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Draft report of a meeting held on 10 April in Washington DC to discuss preliminary results of a survey issued by the DLF to its members

D Greenstein, S Thorin, D Mckinney
23 April 2001

Attending: Peter Botticelli (Cornell), Elaine Sloan (Columbia University), Nancy Eaton (Penn State), Suzanne Thorin (Indiana University), Duane Webster (ARL), Wendy Lougee (University of Michigan), Bill Forden (University of Washington) , Marty Runkle (University of Chicago), Bill Britton (University of Tennessee)

Apologies: Don Waters (Mellon), Carol Mandel (New York University)

The following report organizes discussion thematically rather than chronologically under the following heads:

  1. Review of aims in conducting survey and publishing the report
  2. Structure and emphasis of the published report
  3. Additional data analysis that is required
  4. Principal preliminary results arising from the survey data
  5. Next steps

1. Review of aims in conducting survey and publishing the report

  1. To inform strategic planning and decision making within digital libraries with evidence derived from leading digital libraries about various different development paths that have and are being taken.

  2. To demonstrate how leading digital libraries are focusing their efforts (their different aims and orientations), organizing and funding them, and to document how how, why, and under what circumstances they have evolved as they have.

  3. To demonstrate roles emerging for libraries in the management of the university's digital information and intellectual assets, and to document where those assets are at risk (e.g. with regard to preservation).

  4. To demonstrate that the digital library is an evolving organizational form that can take very different approaches.

  5. To provide "benchmarks" against which libraries can assess their own position and experience and with which they can promote their causes locally on campus.

  6. To demonstrate DLF's value as a leadership organization by drawing on its members' experience to inform and advise a broader community as its members harness information technologies and invest in digital libraries. Note, this is in part the rationale behind other research activities that have based themselves primarily on experiences within DLF member institutions including the research into their digital collection development practices, and into how members are assessing use of their online collections and services.

  7. To demonstrate that the digital library is not a uniform construct; that there are different, equally valuable (at least valid) approaches

  8. To demonstrate the library's current and potential capacity as a key agent within the university capable university's intellectual and information assets.

2. Structure and emphasis of the published report

Given the sample size (21 responses) the sample frame (leading digital libraries), and the ambiguity in some of the survey data, the report can only be indicative digital library roles, development paths, and organizational approaches, and needs to be presented in that way.

The above also suggests that the report will be benefit from follow-up case studies (4-5 pages each) that illustrate some of the "digital library types" that are apparent in the data.

Candidate "digital library types" for case studies are listed bevlow (institution names are provided for illustrative purposes only. Candidate case studies remain to be selected and agreed and will be represented in the report as (institutions a, b, c, etc.)

  • Institutions which have centralized their digital library efforts by creating a digital library unit in the library

  • Institutions in which digital library effort is dispersed across several departments

  • Institutions that established digital library programs early

    Institutions only starting to develop their digital library programs

  • Institutions investing largely in integrating infrastructure as opposed to content development

  • Federated digital libraries

Case studies will be developed through interview at the candidate institutions.

Interviews (and the case studies themselves) will follow broadly similar lines and tease out the circumstances surrounding the initial establishment of digital library programs and the key turning points in their development.

Case studies will help to illuminate rational and timeline and influences (external and internal) on digital library development, as well as the circumstances surrounding their creation and some of the key turning points in their further development. The case studies will also help to identify relative importance (and source) of leadership, funding, etc.

Case studies will also help to

  • tease out ambiguities in some of the survey data

  • provide material to explain why certain developments take place (or do not take place) at particular libraries

  • document and explain the different approaches, organizational models, developmental timelines adopted by specific digital libraries

  • weigh the relative importance of opportunistic vs programmatic (strategic) developments

While case studies are being developed it will be helpful to ask DLF members to document the key formative influences that helped to shape their own digital library programs (viz. development of the web, JSTOR, TULIP, NDLP, NSF DL1, etc)

3. Additional data analysis that is required

Data should be reworked to see whether the distribution of responses for any of the following types of institutions differs at all from the averages shown in the tables produced for the meeting:

  • Institutions with centralized digital library programs

  • Institutions without centralized digital library programs

  • The top quartile of institutions when ranked according to spending on digital library

  • The bottom quartile of institutions when ranked according to spending on digital library programs

Further additional analyses are recommended in italic below

4. Principal preliminary results arising from the survey data

Comments on survey questions and additional data that may be required are supplied in italic

4.1. Policy environment

Statistically speaking, the policy environment is well developed where university information strategy, intellectual property and copyright are concerned. Policies for distance learning (62%) and preservation (33%) are less prevalent though possibly in a way that represents a trend toward their development.

