Message from the President
by Deanna B. Marcum
DLF Forums on Digital Library Practices
by Rebecca Graham
One of CLIR’s greatest assets is its flexibility to respond as circumstances change and new issues arise. In the past several months, the CLIR staff has been engaged in internal discussions about the future of the programs. At the same time, Stanley Chodorow, chairman of the Board, and I have begun a series of briefings across the country in which we have described the CLIR agenda and have invited library directors and provosts to share their interests and concerns. These discussions have culminated in a new agenda for CLIR that was approved at the Board meeting of April 23.
We recognized early in our discussions that the old model of dividing the agenda into discrete programs, each headed by a program officer, did not serve us well. The areas in which we had chosen to work cannot be so neatly circumscribed. Our concern about digital archiving, for example, fits into the preservation and access program, but it is also central to digital library issues. We believe the best approach is to identify the issues or themes that seem most important for the advancement of libraries, archives, and other information organizations and to think of those themes as a collective assignment to our staff.
With the advice of the CLIR Board, we have designated six themes for our work: preservation awareness, digital libraries, leadership, economics of information, resources for scholarship, and international developments.
CLIR has an ongoing commitment to the preservation efforts of libraries and archives throughout the United States and abroad. Presently, the need for national leadership in preservation is increasing as research libraries and archives deal with a greater number of items added to collections every year and recorded on increasingly unstable media. Through the preservation awareness area of interest, CLIR will advance its preservation agenda by supporting the preservation profession and library and archives managers responsible for preservation of collections. We will continue to work collaboratively with library consortia and national institutions to advocate the use of tried-and-true preservation measures, such as reformatting onto film and improving environmental controls. We will promote ongoing professional development of preservation specialists through training and timely dissemination of developments in the field. We will also focus on helping preservation professionals and those who fund their activities to understand that digital technology is not yet a reliable form of preservation reformatting. As CLIR and DLF support the growth of digital libraries, we must ensure the continued well-being of nondigital resources.
At institutions abroad, librarians and archivists are debating many of the same issues we face at home, from the relative merits of mass deacidification methods to workable structures for archiving digital information. Sharing information about research and implementation of solutions makes good sense as institutions try to find the most practical and economical means of preserving their collections.
In many parts of the world, there is little awareness of preservation issues. Preservation education and training will thus remain important components of the international agenda. CLIR has developed training programs that have worked well abroad, and one in Brazil has proved so successful that it is now being replicated in Chile and Argentina. Continuing to advance preservation abroad will help ensure the survival of resources that will be in demand as scholars look more broadly across disciplines and national boundaries.
CLIR is committed to fostering the development of digital libraries as a resource for research and learning today and into the future. We are particularly interested in helping policy makers, funders, and academic leaders understand the nature of the social and institutional investments in digital libraries that are necessary to organize, maintain, and provide access to the growing body of digital materials for scholarly purposes. However, the development of digital libraries is proving to be a very complex process, requiring much intensive and detailed work. At present, we seek to help accomplish this work and advance our interest in digital libraries primarily by serving as administrative home for the Digital Library Federation (DLF).
The DLF is focused on ways to organize, provide access to, and preserve knowledge in digital form to serve scholarship in all its dimensions: teaching, research, and publication. The DLF Steering Committee recently approved its program for the coming year and is supporting scholarly communication in three broad areas. First, DLF is addressing the digital library needs of specific scholarly disciplines. For example, it is investing in the development of digital libraries of images in support of art history and related disciplines and of data archives used heavily in the social sciences. Second, the DLF is fostering the development of an integrated array of digital library services. It is supporting the development of digitizing and other production services needed to generate content resources of scholarly importance, as well as services for access management, preservation, or long-term maintenance of digital materials, and discovery and retrieval. Third, the DLF is engaged in a variety of activities designed to provide a framework for individual institutions to develop their digital resources independently but in ways that can be readily integrated into a common networked environment.
Resources for Scholarship
Concern with access to resources for scholarship grows naturally from CLIR’s preservation and access agenda. By defining access to research collections as an independent focus of our activities and projects, we address the critical functions of acquisition, description, and preservation in an integrated wayÑthat is, as a service to scholarship. It signifies our greater engagement with scholars in developing strategies for the growth and management of information resources.
