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Section 2: Case Studies

California Digital Library (University of California)

University Profile

  • Founded 1868
  • 9,600 faculty members on 10 campuses: Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz
  • 634 bachelor’s degrees; 476 master’s degrees; 437 doctoral degrees
Library ProfileThe University of California (UC) Board of Regents and President Richard Atkinson founded the California Digital Library (CDL) in 1997. Calling the CDL a “library without walls,” Atkinson charged it with selecting, building, managing, and preserving the university’s shared collections of digital resources and with applying new technologies to increase use of the university’s physical collections across all UC campuses and the state at large. CDL’s vision encompasses four strategies: building, sharing, and preserving digital collections; creating tools and services; influencing and supporting innovation in scholarly communication; and fostering strategic partnerships for digital library development. Located in the Office of the President in Oakland, CDL operates with about 45 full-time staff members within the office’s complement of 1,500 staff members.


The California Digital Library emerged from a series of discussions, begun in 1991, on enhancing Melvyl, a union catalog of UC and other California libraries. Clifford Lynch, then head of the Division of Library Automation for the UC system, presented a draft plan for the future of the online catalog for discussion by UC librarians from all campuses at their regular meetings. The librarians considered the plan and recommended that it be broadened to address what the UC libraries could do together to create a digital environment that they could not build separately. Richard Lucier, who was then the university librarian at UC San Francisco, obtained release time to rewrite the document in consultation with a Digital Library Executive Working Group. Concurrently, the campus chancellors were becoming concerned about the rising cost of the UC libraries and the potential impact of digital technology. UC was in the midst of a budget crunch of significant magnitude at this time.

The result was agreement by the chancellors and the president to create the Library Planning and Action Initiative (LPAI). Lucier was appointed to head this 18-month effort, which was guided by an advisory committee of provosts, faculty, administrators, and librarians. The report of the LPAI (1998) and subsequent regents’ budgets embodying the report’s recommendations identified seven strategies to help guide the UC libraries through a transition from a campus-based and print-centered service model to one that blends print and digital information and more effectively leverages the shared resources and capabilities of the UC system. The three principal strategies were to (a) sustain adequate campus print collections, (b) expand the sharing of collections among the UC libraries, and (c) establish the California Digital Library as a shared digital collection and digital library environment for the UC system. After a national search, Lucier was named the founding university librarian for system-wide scholarly information and executive director of the CDL, which emerged as a “co-library” of the University of California system.

Because CDL was born during a fiscal crisis, the plan that the advisory committee developed bound the budgetary crisis with the electronic future. By sharing existing print collections and developing a shared digital collection, the system could make the most of its limited resources. The budget proposal, which was finally approved by every academic senate and by the UC administration, emphasized resource sharing but also made up for some of the drastic reductions that campuses had experienced in their print budgets owing to the recession. The proposal included some money for resource sharing (an improved interlibrary loan program among the campuses that later turned into circulation of the “university-wide collection”) and financial support for building a system-wide electronic environment. Upon the urging of UCLA Provost Charles Kennel (chair of the LPAI advisory committee) it also included an increase of more than $12 million over three years to campus libraries for their print collections.

Initial Progress and Future Challenges

The CDL helps provide infrastructure that lowers the cost to campus libraries of delivering high-quality online collections and services. Its investment in bibliographic catalogs, electronic collections, digital library tools and services (reference linking, persistent object naming, cross-collection searching), and consensus building around various standards and good practices provides what the campus libraries commonly require but are unable to develop independently. Work in three areas—Melvyl, a consorital licensing operation, and an e-scholarship program—is indicative of the progress but also of the challenges incumbent in this approach.

Melvyl remains the jewel in CDL’s crown. Well before the CDL was established, it had gone some way toward encouraging scholarly exploitation of campus collections as if they formed a part of a single university collection. The addition by the CDL of a request service through which patrons can initiate interlibrary loan (ILL) requests online from the catalog interface, and a courier service through which interlibrary loan requests can be delivered overnight, greatly fostered the trend. Since the inception of these services in 1999, the number of interlibrary loan requests has increased dramatically. In fall 2003, the ILL service will be further enhanced with the addition on each campus of high-volume digitization facilities capable of digitizing requested items and delivering them to patrons online. Yet Melvyl and its ancillary services cast a long shadow. Their maintenance absorbs scarce technical resources and as such could impede the pace of innovation and development that may be required of a maturing digital library.

In support of a shared university collection, the CDL hosts a consortial licensing operation that systematically acquires access to and, where appropriate, enriches commercial electronic materials under terms and at costs that are favorable to the UC libraries. The shared collection of commercial electronic journal and reference databases is available system-wide and extends local holdings at marginal additional cost to campus libraries. Experience with shared electronic collections is cautiously being extended into the domain of print, but by the libraries as a collective rather than by the CDL. As UC libraries cancel subscriptions to printed journals that are also available electronically, they are asking whether they can act together to ensure that a physical copy of record is maintained at least somewhere within the university. They are also taking an in-depth look at strategies for managing distributed collections of printed government documents. The discussion forces libraries to confront very difficult issues of ownership as well as access—issues that could test the limits of collaboration.

An e-scholarship program stimulates and facilitates innovation in scholarly communication in support of research and teaching, and includes tools and services that facilitate the creation, production, peer review, management, and dissemination of scholarly publications. The program responds to a recommendation of the LPAI task force to experiment with new means of scholarly publishing. The task force found that “the present system of journal publication no longer meets faculty needs to distribute information quickly and effectively” and in a manner that makes economic sense to the university. The e-scholarship program’s biggest success is its working papers and e-prints repository. Still in its early days, the repository is attracting deposits from UC faculty. Changing scholarly communications, however, requires a great deal more than new technical services and experimentation on the part of some faculty at a single university. It requires change in scholarly practice generally. By providing alternative forms of scholarly communications, libraries can exert some influence. Also required is the active participation of—even leadership from—academic quarters.

The CDL’s early progress is due in part to fortuitous timing. The rising cost of information and a state budget crisis helped move CDL planning to implementation. The success of the Red Sage Project at UC San Francisco, the creation of a statewide consortium in Ohio (Ohiolink), and the emerging licensing models from publishers supported the concept of shared or consortial acquisitions of electronic scholarly journals, reference databases, and other commercial content.

Support of all the campus libraries was also important, especially from the largest, i.e., Berkeley and UCLA. By 1996, the Berkeley library was already a nationally known center for digital library development. Given the severity of the budget crisis in the 1990s, some at Berkeley were concerned that funding for CDL would decrease resources for digital library development at the campuses. UCLA was enormously supportive; in fact, the support of University Librarian Gloria Werner was a key factor in the successful start of the CDL. In time, Berkeley, through sharing its expertise and experiences, also became enormously helpful. It has taken a lead in important collaborative digital library developments, including the Online Archive of California (a union catalog of finding aids) and the planning of a digital archival repository for UC libraries.

Strong political alliances were equally important. The provost of UCLA, the chair of the advisory board, and key librarians, who had worked together and had developed trust, provided underlying support. The health sciences librarians, who had a long history of collaboration, provided support early on. Lucier, Werner, and Phyllis Mirsky, deputy university librarian at UC San Diego, were three critical leaders with health sciences backgrounds. The CDL also benefited from a densely interlocking committee structure that exists to this day.

