Number 40 • July/August 2004
Nancy Davenport Named President of CLIR
Commission to Explore New Infrastructure for Digital Scholarship by Abby Smith
DLF Forum Update by Amy Harbur
Finding Our Voice: Survey Highlights Barriers to Access of Audio Collections by Abby Smith
Help Chart the Health of Our Heritage
Nancy Davenport Named President of CLIR
NANCY DAVENPORT HAS been appointed president of the Council on Library and Information Resources. She assumed her new position on July 5, 2004.
Ms. Davenport has served for more than 26 years in the Library of Congress (LC), where she held several leadership posts. Most recently, she served as LC’s director of acquisitions. Previously, she was head of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) Inquiry Section, coordinator of Member and Committee Relations for the CRS, and director of Special Programs. Over the years, LC has turned to her to direct the divisions of Rare Books and Special Collections and of Prints and Photographs, as well as the CRS, while it searched for permanent directors to head these areas. From 1990 to 1997, Ms. Davenport directed a training program for librarians in the new democratic states of Central and Eastern Europe. This program was sponsored by the U.S. Congress and carried out by LC.
An active member of several professional library associations, Ms. Davenport is currently a member of the Council and Executive Board of the American Library Association (ALA). She previously served as chair of the President’s Program Committee and of the Committee on Constitution and Bylaws of the ALA. She has chaired the Editorial Advisory Board of the Library Administration and Management Association and the Section on Acquisitions and Collections Development of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. She is a former president of the Federal Librarians’ Roundtable and of the Library of Congress Professional Association.
In announcing the appointment, CLIR Board Chairman Stanley Chodorow said, “The Board is very pleased to have Nancy Davenport as the new president of CLIR. We look forward to working with her to develop CLIR’s agenda of programs and projects.”
Commission to Explore New Infrastructure for Digital Scholarship
by Abby Smith
LIBRARIES AND ARCHIVES have long been core elements of the infrastructure that supports research and learning. That will not change in the digital future, but rebuilding the infrastructure for the digital era—what the National Science Foundation (NSF) calls the “cyberinfrastructure”—will require libraries and archives to redefine their roles, responsibilities, and funding strategies over the next decade.
A new initiative of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) provides a unique opportunity for libraries and archives to collaborate with scholars to define the requirements of this new digital infrastructure. Inspired in part by the work of the NSF’s Advisory Committee for Cyberinfrastructure (see Revolutionizing Science and Engineering through Cyberinfrastructure at http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/news/03/pr0318.htm), the ACLS’s Commission for the Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities and Social Sciences will focus on the needs and aspirations of scholars in the humanities and social sciences.
As the commission’s charge states, the needs of humanists and scientists are converging in today’s evolving cyberinfrastructure. As the importance of technology-enabled innovation grows across all fields, scholars increasingly depend on sophisticated systems for the creation, curation, and preservation of information. They also depend on a policy, economic, and legal environment that encourages appropriate and unimpeded access to digital information and tools. It is crucial that the humanists and social scientists join scientists and engineers in defining and building this infrastructure so that it meets the needs and incorporates the contributions of researchers and scholars in all disciplines. The areas of emphasis for the ACLS commission will be those applications—such as Geographic Information Systems, three-dimensional modeling of built environments, and text mining—that have already begun to change the ways in which scholars can interrogate primary sources and formulate fundamentally new questions.
The ACLS commission is charged to do the following:
- describe and analyze the current state of the humanities and social sciences cyberinfrastructure;
- articulate the requirements of, and the potential contributions of the humanities and the social sciences to, the development of a cyberinfrastructure for information, teaching, and research; and
- recommend areas of emphasis and coordination for the various agencies and institutions, public and private, that contribute to the development of this cyberinfrastructure.
The commission has been asked to investigate each of its three charges, and others as they become relevant, by
- inviting expert testimony in public meetings, in writing, or in personal interviews;
- examining and documenting ongoing practices and projects;
- administering a Web-based survey;
- reading broadly in recent literature on scholarly publishing, libraries and archives, intellectual property, and other relevant topics; and
- consulting with foundations and funding agencies.
The commission is funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and chaired by John Unsworth, dean and professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Abby Smith, CLIR’s director of programs, is the group’s senior editor.
The commission is holding seven public forums across the country designed to encourage thoughtful, wide-ranging reflection among stakeholder communities. The first three forums were convened on April 27 in Washington, D.C., on May 22 in Chicago, and on June 19 in New York City. The remaining sessions will take place on August 21 in Berkeley, September 18 in Los Angeles, October 9 in Houston, and October 26 in Baltimore.
Libraries and archives can contribute to this nationwide effort in a number of ways. They are encouraged to attend the public information-gathering sessions and participate in the discussions. They can track developments of the commission on the ACLS Web site and contribute to the commission’s work by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Of particular interest to the commission will be these groups’ understanding of the impact of current intellectual property and privacy rights on access to information; the value of standards for information markup and searching; the need for interoperable information technology systems; and the imperative of preservation in a world of scholarly inquiry founded on an uninterrupted record of research.