Libraries face increasing difficulties in acquiring and making accessible the resources that scholars need to do their research. In some cases, this is because budgets are failing to keep up with the real costs of acquisition and preservation. In other cases, it is because the recording media of this century, such as videotape or LPs, are very fragile and research remains to be done to establish best practices for stabilizing these items. In yet others, it is because scholars are using nonprint and special collections with renewed intensity and need better finding aids and tools for search and retrieval.
We know that libraries can solve these problems only by reexamining certain assumptions about what to acquire (or license), how to describe and retrieve items, and how to choose what to preserve and in what form. These activities will always involve difficult choices. We want to provide decision makers the information they need to make informed choices, and managers the tools that they need to manage their information resources. We also want to develop and strengthen the working relationships between scholars and librarians locally, nationally, and internationally.
CLIR has initiated projects aimed at improving resources for scholarship that follow from several needs articulated by the joint CLIR/ACLS task forces on scholarship, teaching, and information resources in the twenty-first century. One such project, a conference sponsored with the Chicago Historical Society and to be held this fall, will investigate issues confronting libraries and museums that are digitizing their collections of artifacts for dissemination over the Internet. CLIR will also convene a task force of scholars, librarians, and archivists to develop strategies for research libraries and the communities they serve for building and maintaining stable and accessible research collections in light of the explosion of information available electronically. We will engage scholars in a structured discussion of the intrinsic value of different types of research materials, how they can best be preserved and made accessible, and how we ensure that scholars have access to originals when their research demands it.
Economics of Information
There are potential economic dimensions to all of CLIR’s projects and programs. Specific projects in the economics of information, still being developed, will focus on the need for more analysis in the following areas:
- how to measure the productivity of information resources
- how to assess the value of library and archival collections as heritage assets
- how to help provosts and other university administrators measure the costs of information
- how to develop business models for new services that grow out of CLIR’s activities
At the last Digital Library Federation meeting, several directors noted the need to describe several models of digital archiving and to conduct a careful economic analysis of each model. Models would include a commercial service, a consortial arrangement, and a library undertaking this activity on its own.
The task force on the growth and management of collections, while primarily engaged with the value of research materials based on their research potential, will inevitably confront many economic issues. Decisions to preserve the artifact must be made in the context of preservation costs versus the costs of creating and maintaining surrogates. The Heritage Assets project recently begun at the Library of Congress, while it has specialized focus, could be extended for use in other research collections to better understand the costs of preserving as well as the risk in choosing not to preserve.
CLIR, following the tradition of the Council on Library Resources and the Commission on Preservation and Access, continues to give high priority to the development of leadership for cultural and educational institutions. Library directors, provosts, and presidents have identified leadership as one of the most urgent needs.
With a generous grant from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, CLIR and Emory University are developing the Frye Leadership Institute. The institute will bring together in a summer program potential leaders from libraries, computing centers, university presses, and faculty ranks—those who will manage the information resources of the campus in the future. The two-week session will be followed by a year-long practicum and conclude with a two-week closing session at Emory. The institute is being planned with advice from the Association of Research Libraries and EDUCAUSE.
It is time to take a comprehensive look at the preparation of those who will work in our research libraries. CLIR is developing a study of the kinds of skills and abilities that will be needed in research libraries, followed by an evaluation of several types of programs that may be suitable for meeting the educational needs.
Digital technology is already changing how teaching and learning are taking place at the tertiary level. CLIR’s College Libraries Committee recently convened a conference of college administrators, faculty, information technologists, and library directors who discussed the implications of digital technology for teaching and learning. The meeting was based on a series of case studies, which we are editing for distribution. As next steps, CLIR will convene additional meetings with deans, provosts, and presidents to discuss the digital future, and will explain, through conferences and publications, the implications of changes in the scholarly communication system.
The need for international partnerships and alliances is apparent in all of CLIR’s areas of interest. The global dimensions of preservation and access have been well developed over a ten-year period by the international program, which began as a project of the Commission on Preservation and Access. The challenge now is to identify the areas of CLIR’s broader agenda in which our work can be advanced only through international collaboration.
Digital libraries and resources for scholarship are obvious areas for international collaboration. Several preservation microfilming projects have led to serious consideration of digital library projects as the next phase of activity. Building databases of preserved materials in various countries has resulted in conferences and projects that explore the possibility of sharing research resources internationally. When the Frye Leadership Institute was funded by the Woodruff Foundation, we sought additional support to ensure international participation in the institute. Finally, there remains a need for activities to increase preservation awareness abroad.