The CDL’s ability to deliver on its service promises, to move quickly from planning to action, and to demonstrate its benefits to the campus libraries in real and quantifiable terms has also been important, though may be under threat as the service grows. In its first few years, CDL released new collections and services on a regular semiannual basis. It continues to report out on the real savings that are involved in the development of shared collections and digital library infrastructure. The CDL has also fostered interchange among the campus libraries by bringing campus staff to work at the CDL on a short-term basis (and paying them), by hosting digital library development forums jointly with other library committees, and by co-developing with campus libraries various digital collections, services, and tools. It has finally built relations with faculty who need to drive and endorse the goals of the CDL and the system-wide library planning agenda more generally.

According to Lucier, now librarian at Dartmouth College, CDL’s continued success depends on the spark of individuals who are willing to work together and on their drive to accomplish this work. Other challenges facing the CDL include (1) maintaining its fiscal health during the current state budget crisis; (2) facilitating development of a shared university library collection that comprises both digital and print materials; (3) developing a technical and organizational infrastructure that enables it to manage legacy services while supporting more speculative development initiatives undertaken on behalf of the UC libraries; (4) encouraging faculty exploitation of alternative means of scholarly publishing that are being developed by the e-scholarship program; (5) continuing to stimulate and find rewarding challenges for the CDL’s very high-caliber and energetic staff; and (6) maintaining agility in the context of a large and rambling bureaucracy. Confronting these challenges will require a more stable operations environment within the CDL; continued collaboration, trust, and understanding among the UC libraries; inclusive discussions and decision making within the CDL; and a perpetually refreshed vision of the university libraries’ strategic directions.

Harvard University (Cambridge)

University Profile

  • Founded 1636
  • 18,000 students
  • 2,000 faculty members, plus 8,000 faculty members in the teaching hospitals
  • 164 bachelor’s degrees; 74 master’s degrees; 72 doctoral degrees
Library Profile

  • 14,437,361 volumes held
  • $80,862,137 total annual expenditures
  • 1,088 staff members (excludes hourly employees)

The Harvard University Library (HUL) is part of Harvard’s central administration and serves as the coordinating body for the more than 90 separate libraries that make up the Harvard library system. HUL develops and implements library services and programs that are centrally provided, including library systems, off-site storage; preservation, university archives, and digital initiatives. The largest group of Harvard libraries is found in the Harvard College Library, which administers 11 libraries for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, including the Widener Library.


In the mid-1990s, there was comparatively little digital library activity at Harvard. One exception was the development of Web portal services that opened to electronic journals and other commercially supplied content. The reason Harvard was less active than other universities may be due in part to the highly decentralized structure of the university. Each of the faculties has its own endowment, receives tuition dollars from its students, and is taxed for common services. On the Harvard campus, the name that has been given to this decentralized system is “Every Tub on Its Own Bottom” (ETOB).1 The faculties are expected to be entrepreneurial and autonomous, and because the libraries in effect belong to the faculties, they are also highly decentralized. Cost recovery is an integral ingredient in ETOB; therefore, just as the Harvard faculties pay the university for some services, individual libraries pay the HUL for systems, storage, and some digital library services. In turn, the HUL provides services and products that the libraries want and need.

By the late 1990s, the involvement of HUL Associate Director for Planning and Systems Dale Flecker in the Digital Library Federation’s program and architecture committees brought him into contact with early major innovators. They included staff from Michigan and Cornell, and peers in other research libraries that were beginning to build digital library infrastructures. As a result of discussions with Flecker and others, HUL Director Sid Verba convened a group of administrative deans, faculty members, and librarians. Under the chairmanship of Harvard College Librarian Nancy Cline, the committee was charged to consider how Harvard should begin its digital library program.

The committee recognized that building a common infrastructure was of prime importance. The group’s focus on building infrastructure, as opposed to digitizing collections, reflected the recognition that collections responsibilities were highly distributed throughout the 90 libraries. The committee believed that a strong infrastructure could help lower the overhead to the libraries creating digital collections and help build coherent information solutions. It envisaged that the central program would have a consulting and educational role as well as responsibility for building centralized systems and services that would be shared by all the libraries. Through grants made to the libraries and other parts of the university, the committee hoped to entice the community to participate in a coordinated infrastructure. The program was named the Library Digital Initiative (LDI) and was placed in the Office for Information Systems of the HUL.

Sid Verba argued to the university administrators, particularly to then President Neil Rudenstine, that if Harvard could replace its central accounting systems, a very expensive project, it should also provide funding to develop the digital library, an endeavor more important to fulfilling the university’s core mission. Verba requested and received one-time funding of $12 million to be allocated over five years from President Rudenstine’s discretionary funds. Five million dollars of this sum is being spent on the grant program, leaving $7 million for building the infrastructure. This initiative, like others at Harvard, will eventually be supported at least in part by cost recovery. The plan to establish and fund a digital initiative was virtually unopposed by the faculties, in part because new money had been found to support it and because the library had already achieved considerable success in developing a highly regarded Harvard union catalog.

The LDI’s focus is practical and systems oriented; it has no direct ties to faculty research. A reflection of Harvard’s decentralized organization, the LDI provides services to the university’s many distributed libraries. Because the role of LDI is to provide the infrastructure and that of the libraries is to use that infrastructure to provide services appropriate to their particular clientele, the Harvard libraries, and not the LDI, are meant to connect directly to the faculty. Harvard’s librarians work well with one another, sharing values, a common profession, and a growing recognition of their interdependence. Their success in developing a microfilm and an online catalog, as well as completing the retrospective catalog conversion of more than five million titles, has prepared them to look for opportunities to develop other shared activities.

Now and the Future

Because of the strong book culture at Harvard, particularly in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Nancy Cline has approached digitization as a logical extension of the continuum of recorded knowledge. She believes it is Harvard’s responsibility to access and preserve digital materials in the same way that it has accessed and preserved print materials. The LDI offers Cline and others a place to become involved with digital library activities and to begin to build an infrastructure even while many of the faculty are not yet interested in or aware of the research potential of digital materials and services. The College Library is making a substantial commitment to e-journals and promoting this commitment in terms of its historical role in developing collections. Because of its strong preservation and conservation program, the College Library is also using digital preservation to manage heavily used print collections.

Three digital reformatting facilities are being created: one in Widener to digitize page material; one in the art museum to digitize photographs, slides, and art works; and one in the music library to digitize sound and related materials. The LDI supported building one of these centers, and the Harvard College Library financed the other two. Each of these centers is being integrated into the LDI infrastructure, and the digitized output will feed directly into the depository. At this point, digitization occurs when the library needs to minimize the handling of selected materials or to conserve deteriorating materials and when faculty members request that materials be digitized (e.g., some slide and pamphlet collections). Given the size of the collections, conservation at a very large scale is a primary driver at Harvard.

To increase the use of digital materials, a number of libraries that are being renovated are creating new kinds of spaces for collaborative learning and for learning in a multimedia setting. Major renovations are occurring in the business, law, divinity, and medical libraries and in the Widener Library. Renovations are being coupled with outreach by librarians, who are teaching students and faculty members how to use the Web and other digital resources.

The activities of the LDI staff consist of consulting, training, and raising the awareness of the issues in digital libraries, e.g., metadata, reformatting, and digital acquisitions, as well as building a technical infrastructure. LDI is a central resource for education and consulting, and its consultations have now extended to the museums and other parts of the university that have research collections. For the future, a primary activity will be to continue building the infrastructure.2 The first-generation systems now in place include those for converting and storing technical and descriptive metadata, access management, naming, and cataloging. Most of the LDI effort to this point has been spent developing systems rather than content. LDI is only now beginning to populate its systems.

