CLIR Annual Report: 1998 – 1999
he Digital Library Federation (DLF), as the primary manifestation of CLIR’s interest in digital libraries, has a mission to establish the elements essential for creating, maintaining, expanding, and preserving a distributed collection of digital materials for use by scholars and the broader public. Established in 1995 with a membership of 15 libraries and archives, DLF members now include 23 partners and 4 allied organizations. With an agenda developed collaboratively by the director, research associate, and members of both the steering and architecture committees, DLF helps advance digital libraries by supporting publications, workshops, meetings, and research projects.
The Federation’s agenda is driven by four program priorities:
- developing libraries of materials born digital
- building core infrastructure for digital libraries
- integrating digital materials into the fabric of academic life
- developing the organizational support necessary for managing digital libraries effectively
In fostering the development of materials born digital, DLF organized a workshop on social science data to examine the state of the art in three areas: the discovery and retrieval of databases, the evaluation and interpretation of alternative data sources, and data extraction for analysis and presentation. Participants included social science data managers from DLF institutions and a variety of experts who identified activities to advance the state of the art in these areas with the goal of improving the use of social science databases in the undergraduate curriculum.
DLF also cosponsored the formation of a task force on digital preservation policy and practice. The goal of the task force is to identify and document preservation practices to better understand the technical, economic, and organizational barriers that institutions face, and to help determine the kinds of action needed to reduce those barriers. The groups will gather and analyze existing digital preservation policies and practice descriptions for three classes of electronic materials: institutional records in digital form, locally digitized materials, and electronic publications.
Essential to the realization of digital libraries are projects focused on ensuring the interoperability of digital libraries through the development of an architectural core. DLF efforts in this area include contributing to the support of the Internet2Distributed Storage Infrastructure (I2-DSI) workshop. The workshop was designed to explore how well the emerging infrastructure will meet the needs of various applications, including those of digital libraries. Workshop participants reviewed several projects designed to test this new infrastructure, including a project being developed at Columbia University for publications in the earth sciences, a project to deliver online access to sound recordings being developed at Indiana University, and the DLF-sponsored Academic Image Exchange.
Solving technical architecture challenges is essential to fully integrating digital materials into academic life. DLF’s Technical Architecture Committee has been instrumental in three initiatives: the large challenge of reference linking and, within reference linking, the specific problem of selective resolution and the digital certificate prototype.
Reference linking. DLF cosponsored a workshop on citation linking to electronic journal literature, which brought together publishers, librarians, representatives from abstracting and indexing services, information aggregators, vendors of information services, and end users. The workshop focused on building a common awareness of the range of needs and improving understanding of the strengths and limitations of current approaches. It also sought to identify and stimulate actions needed to improve the facilities for linking citations and digital objects in the digital environment. A smaller working group was formed at the meeting to define the nature and scope of research on reference linking and to identify other work needed to foster the development of general systems of reference linking. A second meeting of the initial group was called to discuss the report of the working group and resulted in plans for engaging computer scientists in additional research on solutions.
Selective resolution. The Technical Architecture Committee of DLF has agreed to address the specific challenge of selective resolution, which was identified in these meetings. Their work will focus on how to deliver location or selection information to users when more than one copy of an article exists in a library’s holdings.
Digital certificate prototype. Digital certificates offer a secure means of authorizing access to a range of campus systems and resources, and they are becoming part of campus technology infrastructure. Under DLF auspices, a small group of member institutions and information providers have developed a protocol that enables an information resource provider to verify that a user bearing a digital certificate has authority from a home institution to use a requested resource. The prototype system combines the use of X.509 digital certificates for authentication with a directory service providing authorization to licensed resources based on user attributes.
Metadata is a core element of digital library architecture, providing the means to navigate, identify, manage, and define digital objects. This year, DLF organized two meetings and a workshop to address specific metadata issues.
Workshop on still images. Staff from several DLF institutions participated in an invitational workshop to examine the technical information needed to manage and use digital still images that reproduce a variety of pictures, documents, and artifacts. The workshop drew representatives from libraries, universities, museums, and archives, as well as representatives from government and digital imaging vendors. By the end of the workshop, participants had agreed on four items:
- a preliminary list of technical metadata elements
- the use of industry-standard metrics, where they exist, for assessing images (for example, tone, color, and International Color Consortium (ICC) profiles)
- the need to develop methods of pointing to external test charts
- a requirement for mechanisms enabling the metadata associated with an image to persist through various transformations
International meeting on archival authority information. Long-standing and unresolved questions about how best to record and present archival authority data have hindered the development of standards for archival description. With the increased use of digital files by archives, the need has become more urgent to develop a standard encoding format for the recording and exchange of archival authority information. In December 1998, DLF sponsored an international meeting of archivists to discuss the development of a format that will become part of the emerging archival information architecture. The group developed a project plan that identifies the need to incorporate recommendations into the International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons, and Families [ISAAR (CPF)] which is to be reviewed in 2001. The plan also identified the need to draft an ISAAR-compliant document-type definition (DTD), to define a Z39.50 attribute set for ISAAR, and to ensure links to specialized authority files, such as those for geographic information.
Meeting to discuss integration of Americana. The DLF convened a meeting of metadata experts from its member institutions to consider how best to integrate, at descriptive and subject levels, the important Americana being created in digital form. The idea for an “academic Lycos” emerged at this meeting and was defined in a preliminary way as a project for further work. The group called for an overview of issues associated with the recording and use of structural metadata and will begin planning a series of meetings to help familiarize practitioners at DLF institutions with metadata developments in the computer science labs associated with the NSF Digital Library Initiative and other projects.
DLF convened a meeting of art history faculty, visual resource librarians, and representatives of the College Art Association to explore ways of using digital libraries to enhance the quality of art history teaching and research in the nation’s colleges and universities. As a result of this meeting, plans were developed for a prototype mechanism, called an image exchange. This facility would enable scholars to share images, to which they own the rights, of works representing the concordance of major works taught in art history survey courses.
DLF is also cosponsoring, with CLIR, the development of a series of guides to quality in visual resource imaging. The guides will review the state of the art in visual resource imaging and identify technologies and practices that can be documented and recommended to the community. Five topics will be addressed: setting up an imaging project, selecting a scanner, creating a scanning system, producing a digital master, and generating digital derivatives. The guides will be copublished with RLG on our Web sites.
This year, the DLF developed a new series of forums specifically to address the organizational and management needs of digital libraries. The forums, to be held annually, will bring together digital library practitioners to consider issues of common concern through presentations and discussions. Forum topics will alternate between technical and organizational issues. The first Forum on Digital Library Practices was scheduled for July 1999.