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CLIR Issues Number 12

Number 12
November/December 1999


Long-Term Access to E-Journals
by Deanna B. Marcum

Collections, Content, and the Web
by Abby Smith

Preservation Awareness Abroad
by Hans Rütimann


  • Daniel Greenstein to Head Digital Library Federation
  • CLIR Receives IMLS Grant for Frye Institute
  • Patricia Battin Receives Humanities Medal
  • Mellon Awards Grant for Academic Image Exchange

Updates on DLF Digital Certificate Prototype
by Rebecca Graham

Long-Term Access to E-Journals

by Deanna B. Marcum

MANY LIBRARIANS ASSERT that they cannot substitute access to electronic journals for their print versions until the problem of digital archiving has been solved. Since libraries typically do not own electronic journals, but provide access to them through licensing agreements, questions arise about who is responsible for their preservation. Do publishers expect to preserve electronic content? Should libraries, singly or collectively, demand a “preservable” copy of any licensed materials as part of the licensing agreement? Will it be more cost effective to engage a third party to develop either commercial or non-profit repositories that provide archiving services for the benefit of libraries and their users?

These questions have lingered since the Task Force on the Archiving of Digital Information proposed in its 1996 report a structure for ensuring long-term access to digital information that included the information creator/provider/owner having initial responsibility for preservation, either independently or through contractual agreements with a third party. Also essential to this structure is a fail-safe mechanism of certified digital archives, those organizations that have the legal authority to claim endangered information objects. The information objects could be at risk through a variety of factors—budget limitations, change of business, corporate mergers or takeovers, or expiration of copyright. The Task Force recommended that further study be conducted of legal and institutional foundations needed for the fail-safe mechanism.

Three years after the publication of the Task Force’s report, Preserving Digital Information, how much progress can we cite? To determine how positions have changed or hardened since then, CLIR and the Digital Library Federation (DLF) convened a small group of librarians, researchers, and scientific publishers in late September and asked them to speculate on what would be required to ensure access to electronic journals for a period of one hundred years.

Publishers, quite clearly, have listened to librarians’ concerns about long-term accessibility. Licensing agreements with customers are beginning to address this concern. One of the publishers noted that, historically, libraries had taken responsibility for preservation, and he sees it as the publisher’s job in the digital world to offer texts that the library customer has the right to archive. Other publishers spoke of their policies of offering the local archiving option to their customers. All of the publishers urged the library community to provide statements of their requirements so that they could create sustainable, distributable articles.

Librarians believe that their conception of “long-term” is different from that of the typical publisher. They questioned the ability of publishers to make firm pledges about the longevity of digital information in these days of corporate mergers and takeovers. Although publishers argued against trying to preserve all articles in electronic journals, librarians were concerned that becoming too selective in preserving digital information would leave some information vulnerable to loss. They believe that their decisions to acquire electronic materials carry the obligation to preserve them. They called for more research on preservation techniques that have been proposed thus far: live memory, migration, encapsulation, and nano-laser hard copy. Some of the librarians also pointed out that, in the past, the task of preservation has been helped by the fact that there are many copies of journals distributed across the country in the large research libraries. They urged that redundancy be part of the preservation model in the digital world, as well.

In the exploratory meeting, many of the issues raised in the Task Force report were revisited. With the enormous amount of electronic publishing that is taking place, do we need to be concerned with saving it all? Is there a way to involve scholars in selecting the electronic record of their disciplines? What are the costs of long-term maintenance of electronic journals? Are third-party repositories the most likely agents for digital archiving? Should libraries and publishers share the costs of maintaining these repositories? Should multiple mirror sites be established? Some publishers are already engaged in legal arrangements with libraries that have agreed to serve as their fail-safe archives for electronic publications. Should there be a more systematic and comprehensive effort to link all publishers of electronic journals to a responsible library?

The Task Force report suggested the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress as one possible fail-safe repository for digital objects. The Library of Congress is working with a few publishers to establish rules governing the acceptance of electronic texts. For the Library of Congress to become the digital archives for American electronic publications, more work is needed to specify the legal requirements, the description of what constitutes the “best edition,” and acceptable guidelines for distributing the electronic materials to other libraries.

The encouraging news from the small group meeting is that publishers and librarians alike are keenly aware of the need to establish an effective digital archiving system. There are concerns about the legal, economic, and organizational aspects, to be sure, but the will to work together to solve these problems is equally strong. The great challenge is to develop the fail-safe mechanism called for in the Task Force report. CLIR believes the next step is to convene a subset of the original Task Force to develop the requirements for fail-safe repositories. Both the library and publishing communities can take many small but important steps toward ensuring long-term access to digital objects, but they must be backed up with the fail-safe mechanism called for in the Task Force Report.