To access objects in the repository, metadata about the objects must be made accessible through various LDI-maintained online catalogs. Libraries (and others) fund the cost of preserving and accessing materials stored in the repository. A number of libraries are using the repository, as are the art museum and the School of Public Health. The professional schools are the least involved at this point. The major cooperative effort across the libraries is still consortial purchasing, which is accomplished at HUL by at least two full-time employees who oversee the processes of identifying, evaluating, and negotiating access to commercial digital content.

HUL recovers the marginal cost of storage and preservation from units using the repository. LDI has defined three levels of preservation responsibility for materials deposited in the repository. First, LDI will assume full preservation responsibility for materials deposited in preferred (“normative”) formats, along with the prescribed metadata. LDI will provide only “bit preservation” for materials in a second list of formats. Preservation of materials in formats not yet listed remains undefined. Over time, LDI will address the preservation status of a widening range of formats. Libraries must adhere to the standards and expect to be billed for migration. Metadata standards for text, images, and sound have been completed; film and video are not. Flecker expects the repository use to grow substantially.

Because President Rudenstine allocated one-time funding to the LDI, Flecker and his office must address the issue of funding in the next phase of the program. He worries that digital libraries are developing more slowly than had been predicted, that the cost of infrastructure development will be larger than estimated, and that they may have underestimated the time needed to develop a mature infrastructure.


Harvard faces the following challenges in developing its digital library:

  1. Because Harvard is highly decentralized and wealthy, the various faculties frequently have little reason to collaborate. On the other hand, collaboration among the libraries has been noticeably successful and has produced services that faculty and students appreciate across the institution.
  2. Information technology (IT) services are fragmented throughout the institution and within the libraries. For example, the Widener Library relies on HUL for its integrated library system and digital library services, on the central IT Department and the Faculty of Arts and Science’s Academic Computing Department for network support, and on both central departments and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences for administrative data. The difficulty of developing digital library initiatives in a distributed computer environment is matched by the difficulty the university is experiencing in developing tools for online course management.
  3. The book budget is sacred, especially to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Fifty-five percent of the collections budget is endowed (and therefore restricted); the remainder is faculty-driven. It is difficult to use acquisitions dollars for anything other than books and journals. This is not to say that the faculty members do not want electronic resources: they do want them, but they want them to be supported through funds that supplement the traditional collections budgets. At Harvard, senior faculty members strongly influence many decisions in the library.
  4. Faculty interest in technology is wide but conflicting. Some faculty members want to take full advantage of the newest technology; others, many of whom are senior faculty, do not. Those who have a strong interest in newer options have smaller voices; for this reason, some librarians fear that Harvard will miss opportunities that other institutions will seize. Many wonder whether President Lawrence Summers’s notion that Harvard should be giving more to the country will lead him to urge that the Harvard libraries become leaders in digital preservation and access.
  5. LDI needs to make its cost recovery in digital initiatives work. It may request significant additional presidential funding because the required infrastructure will not be completed within the five-year period, even though there is a solid first generation of production systems in place. Over time, LDI hopes to move the cost of building and updating the production systems to one of the common goods (ETOB) paid by the faculties. LDI also requires core funding that may exceed $1 million annually for ongoing innovation, consulting, and outreach.
  6. Future priorities for LDI include more concentration on born-digital materials, on integration of digital library content and infrastructure with other systems within the university (course management systems) and with other libraries nationally, and on digital preservation.


Harvard is developing an interesting and creative program in a unique and difficult environment. The argument that the library needs to demonstrate a role in digital space as a natural outgrowth of a historical role in nondigital space is beginning to work, but very slowly. By emphasizing infrastructure, conservation, and preservation, the library may be able to build a substantive collection of digital materials of all kinds, much as the Library of Congress has done. Because of the environment, however, library involvement in end-user services that could actively support research and learning will vary greatly across the university. With the approach the Harvard libraries are taking, scholars will use the materials in the digital repository in their research, much as they do now with books, but the library could remain more or less in a traditional role for some time into the future.

People Interviewed

Sid Verba, director of the university library; Dale Flecker, associate director for planning and systems in the university library; Nancy Cline, librarian, Harvard College; Tom Michalak, executive director, Harvard Business School, Baker Library; Harry S. Martin III, librarian, Law School Library; Hugh Wilburn, librarian and assistant dean for information services, Frances Loeb Library; and Barbara Graham, associate director of the university library for administration and programs.

Indiana University (Bloomington)

University Profile

  • Founded 1820
  • 37,963 students
  • 1,709 faculty members (full-time equivalent)
  • 5,204 bachelor’s degrees; 1,582 master’s degrees; 401 doctoral degrees
Library Profile

  • 6,314,658 volumes held
  • $26,459,375 total annual expenditures
  • 313 staff members (excludes hourly employees)


When Suzanne Thorin assumed the post of dean of libraries at Indiana University (IU) in 1996, the libraries had no formal digital library program. There were, however, three “bright-light” initiatives: VARIATIONS, a streaming audio music e-reserves project; LETRS (Library Electronic Text Resource Service); and DIDO (Digital Images Delivered Online), an art-image data bank that served the School of Fine Arts. None of these projects had base funding in the libraries, although LETRS had been provided staff from University Information Technology Services (UITS) since the former’s inception in the late 1980s.

VARIATIONS, one of the earliest streaming audio experiments, operated in a “skunk-works” environment in the campus music library. The music library was headed by David Fenske, now dean of the College of Information Science and Technology at Drexel University. Fenske drew funds for the project on an ad hoc basis from the deans of the music school and libraries and from UITS. IBM provided some equipment and advice. Jon Dunn, an information technologist who has had a major role in shaping the Digital Library Program (DLP), was the primary technical force behind VARIATIONS.

LETRS was begun in the early 1990s as a partnership between the libraries and the computing center, with joint staffing, space provided by the library, and equipment provided by the computing center. It provided the model upon which the DLP was eventually built.

One abiding characteristic at Indiana, which exists in part because of limited funding, is a robust collaboration between the libraries and information technology (IT) units. In the 1980s, with the advent of NOTIS, the first eight-campus library management system, the two entities recognized that they would be forever joined—for better or for worse. The libraries had long relied on UITS for storage and security of their digital output. During the late 1980s, the relationship grew. Librarians and technologists established INFORM, a discussion group where the two cultures informally explored matters of mutual interest and got to know each other’s worlds. These discussions produced a series of campus forums that culminated in a national Public Broadcasting System teleconference called “Networked Information and the Scholar.”

In January 1997, six months after Thorin arrived at IU, Michael McRobbie, who came from the Australian National University, became Indiana’s vice-president and chief information officer (CIO). With academic computing and administrative computing already merged and the addition of telecommunications to the IT organization nearly completed, McRobbie began to direct IT at the Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses, which had previously been administered separately. With funding from President Myles Brand, McRobbie was able to transform long-term and divisive discussions about equipment into an action plan for campus-wide purchases through life-cycle funding. Brand and McRobbie also obtained additional state funding for technology to support teaching and learning.

All eight campuses subsequently participated in extended discussions that led to the adoption of a three-year IT strategic plan under which base and one-time funding was allocated for existing digital library projects, including VARIATIONS; the digital library program, including research and development; and electronic records management. Thus, through a plan that incorporates resources to implement it, a centralized (“czar”) model for IT has evolved at the eight-campus university.

