (after the search and abstract review) 526,800 times for the entire database. This averages to 219.5 uses per paper in the database. Some papers were downloaded more than 3,000 times last year. Papers are now contributed by thirty-one university departments and ten organizations internationally. Within the past three months, the Libraries have been presented with the opportunity to digitize the complete run of two peer-review journals in agricultural economics, and provide access to these articles through AgEcon Search. The Libraries currently are digitizing and indexing these journals on a trial basis, and have had preliminary discussions with at least two other publishers in the field for similar services.

    IMAGES Update
    IMAGES (Image Metadata Aggregation for Enhanced Searching) is a local project by the University Libraries to establish campus-wide standards for image digitization and description, and to construct a metadata aggregator/search mechanism for online image collections throughout the University. At the present time, the University Libraries are pursuing a hybrid purchase/local programming approach to acquire a suitable delivery platform for this metabase. Meanwhile, digitization of content, and selling the concept to campus departments, continues. At the present time, the Libraries hope to have a functional database online by the end of April 2001.

    Civil Engineering Digital Library
    The University Libraries and the University of Minnesota Department of Civil Engineering intend to submit a proposal to the National Science Foundation to build a Civil Engineering Digital Library, for practicing professionals in the field. More information on this project will be provided as news becomes available.

    B. Programs

    Electronic Text Conference
    On Friday, April 13, the Libraries' Electronic Text Research Center (ETRC) will sponsor an "E-Text Extravaganza." This day-long, multi-track offering targets University faculty, students and researchers, but also welcomes participants from other institutions. Concurrent sessions throughout the day will cover commercial or subscription-based E-Text sources in various disciplines; methodologies for selection, digitization, encoding and delivery; and spotlight presentations on local projects.

    Digital Images Conference
    Initial planning in the Libraries is underway for a statewide symposium on building and accessing digital image collections. The MINERVA (Minnesota Electronic Resources in Visual Arts) meeting will be primarily for libraries, historical societies, museums, and other cultural institutions in Minnesota. The symposium, to be held in early Summer 2001, will offer sessions on collaborative approaches to building subscription-based and home-grown digital image collections.

    III. Announcements

    Position Announcement
    The University Libraries have decided to restructure a previously posted Digital Library Director position, and now are seeking candidates for an Associate University Librarian for Information Technology. A position description and application instructions will be posted on the University Libraries Web site in the very near future.