It is essential that the library community return to the recommendations made by the Task Force and decide what measures will be acceptable. Publishers seem receptive to collaborative efforts, and the library community should pursue any reasonable ideas they offer. Most importantly, because library budgets will not allow indefinite duplication of hard-copy and electronic versions of journals, librarians must come to grips with archiving problems sooner rather than later. Publishers have asked librarians to specify what is required to enable libraries to accept electronic publications as the medium that will be available to successive generations of scholars and students. While this may not be an easy request to fulfill, we can agree on preliminary requirements for some materials now and work to develop consensus on best practice for the most common formats.

CLIR will publish the following reports in November and December:

Viewing and Managing Digitized Materials: The Development of Structural and Administrative Meta-data for the Making of America II Project, by Bernie Hurley, John Price-Wilkin, and Merrilee Proffitt.

Building Preservation Knowledge in Brazil, by Ingrid Beck.

Collections, Content, and the Web

by Abby Smith

OVER THE LAST ten years, digital technology has transformed the way museums and research libraries do their work. Our cultural institutions are converting text, image, and sound for electronic dissemination, both on-site and over the Internet, to increase access to their educational and cultural materials. Indeed, museums and research libraries have emerged as some of the major providers of high-quality content for the Web. Unfortunately, the rapid advance in the availability of digital technology to our institutions has far outpaced the evolution of informed and cogent policy and principles upon which such institutions should base their decisions about the use of technology.

To address the institutional implications of putting collections online, CLIR joined the Chicago Historical Society (CHS) in convening a group of 30 library and museum leaders to talk about their experiences in digitizing their collections and developing Web sites to serve virtual visitors. The conference, funded by a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services in its Model Programs of Cooperation category, was held at CHS October 5-7, 1999. Participants came from art and historical museums and public and research libraries. In the interest of informed discussion at the conference, organizers commissioned papers on three major factors affecting digital content development: technology, audience, and collections. The papers were shared with participants before the conference and framed the discussion at three corresponding sessions at the conference. Anne Kenney of Cornell University spoke of the full range of issues involved when an institution moves from project-based digitization to routine, full-scale conversion of texts and images. Even as the technology is changing rapidly, institutions already know that the decision to digitize is only the first of a long series of commitments of scarce resources to make those digital services and collections available over time. Yet economic models for sustainability still elude us. Spencer Crew of the National Museum of American History talked of the vastly enlarged pool of “virtual visitors” who can now make use of museums and their resources through electronic media. The expectations, needs, and perspectives of these new audiences are challenging cultural institutions to revise and rethink the kinds of materials they offer and the ways in which they present them. Bernard Reilly of CHS and Abby Smith of CLIR talked of the factors that influence selection of objects for digitization, such as intellectual property considerations, the limitations of technology to capture certain formats, and the aversion that museums and libraries have to offering potentially controversial materials online. They contended that these constraints seriously compromise an institution’s ability to distribute online even a significant part of its valued collections and that digital projects, because they are a form of broadcasting, demand careful editorial skills on the part of staff.

While much of the discussion revolved around identifying the differing ways in which libraries and museums view, for example, the intellectual property issues (museums are used to thinking about rights holders and libraries about fair use), it was equally remarkable how great were the differences between libraries that are public and private, and museums that display art and those that display historical artifacts. By the closing session, however, most participants asserted that museums and libraries are growing closer together and that, on the Web, distinctions that may loom large from an institutional or managerial perspective are almost invisible to the online visitor. Digital technology, like other information technologies such as printing and photography, is proving to be a great leveler, and many find their institutions faced with common pressures to adopt the new technology and change their organizational cultures to accommodate it. Participants identified many desirable next steps to address concrete concerns, foremost among them the need to continue this new dialogue between libraries and museums.

To provide supporting data about the use of library and museum Web sites, CLIR commissioned the Institute for Learning Innovation to survey six of the participating institutions’ sites—three libraries and three museums. The results of this survey, together with the conference papers and summary of the discussions, will be published in print and on the CLIR Web site.

Preservation Awareness Abroad

by Hans Rütimann

CLIR ACTIVELY PROMOTES preservation awareness abroad because scholarship is international and a valuable collection that is lost, no matter where, is a loss for all of us. CLIR’s international interest has roots in an initiative of the Commission on Preservation and Access that focused almost exclusively on preservation. But our international activities are necessarily broadening to include new forms of access, such as digital.

CLIR’s international preservation work has centered on three main objectives: raising awareness abroad about the need for and importance of preservation; helping institutions identify methods and strategies for dealing with problems of preservation and access in libraries and archives; and, where appropriate, providing support for training, advocating collection care strategies, and teaching techniques that will build the capacity to preserve and make accessible an institution’s holdings.