Before the discussions that led to the IT strategic plan took place, Thorin struggled with how to shape decentralized and underfunded digital projects and to build a broader, more cohesive digital environment in the libraries. (Thorin had planned the first technology conference at the Library of Congress when Librarian of Congress James Billington sought advice about turning American Memory into a real national digital library.) She engaged Michael Keller, university librarian and director of academic resources at Stanford University, as a consultant. She also explored activities taking place at the University of Michigan, where Dan Atkins and others were building a robust digital library environment. McRobbie, as well as Blaise Cronin, dean of the School of Library and Information Science (SLIS), were enthusiastic about adopting the Michigan model, with UITS, the libraries, and the SLIS as partners. ,p> With Keller’s recommendations in hand, Thorin reorganized Library Information Technology by merging two departments and appointing a new director, Phyllis Davidson, to a joint UITS/libraries position. Kristine Brancolini, long-time head of media and reserves for the library and a copyright expert, was appointed director of the DLP.

This early developmental period was filled with change, and not all library staff were happy with what was unfolding. The creation of the DLP and related events temporarily destabilized what had long been a predictable environment.

With respect to presidential leadership in IT, the situation at Indiana was similar to that at Michigan. At Michigan, then-President James Duderstadt worked through a number of colleagues in the School of Engineering and in IT to foster change. Indiana’s Brand has given consistent and enthusiastic support to IT, primarily through McRobbie’s leadership. McRobbie’s support has helped numerous efforts, including the DLP, proliferate, particularly on the Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses. This approach is also making implementation of current multicampus efforts, such as building an effective course management system and dealing with e-scholarship, a more cohesive process than it is in the decentralized environments at some large institutions.


At first, Brancolini and Dunn were the only full-time DLP staff members other than the technical UITS staff in LETRS and the full-time systems administrator in the music library. Others who participated part time included the head of preservation and an area studies catalog librarian, who added metadata expertise. The team’s early efforts to obtain grants were unsuccessful. These failures were learning experiences both in writing grants and in building technical expertise. By the time Indiana was awarded a $3-million National Science Foundation grant in 2000 to expand VARIATIONS into a digital music library for teaching and learning, the program had achieved great success in grantsmanship.

As DLP staff grew as a result of support from the UITS strategic plan and reallocation of library staff, the roles of the partners changed. Perhaps because the SLIS gets its academic credibility from linking with other academic units rather than with library or technology services, its involvement has diminished, except where it contributes funding for a specific purpose, e.g., encoded archival description (EAD) training.3 The recent addition of the School of Informatics to the DLP partnership gives the program a new opportunity for an applied research component. Overall, the maturing program has worked in the following five areas:

  1. building program, staff, organization, structure, and funding
  2. stabilizing funding and technology for VARIATIONS, LETRS, and DIDO
  3. building expertise through national collaboration
  4. building integrating technology at the lowest level (server storage that can be used by multiple projects) and at the next level (the software infrastructure)
  5. integrating the DLP into the libraries’ operations

Organizationally, the program reports to the dean and has a mandate to roam and create both in the Bloomington libraries and on the other IU campuses. To explore program integration, Brancolini, Davidson, and associate deans Martha Brogan and Harriette Hemmasi have held weekly discussions for more than a year and have codified all the libraries’ digital efforts to set the stage for developing a plan for the future. The DLP is also exploring how faculty can interact more deeply with the program and how the program can exert influence in Indiana’s research environment. There are a number of faculty-led DLP projects, including one in folklore being considered for Mellon funding and another in archaeology/informatics, but there is as yet no consistent or organized participation. Now that it has emerged from the nuts-and-bolts stage and is maturing, the program has an opportunity to move to a more integrated and strategic institutional approach.


Indiana now faces challenges in technology and strategic thinking.

  • Technology. When the program began, it inherited the infrastructure available to VARIATIONS and LETRS to deal with audio and texts, and since that time, staff have built up technology expertise in images (e.g., DIDO, the Hoagy Carmichael Collection). With the technology infrastructure being built piece by piece, the present challenge is to integrate digital content now located in a variety of software and hardware environments. The DLP has an opportunity to take advantage of the IU mass storage service, which includes tape and disk base storage for all types of data, in 1- to 2-terabyte disk caches and tape libraries that have a 300-terabyte total capacity. Research data of all sorts are being stored, and VARIATIONS is the second-largest user through its WAV and MPEG files. (The largest user is high-energy physics.) With UITS facility providing a general low-level infrastructure, the DLP will work on the administrative and management access software layer that would sit on top of the mass storage and enable cross-collection searching.To explore the creation of a digital repository, the DLP is looking at general services that it could provide to units in the library and on the campuses that might want the DLP to manage, preserve, and provide access to digital information. With the new emphasis on partnerships within the libraries and an evolving role for Library Information Technology, staff will have increasing roles in these endeavors.4Through a working group of librarians, IT staff, and faculty, this concept will be explored in fall 2002. The DLP’s participation as a beta site in FEDORA (Flexible and Extensible Digital Object and Repository Architecture), a University of Virginia Libraries venture to build a repository, is part of IU’s own repository exploration.The other main technology ingredient in IU’s digital library program is the University of Michigan’s DLXS (Digital Library Extension Service) software, which is used in LETRS, where they have implemented the text class and will be implementing the image class in the future. The extent to which DLXS integrates with FEDORA and other work remains to be seen, but DLXS does not provide a repository solution at any rate.
  • Strategic Thinking. The DLP is struggling to find effective ways to codify and to communicate its knowledge to a broader community. In some respects this is a promotional activity—and opportunity. In addition, the program needs staff who are dedicated to infrastructure development and do not have project responsibilities. With such success in obtaining grants, the number of projects keeps growing, and the thinking that needs to take place about the overall infrastructure keeps moving into the background. The program believes it can make its mark in the humanities and the performing arts.Because it is unlikely that numbers of additional staff will be hired (except temporarily through grant support), the DLP is challenged to use existing resources to build an integrated program. The meetings involving Brancolini, Davidson, Brogan, and Hemmasi have been productive in sorting out what parts of the library and the DLP can take leadership on any issue. In the case of the Teaching and Learning Technology Center, now being built in the main library, for example, there are opportunities for DLP staff and bibliographers to interact with faculty who are learning how to integrate technology into their classes. Leadership for placing the libraries’ created and purchased digital information into the course management system, OnCourse, is also a shared responsibility.Potentially fruitful points of contact between DLP and other parts of the library include the following:
    • Research and Development (R&D): Does R&D occur mainly in the DLP and cross into the library? Can the libraries request that the DLP conduct R&D for needs in their areas?
    • Metadata: What is the relationship of the new metadata librarian in technical services to the DLP and to the repository project?
    • Equipment: How can Library Information Technology partner with the DLP to ensure that the libraries have an IT framework that suits the DLP ventures?
    • Faculty projects: Some faculty will approach bibliographers, and others will come to the DLP. How can efforts be integrated so that the faculty members get the best services?

    The absence of a shared vision concerning the library’s digital future will lead to focusing on second-order issues, such as who does what or who is stepping on another’s boundaries. It will also promote duplication and limit progress. Therefore, the fruitful discussions that the four managers have had and that have produced an impressive list of existing endeavors need to be transformed into real strategic planning.


    Although Indiana was not one of the early digital library pioneers, it has developed its digital program rapidly in the past six years. Capitalizing on a coherent, multicampus IT environment that is adequately funded, the digital library program has concentrated on building expertise and gaining a national reputation. Its current challenge is to build an integrated library through system-wide planning and implementation—a library system that capitalizes on the university’s strong centralized IT structure and is motivated by critical changes taking place in teaching, learning, and research.

