CLIRinghouse Number 19

Quick insight into information-investment issues for presidents, CAOs, and other campus leaders from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Number 19, November/December 2003

The Issue for Presidents and CAOs:

New Digital Initiatives Have Import For All Higher Education

Summary: Two major digital initiatives announced at the 2003 fall forum of the Digital Library Federation (DLF) have far-reaching import for the future of scholarship and teaching in universities and colleges throughout the United States and beyond. One—the Distributed Open Digital Library initiative—will make more holdings of major research libraries accessible universally in an online, collaborative digital library. The second initiative—the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program—will engage multiple institutions in R&D; work on ways to ensure long-term access to digital resources.

Creating a Collaborative Online Library

Michael Keller, chair of the DLF Steering Committee, announced at the fall DLF Forum the organization’s intent to create a collaborative digital library that will provide universal electronic access to collections in multiple research institutions. He noted that this is now possible because of groundwork done by DLF members and others since the DLF’s founding in 1995. The collections could potentially include significant international content because the DLF, now a collaborative of 36 research libraries and related organizations in the United States, has decided to open membership to libraries abroad that have done extensive digital library development.The collaborative library—tentatively called the Distributed Open Digital Library (DODL)—is intended to provide global access to collections from multiple institutions without assembling those collections in one place. The DODL will begin by aggregating members’ collections of public-domain materials in the humanities and social sciences, will develop an extensive finding service for these collections, and will incorporate numerous other service features to facilitate use of the collections by scholars, teachers, students, and the public. A collections development working group will soon begin planning content development, and a technical working group will start devising an enabling infrastructure for sharing that content.

Preserving What We Digitally Create

Books, journals, and other research materials in digital form are great for access but inferior to paper for preservation. Without better preservation methods, problems with unstable media, system obsolescence, format proliferation, and Web site abandonment could jeopardize the future usefulness of the wealth of digital resources now being created and widely used in colleges and universities. DLF Forum participants learned of first steps in implementing a plan for national digital preservation.The plan comes from the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP), for which the United States Congress has authorized $100 million to the Library of Congress. Representatives of the library explained that NDIIPP is beginning to implement the plan by developing an architectural model for federated digital preservation and by soliciting proposals from partnering institutions such as universities for collection building and research to begin in 2004—research of critical importance for helping colleges and universities, among others, preserve their digital assets for long-term use.

For More Information

As these widely significant initiatives develop, information on their progress and products will be available at www.diglib.org for the distributed open digital library and at www.digitalpreservation.gov for the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program.