CLIR Issues Number 32
Realizing the Potential of Digital Libraries
by Deanna B. Marcum
CLIR to Survey Audio Collections in Academic Libraries
by Abby Smith
CLIR Launches Program to Train Humanists in Libraries
by Deanna B. Marcum
This article is adapted from a soon-to-be published paper given by Deanna Marcum at the Elsevier Digital Libraries Symposium VI in January 2003. The paper is available by arrangement with Elsevier at https://www.clir.org/pubs/archives/dbm_elsevier2003.html.
WHAT WOULD IT take to bring the contents of the world’s libraries to every student and researcher with access to a computer? The dream of enabling universal desktop access to information is not new. We are reminded of Al Gore’s well-publicized comment that we should strive to make the contents of the Library of Congress available online to every schoolchild in America. Librarians nationwide winced at what his statement seemed to take for granted: they knew that copyright considerations alone would scuttle such a plan, and the cost would be enormous.
Nonetheless, the demand for instant, online access is growing unabated. More and more students are going first to the Web to meet their information needs; many go no further. Yet what they are finding—and using—is only a fragmentary digital library.
What must we do to realize the potential of digital libraries? We must build massive, comprehensive digital collections that scholars, students, and other researchers can use even more easily than they use traditional book-based collections.
The digital library of the future will have three general characteristics.
- It will be a comprehensive collection of resources important for scholarship, teaching, and learning.
- It will be readily accessible to all types of users—novices as well as veterans.
- It will be managed and maintained by professionals who see their role as stewards of the world’s intellectual and cultural heritage.
Creating such a digital library will not be easy or inexpensive, but it is possible. To do so, we must consider not only the obvious challenges, such as copyright restrictions and funding, but also some less-obvious challenges, such as deciding how to organize the effort and establishing partnerships outside the library. Fundamentally, building a digital library will require change within the library itself.
Resolving Copyright Issues
Libraries, on the advice of lawyers, are cautious about what they reproduce digitally because of copyright concerns. What constitutes “fair use”? While publishers and librarians hold real differences of opinion on this issue, they have a common interest in making new digital works as broadly accessible as possible. They have begun to talk to each other about mutually useful solutions to potentially divisive issues.
Massive digitization is, in many respects, a new publishing effort. Might it be possible to reach agreements whereby publishers permit libraries to digitize materials now protected by copyright and libraries, in turn, give the publishers opportunities to sell their products online? Could librarians and publishers cooperate in developing portals through which researchers could search across library collections and publication lists? Thinking about the roles librarians and publishers play in the digital age may enable us to structure relationships that allow both parties to accomplish their primary goals. To such relationships, libraries could contribute digitizing experience, high-level metadata, delivery systems, and large-scale storage, while publishers could bring expertise in marketing, pricing, and customer support.
Finding the Money
Putting libraries online will be very expensive. Fortunately, there is growing awareness that the benefits of digital development would amply warrant greater investments. The Digital Promise Project, a foundation-funded coalition, is asking Congress to recognize that digital developments can revolutionize American education. Bills have been introduced in the Senate and the House to finance a Digital Opportunity Investment Trust. The Trust would support innovative uses of digital technologies to improve education, in part through extended access to expanded digital libraries. Funding would come from government auctions of licenses to the publicly owned electromagnetic spectrum. These sales could produce an estimated $18 billion over the next several years.
Regardless of the outcome of these bills, we should not give up on other prospects for providing expanded access to massive digital libraries. In the 1970s and 1980s, for example, long-term planning and goal setting, combined with grants from private funders and the creation of new services such as OCLC, resulted in the massive conversion of library catalogs.
Organizing the Effort
No single library can afford to digitize all the materials its patrons could use. Can libraries parcel out digitization responsibilities among themselves? Can institutions that have spent decades, if not centuries, building rival collections of print materials agree to merge these collections electronically? It may be hard to work for universal benefits if the cost seems to be a reduction in one’s own prestige. We could exhaust all our energies simply trying to find acceptable terms for such collaborations. But if libraries must continue to compete, the competition can cease to be about collections and begin to center around services—that is, the ingenuity with which individual libraries tailor resource access to meet the needs of their particular user communities.