    People Interviewed

    Michael McRobbie, vice-president for information technology and CIO; Kristine Brancolini, director of the DLP; Gerry Bernbom, assistant to the vice-president for digital libraries; Perry Willett, assistant director, DLP; Jon Dunn, assistant director for technology, DLP; Martha Brogan and Harriette Hemmasi, associate deans; Phyllis Davidson, director of Library Information Technology; Jennifer Riley, digital media specialist, DLP; Jake Nadal, acting head of the Preservation Department; Jackie Byrd, acting head of the Acquisitions Department; Sybil Bedford, digital imaging specialist and metadata cataloger, DLP; Randall Floyd, digital library system administrator, DLP; Ken Rawlings, programmer analyst, DLP; Radha Surya, electronic text support specialist, DLP; Andy Spencer, project manager for the Russian Periodical Index, DLP; Natalia Rome-Lindval, electronic text specialist, DLP. Suzanne Thorin participated in some of these interviews as Indiana University dean of libraries.

    New York University

    University Profile

    • Founded 1831
    • 48,000 students
    • 3,100 faculty members in 14 schools and colleges
    • Six locations in Manhattan
    • 89 bachelor’s degrees; 108 master’s degrees; 91 doctoral degrees
    Library Profile

    • 3,936,625 volumes held
    • $28,694,958 total annual expenditures
    • 324 staff members (excludes hourly employees)


    When Carol Mandel was appointed dean of libraries at New York University (NYU) in April 1999, she found little digital library development under way. The reason for this vacuum was a very traditional approach to teaching and learning at the university—an approach that was mirrored in the library.Before 1998, NYU’s information technology (IT) infrastructure was highly fragmented, comprising three independent units that reported to three vice-presidents: administrative computing, academic computing, and telecommunications. The units were operationally successful each year, but no strategic or multiple-year planning took place. In fact, at that time the university administration did not view IT as being a significant factor in NYU’s planning.

    For years, the library administration had discouraged collaboration with the IT units; as a result, none occurred, except where creative staff worked together across lines by stealth or at least without formal sanction or encouragement. Although the library provided television services and media support for campus classrooms, there was little synergy among and within the organizations. Lacking a strong campus technology infrastructure, the library network was cobbled together.

    Things began to change in the early 1990s, when the library received a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to produce an online catalog that would provide links from the catalog to full-text commercial and government resources via a Z39.50 interface. This initiative was soon overtaken by new technology, notably the World Wide Web. The grant enabled NYU libraries to test some technology applications; e.g., they developed online finding aids that linked to digital surrogates for selected holdings. However, the original purpose of the grant was not realized, which disappointed staff and impeded progress in planning for the digital future. Additional factors that impeded progress included the unsupported technical environment, the absence of standards, and the lack of library staff who had the technical skills to apply the few standards that were available and who had relevant project design and management skills.

    In 1992, the university administration convened a faculty committee to investigate the effectiveness of academic computing. Libraries were included in the committee’s mandate. A subsequent committee recommended that a chief information technology officer (CITO) be appointed to look after a full range of computing.

    In 1998, Marilyn McMillan was appointed CITO and the IT units were merged. McMillan instituted a stronger technical support system and increased the hours of the help desk from eight hours a day to 24/7. By the time Mandel was interviewed, she recognized that the university had come to view the effective use of IT as essential to its research and teaching missions. The new administration expected that the CITO and the dean of libraries would work as a team.

    Together, Mandel and McMillan worked, as they put it, “to take the clippers to the barbed-wire fence” that had been built between the separate information organizations. They formed a team of staff members who had collaborated on technology-related matters behind the scenes, and this team identified areas where the two units could work together. These areas included infrastructure, the library’s network, digital library development, authentication, and publications. As a first and highly symbolic effort, the organizations merged their existing handbooks for faculty and students into a single publication. The team offered other suggestions that helped Mandel and McMillan restructure, retool, and staff their respective organizations.

    In the recent past, new money had not been available, but the library and the IT units often saved what they called “budget dust,” or year-end funds. Since Mandel and McMillan have been working together, a limited amount of new money has been made available to the units. In fiscal year 2000/2001, each organization received program improvement funds that are being used to build infrastructure. In addition, in March 2001, the board of trustees voted to impose a technology fee of $50 per term for full- and part-time students enrolled in degree programs and to earmark the proceeds for the improvement of student computing services.

    With some restructuring in place, Mandel and McMillan are exploring how to effect other needed changes. They are discussing the merit of some shared library/IT positions. Librarians have academic status and tenure, but Mandel has some flexibility to appoint new staff who have digital library skills and experience. Although the two have no formal plan for building their digital presence, they have used a shared approach to articulate the purposes, goals, and benefits of the digital library initiative in various planning and budget documents. These descriptions will be part of a discussion in a new deans’ working group on libraries and information technology that will feed into planning under way as part of a new presidential administration. The plan will need to be in alignment with the administration, but seminal work being accomplished now will create the platform on which to develop specific digital goals.

    The Future

    The platform being built includes the following tactical initiatives:

    1. Hiring appropriately skilled personnel. Although NYU has a number of talented digital library staff (most of whom are supported by grant funds and some of whom are on loan from IT), they need to build a stable team using base funding.
    2. Conducting selective experimentation through discrete projects to help design the infrastructure requirements for the future.
    3. Building storage capacity. David Ackerman, director of eServices, and Peter Brantley, director of library information technology, have been working with Sun Microsystems to create a Digital Library Center of Excellence. NYU had been building a portal using Sun infrastructure, and the libraries took the initiative to interest Sun in building the center. The libraries also made Ex Libris a third partner in this effort, after working with the company to implement SFX reference linking. Sun products will supply very significant computing and storage capacity (SF 15K), which the library will divide into two areas: (1) research and development and (2) production and other necessary digital library infrastructure components.
    4. Designing a program around NYU’s strengths and needs while positioning the library nationally and internationally in a leadership role. The current thinking is that NYU will build on its strengths in the performing arts (audio and video) and on its orientation toward visual and multimedia materials from many subject areas taught and researched at NYU, including performance and film studies. The program will build on NYU’s location in a city that values visual and performing arts. It will emphasize the university’s strengths in computer science, in intellectual property law, and in selected special collections. Mandel and McMillan want to make progress in the difficult area of copyright for multimedia and believe they can provide national leadership in this area.Through a program funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the libraries are focusing on how to clear copyright for recorded music so that it may be used in educational settings. Rights and authentication issues are main emphases of the NYU programs. In the Napster debate, for example, NYU students were concerned not only about sharing music files but also about maintaining the rights to the materials they had created themselves.The University Press reports to the dean of libraries. Mandel hopes to position the press to produce reference works electronically. Mandel and the press director are debating how and what to digitize. In addition, Mandel wants to digitize material that is high profile—i.e., that has eye-catching content—to bring the libraries good publicity. The library is highly regarded by the faculty already because it consistently publicizes its efforts.

      Mandel and McMillan also muse about other issues: How can we increase production? Who are our natural partners? What born-digital material should we collect and preserve? Should we digitize our brittle books? How can we relate more closely to teaching and learning? How can we use Mellon support to preserve moving images? How can we develop a program that is integrated into both the library and the campus?