Table 4.1.1. The policy environment. Prevalence of different types of policies within DLF member institutions

Policy type

Percent claiming this type of policy

University-wide information technology Policy


University policy pertaining to IPR assignment


University copyright policy


University policy on distance learning


Preservation policy


4.2. Funding for digital library programs

New money, grants and gifts, and reallocation of core funding are almost equally as important in funding digital library initiatives

Table 4.2.1. Funding sources for digital library initiatives

Funding sources

Number trying question

Yes as percent of those trying questions

Yes as percent of N

New money












The question needs to be refined so that it is possible to get sense of relative importance / level of each of these sources and to get a more refined sense of "reallocation" i.e. to determine whether it entails staff reassigment, staff re-skilling, reallocation of existing funds (and if so from what)

Objects of digital library expenditure. The principal costs for digital libraries are as follows (based on average 2000 cost):

  • commercial content (40%)

  • equipment and infrastructure (23%)

  • digital library personal (18%) and

  • content creation (7%)

Libraries on average spend 95k per annum on subscriptions to membership organizations.

The fact that equipment and infrastructure was absorbing more funds than personnel seemed initially to surprise, but on reflection may reflect libraries gearing up their digital library initiatives and having to equip them.

Table 4.2.2. Objects of digital library expenditure

Digital library expenditure

Range of costs 1999

Range of costs 2000

Average cost 1999

Average cost 2000

Change in average costs

Percent change in average cost


Commercial content

1,507 - 2,000,000

1,061 - 3,000,000






Digital conversion (content creation)

2,400 - 1,090,600

37,992 - 1,145,000






New forms of scholarly communication

0 - 119,700







Digital library personnel

2,400 - 1,622,600

100000 - 1703730






Equipment and other infrastructure

1,500 - 4,000,000

7,500 - 3,514,350






Systems R & D

5,000 - 1,200,000

0 - 3,200,000






Participation in consortial DL activities

0 - 300,000

0 - 100,000






Support for grant-funded R&D

0 - 159,000

0 - 320,000






Subscription to membership organizations

59,000 - 174,974






  • Number of those responding to questions needs to be included
  • Can we group libraries to get a sense of how many are "big", "medium" and "small" spenders ineach category?
  • Can we calculate standard deviation for each variable?
  • Averages need to be recalculated after outliers are eliminated
  • Data on subscription to membership organizations in FY 2000 needs to be gathered

4.3. Creation of digital content

Digital libraries have, on average, as many digital imaging as encoded text creation projects and have produced an average of 270,000 images and 1,000 encoded texts. The variation, though, across digital libraries is considerable.

Table 4.3. Investment in content creation
Content creaton

Number of projects

Avg number of projects

Number of FTEs (range)

Avg Number of FTEs

Annual investment in content creation (range)

Avg annual investment in content creation


Digital images

2 - 25


1 - 4.5


5,000 - 3,000,000



Encoded texts

0 - 31


0 - 6


0 - 4,341



Digital sound and video/film

0 - 6


0 - 2


0 - 13,940


  • The data need to demonstrate the number responding to each question
  • The averages need to be recalculated after eliminating outliers
  • Can we group libraries to get a sense of how many are "big", "medium" and "small" spenders ineach category?
  • Can we calculate standard deviation for each variable?

4.4. Organization of digital libraries

DLF members are almost equally divided between those that organize digital library activities by locating responsibility for them in a digital library department or unit (10) and those that do not (8)

Table 4.4.1. Organization of digital library activities

Location of digital library initiative



Within independent unit



Distributed across library / coordinated by some team approach



Distributed across library / not coordinated by some team approach



Too small to say






Few digital library initiatives (centralized or otherwise) operate without at least some connection (formal or informal) relationship with another university unit that has some role in developing and managing the university's information assets.

The most important "other unit" is the information service or academic computing (c.90% of those responding have some connection), followed by the university press (41% with some connection, an LIS or equivalent academic department (20%).

Only 10% of those responding to the question had digital library initiatives that were entirely independent of other units

Table 4.4.2. Contact between library-based digital library activities and other university units outside the library

Other unit

Formal connection with unit (No./No responding to question and percent)

Informal connection with unit (No./No responding to question and percent)

IT or academic computing

11/20 55%

7/20 35%

University press

2/18 11

6/20 30


2/18 11

2/20 10

No other department

2/18 11

0/20 0

Will need to flesh out what is meant by "formal" in case studies and perhaps with a refined question in future surveys

4.5. Staffing of digital library initiatives

Staffing levels for digital library initiatives vary considerably across DLF member institutions (from c. 7 FTEs to c.48 FTEs) and average 17 FTEs.

On average, library-based digital library staff are distributed more or less equally between library management systems, content creation, and development and maintenance of access systems.

Table 4.5.1. Level and functional distribution of digital library staff employed by the library

Staffing for digital library activities

Staff FTEs in librarsy (range)

Average staff FTEs in library

Library management systems

2.75 - 15


Content creation

2.5 - 11.5


Development/maintenance of access systems

1.5 - 21



6.75 - 47.5


Responsibility for various digital library activities (content selection, content production, user support) is taken largely by subject bibliographers and staffs located in digital library units, with subject bibliographers taking a lead role.

