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Recent and Future Events

Technical Reports

North Carolina State University Libraries
Report to the Digital Library Federation
July 1, 2001


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

    I. Collections, Services, and Systems

    A. Collections

    Nuclear Reactor History Project: Update
    The NC State Nuclear Reactor History project has seen significant progress towards creating a truly innovative interface to this archival collection. An audiotaped oral history interview with Professor Emeritus Raymond Murray has been converted to digital format, broken down into thematic chapters, and images from films, photographs, blueprints, and documents are being added to the interview. This provides a merging of scholarly content with multimedia archives. There are many venues in which this type of content enhancement might be used. Beyond exploiting archival and special collections materials, this format might be valuable in enhancing library and other instruction for distance learners.

    Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Project: Update
    This spring the Administrative Council of the Graduate School voted to require electronic submission of all NC State theses and dissertations in September 2002. This summer orientation sessions will be held for the Directors of Graduate Programs. Within the Libraries, discussions have already begun to ensure that we are positioned to accept, catalog, index, and archive the increased numbers of ETDs.

    AgZines (formerly Tomato Juice)
    AgZines is a full-text index to selected agriculture-related electronic magazines and journals, developed by the USAIN Communications Committee. It provides access to a large body of freely available agricultural subject matter. The committee is examining various options for hardware and software enhancements to this system.

    B. Services

    Ask A Librarian LIVE
    The NCSU Libraries launched a live, online reference service in January 2001. The service uses LSSI's Virtual Reference Desk software, which combines chat and web collaboration technologies, enabling librarians to escort patrons through online research processes by linking both parties' web browsers. In the first five months, reference questions received via the new service have caught up to the number received through the long-standing email reference service (both now average about 4 questions per day). NCSU librarians have provided information, demonstrations, and invited presentations on our implementation of this service to colleagues in many other libraries and professional associations. Future directions for the service include expanded publicity and extending the hours of availability to evenings and weekends.

    MyLibrary@NCState: Update
    The MyLibrary@NCState customizable Web interface to library resources has been fully operational and available to faculty, students, and staff for more than a year. Currently there are 3,771 active user accounts in the system. The software is built on an open-source software architecture, and, since July 2000, the source code has been downloaded 450 times, mostly by academic libraries. The specific number of active developers is unknown, but many institutions that have downloaded the software have used it as a model for their own purposes. In most cases, these institutions have taken the system's database structure and created various interfaces and alternative services against the system. Such institutions include the University of Michigan, the California Digital Library, Wheaton College, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lund University (Sweden), the University of Cattaneo (Italy), and the University of New Brunswick.

    ESRI Virtual Campus Online GIS Training
    In addition to offering a series of free, in-library geographic information systems (GIS) workshops, the Libraries maintains a subscription to ESRI Virtual Campus, a service which allows campus users to enroll in free, self-paced, online training in any of 20 different GIS courses. Each course runs 18-24 hours and focuses on either the use of a specific GIS software product or on a specific application area such as agriculture or hydrology. Since the inception of the subscription in May 2000, users have enrolled in 484 courses. This total includes 269 unique users from 32 different academic departments.

    Digital Music on Electronic Reserve
    This pilot project investigates the feasibility of providing network access to Reserve selections for several Music courses. Two faculty members from the Department of Music collaborated with a team of librarians to provide student access to selections in two undergraduate music survey courses. After the team consulted with the Scholarly Communication Center regarding copyright issues, the selections were converted to various streaming audio formats (QuickTime, RealAudio, and MP3) and mounted on the Libraries Web server, and a Web page with URL access points was published. The professors agreed to distribute an evaluation survey to their students in order to assess this service. At the end of the semester, the surveys were examined and a second pilot phase established for Fall 2001. This time the music will be converted only to RealAudio since this is the emerging campus standard supported by the Distance Education unit and Academic Computing. Instead of access through the Web server, a developmental RealMedia server will be mounted in the library. For security reasons, access to the selections will be restricted to campus computer account holders. Another more detailed survey will be administered. Librarian evaluation will focus on how this process could be normalized into standard Reserves workflow.

    Digital Media Lab
    The Scanning and Digitization Laboratory was renamed the Digital Media Lab (DML), and scanning options have been upgraded and expanded. The lab is operating as an open, self-service facility with capabilities not found anywhere else on campus. Patron usage and complexity of tasks has increased significantly over the last year. The lab has assisted students, faculty, and staff in adding visual resource content to their research endeavors. We have encountered many students who, despite having access to similar resources in their own departments, come to the DML because of the high quality of the assistance they receive. The DML has enabled cost savings for the Libraries. While we have installed state-of-the-art software and scanners, we have also rebuilt older Macintoshes that were due to be surplused. By adding new processor cards, hard drives, and extra RAM we have effectively demonstrated that a digital media workstation need not be a costly investment. The latest innovation in the DML is to implement digital media creation and conversion facilities. Although the lab has had for some time the capacity to create CD-ROMs of scanned documents and images, this year we began to plan and install the capacity to convert analog video (VHS) to digital format and to provide for the direct importation of digital video.