Preservation, too, will be easier if it is a collaborative effort. It will be as important to keep fragile digital resources accessible as it is to create them.
Success in building a digital library will also require collaboration with scholars. Today, faculty members are not just using digital resources that libraries provide; they are also creating their own. In research centers, learned societies, and other discipline-based organizations, scholars collaborate to build electronic databases, large and small. Some scholars publish their own e-journals outside the purview of established publishers. Others maintain Web sites for exchanging reports on research results not yet ready for formal publication. Scholars develop electronic tools for searching, comparing, recombining, and analyzing digital information. Teaching faculty set up Web sites through which students have electronic access to assignments, syllabi, and course readings.
Sometimes faculty members seek help from campus librarians in such endeavors, but more often they do not—at least not until they realize that what they have created may need a more permanent home. Much of what these faculty members create is worth preserving for use by others. Accordingly, some alert librarians now collect various manifestations of e-scholarship. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s D-Space project is one example of such an endeavor. Some libraries, such as Cornell University’s Project Euclid, even provide e-publishing assistance to scholars.
Building comprehensive collections of scholarly digital resources will require incorporating resources developed by scholars and teachers. Librarians need to help these individuals solve their problems while capturing content for digital libraries. At the same time, libraries need to work with learned societies and other discipline-based groups of scholars to understand their digital content needs.
To build an effective digital library, we need a better understanding of how users seek and use digital materials. Much work has been done to gain insight into user behavior, capabilities, and preferences. We must use what we have learned from these studies to guide us in creating usefully accessible digital resources.
Users come in many categories and have varying needs. Today’s technologies allow us to customize information resources for users, which means that the future digital library must be more than a simple addition to other scholarly resources. The digital library must move to the user’s computer and be able to serve specific purposes.
Publishers and librarians alike must find ways to respond to users’ interests and demands. Publishers are building proprietary systems to provide access to their works. Librarians struggle to find ways to pull proprietary materials into a unified system of access for their patrons. Librarians’ and publishers’ common interest in access provides a basis for collaboration on this problem. Both groups’ digital futures are intertwined with users’ expectations.
Collaboration Essential for the Long Run
Because of the heavy technological dependency of digital information and the ease with which almost anyone can “publish” it, sustaining a digital library will require collaboration among librarians, publishers, scholars, and information technologists. In projects funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to advance e-journal archiving by librarians and publishers, in work librarians are doing with scholars on e-scholarship, and in consolidations on some campuses of information technology departments and libraries, some of the needed collaborations are beginning. We must strengthen and extend such efforts if we are to be effective digital library stewards. In building the future digital library, professional separation is a burden to all.
Step by step, we are advancing toward what is needed for the future digital library: a comprehensive collection of digitized resources that is readily accessible to all types of users and managed by professionals who see their role as stewards of the world’s intellectual and cultural heritage. I hope we will not betray the possibilities of the new technologies by settling for anything less.
THERE IS A large and valuable heritage of audio recordings that span more than a century in the libraries and archives of the United States. Work songs recorded in the field, whale songs recorded in the Pacific Ocean, recordings of Native Americans speaking in tongues now close to extinction, oral histories of Holocaust survivors—such collections constitute a record of the history and creativity of the twentieth century that is of irreplaceable value for research and teaching. These rare and often fragile recordings are often not described or inventoried; they are orphaned by obsolete playback equipment and lack clearly documented rights that allow use. Making them available to students and scholars can be difficult and costly. As a result, these collections are often underused.
This spring, CLIR will undertake a survey of the state of audio recording in academic libraries that will inform decision makers in libraries and funding agencies about the significant barriers to access to these unique collections. Survey findings will be the basis of a report that will discuss these barriers, raise awareness within libraries and in the larger research and funding communities of the value of these audio collections, and position institutions with important audio holdings to find support for them.