The commission will operate throughout the current calendar year and expects to publish its findings and recommendations early in 2005. For further information, see the commission’s Web site (http://www.acls.org/cyberinfrastructure/cyber.htm), which has the full charge to the commission, names of commission members and advisors, and notes from each public session.
DLF Forum Update
by Amy Harbur
A NEAR-RECORD number of participants attended the Digital Library Federation’s (DLF) 2004 Spring Forum, held April 19–21, 2004, in New Orleans, Louisiana. DLF members themselves made a strong showing, and representatives of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), Google, Fast Search & Transfer (FAST), and the University of Bielefeld in Germany were among those non-members who accepted DLF’s invitation to attend. The forum also welcomed a representative from DLF’s newest member, the British Library.
Exploring New Means for Access
Forum presentations covered topics as diverse as distributed searching techniques, archiving of Web sites, and the collection and preservation of multimedia. The common theme, however, was the need to analyze, codify, and, begin to integrate the different methods institutions have developed to manage and use digital records. Not an easy task, considering that these records come in a variety of formats, cover the spectrum from audio to visual to textual to multimedia and, to be of any real value, must be readily searchable through systems that can handle current collections, adapt to future formats, and preserve access to formats that have become obsolete. These systems and search engines are in the process of creation even as users clamor for better access to electronic records. Added to the mix is the fact that users don’t care where records physically reside or who owns them, as long as they can be accessed—and the quicker access to more records, the better.
Sound daunting? Absolutely, but the participants plunged in, sharing experiments they have tried, listening to the reports of their colleagues, and debating how they might work together to develop technologies that will expand and facilitate local users’ access to collections around the world.
Compatible Search Protocols
David Ruddy of Cornell University and John Wilkin of the University of Michigan described a collaboration undertaken by the libraries at Cornell, Michigan, and the University of GsØttingen in Germany to make available more than 2,000 volumes (nearly 600,000 pages) of significant historical mathematical material through a distributed full-text search protocol. Wilkin proposed that the experiment, which drew from Dienst and Open Archives Initiative protocols to create a system compatible with all three libraries’ software systems, demonstrates that the source of many interoperability issues may be social, rather than technical—that is, stemming from an unwillingness, rather than an inability, to work together. The speakers urged that librarians view shared repositories as an admirable goal rather than a territorial fear.
Repositories as Publishers
One advantage of shared electronic repositories is their ability to double as electronic publishers. Nancy Lin of ACLS and Maria Bonn of the University of Michigan described the ACLS History E-Book Project. This cooperative venture between the ACLS, eight scholarly societies, and ten university presses was designed to serve the dual purpose of storing old electronic versions of history books and publishing new ones. The project makes it possible for scholars to use materials from other online collections such as Perseus and the Making of America. Users also benefit from the repository’s links to book reviews in JSTOR, Project Muse, and the History Cooperative. Lin and Bonn warned that before scholars can effectively use and create digital material, new cyberinfrastructures be in place that will coordinate standards and protocols to facilitate navigation, linking, and scholarly citation.
Metasearching and Portals
Kristin Antelman of North Carolina State University, Marty Kurth of Cornell University, and Roy Tennant of the California Digital Library told of their experiences with metasearching, which allows users to search many databases simultaneously through a single interface. While the idea is appealing, available software is still rudimentary. Institutions are trying diverse approaches as they try to develop systems that combine optimum power with ease of use. The California Digital Library has created multiple portals for different user groups, and Tennant suggested that other institutions might wish to try this approach.
The University of Bielefeld and FAST have been looking ahead to the next generation of portals, scholarly and otherwise. Norbert Lossau and Friedrich Summann of the University of Bielefeld theorized that scarce resources would be best spent by building on existing search and content-matching technology. They suggested focusing on improving user interfaces, adding intelligent browsing and navigation features to search boxes, and developing more generic connectors to integrate deep-Web resources, rather than attempting to create new technologies. Bjørn Olstad of FAST spoke on the broader issues of content delivery and search and retrieval of data as they pertain not only to libraries but also to businesses and governments. FAST is working to develop technologies that can provide a unified information-access solution for digital collections by allowing, among other things, federation across external content applications and scalable, modular architectures that can be easily customized.
Digital Format Registry for Future Access
Tomorrow’s users can, perhaps, look forward to streamlined search engines and powerful portals, but will they also be able to access today’s records? John Mark Ockerbloom of the University of Pennsylvania spoke of the desire expressed by many major institutions for a global digital format registry that would contain information on the formats used to create all types of digital records. Files may be well preserved, stored in multiple repositories, and rapidly retrieved, but they are useless if the means to open or execute them are lost or forgotten. The University of Pennsylvania has developed a prototype, the Format Registry Demonstration (FRED), intended to serve as a testbed for ideas on the design, building, and maintenance of a global registry. Members of the DLF welcomed this update, since several of them are part of a international working group, first convened in the fall of 2002, that is charged with addressing this issue.
The fall DLF forum will be held October 25–27, 2004, in Baltimore, Maryland.
Frye Turns Five!
