Information Today
Volume 19, Issue 7 — July/August 2002
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IT Report from the Field
E-Libraries Comes into Its Own
by Elisabeth Winter and Gail Dykstra

InfoToday 2002 marked the second year that E-Libraries has existed as a conference in its own right, after many years as a smaller component of the National Online Meeting known as IOLS (Integrated Online Library Systems). Pamela Cibbarelli served as E-Libraries conference chair, and as in past years her expertise brought diversity and timeliness to the slate of presentations. The organizing/review committee wasmade up of Richard Boss of Information Systems Consultant, Inc.; Marshall Breeding of Vanderbilt University; and Sharon McKay of MARC Link.

As the name change from IOLS to E-Libraries indicates, the conference this year was not limited to automation systems, but dealt more broadly with technology and digital collections in libraries. It was broken down into two concurrent tracks over the 3 days, covering library resources, policies, serials issues, e-reference, portals, and databases.

Digital: Are We There Yet?

E-Libraries shared daily keynote sessions with the other two subconferences under the InfoToday umbrella [see Paula J. Hane's report on p. 1], but it also featured opening sessions of its own. Tuesday's kickoff session, "Digital Libraries—The Next Generation," set the tone for the next 3 days, providing an overview of where we've been and what to expect in the next few years.

Clifford Lynch, executive director of the Coalition for Networked Information, began by asking the often repeated, "Are we there yet?" Not yet, he said. Library management systems have remained "surprisingly static" over the past 10 to 15 years, and only now are we beginning to enter a period of instability that indicates progress to truly digital systems. Starting around 1985, the last time library systems underwent a significant paradigm shift, functional requirements—linkages, digital resources, and graphical interfaces—drove the change.

According to Lynch, we can expect functional requirements to shift again in the coming decade, causing a significant change in library services and systems. Among these are the following:

• Links between course management systems and library finding tools in academic settings

• Portals to content and increased user personalization

• Tools to index licensed information (using standards such as the Open Archives metadata project)

All of these functions will "have a huge impact on library collections," Lynch said, bringing unprecedented issues as to how and what items are aggregated and who within a given organization is responsible for creating and maintaining them. In summary, Lynch said that though we may not be working in digital libraries yet, "big changes are coming."

Policies and Legal Issues

Of course, the proliferation of digital materials available in libraries, particularly through the Internet, has raised difficult policy questions, which libraries and the government have struggled to address in recent years (though not always from the same angle). I attended three sessions that dealt with the policy and legal issues inherent in managing digital information.

The first, "Law & Disorder: Making Sense of CIPA," was presented by George H. Pike, director of the Barco Law Library, assistant professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh, and co-author of Information Today's Legal Issues column. Pike explained the complexities of the Children's Internet Protection Act, from what it really says to the options libraries have to respond to it. (As of this writing, a three-judge panel in district court has ruled CIPA unconstitutional. An appeal will now go to the Supreme Court. See the NewsBreak at http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb020610-2.htm.)

In Pike's opinion, the best way to deal with Internet obscenity is to start by involving the community to establish library standards, as user buy-in is key to establishing an effective policy. Because it's impossible to block all material that's harmful to minors, you may want to get parent signatures before allowing anyone under a specific age access to the Internet.

A major problem with CIPA, he said, is that there's no exception for minors, and limiting access to certain sites across the board infringes on adults' constitutionally protected right to information. Another option that can cut down on users viewing obscene materials in the library is to remove access to e-mail, chat, and Usenet groups. Remember, though, that this is an "all-or-nothing proposition": Legally, you must remove the information source, not just specific parts of its content.

Directly following Pike, Jesse M. Feder, an associate director at the U.S. Copyright Office, laid out what he called the "troubling" recent happenings in the digital copyright world in his session "Copyright Law and the Digital Rights Agenda." From file-downloading services (such as Napster) to streaming video and Webcasting, Feder summarized existing intellectual property and performance rights issues and the several opposing viewpoints as to how they should be protected in our age of easy, high-quality digital reproduction.

