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CLIR Issues Number 115

CLIR Issues

Number 115 • January/February 2017
ISSN 1944-7639 (online version)


Deepening ResolveBuilding Community Around the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF)
Digitizing Hidden Collections: Office Hours for Prospective Applicants
E-Research Network: Call for Expressions of Interest
Save the Date: 2017 DLF Forum

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Deepening Resolve

Editor’s note: On February 13, the CLIR and DLF leadership issued the following statement, reaffirming our commitment to advance, protect, and uphold the shared values of our information communities. 

Core to our mission, CLIR and the Digital Library Federation stand in resolute support of our dedicated and diverse community of information professionals and organizational sponsors, promoting the fullest and most inclusive vision they may hold of the publics they serve: individuals and institutions that are both stalwart and vulnerable, people living now and generations yet to come. We also stand with our community in determined opposition to any political policies, actions, and divisive ideologies—like those we have observed during the current transition of power in Washington, DC—that contravene our shared, core values of enlightened liberalism and scientific understanding, and threaten our mission to create just, equitable, and sustained global cultures of accessible information.

What does this support and opposition mean in practice?

For CLIR, the current socio-political situation deepens our resolve to advance the creation, organization, and distribution of knowledge, by fostering imaginative leadership and cross-sector coherence in technology, cultural heritage, and higher education. Our investment has never been more vital, in efforts to create new cohorts of leaders, augment our community’s scholarly and technical expertise, and make primary materials safe and broadly accessible for research and teaching. We do this through the generosity of sponsors, funders, and host institutions. Key projects include: re-granting programs like Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives and Recordings at Risk; our support for the work of CLIR Postdoctoral Fellows, Mellon Fellows for Dissertation Research in Original Sources, and CLIR/DLF Postdocs in Data and Software Curation; our development, in rich collaboration with international partners, of the Digital Library of the Middle East; and our support for professional and organizational advancement through our programs for liberal arts college CIOs and a broader array of practitioners adept in “Leading Change.”

Similarly, an evolving, ambitious joint research and publications agenda at CLIR/DLF—centering in a five-year plan to better inform the development of transnational digital library and data repository infrastructures—supports the conviction we and our sponsors, advisors, and board members hold dear: that global and local information systems, wisely constructed, can become instruments of social justice, advancing human capacity and compassionate understanding and helping us to build a kinder, freer, safer world.

For its part, DLF reaffirms its staunch commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion as an organization that exists to foster research, learning, social justice and the common good through the creative design and wise application of digital library technologies. As a responsive, action-oriented program of CLIR, we have redoubled our efforts to serve as an amplifying framework for our members’ grassroots activities, particularly supporting the work of individual librarians, museum professionals, archivists, and technologists as community organizers, to connect with their peers across institutional lines and undertake collaborative projects for the purposes of careful analysis, protective action, imaginative response, or necessary resistance.

DLF working groups are active on issues ranging from: assessment of overarching cultural, economic, and technological factors in the construction and content of digital libraries; increasing coherence in the professional development landscape; improved efficacy and broadened reach in digitization and in teaching and research with digital content; development of best practices for digital library labor rooted in a feminist ethic of care; issues of transparency and accountability in government records and born-digital information; and more. We also see in this light: DLF’s hosting of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance as an organization focused on collective strategies for digital curation and long-term preservation; our programs to connect professional and conference communities through “cross-pollinator” fellowships and our own practitioner-driven DLF Forum; our support of meetings and/or communications platforms for an array of allied groups; our consultative services; our pragmatic attention to diversity and inclusion in all our sponsored events; and our longstanding work in fostering technical standards and incubating inter-institutional projects and platforms.

DLF will pay close attention this year to any executive order or piece of legislation that may impact travel and safety for our Forum participants, with whom we stand in solidarity and pledge to assist.