In some countries, there is no need for basic preservation awareness initiatives. Methods for safeguarding library collections and archival holdings are well known, policies are established, and preservation initiatives are well-funded. In such countries, we typically find partners to work with us in developing joint research projects, ranging from the evaluations of alternative processes of mass deacidification to strategies for archiving fragile digital media. But in some countries, the usual challenges faced by libraries and archives are exacerbated by decades of neglect under totalitarian regimes, and the ravages of armed conflicts, extreme climates, or utter poverty. When developing a strategy for work in specific countries, we begin by assessing the regional situation and the particular circumstances of the country in question. Usually, the strategy includes making preservation literature accessible in the vernacular language. In as many as two-thirds of the world’s nations, there is a need for basic information, advice, and help to address insect infestations, mold, extreme environmental conditions, substandard storage conditions, and the lack of such basic supplies as acid-free boxes and folders. As a librarian in Nicaragua pointed out, “It is difficult to think about the challenges of the digital library when the library’s roof leaks.”

Ironically, it is often in the least developed countries where the promise of digitization to solve preservation problems creates the most excitement and confusion. Digitization is frequently viewed as the answer to the preservation and access challenges faced by custodians of cultural heritage. Librarians and archivists in developing countries are often unaware that digital storage for long-term archiving requires careful planning beyond the initial phase of conversion, that many organizational, technical, and economic issues related to archiving have not yet been resolved, and that digitization is not a means for preservation unless a long-term plan assures the survival of digitally stored information.

It is disturbing that, in the general excitement about all things digital, many institutions in developing countries have suspended their traditional and basic preventive preservation activities, including preservation microfilming. Librarians and archivists in developing countries, and in some developed countries as well, are under considerable pressure by academic and political leaders to get on with digitizing. However, they typically lack adequate information about how to go about it, have little understanding of the economic implications, and do not have a technical infrastructure that would support a coherent strategy. Information about and advice on even the most basic questions of selection for conversion, about the need and use for digitized materials, and how to treat the originals are gratefully received by many colleagues abroad.

During the past 15 years, the preservation community in the United States has made great strides and can point to many successes. The field’s progress will continue and perhaps claim even greater achievements in the future. What we have learned in our work is that valuable scholarly resources will be lost if we don’t continue to make a concentrated effort to share our research, findings, and resources with colleagues abroad whose aims are the same as ours—to save a cultural heritage.


Daniel Greenstein to Head Digital Library Federation

Daniel Greenstein has been named director of the Digital Library Federation, effective December 1, 1999. Mr. Greenstein is founding director of the Arts and Humanities Data Service in the United Kingdom, a distributed organization that builds digital collections of interest in the arts and humanities and encourages their use in educational, library, and cultural heritage environments. He is also founding co-director of the Resource Discovery Network, a distributed service that seeks to enrich learning, research, and cultural engagement by facilitating new levels of access to high-quality Internet resources.

Mr. Greenstein holds a D.Phil. in Social Studies from Oxford University and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in History from the University of Pennsylvania. He succeeds Donald Waters, who directed the DLF for two years before joining the staff of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in June as its program officer for scholarly communication. Rebecca Graham currently serves as interim director.

CLIR Receives IMLS Grant for Frye Institute

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has awarded a grant to CLIR to support the recruitment of 20 individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds to attend the Frye Leadership Institute during the first two years of its operation.

In collaboration with Emory University and EDUCAUSE, CLIR has established the Frye Leadership Institute to effect fundamental change in how universities manage their information resources in the digital era. The Frye Institute will provide opportunities for continuing education to individuals who currently hold, or will one day assume, positions that make them responsible for transforming the management of scholarly information in the higher-education community. The first class will begin in June 2000 with an expected enrollment of 50 to 60 participants. Over the next decade, the Frye Institute will train a cadre of more than 600 professionals.

The IMLS is a federal grantmaking agency that fosters leadership, innovation, and a lifetime of learning by supporting museums and libraries.

Patricia Battin Receives Humanities Medal

Patricia Battin, former president of the Commission on Preservation and Access, has been awarded the 1999 National Humanities Medal for her contribution to the liberal arts. The President and Hillary Rodham Clinton presented medals to Ms. Battin and seven other recipients of the award at the White House on September 29.

Ms. Battin is being recognized for her work in organizing and leading a national campaign to save millions of disintegrating books published between 1850 and 1950. During her term as president of the Commission on Preservation and Access (CPA), from 1987 to 1994, she created broad awareness of the threat of acid-based paper to library and archival resources and led efforts to address the problem in cooperation with government agencies, academic institutions, and private organizations. Recognizing the worldwide dimensions of the crisis, she also established a program within the CPA to raise awareness and support preservation efforts abroad.