    Potential obstacles lie in two principal areas: technical and personnel.Technical. There is considerable demand for bandwidth at NYU, with 20,000 students in residence halls and others in rented facilities where ISP services are needed. Although this problem exists nationwide, it is more intense at NYU because of its city campuses, which use instructional learning technologies heavily. In spring 2000, 30 courses used Blackboard, Inc., software for online teaching; by spring 2001, 700 classes with 8,000 students were using instructional technologies. NYU offers some 7,000 classes with online components, and growth is exponential. Another obstacle is the unpredictable nature of the market for technology. Different components of the university’s core infrastructure will become obsolete at different times, fundamentally changing the nature and demands for interoperability. Again, this is not a problem that is unique to NYU.

    On the other hand, the work that NYU has accomplished in developing its portal has given the staff broad and deep experience with front-end applications. They have confidence that they can continue to meet and exceed the expectations of their community.

    Personnel. Challenges include finding appropriately skilled new library staff members as well as developing and retraining the existing staff. The differences between library and IT cultures is also a concern. The culture of librarians with tenure may be a barrier at a time when teamwork and the amalgamation of library, professional, and technical cultures are necessary for success. There is also a lingering legacy of skepticism among library staff members, who witnessed earlier failed efforts at technology innovation. Finally, a major issue is whether the library and the IT groups can obtain enough financial support to build a viable program.


    The energy in NYU’s startup program is contagious. While the staff and dean think out loud (they call it “trolling and sniffing”), they have actually created the time needed to reflect, explore, and shape their program while they build the infrastructure needed for continued excellence.

    University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)

    University Profile

    • Founded 1817
    • 39,439 students
    • 3,710 faculty members
    • 186 bachelor’s degrees; 229 master’s degrees; 145 doctoral degrees
    Library Profile

    • 7,348,360 volumes held
    • $41,368,972 total annual expenditures
    • 459 staff members (excludes hourly employees)


    Distributed computing was emerging at Michigan in 1991 in a campus-wide mainframe environment with a proprietary but robust operating system, the Michigan Terminal System, that had its origins in the 1960s. Daniel Atkins, then interim dean of the School of Engineering, and Doug Van Houweling, vice-provost for Information Technology, became concerned about how distributed computing would change Michigan’s information environment and whether the library could adapt to the change.Along with Donald Riggs, director of the University Library at that time, the two administrators led a yearlong symposium on library information technology and on how the library would need to transform itself in a networked environment. In another group, which was chaired by former University of Michigan President Robben Fleming and included Dean Robert Warner of the School of Library and Information Studies, Atkins, Riggs, and Van Houweling distilled the first report into three recommendations:

    1. The complementary expertise of the library and the campus information technology (IT) communities should be harnessed.
    2. The university should invest in visible projects to learn by doing.
    3. An information community based on library principles should be created.

    Provost Gil Whitaker presented the recommendations to an enthusiastic President James Duderstadt. Meanwhile, the authors had already decided to take a next step: investing $375,000 to develop their ideas and to jump-start the changes. They asked Wendy Lougee to take a one-year leave of absence from her position as head of the graduate library to assume responsibility for building a collaborative digital environment. She was given independence from the library administration, a separate budget, and an office in the graduate library. Lougee was charged with developing projects that would test technologies and bring the three partners together synergistically.When Lougee began her work, the three organizations were very different from what they are today. The Information Technology Department (ITD) was a large organization with more than 600 full-time employees that focused mostly on infrastructure; the School of Library and Information Studies (SILS), under Atkins, was just beginning to think about re-engineering itself; and the library operated in a traditional mode.

    Atkins, who had already developed close ties with a number of publishers and foundations, especially Kellogg Foundation and the National Science Foundation (NSF), took the lead in applying for grant funding. He brought leading figures to Michigan to observe the program and to engage in discussion about its future. Atkins always included representatives from the library in these discussions because he valued librarians’ knowledge about how to organize information. Van Houweling removed some ITD staff from day-to-day operations and lent them to the digital effort.

    A big boost to the program’s credibility occurred in 1994, when NSF, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and NASA awarded SILS a Digital Library1 grant. The grant supported an investigation of agent architecture (decomposition of query mode with various software programs) to define and develop interfaces and an infrastructure for users and providers that would create a comprehensive “library” environment. At this point, the library and SILS began to work effectively together. Librarians brought their expertise in the principles of librarianship, service ethics, and an understanding of collections to the research team, which included economists, psychologists, and educational researchers. Engineers, who mostly guided the project, were somewhat dismissive of librarians’ input. Michigan’s participation in the TULIP project,5 its early JSTOR testing of 10 economic journals, and its leadership in PEAK provided complementary research and helped infuse content into the project.

    By 1996, Lougee believed the digital library program needed dedicated staff. Van Houweling contributed $400,000 so that Lougee could hire IT staff; the Media Union’s IT director, Randy Frank, agreed to provide machine-room support for digital library services and equipment up to $250,000 per year. The library also contributed funding. The result of this financial support was the birth of what is now called Digital Library Production Services (DLPS) and the involvement of expert campus technologists who worked on evolving models for storage and connectivity. (NSFnet began at the University of Michigan.) A few years earlier, Lougee had recruited John Price Wilkin to return to Michigan to head the Humanities Text Initiative (HTI), and in 1996 he was appointed to head DLPS. DLPS pulled together various activities that had hitherto been scattered across the campus and initiated creative thinking about how to integrate a range of projects and to build the infrastructure necessary to do so.

    In the mid-1990s, Michigan participated in or directed a number of format-based projects: the Museum Educational Site Licensing Project (images), HTI (encoded text), JSTOR (page-based documents), and fledgling work with numeric data. Also during this period, Michigan developed, with Cornell University, the Making of America (MOA), a digital library that documents American social history from 1850 until 1877. Michigan scanned about 1,600 monographs and nine journals and focused on access (searchable text), while Cornell focused on preservation (facsimiles).8

    In 1995, Lougee was promoted to an assistant director of the University Library. At this point, the digital library program was represented through her membership on the library’s administrative team. She used financial incentives to entice library staff to participate in the initiatives and allocated funding for staff development in the digital arena. Lougee was also given responsibility for selecting e-content for the library and began to work with library selectors, vendors, and publishers. During the period of collaboration with Atkins and Van Houweling, Lougee’s independence and role as a change agent made some in the library administration uncomfortable. But with a different library director, William Gosling, Lougee’s new role as a high-level administrator in the library, and increasing opportunities for staff, the digital library program began to gain some of the recognition internally that it already received nationally.

    Abrupt Change

    In fall 1995, James Duderstadt announced his resignation. A new president, Lee Bollinger, was appointed in November 1996. He appointed Nancy Cantor as provost. Atkins resigned as dean of the School of Information and resumed a faculty position, and Van Houweling left Michigan to become the president of the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development. Active university support for and interest in the digital library program vanished almost overnight. However, Provost Cantor did give the library significant unrestricted money, which enabled Gosling to move a number of digital library staff from soft to base funding. Within two years, the atmosphere at Michigan, along with the priorities of the institution, had completely changed. Gone were the days when Atkins and Van Houweling could walk in the back door of the president’s home and discuss the digital future.While moving from a mainframe to a distributed environment, the ITD, under Van Houweling, was still a large organization that included telecommunications and academic and administrative computing. Jose Marie Griffiths, who succeeded Van Houweling and also was appointed Chief Information Officer, had both a conceptual and operational role during her five-year tenure. She was charged by the provost to re-conceptualize the information technology environment and to move some operations to the schools and departments. As schools and departments accepted responsibility for their information technology operations, she developed a federation among information technology staff to foster collaboration. She also had responsibility for the operation of all centralized campus systems and the staff who supported them. She was an advisor to the digital library program and helped to ensure that the program’s funding was strengthened by transferring to it significant base funding from her operations.

