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Digital Library Federation. Report from the Office of the Director

D Greenstein
13 April 2000

1. Work within DLF Program areas

Work in the following areas is in its formative stages. It is being advanced in small groups convened initially by conference call to define research and information sharing agenda, and to identify the mechanisms through which those agenda may be developed across the DLF. Some activities have matured to the stage of having drafted problem statements and defined next steps. Where these exist, they are linked in this document and available from the DLF's internal (username and password restricted) web site.

1.1. Digital library technologies and architectures

The "architecture committee" is being reconvened to (1) identify and stimulate work that helps to define, clarify, or develop prototypes for digital library systems and system components; (2) scan the larger technical environment for potentially important trends and practices; (3) encourage technology transfer and information between and among DLF members; and (4) communicate technical directions and accomplishments of the DLF to a wider audience. The Committee has the following initiatives on its agenda:

  • Metadata harvesting. Can we agree technical and organizational mechanisms that would enable institutions to disclose item-level metadata held in local databases in a form that can be harvested while entering minimal information about the local databases into a common registry service? Would these facilities support the development of numerous diverse views of the scholarly record created by harvesting subsets of the available metadata? Can we imagine developing online services that provide access to information that supports investigation of particular subject areas (colonial American history); themes (biodiversity); regional holdings (cultural and educational holdings in the Pacific Northwest); or resource types (e.g. archival finding aids)? A proposal is being submitted to the Mellon Foundation looking for funding that can support a planning process to identify the technical and organizational issues and to stimulate the development of a number of testbed metadata harvesting projects.

  • Open Archives. The DLF has provided some administrative assistance to the Open Archives initiative. The initiative seeks consensus on and implementation of mechanisms that will enable scholars to search seamlessly across the holdings of distributed pre-print and e-print services

  • Reference linking. The DLF is one of several institutions that have offered to work with CrossRef on reference linking mechanisms that will enable users to click from a reference as found, for example, in an abstract, an indexing database, online journal article or book to the object underlying that reference (typically a journal article or book).

  • Digital certificates. Several DLF institutions have been working independently and with others on digital certificates and their use in authentication. A conference call will be held to identify next steps. Digital certificates promise a means by which users can log in once to their host institution's online digital library services and move seamlessly, without having to log on again between the restricted and unrestricted resources that are available.

  • Open source. Several DLF institutions are interested in the open source model for exchanging and promoting joint development of locally created digital library applications. A white paper is being prepared outlining the costs and benefits to digital libraries in adopting the open source model and recommending how the model might be applied within DLF.

1.2. Data and metadata formats and their use in digital libraries

A group is being formed to develop a framework within which the DLF members can evaluate local data and metadata creation and management practices with a view to identifying good and possibly best practices. At its initial meeting, the group is expected to identify and set priorities for work on data and metadata formats that are commonly encountered in digital libraries and to establish a framework for evaluating those formats. A draft problem statement focusing the group's activities is available.

1.3. Developing digital collections

Discussions are underway about work in this broad area. There is significant interest in evaluating the variety of practices that members employ to develop and maintain their online collections. The aim is to identify best practice and to share expertise that exists across the membership. Topics being considered include:

  • Review of business models that are used to develop and sustain collections of digital surrogates that libraries are producing
  • Review of production practices and organizations at institutions conducting large-scale digitization efforts
  • Review of guidelines that members use to aid selectors in their evaluation and acquisition of commercial and other third-party data resources
  • Review of guidelines that members use to aid selectors in designing projects that develop digital surrogates for special and other collections. Guidelines typically address issues of selection, copyright clearance, and the design and cost of digitization projects.
  • Comparative review of experiences by institutions that are working closely with academic specialists in developing and encouraging new forms of scholarly communications

1.4. Users, Use, User Support, and User Services

Two areas have been identified as needing attention:
  • development and shared application of quantitative and qualitative measures that will assist in understanding how online digital library collections and services are used
  • review of the various practices used to migrate functions associated with the public service librarian and the library reference desk into an online environment

1.5. Digital preservation

The DLF is working closely with CLIR and CNI in an effort to gain some experience in archiving electronic commercial journals. In its developmental phase, the initiative will seek to document the minimum requirements of a digital archival repository. A draft requirements statement has been prepared and is being reviewed by three groups representing (1) research libraries and other organizations that have a stated interest in establishing digital archival repositories for the management of selected scholarly commercial content (2) electronic publishers with a stated interest in exploring strategic alliances with those repositories and (3) individuals with copyright expertise drawn from research libraries and electronic publishers.