Mellon Awards Grant for Academic Image Exchange

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a grant to CLIR to support the development of the Academic Image Exchange (AIE), a project of the Digital Library Federation and the College Art Association.

Making images available electronically will greatly benefit teaching and research in art history and architecture. Students will be able to study images on their computer screens at their convenience, rather than being expected to review a single set of slides placed on reserve. Digital images can be placed side-by-side for comparison and enlarged for close examination. Instructors, however, are likely to face challenges in finding appropriate images to offer electronically, since copyright restrictions prohibit the reproduction of images that appear in textbooks or of slides that are obtained commercially.

The AIE will enable scholars to share images of works, to which they own the rights, referenced in the major art history textbooks. It will offer students, teachers, and the broader public curriculum-based sets of monitor-sized digital images for their free and unrestricted educational, nonprofit use.

Updates on DLF Digital Certificate Prototype

by Rebecca Graham

DIGITAL CERTIFICATES OFFER a secure means of authorizing access to a range of campus systems and resources, and they are becoming part of campus technology infrastructure. Under the auspices of the Digital Library Federation (DLF), a group of member institutions and providers have developed a protocol that enables an information provider to verify that a user bearing a digital certificate has authority from a home institution to use a requested source. (See CLIR Issues 8 for more about access protocols.)

In August, the DLF and the Corporation for Research and Educational Networking (CREN) co-published Digital Certificate Infrastructure: Frequently Asked Questions. This document is directed at campus administrators and answers general questions about Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), CREN’s plan to provide top-level certificate authority services to educational institutions, and DLF’s digital certificate prototype work.

In response to increasing requests from educational institutions for providing X.509 certificates as an additional means of providing authorization to their licensed resources, the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) invited DLF to make a presentation on the digital certificate prototype project. In September, JSTOR Technical Coordinator Spencer Thomas and DLF Interim Director Rebecca Graham gave an overview of the project to selected ISI staff and fielded their questions. ISI will be evaluating its current infrastructure and resources to assess the feasibility of adding a certificate-based authorization module to those currently in use. ISI staff members anticipate that the use of certificates may provide them with solutions for the delivery of other business services, such as unmediated document delivery.

David Millman of Columbia University and Rebecca Graham gave a presentation to the members of the Common Solutions Group (CSG) at its latest meeting in Palo Alto in early October. This group of information technologists from academic research institutions addresses a range of issues in the use of technology in education and has been monitoring the increasing use or planned use of X.509 certificates within both the federal government and the private sector. CSG members identified PKI/digital library applications as a long-term issue to be presented at its February 2000 meeting in Tucson.

In March 1998, the DLF cosponsored, with the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and Penn State, the planning meeting for a project to demonstrate the feasibility of inter-institutional authorization and authentication. The project, dubbed the Inter CIC Authentication and Authorization Pilot (ICAAP) arose from interests of the Big Ten Joint Projects (BTJP) group. At the meeting, details for the project were developed and included testing the provision of access to licensed materials and distributed information resources.

Ultimately, three of the CIC institutions undertook the pilot project. In September, a meeting was held at the Big Ten Center to report on ICAAP Phase One results, as well as to discuss and plan Phase Two. The pilot was deemed successful, as participants demonstrated that they could provide secure access between multiple institutions. As might be expected, the main challenges in the pilot project arose from limitations to or differences among campus infrastructures.

Ms. Graham attended the meeting in response to the CIC’s Research Project Group’s interest in DLF-supported digital certificate prototype work. Among the next steps that the ICAAP final report recommends is the continuation of research into technology-based solutions for inter-institutional access. In light of this, a group of CIC institutions (including the University of Minnesota, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Northwestern, Ohio State, and Penn State universities) expressed interest in participating in the DLF-supported digital certificate prototype project. The University of Minnesota will take the lead in this effort and plans to start project implementation in November. Further implementation plans will be developed at the next meeting of the Research Projects Group this winter.

Council on Library and Information Resources
1755 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. Suite 500
Washington, DC 20036
Fax: (202)939-4765 · E-mail:
The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) grew out of the 1997 merger of the Commission on Preservation and Access and the Council on Library Resources. CLIR identifies the critical issues that affect the welfare and prospects of libraries and archives and the constituencies they serve, convenes individuals and organizations in the best position to engage these issues and respond to them, and encourages institutions to work collaboratively to achieve and manage change.

Deanna B. Marcum
PresidentHans Rütimann
Director, International Developments

Abby Smith
Editor and Director of Programs

Kathlin Smith
Director of CommunicationsRebecca Graham
Interim Director
Digital Library Federation

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