The ASIDIC Fall 2003 Meeting
by Donald T. Hawkins
Bonjour! Comment ça va? Très bien? Bon! As
you can tell, I recently returned from Montreal, where
I had the opportunity to brush up on my high school
French. Montreal's charming old city was the site of
the ASIDIC Fall 2003 Meeting, held Sept. 2123.
With its heavy emphasis on French culture and cuisine,
is one of North America's most attractive cities. And
the ASIDIC (Association of Information and Dissemination
Centers) event made it doubly attractive. ASIDIC's semiannual
meetings are always worthwhile, not only for the high-quality
speakers, but also because the organizers choose themes
that are current and of great interest to information
professionals. The fall meeting, titled Digital Content:
Issues and Changes, easily met those expectations.
Carol Tenopir, a professor at the University of Tennessee
and an award-winning author, speaker, and columnist,
gave the keynote speech. She presented the results
of her research on user behavior and how it helps to
shape better digital information products.
Tenopir said that because user behavior sometimes
proceeds sporadically and takes quantum leaps at other
times, it's hard to measure it quantitatively. Technology
often can't keep up with users' expectations. Many
system features are used infrequently (advanced search
engine capabilities, for example), but users still
expect them to be there. They expect choices, and the
more they have, the more they expect. This behavior
drives the development of information products. Content
must be available in a variety of formats that are
tailored to how people do their jobs. One solution
definitely does not fit all.
The information-user world can be divided into the
Search expertsThey want control
over the searching process. The more the system can
help them, the better.
Subject specialistsThey want
available to them on their desktops. They will use
anything that makes their work easier.
StudentsThey want immediate gratification.
Systems must be designed to provide a rapid response
to their queries.
Many search engines have adopted the Google and Yahoo!
models: simple dialog boxes or menus, with links to
more advanced interfaces. Although the interfaces may
appear simplistic, users expect the technology behind
them to be sophisticated.
With today's information deluge, people need to read
more, but they generally don't have time for it. According
to Tenopir, information producers have an opportunity
to design products to meet this need. It's important
to accommodate the different behavior of various types
of users. For example, medical professionals must read
quickly and tend not to spend very much time on an
article. They therefore respond well to brief summaries
or information provided to them on hand-held devices
like PDAs. Engineers, on the other hand, want to delve
deeply into research, so they need extensive scholarly
articles and large data sets.
The keynote speech was an excellent lead-in to three
sessions that addressed linking, the integration of
technology with digital content, and content aggregation
models. In the linking session, speakers from ExLibris
USA, CrossRef, and Content Directions discussed their
implementations of this technology.
Jenny Walker of ExLibris described the concept of
a link server, a system that contains a database of
a library's subscriptions and collects links to articles
in those publications. The library has complete control
over the target of the link, so a user could be directed
to the publisher's site, an aggregator, or the library's
chosen document delivery service.
Ed Pentz of CrossRef and David Sidman of Content
Directions explained how Digital Object Identifiers
(DOIs) are being used to implement reference linking.
CrossRef is a DOI registration agency for scholarly
content. It promotes the use of DOIs by journal publishers
and maintains a database of target URLs for each DOI.
Article authors and libraries can retrieve DOIs from
CrossRef's database at no cost. The database now contains
8.7 million DOIs from 8,400 journals. Many DOIs are
already in use by publishers, although their Web sites
may not explicitly show them to viewers.
Sidman continued the discussion of DOIs, likening
them to "URLs on steroids." Content Directions is the
first commercial DOI registration agency and has developed
software that helps publishers automatically assign
DOIs to articles. It also provides tools for registration,
DOI management, and look-ups, and automatically links
related content (by the same author, on the same subject,
etc.). In November 2000, DOI was selected as the identifier
of choice for e-books. In response, many trade publishers
began working with Content Directions to add DOIs to
Sidman pointed out that DOIs are not only for digital
content. They can work just as well for selling physical
products over the Internet. This is a promising area
for the expansion of DOI technology because it can
put a purchase just a single click away from anywhere
a user encounters a DOI.
In the technology integration session, two speakers
from academic libraries described how they're using
today's technology to provide enhanced services for
Mackenzie Smith from MIT Libraries talked about DSpace,
a joint venture between MIT and Hewlett-Packard. DSpace
is an open source software solution that creates and
manages a digital library system to digitally capture,
preserve, and redistribute the intellectual output
of a university's research faculty.
According to Smith, universities have become concerned
about capturing and preserving the intellectual output
of their research, especially that which might not
be published, such as preprints, technical reports,
working papers, theses, data sets, images, or audio
and video files. Individual faculty members generally
do not have the time or expertise to create and manage
such databases themselves. DSpace provides a professionally
maintained repository for this purpose. So far, eight
libraries use the DSpace system. (For more information,
go to http://www.dspace.org.)
Warren Holder of the University of Toronto (UT) Libraries
spoke about the Ontario Scholar's Portal. UT developed
this system in response to the need for more local
control of its content and because it discovered that
25 percent of the library's usage occurred after-hours.
The portal is a collaborative project of several Ontario
libraries that provides common access to a collection
of full-text resources and metadata (for those publications
that will not license their full text) from several
publishers. Using the portal, UT can access more content
than ever before.
