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CLIR Issues Number 42

Number 42 • November/December 2004


Open Access Is the Buzz by Nancy Davenport

The Art and Science of Audio Preservation by Abby Smith


  • CLIR Board Elects New Officers
  • JISC Joins Digital Library Federation
  • CLIR Is Now Accepting Applications for Rovelstad Scholarship in International Librarianship and A. R. Zipf Fellowship in Information Management

Digital Library Federation Publishes Study on Digital Libraries and Course Management Systems by Dale Flecker, Associate Director for Planning and Systems, Harvard University Library

Open Access Is the Buzz

by Nancy Davenport

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of occasional essays that CLIR President Nancy Davenport will contribute to CLIR Issues to solicit readers’ views on issues facing our community.

OPEN ACCESS IS the buzz. The term appears in every article on the cost of journals and in every discussion of sustaining scholarly communities. It arises when the conversation turns to the quality of materials retrieved through a Google search. It’s an issue CLIR is tracking but hasn’t researched in depth. This essay discusses some of the questions that have been circulating about open access, particularly open access to scholarly work in the humanities. My goal is to open a dialogue on this issue with CLIR Issues‘ readers and to benefit from your ideas in developing a research agenda for CLIR.

What Do We Mean by “Open Access”

“Open access” is commonly defined as content that is available on the Internet and that can be accessed, read, printed, copied, searched, downloaded, or forwarded free of charge. Such content can be crawled for indexing and will pass data to other software. But there are other variants of the definition that omit one or more of these elements. To better understand these variants, let’s look at the concept of open access from multiple points of the scholarly communication compass.

Scholarly research community. It’s a truism of the academic world that where one publishes makes a difference—a difference in audience, impact, and prestige. The open-access system presents scholars with many unanswered questions:

Will my work be more or less accessible to the readers I want to reach? How will publishing in an open-access mode affect my professional standing? Will my work be cited as often in prestigious journals or mentioned as frequently by others noted in the field? Will peer review be faster or slower? Will my work get to “print” faster? Should I start publishing now in open access, getting in early while new journals are developing their reputations, or should I wait to see how it sorts out? If everyone is publishing in open access, how will I find the new work of other scholars whose work I need to read? Do I really care if my work is accessible to the public since that is not my primary audience? If open access means I have to pay preprocessing costs, where do I get the money? If I start publishing my work in open-access formats will I still get the grants I want?

Librarians. Serials, the researcher’s lifeblood, make up the largest component of an academic library’s resources budget. This has led several prominent institutions to conduct large-scale serials-cutting projects. But if open access is to bring lower costs, it has to substitute for print. This raises other fundamental questions:

What new, up-front fees will the library have to absorb? Will my users be satisfied? How can we be sure that the open-access work will be saved and preserved? Who guarantees that it will remain accessible? How do I change my staffing to match the new demands? What new skill sets will my staff need? For years, we have been the stewards of research material. What’s our role now?

User community. Today’s college students have been wired since adolescence and go to the library as their last, not first, resort. If what they need is not in e-format, they don’t use it, and if they find it on the Web, it’s free. But reliance on Web resources forces them to ask new questions:

Can I assume it’s true if I find it on the Web? If not, how am I supposed to distinguish good research from the mediocre? What if I want to print it outthat’s a lot of paper over the semesterwho pays for it? Once I download it, it’s mine . . . right? If I need to view the same article later, will it still be there?

Publishing community. Publishers may be most likely to face the greatest dislocation—in their business models and in their roles as important links in the scholarly-communications realm. An open-access model will force them to rethink fundamental business questions:

We’ve invested years in developing a prestigious journal. We’ve attracted the best scholars to our editorial board. Publishing in our journal has “made” the careers of scholars in our field. What’s broken? Who has tested the open-access business model? If I set up an open-access publishing model, what costs can I save: editorial, peer review, renewals, setting up new subscribers, managing subscriptions, billing, paper, printing, shipping? Which of these costs will I still have? Since I’ll be putting the open-access materials on the Web, they’ll look as if they’re free, but I’ll still have costs.

