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Recent and Future Events

Technical Reports

University of Pennsylvania
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

    The Oxford University Press History Books Project
    The size of the Oxford University Press History Books collection has doubled since our last report, and there are now more than 250 books available to readers in the Penn community. The Mellon-funded project, which is studying digital book use and its impact on teaching, learning, and the economics of publishing, has attracted the interest of other academic publishers as well. We hope to extend the scope of this project to include history titles from these additional publishers in the years to come.

    Fisher Fine Arts Library Digital Collection
    One of two digital image collections now available to users from our digital images project, this collection contains over 100,000 metadata records for slides in our fine arts libraries. About 30,000 of these slides have been digitized, and can be viewed on-line. Users anywhere on the Web can search and view the metadata records and thumbnail images. Users at Penn can also see larger versions of the digital images. Some of these images are presented in MrSID, with a web interface that supports user-controlled zooming into fine details of the images, and control over the image size and bandwidth.

    Penn/AIIS (American Institute of Indian Studies) Art Archive
    A sample of digitized photographs from the Library's South Asia collection can now be viewed on-line, under the same terms as the Fisher Fine Arts Library Digital collection. The sample contains about 500 images, and is mainly on-line now to demonstrate and test cross-collection searching and browsing. We hope to further expand our image collections and cross-collection access services in the future.

    Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image
    The SCETI site has recently added MrSID support for selected documents (see above), allowing users to zoom in on fine details of digitally scanned manuscripts. SCETI has also recently migrated to a database format, with support for search. Redesigns of the main SCETI site with additional functionality are also in the works. We are also beginning to make some of SCETI's metadata harvestable via the Open Archives Initiative (see below).

    A Celebration of Women Writers
    About a dozen new titles have been added to the Celebration's repository of publications, which now has more than 150 titles. Metadata records for the Celebration's republished editions can now be harvested via the Open Archives Initiative (see below). Additionally, a search interface has been added for the Celebration's database of women writers, allowing information on writers to be located by criteria that include name, dates, country, and ethnicity.

    B. Services

    Live Online Reference
    Interactive "chat" services are now available to the Penn community at certain times on a pilot basis, as a supplement to in-person, telephone, email, and web searching services. The Libraries have introduced late-night reference chat on Monday-Wednesday nights after the reference desk and the main library have closed. Additionally, the Lippincott library offers live online reference support for business questions on weekday afternoons and evenings. Live chat is backed up by FAQs and emailed transcriptions. We are considering expanding live online reference services to other libraries as well.

    Books by Mail Service
    Books By Mail is a new service offered on an experimental basis to Penn graduate students and faculty members to facilitate their research while living away from campus. Eligible participants can click on a "Request" button in our online catalog to request delivery of most on-shelf Penn Library circulating materials via insured carrier to their homes. Users register via our Web site, with other communication handled via email.

    Electronic Databases Search Tool
    A new electronic database search tool is now available to our users. Similar to the electronic journal search tool made public last fall, this service gives patrons a much more powerful discovery tool for our electronic databases than our previous static Web pages provided. The search system allows patrons to locate databases by their title or by their description, and to select databases of interest to a particular community or discipline. Our bibliographers have included detailed descriptions of each database, which users can view in full or see in summary form. Additionally, the bibliographers have rated the importance of each database to various communities. These ratings make it possible for users to quickly locate databases that are most important for a particular domain of research. They also make it possible for users to find databases on other subjects that they might not have considered, but that have interdisciplinary relevance to the user's field of inquiry.

    C. Systems

    Uniform Resolution Service
    The Uniform Resolution Service (URS) is a comprehensive system for creating, maintaining, and resolving persistent, location-independent identifiers for network-accessible resources. The URS builds on previous work using Handles, and further provides for automatic detection of access restrictions and proxy requirements, and accounting for usage. The resolution service maps an opaque resource identifier, a URS, to a URL for the selected resource or service. The URS provides these major features:
    • Standardized, short URLs for the Penn community
    • Administrative functions that
      • automatically assign a unique URS and associate that URS with a resource or service URL
      • perform automatic, frequent link checking to ensure accuracy of URLs
      • search and display URS metadata for any URS, URL or resource name
      • provide a global change function for URLs
    • Automatic proxy for off-campus users with no special browser configuration or plugins required, easing browser configuration problems for our community
    • Standardized accounting for use of resources and services
    Prototypes of the basic resolution service are now available, and will be soon be tested in our Electronic Journals search tool. Administrative functions are currently in development.