  • Subject bibliographers are predominately responsible for selection of commercial content (at 95% of respondent institutions) and for development and maintenance of Internet gateways (at 71% of respondent institutions)

  • Digital library staff are predominately responsible for digitized library collections (at 71% of responding institutions) but note how they share this responsibility with subject bibliographers (at 51% of responding institutions)

Responsibility for user support is thinly spread across different groups of library staff with no single group taking primary responsibility. This suggests either that user support is a widely shared or not considered as a priority

About half of the libraries responding said their digital library initiatives had access to staff in other (non-library) departments.

On average those with access to staff outside the library, had access to 8 FTEs distributed as follows: 4 FTEs for library management systems, 4 FTEs for content creation, and 1 FTE for access systems development.

Table 4.5.2. Staff outside the library involved in digital library initiatives

Staffing for digital library activities

Staff FTEs in librarsy (range)

Average staff FTEs in library

Library management systems

2.75 - 15


Content creation

2.5 - 11.5


Development/maintenance of access systems

1.5 - 21



6.75 - 47.5


4.6. Library's relative role in creating, providing access to, and preserving digital assets within the university that contribute new forms of scholarly communication (e.g. e-journals, e-print repositories, digitized content library content, etc.)

Many units within the university are taking responsibility for the production of digital content that contribute new forms of scholarly communications. The library is primarily responsible for the production of that content based on library holdings (95% of respondents claim this responsibility for the library over other units).

Responsibility for other such content is widely spread across units with academic departments taking primarily responsibility for e-print repositories (52% of those responding), e-journals (52% of those responding), and distance learning materials (62% of those responding). IT and academic computing departments have limited responsibility for production of digital information content any kind.

Where access to this content is concerned, the library has a greater role than it does in content creation. It is primarily responsible for providing access to digitized library content (in 90% of the institutions responding), to e-journal content (in 81%), to e-books (in 76%) and to e-prints (57%). No other unit takes anywhere near that level of responsibility for any type of collection listed.

Where preservation of such content concerned, only the digitized library holdings (for the creation and distribution of which the library is primarily responsible) appear at all to be secure. Most respondents claim that the library takes responsibility for the preservation of these holdings. Other kinds of digital content (e.g. e-journals, e-prints, etc.) is apparently at risk. At least only very few of the responding institutions located preservation responsibility for these materials in any one of the departments listed

4.7. Preserving the university's digital information assets

The highly distributed approach to digital preservation that is apparent in section 4.6. dealing with content that contributes new forms of scholarly communication, is apparent in questions that ask about preservation responsibility for digital materials created or used within the library, within academic departments, and within administrative departments.

The library takes primary responsibility for preservation of library catalogue files (at 71% of responding institutions), finding aids (at 76%) and the digital content produced by the library (at 76%).

The Library has little or no responsibility for university records and administrative data (MIS) or for data developed in academic departments. Indeed, where digital content produced in academic departments is concerned, nearly half of all respondents (9 of 21) were unclear about where preservation responsibility for that content was located

4.8. Computing-based learning materials

Support for production and use of computer-based learning materials is widely shared (or highly fragmented).

Units within the library take primary responsibility for supporting pedagogical and classroom use of digital content that produced by the library (at 81% of those responding), for advice on copyright clearance and IPR issues involved with that content (at 62%).

IT and academic computing departments take primary responsibility for production of computer-based learning materials not based on library holdings (at 76% of responding institutions), and for the pedagogical and classroom use of those materials (at 57%).

5. Next steps

  1. Produce a quick summary of the data to hand (draft available above) and circulate to DLF members (DG with ST and DM) early June

  2. Develop additional quantitative results as recommended above (DG, ST, and DM) - early June

  3. Select institutions on which to base case studies and develop a "questionnaire" to guide interviews at those institutions upon which case studies will be based (DG and ST to circulate drafts to group for comment) - early June

  4. Conduct and prepare case studies as described above (DG, ST, and AN Other to be selected) - June-Aug

  5. Prepare and publish report on the survey focusing the report with the aims that are documented above and combining the quantitative data (as presented here and as extended) with the case studies - Aug-Sep

  6. Host workshop(s) (perhaps in conjunction with ARL) that presents report and promotes discussion of various digital library approaches amongst a broader group of libraries with an interest in developing digital library programs. (Sep-Oct)

  7. Consider future's survey. Here there are a number of possibilities which are viable if they may be taken up in close cooperation with ARL (Oct Nov)

    • The survey provides baseline information about digital library approaches, organizations, funding, etc., and could be extended in future years, perhaps in some revised form.

    • The survey could also be extended by distributing it to a larger group of institutions thereby documenting a far greater range of digital library experience.

    Please send comments or suggestions.
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