Given the varying needs of these four communities, as well as of others that are part of the scholarly communication process, what should a successful open-access system look like? Analysts recommend that certain properties of the current model be carried to any open-access model. For example, peer review must be built into the open-access model as firmly and deeply as it is in the print model. How will the model be sustained financially? What costs will be covered by research grants, by individual authors, or by readers through a variant of a pay-per-view arrangement? Who will pay for peer review, manuscript preparation, and encoding and hosting by the repository? If open access is to thrive, e-formats have to become preferred to print. Citation tracking and impact-analysis work have to develop in tandem with the publishing opportunities. Academic communities have to place at least equal value on the work published in open access as they do on work published in prestigious journals. Finally, scholarly societies will perforce find themselves identifying a unique new role in scholarly communication.

How might or should CLIR address the topic? In 2005, CLIR plans to host a meeting to discuss open-access systems. Please send me your thoughts on the topic or the names of researchers whom you would like to see work on the issue. You can reach me directly at

The Art and Science of Audio Preservation

by Abby Smith

HOW SHOULD WE rerecord discs that have deep scratches? What is the best way to treat tapes with sticky-shed syndrome? To clean discs?

How should we handle mold? Can we recover audio signal from tapes that are flaking? If we decide to transfer our audiotape collection to digital format, what is the best converter to consider?

These are among the questions facing librarians and archivists charged with preserving audio holdings and making them available to users. Where should they turn for guidance or professional consensus on such topics?

Experts in audio engineering and audio-preservation reformatting debated these and similar questions during a two-day meeting last winter. CLIR convened the Audio Engineers’ Roundtable under the auspices of the Library of Congress (LC) and the National Recording Preservation Board (NRPB) in Washington, D.C., as part of an ongoing study of the state of recorded-sound preservation and restoration. A report of the discussions and their conclusions will be available this winter in print and online at the CLIR ( and LC ( Web sites. The report is intended to guide LC and the NRPB on actions they may take to improve techniques for preserving audio resources.

In 2000, the U.S. Congress directed the Library of Congress and the National Recording Preservation Board to undertake a study of “the current state of sound-recording archiving, preservation, and restoration activities.” The study was to include explorations of the following:

  • methodology and standards needed to make the transition from analog (e.g., open-reel) to digital preservation of sound recordings;
  • standards for access to preserved-sound recordings by researchers, educators, and other interested parties; and
  • the establishment of clear standards for copying old sound recordings (including equipment specifications and equalization guidelines).

The Audio Engineers’ Roundtable was convened to discuss the preferred methods of transferring analog audio sound to digital output, as called for by Congress. The groups charge was to focus on techniques for migrating audio signals from endangered analog carriers and on the challenges of capturing those signals digitally.

Roundtable participants included both nationally known preservation specialists and leading members of the Audio Engineering Society who are familiar with state-of-the-art recording technologies. To facilitate the discussions, audio experts from LC developed a step-by-step model of best practices for reformatting, focusing on the two audio carriers most commonly found in libraries and archives—discs and tapes. (Less widely used media, such as cylinders and magnetized steel wire recordings, were tabled for a later discussion.) Using these two templates, roundtable experts were quickly able to articulate best practice for such crucial steps as cleaning discs, handling and repairing damaged tapes, and adjusting for distortions such as “wow,” the low-pitch frequency deviation produced by irregular motion of the disc during playback.

The experts did not reach a consensus about best practice in several other areas. In some cases, this was because current technologies fail to address a specific need, such as how to play severely damaged tapes or broken discs. More often than not, however, the lack of consensus stemmed from the fact that participants could not agree about which problems could, in principle, be solved by technology and which were beyond the scope of mechanical remediation. Those roundtable professionals who had spent decades stabilizing and transferring obsolete tape and disc formats for rerecording expressed their strong conviction that accurately capturing signal from old audio media is more an art than a science. Experience and a subjective quality of judgment—usually referred to as “ear,” or what sounds right to an expert—were essential, they contended, and could be neither measured objectively nor automated. Other roundtable members countered that while experience is always a highly esteemed professional qualification, there is no basis for relying on the subjective experience of hearing, even by an expert, as a benchmark for quality. Sound is a physical property that can be measured by acoustical mechanics, and we urgently need to develop scalable solutions to the challenges of analog-signal capture using acoustical mechanics and technologies.