CLIR and DLF exist as focal points for active collaboration and the building of trust across borders of all kinds—a safe harbor for candid, deliberative discourse and collective, inter-institutional work. We hold this characteristic among our most salient contributions to our constituencies. It is our aim to advance, protect, and uphold the values our information communities share, and to help those communities resist counter-forces so that they may create enduring, empowering, charitable futures filled with hope.

Regardless of your membership status or affiliation, if you support this mission, we invite you to use CLIR/DLF as a platform, engage with us as fellow-travelers, and direct us as a set of public-spirited services. Please feel free to contact members of our dedicated and expert staff, or to write directly to Charles Henry (CLIR) or Bethany Nowviskie (DLF) with your ideas.

Charles Henry, President, CLIR
Bethany Nowviskie, DLF Director

Kathleen Fitzpatrick, CLIR Board Chair
Dan Cohen, DLF Advisory Chair 

Building Community Around the International Image Interoperability Framework

—by Sheila Rabun, Communications and Coordination Officer, IIIF

If you have been anywhere near digital image repositories in the past five years, you might have heard of IIIF (pronounced triple-EYE-eff), or the International Image Interoperability Framework. There are several different ways to describe what IIIF is, but a current favorite is that IIIF is a community working together to create, test, refine, implement and promote shared application programming interface (API) specifications for interoperable functionality for digital image repositories. So what exactly is “interoperability,” and why should anyone care?

Imagine a row of silos, all containing different types of grain. Now, imagine the silos as digital image repositories, containing digital images of important cultural artifacts like manuscripts, paintings, sculpture, sheet music, newspapers, maps, carvings, and other fragile, rare, and heavily studied cultural materials. While libraries, archives, and museums have been increasingly making their collection materials available to the public digitally, assets in online repositories have essentially been kept in silos, with incompatible systems and varying user interfaces that place a burden on hosting institutions and limitations on functionality for end-users. Working independently, many institutions have found digital image repositories challenging to maintain, with constantly evolving user needs and ever-changing technology systems as digital content is migrated from one bespoke application to another.

Working together in response to these challenges,the IIIF API specifications were developed to allow for the transfer and sharing of image pixels, metadata, and annotations across repositories and systems. Implementation of the IIIF specifications can provide end-users with the ability to compare images from across multiple repositories and interact with them through deep pan and zoom, image manipulation (size, quality, rotation, etc.), the ability to tag and annotate, search within annotations, and easily share work with others. Several IIIF-compatible image servers and clients are available to choose from, allowing institutions to easily mix and match technologies. The Mirador Viewer ( is just one example of a IIIF-based client that facilitates this kind of functionality:

A 16th century atlas held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (left) and a 17th century star map held at Stanford University Libraries are seamlessly compared in the same viewer, with options for deep zoom, image manipulation, and annotation.

Cultural heritage institutions across the globe are realizing the power of interoperability and the full potential of providing online access to their collections’ digital surrogates. Institutions such as the Oxford Digital Bodleian Library, the Wellcome Library, the National Library of Wales, Yale Center for British Art, the Qatar Digital Library, the U.S. National Gallery of Art, the British Library, Stanford, Princeton, Harvard, Cornell, the Vatican Library, the University of Tokyo, and at least 70 other national and state libraries, museums, research institutions, software firms, and other organizations, have implemented the IIIF specifications, exposing millions of digital images with interoperable properties. Interest in IIIF has grown as the word continues to spread at conferences and meetings in the digital repository community. The IIIF-Discuss email list has grown to over 600 members, comprising the wider community of individuals and institutions who have expressed interest, used, or implemented IIIF. Additionally, the IIIF Consortium (IIIF-C), formed in 2015 to provide sustainability and steering for the initiative, has grown to include 40 institutional members in the past year.  The IIIF-C welcomes new members, and any interested institutions that join the IIIF-C before December 2017 will be considered founding members. The IIIF community includes IIIF-C member institutions, implementers, end users, and others who may be watching with interest from afar.