    Open Archives Initiative Server
    We now have a server that provides harvestable digital collection metadata through the Open Archives Initiative. Through this project, we can publicize metadata on digital objects in a variety of formats, including Dublin Core and MARC. We currently have two registered repositories:
    • Celebration of Women Writers: over 150 records of books digitally published by the project, in Dublin Core.
    • Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image (SCETI): about 50 records of digital facsimiles in the Furness Shakespeare collection, in both MARC and Dublin Core.
    Metadata from other collections are likely to follow as well.

    Penn is working with Columbia and Yale (and RLG) on expanding a pilot project that facilitates borrowing between university libraries. The BorrowDirect system, which became available in late 1999, allows Penn users to search catalogs and borrow items from our BorrowDirect partners when they are checked out or otherwise not available at Penn. Response times and costs have proven to be significantly lower than with traditional inter- library loan, with most materials available within 4 working days, and costs of less than half of traditional ILL. Users can also have more control in searching for and choosing desired items. Now that we have observed the benefits of the system, we plan to bring a few additional peer libraries into the BorrowDirect group, and move to an upgraded software support system.

    II. Projects and Programs

    Electronic Journal Archives
    In a Mellon-funded initiative, we are planning and prototyping archive services for electronic journals. As subscribers to over 5000 electronic serial titles, we are highly concerned about reliable, affordable long-term availability and usability of these journals. Our planning project focuses on:
    • working with academic presses
    • clear statements of archival rights and responsibilities
    • early prototyping to anticipate difficulties
    • managing costs, aiming for as low as possible per volume
    • support of replication, migration, verification, and transfer
    We hope this project will build on ongoing publisher relationships in experimenting with digital documents. A key goal in the planning year involved support for managing and migrating PDF documents.

    Electronic Course Support
    Instructors at Penn are increasingly using electronic materials and courseware to help them teach their classes. In the past, we have supported such teaching through our electronic course reserves service and our assistance with web-based course resource guides. We are now planning to take on a more central role in supporting courseware systems, and in integrating them with library resources. Specifically, we plan to take over maintenance of the Blackboard system, now in use in several schools in the university, in the next academic year.

    Open Knowledge Initiative
    We are also highly interested in new courseware developments, particularly in open-source courseware, and in the potential such systems may have to better support our faculty's teaching, and integrate course materials and library resources. We are partners in the Mellon-funded Open Knowledge Initiative, which aims to produce better courseware through open source development and input from the academic community.

    ENCompass Development
    The Library is collaborating with Endeavor Information Systems to help develop the ENCompass product for managing and providing access to local and remote digital collections. We produced a requirements statement for a digital library management architecture, and for user and system interface functionality, that Endeavor will be using in the further development of its system. We have now installed the software locally, and will be testing it in the development of digital library collections and applications, and working with Endeavor to help make its system full-featured and robust.

    Electronic Table of Contents
    We are continuing to plan services for notifying users of new information they may be interested in. We are developing an architecture, and are beginning to develop software, for a table of contents alert service for selected journals. The system would harvest information about new journal issues from publisher web sites, vendor email, and commercial table-of-contents services. It could then display information about new journal material on appropriate community of interest pages, as the result of a search query (similar to our existing New Books Plus service) or directly delivered to a user (via email or a customized web page) based on that user's previously expressed preferences. The service will include both existing third-party software and newly developed software. We are currently seeking funding for this project; progress will depend on available funding and personnel.

    III. Specific Digital Library Challenges

    Designing archives for long-term preservation of digital journals

    Implementing harvesting for notification services

    Providing authenticated, personalized views of library materials

    Developing and using effective measurements for assessing the effectiveness of library services and collections

    Strengthening the information competence of students and faculty

    Working with ENCompass to test and help develop an effective platform for digital collection management, access, and cross-collection search

    Installing, integrating, and helping develop effective learning management systems

    Please send comments or suggestions.
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