Judy Luther, president of Informed Strategies, completed
the session with a discussion of metadata trends in
digital content. She pointed out that many information
users have discarded the journal model and think only
in terms of articles. In today's "Google Era," publishers
develop metadata pages as entry points to their content,
and users search for and access them.
According to Luther, the challenge is to develop
simple tools that allow users to navigate the myriad
sources available and keep them from getting lost in "information
silos." Publishers must manage increasing search loads,
handle metadata searches properly, and deal with statistics,
all while maintaining a presence by branding their
content. Many issues result: appropriate presentation
formats, merging search results and removing duplicate
items, relevancy, and customization. Users are looking
for a search experience like Google's, but this is
difficult in an article environment. Publishers must
talk to all user groups, not just librarians. Today's
focus is shifting to the users: how they work, what's
important to them, and what will save them time.
The content aggregation session featured three speakers
who represent the library, aggregator, and publisher
markets. Lucie Molgat, director of information delivery
at the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical
Information (CISTI), described her organization's environment
and information services. CISTI, a major document delivery
supplier, focuses on support for universities and other
clients, and is currently developing a secure desktop
document delivery system. Molgat said that new relationships
with primary publishers have made access rights a commodity.
In response, consortia are being formed to reduce barriers
between owners and users. Aggregators are therefore
being squeezed and must develop new products to satisfy
high user expectations.
Stephen Abram, vice president of Micromedia ProQuest,
reviewed the changing environment and changing market
demands for aggregators. He said that information must
be easily accessible through relevant taxonomies. Besides
searching, users want text-independence, contextual
display, and the integration of content into their
learning, buying, recreational, and work environments.
The younger generation is used to reading online and
visually interacting with information. As the population
ages, delivery systems will need revolutionary changes
because simple text pages will no longer satisfy user
Information is no longer being accessed only through
printed materials or PCs, said Abram. Many other devices
(PDAs, cell phones, pocket PCs, etc.) are coming into
vogue, and common standards for information presentation
and delivery must be adopted to accommodate them. We
must put visual information into systems and build
Boolean logic into products. Content should be available
wherever the user wants it.
According to Abram, learning objects must also be
aggregated. E-learning has become a major force in
today's market. Many libraries are using course-management
systems to build massive curricula. Collaboration tools
are therefore very significant. (According to one survey,
more than 85 percent of those between the ages of 15
and 25 have at least one instant messaging account.)
Context is becoming more important than content, and
a variety of intelligence and learning styles are driving
the market. As more people develop personal learning
strategies, information literacy will be integrated
into every aspect of learning. Information providers
must therefore adapt to learners and their varying
Steve Moss of the Institute of Physics (IOP) Publishing
presented the viewpoint of a primary publisher. His
company serves the specialized market of research physicists.
Moss agreed with Abram that because a large part of
the population is approaching retirement, publishers
must not only continue to address their needs but also
develop systems for the new generation. In this environment,
content is still king.
IOP's mission is to both provide a forum where authors
can receive exposure for their work and maximize access
to that work for its customers. Aggregation now extends
across content but also across pricing and business
models. In response to the market becoming more interdisciplinary,
IOP will introduce tiered pricing in 2005 that will
allow customers to receive more content at today's
prices. This will yield increased exposure for authors
and greater use of IOP's products. More is therefore
The meeting closed with the traditional panel of
CEOs giving their insights on the current information
market and how they're dealing with digital content.
Patrick Spain, CEO of Alacritude, identified the following
Individuals are now driving the
information industry and are taking control of things that are important
to them. The industry must follow the Wal-Mart example
and offer a big selection,
good quality, and low prices. Even in large companies,
individuals are buying what their businesses need.
Value comes from tools, not content.
People want to find things and use information
to help them. Most folks read little online. If the
they want is on more than one
or two screens, they print it out. Products must be developed with user
habits in mind.
Information prices will continue to
fall and may even approach zero.
Ruth Koolish, president of Information Sources and
developer of the SoftBase database, observed that large
companies like Microsoft are entering the information
industry and changing its models. Information and ways
to get it must be integrated with each other, and relationships
between the players, though rapidly changing, must
work for the benefit of all.
Barry Bealer, CEO of Really Strategies, Inc. (a consulting
firm that focuses on publishers), said that because
content management means different things to different
people, a variety of systems are necessary. After a
sale, publishers are no longer willing to wait to see
the returns and expect immediate results. Content management
vendors must be able to respond quickly and change
their systems if necessary.
In ASIDIC news, Miriam A. Drake completed her term
as president. Kevin Bouley, CEO of Nerac, Inc., was
elected to succeed her.
The ASIDIC Spring 2004 Meeting will be held March
2123 in Alexandria, Va. It will deal with the
interface between government and business information.
Is there anyone who doesn't have to deal with
government information? Be sure to mark your calendar
now and plan to attend.
Donald T. Hawkins is editor in chief of Information
Science & Technology Abstracts and is Information
Today, Inc.'s director of intranet content. He also serves
as the ASIDIC secretariat. His e-mail address is email@example.com.