    Laptop Lending Service: Update
    The popular Laptop Lending Service laptops circulated 5,098 times from July 2000 through April 2001. These include Windows, Macintosh, and Windows/Linux laptops. Results of a survey of laptop users, mostly students, indicated a high degree of satisfaction with this service. Library staff members also make extensive use of a separate set of laptops.

    Distance Learning Services: Update
    In the first year of its existence, the Distance Learning Services department was successful in its efforts to coordinate remote access to library services and collections. The department is currently focusing efforts on electronic books, journals, and indexes. Equivalent access to these resources depends on off-campus students discovering that relevant material is available through the library's web site and knowing how to get it. Recognizing that communication is key, Distance Learning Services has created a database of students and the courses in which they are enrolled. Using ColdFusion and an Access database, it is now possible to target students and faculty of a particular program or college with an email message alerting them to a new e-resource, or, in some cases, an existing resource whose importance merits ongoing promotion. In addition to informing distance teachers and learners about remotely accessible collections, this alert service encourages faculty to integrate these resources into their course development.

    C. Systems

    Indexing Report
    This purpose of this study was to compare and contrast a number of indexing technologies and make recommendations for their implementation in the NCSU Libraries. The opinions of staff were first garnered for lists of desirable indexer/search engine features. Next, a list of available indexers was created and their features compared, resulting in the selection of three indexers for further examination (Harvest, SWISH, and Search '97). Finally, these three indexers were used to index three sets of HTML documents, similar searches were done against each implementation, and the results were compared. Each of these indexers works, but SWISH and Search '97 seem to work more consistently. This report suggests the Libraries supplement its HTML pages with META tags in order to make search results more "smart" and human-readable.

    II. Projects and Programs

    North Carolina Local Government Geodata Acquisition Project
    In 2000-01 the Libraries received a University Extension Grant to acquire and archive GIS data resources from city and county governments. Key local government data resources include land parcel data, topographic data, and very high resolution digital orthophotography. Many of these data resources are subject to periodic or even continuous update. The interest in archiving these digitally born resources is driven by the fact that it is generally not possible to acquire older data snapshots from the responsible agencies. Furthermore, experience has shown that even static data resources such as digital orthophotos are at risk of being lost in the near future. Concurrence of these economic, infrastructure, and environmental data snapshots with the 2000 Census is expected to yield value to future researchers. The Libraries has acquired over 300 gigabytes of local government data since February 2000.

    III. Specific Digital Library Challenges

    Integrated Access to and Management of Digital Collections
    The NCSU Libraries' digital collection encompasses electronic books and journals; image and multimedia materials; spatial and numeric data for use with GIS software; governmental and other World Wide Web sites; numerous licensed indexing, abstracting, and full-text databases; and library catalogs. Current search tools typically require users to access each individual type of collection separately, requiring a significant amount of time to do a comprehensive search. This year, the Libraries examined emerging Internet technologies and selected a powerful enterprise software suite, Blue Angel Technologies' MetaStar Enterprise product, to help us provide seamless, integrated searching across these diverse digital collections. As this system is implemented in the coming year, it will greatly reduce the barriers that scholars have traditionally had to surmount in order to locate and use critical content. With a single query, it will be possible to search the digital library as a whole, or selected components, and view one consolidated list of results, a list that can even be customized according to individual preferences. Users will be able to save their search results in database format using citation management software also supported by the library.

    Facilitating Time- and Location-Independent Data Resource Selection
    The NCSU Libraries' data services program focuses on time- and location-independent access to and use of data. The Libraries provides campus-wide networked access to data, extensive Web-based documentation for data user support, and independent online training in the use of GIS through an ESRI Virtual Campus subscription. Increasingly, users are independently consulting Web-based data finding aids and documentation before or in lieu of asking for assistance. Since data resources are often made available in a variety of iterations and formats, users can be overwhelmed by the number of data options available. As a first step towards facilitating independent resource selection, prototype 'data selection wizards' have been created for the digital topographic map and digital orthophotography data resource areas. The NCSU Libraries will also use the MetaStar Enterprise product to create a metadata database comprising both in-house and pertinent external resources. MetaStar will be used to facilitate spatial and thematic querying as well as browsing of the geospatial data collection. A "gateway" function will be used to enable users to carry out geospatial data searches in parallel with searches of text, image or numeric data collections. In addition, the Libraries will investigate the possible use of MetaStar for the development of a portal to online, interactive mapping resources.

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