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CLIR Annual Report: 2000 – 2001


Digital Libraries

CLIR is committed to fostering the development of digital libraries as a resource for research and learning. The aim is to help policy makers, funding organizations, and academic leaders understand the social and institutional investments in information technology that are needed to manage and provide access to our scholarly and cultural heritage.

The Digital Library Federation (DLF) is the primary manifestation of CLIR’s interest in digital libraries. Operating under CLIR’s auspices, the DLF is a consortium of 26 research libraries that are pioneering the use of electronic-information technologies as a means of extending their collections and services. Through its members, the DLF provides leadership for libraries by

  • identifying standards and best practices for digital collections and network access
  • coordinating leading-edge research and development in libraries’ use of electronic information technology
  • helping start needed projects and services that libraries cannot develop individually

Two years ago, the DLF broadened its program to six areas: architectures and technologies, collection development, digital preservation, standards and best practices, use and user support, and roles and responsibilities of the digital library. This year, the DLF continued its efforts in these areas while making progress in fulfilling three higher-level purposes, notably

  • specifying the infrastructures that must be in place for libraries to harness information technology to support their stewardship of scholarly and cultural information
  • pooling efforts in the conduct of essential research
  • promoting adoption of standards and practices that support libraries in developing high-quality, interoperable, and persistent online collections and services

Highlights from our progress in fulfilling these higher-level aims follow.

Specifying Infrastructure

Acting as a catalyst, the DLF facilitates the development of infrastructural organization and services that are commonly required by digital libraries but are beyond their independent means.

ArtSTOR. Led by Distinguished Fellow Max Marmor of Yale University, the DLF created a prototype for the organizational, business, and technical aspects of an image distribution service. This year, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation drew on the DLF’s work to formulate and launch ArtSTOR, “an independent not-for-profit organization that will develop, ‘store,’ and distribute electronically digital images and related scholarly materials for the study of art, architecture, and other fields in the humanities.” ArtSTOR marks a major advance in the development and dissemination of visual image resources that support research and teaching. It has also taken over the DLF’s work on a shared catalog tool for visual resources.

Open Archives Initiative. Working with CNI, the DLF supported the Open Archives Initiative (OAI), which aims to develop and promote interoperability standards to facilitate the efficient dissemination of information content. In doing so, it helped develop and sustain a protocol upon which the next generation of scholarly Internet portal services is likely to be built. The OAI is being adopted enthusiastically in the United States and abroad. Internet services that use it are attracting investment from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the European Union. In addition, the DLF is helping facilitate the development of some such services. Several DLF members, including Cornell, Emory, Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Michigan, are helping develop innovative portal services. Twelve DLF members have agreed to contribute to such services the metadata from more than 50 collections representing millions of objects. Metadata from several of these collections are already available from the Library of Congress, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

E-Journals Repository. Building on work conducted by CLIR, DLF, and CNI on the minimum criteria that libraries and publishers may require of an electronic-journal repository, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation established an e-journal archiving program and funded seven institutions to plan the development of such repositories. With this program, libraries and publishers take a significant step forward in addressing their shared preservation concerns. The DLF supports the program by hosting its Web pages, reporting its progress to the broader community, and encouraging cross-fertilization among its funded participants. Six DLF members are involved in the program: Cornell University, Harvard University, the New York Public Library, the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, and Yale University.


Pooling expertise at individual digital libraries, the DLF has conducted significant new research into strategic, technical, organizational, and other problem areas.

Sustainable Digital Collections. This year, the DLF completed three studies that report strategies for developing sustainable digital collections. Based on a survey of practice at leading research libraries, the studies recommend strategies for developing collections from commercially supplied electronic content (Timothy Jewell, University of Washington), digitally reformatted content (Abby Smith, CLIR), and links to third-party public domain Internet content (Louis Pitschmann, University of Wisconsin).

Use of Online Services and Collections. Led by Distinguished Fellow Denise Troll, the DLF completed a survey of how leading research libraries assess the use of online collections and services. The survey, when published, will provide a comprehensive overview and critical assessment of the newest evaluation methods and how digital libraries can use them. The DLF also completed a member survey that identifies the institutional contexts in which digital libraries are being developed. By documenting the very different paths along which digital libraries evolve and the different ways in which they organize and fund themselves, the survey will inform strategic planning and decision making within digital libraries, provide benchmarks for assessing digital library development, and identify emerging library roles.

Standards and Best Practices

Leveraging its members’ collective influence, the DLF seeks to identify, endorse, and encourage adoption of those standards and practices that support the development of persistent and interoperable online collections and services.

This year, the DLF endorsed a number of standards and best practices while launching new work in other directions. Among the practices it endorsed is LibLicense, a model license agreement for use by libraries and commercial publishers. The model license documents preferred and good practice and serves as a decision tool that is likely to save libraries time and money in negotiating contracts with commercial content providers.

The DLF initiated a process to develop a standard for representing structural, administrative, and technical metadata. Such a standard is a prerequisite for the construction of reliable and persistent distributed digital library collections. The DLF standard (known as METS for “metadata encoding and transmission standard”) is in advanced development and available from the Library of Congress’s Web site.

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