CLIR has engaged The Communications Office, Inc., of Alexandria, Virginia, to design and conduct the survey. CLIR will convene an advisory group of library managers and experts in audio collections to advise on the survey instrument and to ensure that it provides the information sought by institutional managers. The survey will aim to identify collections of rare or unique materials that are of historical and cultural interest, specify their access problems, and describe their preservation needs. Because libraries vary greatly in size and in the access they can grant to audio collections, CLIR plans to develop two surveys. One will be a detailed survey for institutions holding large, significant, or well-documented collections. A second, less detailed, survey will be used for those libraries with smaller or less well-documented collections.
The government has become aware that our nation’s audio heritage is in peril. In 2000, Congress enacted the National Sound Recording Preservation Act. One result of this legislation is that Congress will make available matching funds to preserve historically important collections. Congress will thereby join the ranks of other funders, including the national endowments, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and private foundations, that make funds available for institutions to improve the preservation of and access to historically and culturally significant recorded sound collections. Just as important, the Act calls for a series of activities designed to improve preservation techniques and raise awareness of our audio heritage.
Several surveys and reports have documented the problem of gaining access to audio recordings for research and teaching. CLIR will build on this work in designing the survey for this project and in publishing the results. Our ultimate goal is to help library managers and funders assess strategies for increasing access to these invaluable audio collections and secure funding for their implementation.
CLIR HAS ESTABLISHED an International Advisory Committee to help determine the future course of its international activities. The committee is made up of 9 leading librarians and information technology experts from Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. The group will meet in Washington, D.C., in late spring to explore areas of common interest in library leadership, preservation awareness, and digital libraries. Committee members will identify major issues in their countries and regions as well as the mechanisms for addressing those issues. The committee, which is funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will help CLIR assess its current international agenda and set a direction for its future work.
Division de la Société de l’information UNESCO
Fernanda Guedes de Campos
National Library of Portugal
Department of Library Studies
Brno, Czech Republic
Simon C. Lin
National Librarian and Chief Executive Officer
National Library of South Africa
Pretoria, South Africa
Kenya National Library Service
Shahira El Sawy
Dean of Libraries and Learning Technologies
The American University in Cairo
Brazilian Research Network
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Ana Cecilia Torres
School of Library and Information Science
University of Costa Rica
San Jose, Costa Rica
A NEW REPORT from CLIR and the Library of Congress, Copyright Issues Relevant to the Creation of a Digital Archive: A Preliminary Assessment, provides guidance on copyright issues for those who are planning or managing a digital archive.
Report author June Besek, executive director of the Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts at Columbia University, analyzes issues that librarians must address in deciding what may be made available to their patrons in digital form. She provides concise, basic information about copyright law and highlights areas of special concern for creating digital archives. She also identifies areas where there is uncertainty and recommends further studies to narrow the issues and suggest constructive solutions.
The report was commissioned for and sponsored by the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program of the Library of Congress. It is available on CLIR’s Web site at https://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub112/pub112.pdf. Print copies are available for ordering through the Web site.
THE LIBRARY OF the future will require staff members who possess a variety of skills. The need for traditional skills—acquiring, describing, disseminating, and preserving information—will endure, as will the need for more technical skills. However, as the boundaries between knowledge creation and curation continue to blur, libraries will also need a large cadre of professionals with deep academic expertise. To address this need, CLIR has launched a program to provide postdoctoral fellowships for humanists in libraries.
The new program grows out of discussions that the CLIR Board conducted last year about the best way to recruit scholars into the library profession. In January 2003, a group of Board members, along with invited academic administrators, scholars, archivists, and librarians, met in Sarasota, Florida, to develop the program. Although the program will focus initially on the humanities, it will eventually be broadened to attract specialists in the social and natural sciences.