THE FIFTH YEAR of the Frye Leadership Institute kicked off June 6 at Emory University. Forty-four participants gathered for the two-week seminar, which is designed to prepare them for yearlong practicums at their home institutions. To date, the Institute has trained more than 175 professionals—librarians, faculty members, and information technology experts—from all sectors of higher education. The purpose of the Institute, sponsored by CLIR, EDUCAUSE, and Emory University, is to develop leaders who can help guide and transform academic information services for higher education in the twenty-first century.
Frye 2004 class
Finding Our Voice
Survey Highlights Barriers to Access of Audio Collections
by Abby Smith
A RECENT CLIR survey of audio collections in academic libraries reveals that their recorded-sound collections are rich and diverse, and that these collections are increasingly used for teaching and research. But with few exceptions, the barriers to their use are high, and few institutions are well-prepared to improve the condition and accessibility of audio holdings.
Anecdotal evidence about the state of audio collections abounds: insufficient bibliographical control (music libraries are one exception to this rule); lack of staff expertise; confusion about privacy and intellectual property rights and acceptable practice for fair use; and, above all, limited financial resources. The purpose of CLIR’s survey was to gather evidence that would test the validity of these perceptions, document the state of audio collections, and gauge the extent of the challenges libraries face in this area. The survey also sought to identify library holdings of historical or cultural value that warrant preservation and access.
The survey, which was funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, took place between September and December 2003. Respondents were a representative segment of the academic library community. Drawn from membership of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the Oberlin Group of liberal arts colleges, they represented a range of universities and colleges with recorded-sound holdings, not simply those with extensive or exemplary holdings. The survey instrument asked 100 questions focused on five areas related to sound recordings: access, rights, preservation, funding and resources, and policy. Two survey formats were used: one-on-one interviews, used with ARL respondents, and electronic (Web-based) forms, used with Oberlin respondents. All respondents were promised confidentiality.
A total of 82 survey data sets were received. Twenty-seven survey interviews were conducted at 18 ARL institutions (five of the ARL institutions offered as many as three units with sound collections). Fifty-five electronic responses representing 51 institutions were received from the Oberlin institutions, four of which offered two responses each.
Barriers to Access
Lack of funding was cited as the greatest barrier to access—funding that would support the creation of bibliographical access points, the clearing of privacy and intellectual property rights, and the preparation of fragile materials for service. Insufficient funding was the source of other impediments as well—from lack of adequate staffing and lack of bibliographical control to shortage of space. Respondents indicated that creating bibliographical control using current standards and approaches is resource-intensive, and there is little uniformity among libraries on how to count and describe audio holdings.
A number of ARL respondents have well-known recorded-sound collections. Although their answers reflected that their staffs were knowledgeable about what it takes to manage such materials well, they, too, cited resource constraints as the chief impediment to access. While lack of funds will always be a problem in libraries, the survey results show that audio librarians are lacking fundamental tools, such as appropriate standards for description, that would maximize any investment in their collections.
A singular challenge to access is a rights regime that keeps audio, even that recorded before 1923, under copyright protection well into the second half of this century. Most responding librarians understand that the right to preserve and the right to make accessible are legally distinct, even in the case of audio. But these issues are often conflated in the process of making decisions about preservation, because reformatting can be expensive and digital output is the preferred medium for preservation. All audio preservation is dependent on at least some rights to digital distribution to users. While some staff felt they understood fair use in an educational setting, others reported confusion about acceptable practice. Without a clear mandate to make recordings accessible, libraries may have little motivation to undertake the expense of preservation reformatting.
The survey also revealed that there is little adherence to best practices in preservation, such as creating listening copies of rare materials. There is a pressing need to develop technically sophisticated and scalable solutions for the array of problems one faces when reformatting fragile analog media such as tape, disc, and cylinder.
Solving the Problems
Lack of trained staff, of agreed-upon standards of description well-calibrated to the needs of both published and unpublished audio collections, of information about copyright and privacy codes, and of technology and tools for reformatting—these are symptoms of a field of library and archival practice that is not sufficiently mature to have developed the tools and standards that librarians need to do their jobs well. While the data suggest that music libraries are typically well-prepared to serve the audio needs of students, their expertise is often subject based: Knowledge of recorded sound itself is learned on the job, if at all. Book librarians have developed community-wide practices and shared tools to address the needs of imprints; audio librarians must develop such resources as well.
The needs of this growing profession are great, especially in education and training, and the future of the rare, original, and significant collections depends upon them.
The survey results and analysis will be available this summer on CLIR’s Web site at www.clir.org.
Help Chart the Health of Our Heritage
The Heritage Health Index survey is coming this summer. This survey of the condition and preservation needs of collections will—for the first time—produce a national picture of the state of artistic, historic, and scientific collections held by the full range of institutions that care for them. The survey is being undertaken by Heritage Preservation (www.heritagepreservation.org); CLIR is a member of the project’s Institutional Advisory Committee. The Health Index will provide baseline information that is needed to guide future preservation planning and programs, target urgent needs for increased funding, and establish a more secure future for the nation’s cultural heritage. If you receive the questionnaire, please participate in this important effort!