    In 2001, with Griffiths’s departure, along with that of Bollinger and Cantor, psychology professor James Hilton was appointed associate provost for academic information. He does not hold the title or responsibilities of a chief information officer. Hilton argues that the pendulum has swung so far to a distributed environment that it is likely to swing back to some centralized functions in the future. His philosophy is that the central IT unit should provide the core infrastructure, with the schools and colleges adding applications on top of it. Hilton defines core services as the network, security, and other elements that the smaller schools and colleges would define as core.

    At present, Michigan’s IT environment could be described as fairly chaotic. The institution moved suddenly from a president who was evangelical about IT to one who seemed to believe it was tangential. Seven years after Duderstadt’s departure and the appointment and departure of other high-level administrators, a new president will need to address the legacy of two dramatically different approaches to information technology.

    According to Hilton, the most distinctive feature at Michigan today may be the depth of its distributed IT environment. Like Harvard, Michigan has considerable financial support, and the various schools and colleges operate autonomously—”tubs on their own bottoms”—as at Harvard. The IT environment is diverse, and the individual units have few reasons to cooperate with one another or to invest in an institutional approach. Central IT provides services by agreement only with units that choose not to develop their own information technology infrastructure. The challenge is how to build collaboration in the present distributed environment. Creating common course management tools is a special challenge, as is bringing library resources and services easily into a Michigan instructor’s online environment.


    The rich collaboratory that flourished under Duderstadt diminished with his departure. However, library funding added by former Provost Cantor and funding transferred from Griffiths to the library have increased the library’s digital library base to $6 million. DLPS currently supports 30 full-time equivalent positions. The School of Information, under Dean John King, continues to support a percentage of three digital library salaries, but at this point the school’s collaboration with the library is minimal. The digital library program is now embedded solely in the library. At the time Lougee left Michigan in June 2002 to become university librarian at the University of Minnesota, her portfolio had expanded to include the Library System Office, Desktop Support Services, Digital Library Production Services, and the recently created Scholarly Publishing Office (SPO). She was instrumental in overlaying a traditional library organization with groups that deal with issues such as access to electronic resources, networked information, e-collection, and information technology policies and priorities.The program itself has moved into a production phase. No longer do staff members encode every text; instead, DLPS has built a core infrastructure with a framework of minimal encoding that can be supported across media. They have defined various object classes and produced several interchange formats that enable them to leverage similar functionality across corpora.

    With digital preservation now the policy in the library, DLPS has responsibility for digitizing books for preservation purposes. Specific collections are not targeted; instead, preservation staff select titles to be digitized using the condition of the object as the measure. In cases where the books are disbound (and sometimes even when they are not), the book is not recreated in paper, rebound, and returned to the shelf or even returned to the shelf after digitizing; instead, it is available only online. Selecting materials for this growing database of digitally reformatted content, for the most part, takes place at some distance from the scholarly community.

    The chief purposes of the SPO are to increase interaction with the faculty and to experiment with new publishing models. The SPO aids faculty authors in finding alternative venues for publishing. It also works with small society or university presses to migrate existing print publications to digital. The office specializes in creating born-digital publications and in developing and enhancing electronic versions of conventional print publications. It also helps develop mechanisms for publication and distribution of scholarly digital research projects.

    Finally, the digital program sells memberships to other libraries to its search engine and middleware so that they can develop their digital library collections. This Digital Library Extension Service offers members a suite of tools for mounting collections, including text, images, bibliographic data, and finding aids. Training workshops and e-mail support are provided with membership, which has expanded to 27 institutions worldwide.


    The history of the University of Michigan’s digital library program is extraordinary in nearly every way. Its beginnings document what can only be called planets in alignment: a visionary president who contributed funding and nurtured an experimental environment and administrators who encouraged collaboration across the academic community. Michigan’s digital library program, while still supported magnificently, is now a library-based program that is focused primarily on reformatting and providing services to other libraries and organizations. Changing leadership at the university level has forced changes in the digital library program. With the departure of Lougee, the last of the adventurers from the Duderstadt period, it will be interesting to track how Michigan’s program evolves in the next years.

    People Interviewed

    The authors met with William Gosling, director of the University Library; Wendy Lougee, associate director for Digital Library Services; John Price Wilkin, head of the DLPS; Christie Stephenson, assistant head of the DLPS; Christina Powell, coordinator of Encoded Text Services; Maria Bonn, head of the SPO; James Hilton, associate provost for academic information and instructional technology affairs; Daniel Atkins, former dean of the School of Information, now director, Alliance for Community Technology and professor of electrical engineering and computer science; and Doug Van Houweling, former vice-provost of information technology and now president and chief executive officer, University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (Internet2).

    University of Virginia (Charlottesville)

    University Profile

    • Founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819
    • 18,848 students
    • 1,904 faculty members (including clinical faculty)
    • 44 bachelor’s degrees; 63 master’s degrees; 54 doctoral degrees
    Library Profile

    • 4,678,553 volumes held
    • $25,844,109 total annual expenditures
    • 298 staff members (excludes hourly employees)


    In the early 1990s, the University of Virginia (UVA) libraries were largely traditional in their services and thinking. Kendon Stubbs, a visionary and long-time UVA library administrator, began scanning the horizon looking for trends and markers that could point to future directions that the library needed to consider. He encouraged interested colleagues in the library and the university to talk about the future. Stubbs realized that the impact of technology on the academy would create fundamental changes within the library. As a bold first step, he appointed David Seaman,9 then an English Department graduate student, to establish an Electronic Text Center in Alderman Library. The center opened in 1992. Since then, it has sought to build and maintain an Internet-accessible collection of SGML texts and images and to establish user communities adept at the creation and use of these materials.Therein lies the heart and soul of Virginia’s digital library program: it is focused on the scholar. The center’s goal was to encourage e-text creation within the scholarly community, and it structured its work around faculty interests, using scholars and graduate students to help select and encode the texts. The staff of the Electronic Text Center are direct links to the faculty and have work spaces in areas of the library where faculty can find them easily. Early on, their efforts “created a buzz,” even though the first projects were opportunistic. Seaman contacted high-profile faculty and persuaded them to use electronic materials and to spread the news across the campus. From 1993 until 1997, the center taught many faculty members how to create searchable texts. Seaman characterizes this service as a “big honey pot—a real attraction for the library.” But, at that point (as now) faculty interested in using electronic resources were outnumbered by those who either were not interested or who actively defended traditional library services.

    At the same time the Electronic Text Center was being set up, the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) was being created for faculty. Stubbs made sure that IATH in effect “grew up in the library,” where it now supports a full-time staff of nine. In addition to staff, two fellows in residence and nearly two dozen other fellows have active research projects, several of which have their homes in the Alderman Library. Having IATH located in the library enabled the library to enrich its experimentation with faculty-led production and use of electronic resources. Through the University’s support for IATH, the library, which is usually short on resources, receives an infusion of benefits.

    University Librarian Karin Wittenborg recalls that during the early years of digital library development, she worked hard to elicit the support of the deans. The university president, an advocate of the library generally, did not climb aboard the digital library effort until he visited the Electronic Text Center and learned what was being done there. Fortuitously, Martha Blodgett was the successful candidate in a national search for the position of associate university librarian for information technology. Blodgett had been at UVA in the campus Information Technology and Communication (ITC) Department. Since her appointment in the library, she has been instrumental in fostering collaboration between ITC and the library. The Instructional Toolkit, a project Blodgett headed while in ITC, is an example of an ITC service that had not previously interested the library, even though the toolkit included a module for “library resources.” The toolkit provides the resources to create, distribute via the Web, and manage instructors’ online course packets. Once in the library, Blodgett was able to identify electronic reserves as a potential toolkit use that fit with library priorities. Now, 80 percent of the faculty members have toolkit pages, and the library receives regular accolades from the faculty for the range of scanning and toolkit support services it offers. At first, Wittenborg notes, the students were not a driving force in the digital program, but now she can count on them to push new technology developments.