1.6. Roles and responsibilities of the 21st century University research library

Selected DLF directors have expressed an interested in gathering information that may help inform local decision making about the library's strategic and service directions, its organization and its funding. In designing a research and information sharing agenda, the group may begin by identifying areas where survey of existing practice and research into new areas may help to articulate:

  • The library's role in creating, managing, and providing access to the university's intellectual assets
  • The library's role in promoting and supporting learning, teaching, and research in an online environment
  • Organizational and funding models appropriate to the library's evolving roles and responsibilities

2. The DLF Forum

The second DLF Forum was held at Emory University on 31 March - 2 April. It focused on organizational and strategic aspects of digital library development and was by all accounts a great success. The Forum provided a valuable opportunity for DLF members to exchange views and experiences. It also provided an opportunity to inform future DLF initiatives and the focus and organization of future Forums. Thanks are due to participants, to those who presented papers (all of the highest quality), to the organizing committee, to our hosts at Emory University, and above all to Rebecca Graham. The next Forum is expected to take place in September or October 2000 and will be hosted by the University of Chicago.

3. Office of the Director

2.1. Staff

We are seeking a communications officer, an Administrative Assistant, and a replacement for the Research Officer, Rebecca Graham. Rebecca's departure affords an opportunity to rethink the Research Officer's post. In this respect, we are looking to serve one of two functions: a catalytic function or a support function. Serving a catalytic function would require a staff member with senior digital library experience who brings to the DLF a personal research agenda that complements one or more of the areas in which the DLF seeks to work. Serving a support function would require a more junior staff member who would be involved closely in developing and supporting DLF working groups and initiatives and the Office of the Director.

With all posts, we are considering full time employment as well as fellowships, leaves of absence, and part-time schemes. With the exception of the administrative assistant, staff would not necessarily be expected to work from CLIR or be located in Washington DC.

2.2. Communications infrastructure

Effective communications will be key to the DLF's further progress. Accordingly the Office is paying considerable attention to revising its web site, developing a network of electronic mailing lists, and launching a regular electronic Newsletter.

Web-site re-development is on-going and will hopefully become apparent by early summer.

Mailing lists. Existing but dormant DLF mailing lists have been re-purposed. A general mailing list - DLFANNOUNCE-L@CDINET.COM - has been made available as a vehicle for one-way communication between the DLF Office of the Director and staff at member institutions. The list will be used to circulate information of general interest to digital library practitioners (e.g. on new "publications", initiatives, etc).

In addition, a number of focused discussion lists have been established for those who are interested in receiving communication about and helping to inform DLF activities in its various "program areas". The following lists have been established:

  • DLFUSE-L@CDINET.COM focusing in the broad area of use, users, and user support
  • DLFARCH-L@CDINET.COM focusing in the broad area of digital library architectures, systems, and tools
  • DLFGUIDES-L@CDINET.COM focusing on DLF initiatives to identify, document and evaluate data and metadata formats and their use in digital libraries

Other focused discussion lists will be established in due course, notably to communicate about and help inform work on digital preservation and on digital collections.

Staff at DLF member institutions are encouraged to join these lists all of which use LISTSERV software and have web-accessible archives. To join a list, send the following message to LISTSERV@CDINET.COM

subscribe listname yourname (where your name is supplied as a first and last name separated by a space)

Help with listserv software is available from: http://www.lsoft.com/manuals/1.8d/user/user.html

The DLF Newsletter is being developed to take account of our interest in promoting a greater degree of information sharing. It will report on DLF activities and include brief reports supplied by DLF members on their local digital library activities, initiatives, challenges, etc. It is proposed that members submit reports twice a year. A template for members' reports and a reporting schedule has been made available.

2.3. Steering Committee

The next Steering Committee is scheduled for 16 June 2000. Given the impending changes for DLF, it is recommended that that meeting be postponed until September 2000 when it may meet to review the DLF's progress and consider a number of recommendations prepared by the Director in consultation with the Executive Committee, with regard to membership, external and additional funding, the DLF's formal external evaluation.

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