These opposing views forced the roundtable participants to confront profound and fundamentally ethical questions about the rescue of our recorded heritage: Given the large body of audio recordings at risk, many of which—magnetic tape especially—are on the verge of decay, how can the profession scale up best practices into a production mode that will make it possible to rescue large bodies of endangered collections? While some participants argued for an approach that would automate as much as possible (for example, batch-processing transfer), others protested that time-efficient rerecording without listening, or selecting styli for playback without trial and error, would produce transfers of poor, or at best inconsistent, quality.

Responsible management of archival materials always includes some compromise between expedience and perfection. Roundtable experts were urged to propose guidelines for how collection stewards should carry out a risk-benefit analysis of preservation-worthy audio holdings. Participants were also asked to recommend actions that would improve audio preservation, ranging from research and development to training the next generation of audio archivists.

The forthcoming report synthesizes the discussions and presents some principles that audio archivists can take as best practice. It also presents, in the appendix, the step-by-step model of best practices for reformatting presented at the meeting.


CLIR Board Elects New Officers
The CLIR Board elected three new officers at its semiannual meeting October 29. Charles Phelps, provost at the University of Rochester, was named chair, succeeding Stanley Chodorow, professor at the University of California, San Diego. Herman Pabbruwe, chief executive officer of the Netherlands-based Brill Publishing, was elected treasurer, succeeding Dan Tonkery, vice president of information services at EBSCO. James Williams, II, dean of libraries at the University of Colorado at Boulder, succeeds Jerry Campbell, chief information officer and dean of the university libraries at the University of Southern California, as secretary. Paula Kaufman, university librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will continue to serve as vice chair. Each of the three new officers will serve a three-year term.

Mr. Chodorow, Mr. Tonkery, and Mr. Campbell retired after each serving nine years on the CLIR Board, the maximum allowed by the organization’s bylaws. Board member Paul LeClerc, president of the New York Public Library, also retired after nine years of service.

JISC Joins Digital Library Federation
The United Kingdom’s Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) has joined the Digital Library Federation (DLF) as an Ally. JISC is a joint committee of the UK Further and Higher Education Funding councils and is responsible for supporting the innovative use of information and communication technology to support learning, teaching, and research. The DLF currently has 33 member libraries and five Allies.

CLIR Is Now Accepting Applications for . . .
Rovelstad Scholarship in International Librarianship, awarded to a student of library and information science to attend the World Library and Information Congress of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). The scholarship is intended to enable students who have an interest in international library work to participate in IFLA early in their careers. The 2005 IFLA annual meeting will take place in Oslo, Norway, in August.

Applicants must be enrolled in an accredited school of library and information sciences. Citizens of all countries are eligible to apply. Information and application forms are available at, or may be requested from CLIR by mail.

A. R. Zipf Fellowship in Information Management, awarded to a student who is enrolled in graduate school, is in the early stages of study, and shows exceptional promise for leadership and technical achievement in information management. This year’s award will be $10,000. Information and application forms are available at, or may be requested from CLIR by mail.

Digital Library Federation Publishes Study on Digital Libraries and Course Management Systems

by Dale Flecker, Associate Director for Planning and Systems, Harvard University Library

AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS OF higher education today are awash with digital information resources. Members of the educational community commonly have access to thousands of electronic books and journals; hundreds of digital reference works; increasingly rich collections of digital pictures, videos, and music; and large databases of survey, geographic, and scientific data. Paralleling the growth of digital resources has been a dramatic increase in the use of information technology to support teaching and learning. Most visibly this has come in the guise of course management systems, formal systems intended to support both the administration of courses and the delivery of digital resources to students.

Given the richness of digital resources available, one might expect that course management systems would quickly become a significant vehicle for providing students with access to digital library resources relevant to their courses. However, the level of integration of existing digital library materials into course environments at the present time appears to be distressingly low.