The decade of experience we have in the international community provides a strong foundation for our broader interest in international developments. The large network of contacts that have been nurtured by international program officers in their preservation work will be invaluable as we look for partners in the broader agenda.
Changes in Sponsorship
We invite all organizations that see the agenda we have defined as being integral to their own pursuits and achievements to join us as sponsors. We believe CLIR can be most effective as an independent forum for bringing disparate groups together to analyze and begin to solve some of the most vexing problems facing libraries, archives, museums, and related organizations.
CLIR has no endowment and no members. Our ability to continue issuing timely reports and convening meetings to address urgent problems depends upon sponsors being willing to support our operating costs and on private foundations’ willingness to provide project funds.
Until now, we have emphasized the educational mandate to inform the library and higher education communities about preservation and access issues, and we have distributed our reports to all ARL libraries as well as to our sponsors. Beginning in July when we will proceed with our new agenda, we shall modify our publications distribution system. Sponsors will receive as many as 10 copies of all publications, and special events will be planned for their benefit. Institutions that do not wish to sponsor CLIR but are nonetheless interested in receiving publications may establish standing orders.
Invitations to become a sponsor of CLIR will be issued in May. We believe the work we are doing strengthens the role of libraries, archives, and other information organizations, informs their staffs about recent developments and trends, and more strongly connects the library to the scholarly community.
We have heard many suggestions in the recent open briefing sessions we have held on various campuses, but we welcome thoughts from all others as we make plans for the next phase of CLIR’s activities. We will be reporting on the recommendations that have emerged from these briefings in upcoming numbers of CLIR Issues.
New Director of Communications at CLIR
|International Program Officer Kathlin Smith has been named director of communications, a new position created to coordinate CLIR’s publications and outreach. Among other responsibilities, Ms. Smith will explore whether and how CLIR can better meet the information needs of its intended audience. Ms. Smith, who joined the Commission on Preservation and Access staff in 1996, will continue to work part-time in the international program through the end of this year.
As part of a grant received from The W. K. Kellogg Foundation, CLIR is publishing a report that evaluates several programs, also funded by Kellogg, aimed at developing new approaches to graduate-level preparation of professionals in information services. The W. K. Kellogg Foundation launched its Human Resources for Information Systems Management (HRISM) program in 1994. It is intended to reform professional education, redefine community service, and strengthen the dialog among various groups concerned about the information services for the community. CLIR’s HRISM grant was meant to bring different communities together to consider the human resources needs in new information organizations and to evaluate the educational programs they developed. Technology may one day lessen the gap between information haves and have-nots in society, but its potential to do so will not be realized unless serious attention is paid to designing new models and approaches for organizing, preserving, and delivering information.
HRISM projects are designed to increase the ability of professional staff and public institutions to meet the human service demands expressed at the community level related to increased information, an expanding knowledge base, and new communications systems.
Common features of the projects undertaken under the initiative of HRISM are:
- interdisciplinary involvement
- connectedness to community
- use of information technology
- institutional sustainability
- dissemination of strategies and results
- participation of underrepresented populations
- leveraged philanthropy
- networking among grantees
Four graduate library school program projects received HRISM grants to explore new approaches to graduate education. They included a redesign of the core curriculum at the University of Illinois, the development of a new undergraduate degree in Information Studies at Florida State University (FSU), a complete revamping of the graduate program at the University of Michigan, and curriculum reform at Drexel University based on market studies of the human resources needs of employers of information professionals. Grants for these projects ranged from $60,000 to more than $4 million, reflecting the range and scope of the projects.
While the resulting changes in curriculum of several of these programs have been reported in the professional literature and at professional conferences, CLIR also interviewed deans of three of the schools this winter to learn about the outcomes and satisfaction with the projects. (The assessment of Drexel will be undertaken when its HRISM project is completed.) The scope of assessment included
- determination of the overall satisfaction with the new curriculum, by faculty, student, and employer;
- determination if the objectives of the project were met by the new curriculum;
- determination if the graduate employment opportunities had been affected; and,
- determination if the new curriculum affected enrollment levels.
General Observations and Results
The deans of the three library schools evaluated reported they were satisfied or very satisfied with the program changes. University of Illinois Dean Leigh Estabrook stated, “The grant provided us the impetus to look at other changes in our curriculum. That may be the most important result of our Kellogg project.” Gary Olson, University of Michigan, acknowledged that the full result will not be known for several more years, as only one class has completed the two-year program and another is just completing the first year. All three deans acknowledged that improvement is a process of continuous change. The initiatives funded through the Kellogg grants are just a beginning for these schools.