    One of the interesting aspects of Virginia’s human resources environment is flexibility, both in the use of space and in staff assignments. Instead of building a production facility outside the library organization, the program at Virginia has worked within the organization from the start. To provide space for IATH and the Electronic Text Center, staff were, as Wittenborg put it, “clumped.” Those doing traditional work who occupied prime space were moved to less publicly accessible spaces. As the success of the program grew, the staff members who were physically displaced, along with others, could and did take credit for that success. It is useful to note that librarians at Virginia do not have tenure or teaching faculty status, even though they are included in the category of “general faculty.” Instead, they have three-year appointments that are renewable. The basic requirement for a librarian position is a master of library science degree or some other relevant master’s degree. The staff is not unionized. These qualities maximize the library’s flexibility in appointing and reassigning staff. In addition, for the past 10 years, staff members have been encouraged to spend 10 to 20 hours a week working in units outside their own. As the digital centers evolved, staff members from all parts of the library participated through this “staff-sharing” program. Ideas hatched and skills acquired were brought back to home units. Also, subject selectors were required to develop Web pages for the academic departments that they serve, thereby giving them firsthand experience with creating an online resource. Flexibility is also evident in the higher administration. Wittenborg described a time when the library had no funds and appealed to the provost to make a critical hire. Her request was approved within a day.

    Now and the Future

    The fluidity within the library has nurtured interdisciplinary collaboration among the faculty members. Where they used to retreat to their studies, faculty members now confer with one another in the library in collaboratory settings. These spaces have been cobbled together, not through renovation dollars but because of an entrepreneurial spirit. The library supplies physical space, equipment, and large-scale support for almost any kind of digitizing operation, including support for grant-funded and other faculty research projects. The digital future, including the development of digital collections and any new services, is closely linked to faculty needs.In its early stages, the library made a commitment to purchasing e-resources with a view to developing a critical mass—or, in David Seaman’s words, “enough stuff to make it interesting.” The library also made a commitment to integrate e-resources in the catalog—wherever there is both a print and an electronic version, the catalog employs a single record. In recent years, the library has created a digital content fund, that is, an allocation from the acquisitions budget that is targeted to specific nonbibliographic digital content, full-text, image, or statistical or other data. That funding is provided for one-time purchases and for subscriptions for up to three years, at which time each subscription is evaluated for continuing support within the regular acquisitions budget. This transitional mode helps subject librarians think about how to use collections funds for both digital and traditional materials. As for e-resources, Virginia has purchased fewer than the median of Association of Research Libraries (ARL) until recently, when the library set a goal to be in the top quarter of all ARL libraries.

    To move this successful program further into the future, Wittenborg and the associate library directors have initiated the development of the “library of tomorrow,” which seeks to blend digital and traditional library services. In beginning this project, the library formed five planning teams to explore issues and to make recommendations. The library administration expected to have about five volunteers for each team, but when they sent out a call for participation, they received requests from more than 80 staff members, or a third of the staff. As a result, each of the five planning teams had more than 15 members. Documents were posted electronically as they emerged. Thus far, groups have recommended a digital library production services unit and more emphasis on digital library research and development.

    The central production service, established in August 2001, is the vehicle for library-initiated digital production. The staff is deciding what to digitize and what to purchase in all the formats. There is some tension between the centers and the central production unit over roles and responsibilities, but this conflict will likely be worked out in time. The second recommendation has resulted in a prototype digital repository using FEDORA built in collaboration with the Computer Science Department at Cornell University and funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (Payette et al. 1999).

    The dual emphases of the digital program are (1) to serve as a central repository and a production unit, both of which leverage and support the work of what are now three digital centers (e-text, geostat, and digital media); and (2) to build a set of robust services for the faculty through information communities.


    The relatively small size of the University of Virginia and the physical environment of the campus have contributed to the success of this program, which is tailored to the research and teaching needs of the faculty. With the library sharing its spaces with scholars and concentrating on their continued active involvement, this program emerges as a fine example of an integrated, holistic approach to building a digital library.The library is contending with a number of challenges. These include the integration of different formats (e.g., text, images, GIS) that will be archived in the repository. It will be a challenge to manage content and to deliver it into different and often unimaginable service environments. A further challenge is to identify what higher-level services should be built. In this respect, Virginia’s strength is in its centers, where strong relationships with faculty, and hence a good understanding of future needs, have been developed. Without much additional funding from the university, the library at Virginia has reallocated and redistributed its own resources, has been enormously successful at obtaining grants, and has built what may be the only deeply scholar-centered digital library program in the country.

    People Interviewed

    Karin Wittenborg, university librarian; Kendon Stubbs, deputy university librarian; Martha Blodgett, associate university librarian for information technology; Diane Walker, associate university librarian for user services; Thornton Staples, director, digital library research and development; David Seaman, director, Electronic Text Center; Melinda Baumann, director, digital library production services; James Campbell, director, Internet access services; Michael Furlough, director, Geospatial and Statistical Data Center; Anne Whiteside, fine arts librarian; Judith Thomas; director, Robertson Media Center; and Benjamin Ray and David Germano, faculty members in the Department of Religious Studies who use technology in their research and teaching.


    1 Outside Harvard, ETOB is called Responsibility (Revenue or Value) Center Management (RCM) and has been adopted by numerous large universities, including the University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, University of Minnesota, and Indiana University. The opposite approach to the traditional centralized or general funding concept, RCM makes each academic unit responsible for generating its own income through tuition and other revenue and for managing its own expenditures. In RCM, libraries can be funded by the academic units as a common good or remain a separately “funded off the top” entity.2 Flecker was influenced strongly by Robert Kahn’s and Robert Wilensky’s seminal article, A Framework for Distributed Digital Object Services (May 1995). Available at:

    3 This situation somewhat parallels that at the University of Michigan, where the School of Information is heavily involved in digital library research, but its partnerships with the library have diminished in the past few years.

    4 The IU libraries are a partner with Stanford University Libraries in building a production system for LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe), a way to archive electronic journals. Funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and Sun Microsystems, the IU libraries IT unit is creating software to manage the archived electronic journals within library operations.

    5 TULIP (The University Licensing Program) was a collaborative project (1991­1995) of Elsevier Science and nine American universities, including the University of Michigan, to test systems for networked delivery to and use of journals at the user’s desktop. For more information, see

    6 PEAK (Pricing Electronic Access to Knowledge) was a collaboration between Elsevier Science and the University of Michigan (1997­1999) that explored pricing and delivery alternatives for more than 1,100 Elsevier science journals. PEAK gave Michigan experience with large document stores and enabled staff to develop expertise quickly. The final report on the PEAK experiment is found at:

    7 The Media Union offers traditional and digital library resources, while also supporting high-performance computing, virtual reality, and multimedia experimentation.

    8 A second phase of Michigan’s MOA, also funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, focused on documenting the methods and economics of digitization but also produced nearly 10,000 additional digitized volumes for Michigan.

    9 David Seaman left the University of Virginia in July 2002 to become director of the Digital Library Federation.

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