Last year, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation provided support through the Digital Library Federation for an ad hoc group of digital librarians, course management system developers, and publishers to meet over several months and discuss how existing digital resources can be integrated into the working environments of instructors in higher education. Neil McLean of IMS Australia and I cochaired the group. The results of the group’s work have been published online in a report titled Digital Library Content and Course Management Systems: Issues of Interoperation (available at

Key Challenges to Integration

The size, heterogeneity, and complexity of the current information landscape create enormous challenges for the interoperation of information repositories and systems that support course instruction. The group’s discussion of these challenges revealed the following:

  • The barriers to finding and reusing digital materials relating to a course are high. It is hard to know where to look for materials, or where to find individual resources within the systems in which they are described. Reusing descriptive metadata, coping with access-management systems, understanding technical formats and intellectual property constraints, and ensuring continuing access to selected objects are also difficult. There are no systems in place to help instructors with limited time and technical expertise easily locate and reuse digital content.
  • The universe of systems containing materials useful in teaching and learning is highly diverse. This diversity is a reflection of many factors: differing types of digital objects (geographic databases versus art images), different organizations (Harvard’s collections versus those of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), different levels of technical sophistication (an e-journal published by Elsevier compared with one published in an academic department), and different intent (legal information systems versus genomic databases).
  • The universe of systems containing materials useful in teaching and learning is very large. It includes not just internal university systems (institutional repositories, digital libraries, learning object repositories, museums) but also a large number of commercial and noncommercial publishers.
  • The diversity of players in the digital domain impedes the widespread implementation of any single proposed solution to simplifying the environment. It will be particularly challenging to involve commercial publishers of electronic resources in developing interoperation between content and teaching systems.
  • Simplifying the use of resources goes well beyond questions of the technical interoperability among systems. Other issues include organizing and making accessible large lists of sources of electronic resources, resolving issues relating to intellectual property rights and licensing, and dealing with differing metadata practices.
  • Much of the thinking in this domain has concentrated on formal course management systems. However, instructors use many kinds of systems to deliver teaching materials, including most notably PowerPoint for classroom presentation and informal Web sites.
  • Tools and systems relevant to discovering and using information resources, such as metasearch engines, OpenURL resolvers, and electronic resource management systems, are being acquired or created in many units within the university. It will take special effort to integrate them into the learning systems environment.

How Instructors Use Digital Resources

The study group formed subgroups to conduct two complementary studies. The first subgroup explored three scenarios involving the use of digital resources in teaching. The purpose of this activity was to articulate the functions and assumptions that underlie different types of use. The scenarios discussed were as follows:

  1. The steps required for an instructor to gather images related to a course, to annotate those images for use in the course and in future research, to store the image collection for future use (both personal use and use by other instructors), and to transfer the image collection into PowerPoint for display in class and on the course Web site.
  2. The process by which an instructor creates a reading list for a humanities seminar that provides students with an online list (via the course Web site) in standard citation format and shows the availability of resources both on campus and online.
  3. The process an instructor uses to create a link for a course Web site that could generate a real-time search in one or more databases for materials relevant to the course, thus providing students with access to materials that are more up-to-date than those provided by traditional reading lists.

The subgroup developed a general model for the process of gathering existing resources, adding to them and creating new collective resources, and reusing and sharing those new collective works. This model extends considerably the range of activities involved in supporting the use of digital library resources in teaching.

Facilitating Access and Use

The second subgroup looked at the steps that operators of repositories of digital materials could take to make it easier for everyone to find and use their resources for educational purposes. The group created a checklist for repository operators covering such major issues as

  • Finding content, including what types of searching and browsing functions the repository supports, whether it supports standard metadata, whether metadata can be exported for reuse in learning systems, and whether the repository supports standard protocols for searching.
  • Collecting content, including whether the repository uses stable identifiers and pointers for content (thereby allowing items to be referenced unambiguously over time by outside systems) and supports standard citation formats and the export of citations for reuse.
  • Accessing content, including whether digital materials can be transferred to local environments for manipulation and display and whether the repository supports standard applications for viewing, using, and repurposing objects.
  • Documentation, including the repository’s policies on intellectual property rights, authorized use, privacy, and security.

In addition, this subgroup identified two general areas of repository design important for interoperation. The first relates to accessibility. For example, does the user interface meet recognized accessibility guidelines? Does it comply with legislation? Does the repository support standard character encodings? The second area relates to access control and security.

Next Steps

The study group strongly recommended that the community undertake a series of demonstration projects to integrate existing digital content into working instructional systems. These projects would demonstrate the utility of such integration through real-world examples, test hypotheses about what functionality really matters in such integration, provide experience on which to base further work on improving interoperation, and provide a basis for systems developers and providers to use in estimating the effort involved in implementing interoperation.

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