According to Feder (whose opening disclaimer was, "This is a view from the copyright office, not the view ofthe copyright office"), "Issues in the copyright world are as contentious as they ever have been." The debate over digital copyright often pits copyright owners against consumers, as evidenced by the proliferation of file sharing on the Web as legitimate subscription services have foundered. Much of the current argument, Feder said, deals with whether downloads are defined as being more like performances or retail sales (as copyrights and royalties belong to different people in each situation) and how much information subscription services have to collect from users in order to get those royalties to the right people. Though Congress attempted to address these legal, technological, and policy issues with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998, according to Feder its major success has been to unite the publishers and performers, "because both oppose our recommendations."

On day two, addressing some of the issues Lynch had brought up in his Tuesday kickoff session, Gail Dykstra spoke about digital rights management in what she called "A Solution in Progress." DRM, she said, is made up of "Four A's": authentication, authority, access, and accountability. Attention to these basic components allows digital works to move smoothly and securely from creators and publishers to retailers and consumers.

Though the traditional focus has been on what it does for publishers, DRM has promise for users, too, she said. It has, for example, the potential to "liberate" media from their original contexts to allow users to mix and match content, and to create and deliver new outbound content. Dykstra told us that, unfortunately, DRM today is more hype than practice, as it requires a serious financial commitment and lacks technological standards. However, we should expect changes in the coming year, as DRM begins to come embedded in core software applications; pre-Tasinicopyright issues are resolved; and products begin to deliver Web-based seamless links between rights, value, use, and payment. She recommendedthat, in the meantime, your library prepare by asking vendors about their DRM plans, keeping informed through workshops and market "technology watch" articles, and involving library administration in policy decisions at all levels.

Looking Ahead

The morning of day two featured a kickoff session on another copyright issue: "The Debate on Scholarly Publishing." In this panel discussion, Carol Tenopir, a professor of library science at the University of Tennessee, and Michael Eisen, an assistant adjunct professor at the University of California­Berkeley, went head to head over the feasibility of placing the copyrights to scholarly works in the public domain, where they would be free of the existing access fees that publishers charge. According to Eisen, open access to scholarly works maximizes their value, benefiting both users and researchers. The current economic model in publishing by which revenues are made through collecting access fees to digital works is "archaic," he said. Recognizing that publishing takes money, however, Eisen suggested that publishers be paid in one upfront fee that's built into research costs. After this, the copyright should be in the public domain.

Tenopir countered that, while she agreesthe current system needs to evolve, too much unilateral change may not be the best answer. Instead, she proposed that we use technology to facilitate access alternatives based on the nature of the work (its discipline, use, etc.). When a corporate librarian in the audience asked, "Who bears the cost of publishing in the private sector?" Eisen answered that in his view, the new economic model should offer publishing services "a la carte," allowing researchers who edit and prep their articles in-house to pay only for the service of publication. Tenopir then asked the audience, "Does this make anyone else nervous? What are the implications of this?" Judging by the number of hands in the air, the session could have lasted far into the day but unfortunately had to end unresolved.

Later on the second day, the two-part session "New Services, New Tools" addressed some ways in which library tools are being brought more closely in line with how people actually look for information. In "Emerging Generations of Web Search Tools," Heting Chu of the Palmer School of Library and Information Science at Long Island University explained the evolution of online searching. Among the criteria she used to rate Web search tools were information covered, retrieval approach (content based, etc.), and output (ranked, personalized, etc.). We're currently in the second generation of Web search, Chu told us, having moved from basic tools to those that provide multimedia, ranked results, and that allow simultaneous search and browse. The third generation, which is still in the making, will feature multimedia and text in the same results sets, concept- or meaning-based indexing and searching, and personalized output according to users' specifications.

In "Process for Developing E-Reference Services," Stephen Marvin of West Chester University discussed how his library sees the Internet as a tool, rather than as a competitor. Libraries have the advantage of being both physical and online, he said, and so can be anywhere users need them. Marvin stressed that his library promotes information fluency over information literacy, as it is more detailed and requires more critical thinking. E-mail reference, he said, does not change what services the library provides, just where and how. "It goes where the users are, using what they don't have—time and patience."

Day Three

The third day of the E-Libraries track provided a nuts-and-bolts view of managing and developing electronic collections, building Web systems, and the adoption and distribution of key library automation services. Attendees chose between sessions in either of the two parallel conference tracks: Web Portals or Database Creation.