The potential for the use of IIIF and growth of the IIIF community is endless – wherever digital images are present, there is an opportunity for interoperability via IIIF. As the IIIF community of adopters and users continues to grow, potentially including individuals and institutions from different sectors, including DH scholars and researchers of all kinds, science, technology, engineering, and medicine (STEM) communities, publishers, and media organizations, how can we ensure continued participation, maintain an open and welcoming atmosphere, bringing new participants up to speed and making sure that IIIF technical specifications continue to meet evolving use cases?

Current IIIF participants are laying the foundation for continued community growth, with a focus on improving documentation and training materials, facilitating discovery of IIIF resources, and creating more opportunities for participation. While images with IIIF functionality are available from multiple institutions across the globe, there is currently no comprehensive registry or single point of discovery for these resources. Work on a IIIF Discovery Technical Specification will begin in February 2017, with a group of over 30 individuals from 21 different institutions who have come together within the IIIF community framework to improve the discovery process for IIIF resources. Similarly, blogs, software implementations and demos, presentations, and other information about IIIF exist across the web, and IIIF community members are working together to index these materials on an “Awesome IIIF” list, to make it easier for interested parties to learn more about IIIF. As we continue these efforts moving forward, we aim to be flexible and adaptable to change, continuously assessing and improving.

Collaboration and participation have been and continue to be key to the success and adoption of IIIF. Multiple institutions have worked together to create the IIIF specifications, which in turn allows for better collaboration between both implementing institutions and end-users. The IIIF community relies on active participation, discussion, and feedback to meet the evolving needs of both groups, and we invite anyone with an interest to get involved! Opportunities and forums for learning more, asking questions, sharing expertise, and providing input include:

Digitizing Hidden Collections Office Hours for Prospective Applicants

Planning to submit an application for the Digitizing Hidden Collections program and have questions? CLIR program staff will hold office hours in Adobe Connect via chat on Thursday, March 9, 1:00-3:00 pm ET; Thursday, March 16, 2:00-4:00 pm ET; and Tuesday, March 21, 3:00-5:00 pm ET. The application deadline is Monday, April 3, at 5:00 pm ET.

E-Research Network: Call For Expressions of Interest

Are you interested in joining this year’s DLF eResearch Network (eRN)?

The eRN brings together teams from research libraries to strengthen and advance their data services and digital scholarship roles within their organizations. Over the course of six months, the 2017 cohort will participate in webinars, assignments, and discussions designed to help guide teams in their creation of a local strategic agenda. Core to the course will be the sharing of ideas and experiences among teams, as well as monthly chats with program alumni.

Tuition fees, key dates, and instructors for the 2017 cohort can be found at Cohorts from DLF member institutions will receive a discount on program costs.

We encourage early expressions of interest; simply complete this short form.

Save the Date: 2017 DLF Forum

The 2017 DLF Forum will take place in Pittsburgh, October 23–25, with a third Liberal Arts Colleges Preconferenceplanned for October 22. This year’s LAC Preconference will focus on intersections between liberal arts colleges and historically black colleges and universities. A Forum call for proposals is in the works and will be open in late April. Registration begins in late May or early June. Follow Forum news on Twitter at #DLFforum and #dlfLAC.

The National Digital Stewardship Alliance’s (NDSA) Digital Preservation 2017 will be held October 25–26 in Pittsburgh, immediately following the Forum. Hosted by DLF, Digital Preservation is NDSA’s major meeting and conference, and is open to members and non-members alike. It focuses on digital stewardship and preservation, data curation, and related issues. Follow news on Twitter at #digipres17.

DLF will pay particularly close attention this year to any executive order or piece of legislation that may affect travel and safety for our Forum participants, with whom we stand in solidarity and pledge to assist. Up-to-date travel information will soon be on our website. Please write to the whole team at or contact DLF Director Bethany Nowviskie privately, with any questions or concerns.

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