Fourteen institutions have offered to form a network of libraries that will offer yearlong fellowships to provide training in a specialized area of librarianship. As we gain experience with the program, additional institutions will be encouraged to participate in the network.
Slated to begin in 2004, the program will offer fellowships to humanists who have recently earned their Ph.D. degrees. Fellows will begin the program with a one-month orientation session, which will be held on a university campus. The orientation will provide the fellows with an introduction to the history of academic librarianship and information on current trends in this field. Special emphasis will be given to how the role of librarian is changing as scholarly resources become more dependent on technology and on relationships with scholars who are creating digital resources.
Following the orientation, each fellow will spend 11 months in an academic library that offers intensive training in a specialized area, such as special collections, digital library development, or area-studies curation. By the end of the year, each fellow will be expected to produce a scholarly paper or product, such as a digital collection.
The result of this program, we expect, will be the creation of a new type of professional—one who has ties both to the academic department and to the library, and one who is active in his or her scholarly discipline as well as in the development of new methods of producing and making accessible scholarly communication.
Additional information about the program, along with application procedures, will be available from CLIR in late spring.
THE FOLLOWING INDIVIDUALS have been selected for participation in the 2003 Frye Leadership Institute. The Institute will be held June 1–13 at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
Stephen R. Acker, The Ohio State University
Rosie L. Albritton, Florida Memorial College
Rachel Applegate, The College of Saint Scholastica
Carolyn D. Argentati, North Carolina State University Libraries
Lanny Arvan, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Barry Bandstra, Hope College
William Beyer, Hartwick College
Suzanne Bonefas, Associated Colleges of the South
Connie Brooks, Stanford University
Douglas Carlson, New York University
Megan E. Caverly, Library of Congress
G. Sayeed Choudhury, Johns Hopkins University
Vicki Coleman, University of Virginia
Mark Crase, The California State University
Teresa A. Fishel, Macalester College Library
Michael Furlough, University of Virginia
Susan L. Gibbons, University of Rochester
Mary Jo Gorney-Moreno, San Jose State University
Susan M. Grotevant, University of Minnesota
Gary F. Guest, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
Carolyn Hart, Atlanta University Center, Inc.
Linda Simmons Henry, St. Augustine’s College
Erla P. Heyns, Cornell University
Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Clive Houston-Brown, University of LaVerne
Karen Howell, University of Southern California
Darrel Huish, Arizona State University
Diana Hurter, University of Cape Town
Susan Lafferty, University of New South Wales
Tracey Leger-Hornby, Brandeis University
Michael D. Miller, University of Michigan
Mary Molinaro, University of Kentucky
Thomas Monaghan, University of Notre Dame
Deb Morley, Harvard University
Patrick Newell, California State University, Fresno
Andrea Nixon, Carleton College
Chris E. Penniman, Connecticut College
Philip Ponella, University of Rochester
Nikki Reynolds, Hamilton College
Paul Ruppert, University of Toronto
Sandeford J. Schaeffer III, University of Memphis
Patricia A. Schoknecht, University of Richmond
Louise M. Schulden, University of California, Berkeley
Lisa Spiro, Rice University
Joan Swanekamp, Yale University
David Weil, Ithaca College
Catherine Yang, Bentley College
CLIR HAS PUBLISHED a report on Biblored, the library network in Bogotá, Colombia, that received the 2002 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Access to Learning Award.
Biblored is a network of 19 libraries that attract about 200,000 users per month and serve some of the poorest neighborhoods in Bogotá. The network’s success in making information and information technology accessible to city residents, and in developing services and programs geared toward users’ special needs and interests, earned it the award, which includes a one-million dollar grant to expand services.
Drawing on extensive interviews of the network’s users and planners, journalist María Cristina Caballero tells the story of how the library network was born, the challenges it has faced, and the impact it has had on the lives of Bogotá residents.
The report will soon be available on our Web site in PDF format,in both English and Spanish.
Print copies also will soon be available for ordering.
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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