Web Portals Track

The Web Portals track started with a morning session titled "Measuring Resources and Measuring Performance." This two-part session focused on the experiences of academic institutions in using Web-based solutions to manage collections-updating processes and track acquisitions.

The Health Sciences Library at Stony Brook University (New York) turned a labor-intensive, multi-part, largely manual updating process into a streamlined database-driven Web updating procedure. Andrew White, Joseph Balsamo, and Eric Djiva Kamal of the Health Sciences Library described how Stony Brook created a "single entry point to update all records." The new system maintains records of electronic and print acquisitions, including journal holdings, license requirements, and permissions. It also generates the statistics that the library uses to assess patron needs and make collection decisions.

Dennis Brunning started off the second session by joking that he wanted to hire the Stony Brook developers for Arizona State University (ASU). He described how ASU chose to build its tracking systems on "back-end vendor-supplied statistics." He differentiated this approach from the front-end in-house statistics-gathering system designed by Stony Brook. Kurt Murphy, also of ASU, explained how the university turns this data into insights about user preferences, patterns, requirements, and behaviors.

Next was "My Chicago Library," which presented the experience of designing Web-based resources using customer preferences. The University of Illinois­Chicago used a focus group to inform the design process for the creation of customized Web portals. Anne Armstrong, Courtney Greene, and Krystal Lewis described the project as "a product developed by librarians for librarians, providing a workable alternative to commercial Web portals ... providing a model for similar collaboration throughout the larger library community."

"Building Flexibility and Accountability in Electronic Resources" was presented by NASA's Langley Research Center. Librarians at Langley "made the catalog the authoritative source for maintaining all electronic journal information." The center developed catalog tagging and created and modified open-source scripts to collect statistics and check Web links. Gerald Steeman and Jane Wagner echoed the value of effectively employing Web-use statistics gathered from vendor and in-house systems. They showed a side-by-side comparison of vendor-supplied statistics from Elsevier (which display only the number of sessions logged) vs. the rich detail of Langley's own statistics (which identify the number of downloaded articles).

Database Creation Track

The Database Creation track featured Marshall Breeding of Vanderbilt University. His workshop, "Constructing Web-Enabled Databases," covered everything a motivated but inexperienced librarian would need to understand the concepts, construction, and evaluation of Web-based databases. He is a gifted communicator whomakes contact with listeners and explains the "how and why" with ease, authority, and sensibility. Breeding's comprehensive and authoritative Web site (http://staffweb.library.vanderbilt.edu/breeding/ltg.html) indexes key resources on library automation. Its bibliography of automation resources would be a good way to identify key articles and gather general information on library vendors.

Sharon McKay's presentation, "Communicating for Excellent Retrospective Conversions," provided a clear and detailed step-by-step guide for thinking about and preparing for major library conversion projects. She led the audience through a series of questions and answers to identify requirements and diagnose problem areas. Her presentation would be the perfect guide to creating a request for proposal for a MARC conversion.

Closing Keynote

Pamela Cibbarelli delivered the closing keynote speech, during which she pulled together library automation statistics to give listeners a review of all of the major vendors and products. Data for the presentation came from Library Systems Newsletter.

She presented an "apples-to-apples" comparative profile analysis of the key vendors that provided insight into the industry and trends, as well as a "best fit analysis" for potential library clients. Trends identified by Cibbarelli include the slowing down of the migration between library automation systems. She also identified the sources of revenue for library automation vendors: selling software (48 percent), maintenance (29 percent), and sales from library automation hardware and other services (23 percent).

For each vendor covered, Cibbarelli provided an abbreviated, competitive SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, andThreats) scorecard. Details included key product developments (new versions of products, as well as an identification of those companies with stagnant product lines); the number of installed library sites, with geographic and regional distributions; types of libraries served (academic, public, special); and the size of the library subscribing to each library automation vendor.

When asked the inevitable question, "Which system is best?" Cibbarelli reminded the audience that there is no single "best" system. Libraries must identify the strengths and niches served by competing vendors and sometimes by different products from the same company. Whichever product meets the specific automation requirements of an individual library becomes the "best product" for that library.

Elisabeth Winter is associate editor of Computers in Libraries. Her e-mail address is bwinter@infotoday.com. Gail Dykstra is a consultant in content business development and digital rights management. Her e-mail address is gail.dykstra@dykstraresearch.com.

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