For two of the schools, enrollment has increased significantly. The FSU program, a new bachelor’s degree, grew from 30 students in the first year to more than 200 in the third year. Only Michigan reported no change in enrollment during the program revision. Michigan plans a major marketing initiative beginning in 1999 to increase enrollment. None of the schools have conducted formal student or employer evaluations; however, FSU and Illinois reported anecdotal evidence of high degrees of satisfaction with the program revisions. Michigan reported that the students and faculty not connected with the Library and Information Sciences (LIS) program indicate a high level of satisfaction, while the LIS faculty and students appear to be less satisfied. “The non-LIS faculty were leaving their fields to create something new. They saw it as an opportunity to create something new, shape a new vision,” commented Olson. “It was a bigger change for the LIS faculty. Seven years ago they only taught LIS courses, it was more focused. Now we offer five degrees and it is so much more diverse. In the end, however, all faculty remain committed to reaching the objectives laid out in the mission.”
Liz Bishoff’s complete report is available on CLIR’s Web site.
In July 1999, the Digital Library Federation (DLF) will inaugurate a series of semiannual forums to foster formal and informal opportunities for exchange among peers constructing digital libraries. With a focus alternating between technical and organizational challenges, the forums will convene digital library practitioners from DLF institutions to address issues in digital library management and practice.
The forums will last one-and-a-half days and will include a single plenary speaker followed by topical briefing sessions with presentations by staff from one or two DLF institutions. Ample time has been allocated for formal and informal discussion among attendees. The following briefing topics have been identified for the initial forum in Washington, D.C.:
Authentication and Authorization Systems
What systems will provide user verification and determination of user certification for access to licensed, proprietary, or sensitive information? The development of such systems needs to evolve with consideration for design simplicity, user privacy, and trust among involved parties. Examples might include proxy servers or digital certificates.
What systems will be developed for secure storage and delivery of digital objects of all kinds, including administrative metadata to perform digital collection management over time and structural metadata for complex objects as appropriate? Discussion of issues of underlying database technologies (relational vs. object), hierarchical storage management systems for archival objects, and security will be included.
What systems have evolved for storing, indexing, and delivering EAD-encoded finding aids at local institutions? This session will include discussion of SGML/XML tools for validation and indexing, delivery in SGML/XML vs. HTML, and how to link finding aids to other things such as digital versions of the collections they describe.
Page Image Navigation Systems
How should one design a system that allows the navigation of a digital information object that may consist of several discrete objects but is packaged as a single object for the sake of intellectual content? An example would be a digital book created by scanning a physical book page-by-page. The navigation system should provide the means for moving from a title page, to a table of contents, to other “milestones” such as chapter headings, lists of illustrations, or indexes, as well as page-to-page, backward and forward, and to any specified page in the document. A page-turning mechanism may itself be part of a larger system that points to a collection of similarly navigable objects, such as a collection of digital books.
Persistent naming systems allow an object referenced on the Internet to be named independently of the object’s actual location; such a location is typically given by a conventional URL. Persistent naming systems obviate the need to change all references to an object’s actual location when the object moves physically, for example, from one part of a World Wide Web site to another part of the same site, or from one machine to another. What are the persistent naming systems currently under development and what are the challenges presented in this development?
DLF will issue a call for participation in early May. It will seek volunteers from DLF institutions to present on the topics noted above and invite up to three participants from each DLF institution. Invitations will be directed to university librarians and targeted at staff within digital library or systems units.
By providing a venue for sharing knowledge, supplementing experience, and identifying new issues, DLF believes that these forums will advance the development of digital libraries by helping practitioners to identify collaborators in building systems that facilitate interoperability. Additional information will appear on the DLF Web site as it becomes available.
Rebecca Graham Receives Award
|We are pleased to report that Digital Library Federation Research Associate Rebecca Graham has received the Jane B. and Robert B. Downs Award, given by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Graduate School of Library and Information Science to the master’s degree candidate judged by the faculty to have the greatest professional promise. The award was established by Mr. S. R. Shapiro, a New York book dealer, in honor of Dean Emeritus Robert B. Downs and continues to be funded by Dean Downs’ widow, Jane. Ms. Graham received her degree in August 1998 and joined the CLIR staff the following October.
|Council on Library and Information Resources
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