By SUSAN R. MORRIS AND CHARLYNN SPENCER PYNE
The Library of Congress played a prominent role during the spring 2000 meeting of the Coalition for Networked Information Task Force, held March 27-28 in Washington.
Library personnel gave four "project briefings," in which they described the Library's work to preserve open-access information on the Internet; plans for the Collaborative Digital Reference Service; electronic copyright registration and deposit of digital dissertations; and the work of the World Wide Web Consortium, which the Library joined in 1999. "Open-access" information is that which is freely available to all Internet users.
The Library of Congress is a charter member of the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), which was established in 1990 by the Association of Research Libraries and EDUCAUSE "to advance the transformative promise of networked information technology for the advancement of scholarly communication and the enrichment of intellectual productivity." CNI's international task force of more than 200 institutional members, including libraries, library vendors, universities, publishers, and U.S. and foreign government agencies, meets each spring and fall for discussions of new technologies and library projects.
Archiving the Open-Access Web
Associate Librarian for Library Services Winston Tabb and William Y. Arms, professor of computer science at Cornell University, discussed the Library of Congress's plans for preserving open- access information on the Web. According to Mr. Tabb, these plans will help the Library achieve its mission to collect and preserve the world's intellectual output for future generations. He noted that for this purpose, the Library has the responsibilities of a national library. It also has a privileged legal position because U.S. copyright law has always adapted to intellectual property in new formats, from silent film to creations that are "born digital." The Library's plans for preserving open-access information on the Web assume that many partners will contribute to solving the many challenges involved.
Collaborative Digital Reference Service (CDRS) Project
Director for Public Service Collections Diane Kresh said that the CDRS Project will provide professional reference service to users anytime, anywhere, through an international digital network of academic, special, public and national libraries. Through CDRS, users will have Internet access to library experts who draw on digital and nondigital resources to answer their queries.
"The project is collaborative, because libraries in the partnership share reference responsibilities, and international participation broadens the coverage to 24/7 [twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week]," said Ms. Kresh. "The Library of Congress has provided the leadership for CDRS. ... A series of pilots over the next six months will test incrementally features of the service, including response time, interoperability, scope and size."
The Library's partners for the initial pilot are: Santa Monica Public Library; Morris County (N.J.) Public Library; Peninsula Library System (northern California); the National Agricultural Library (U.S.); the National Library of Canada; the National Library of Australia; the University of Texas (Austin); Cornell University; and the National Museum of American Art.
The Collaborative Digital Reference Service (CDRS) project resulted from the "Reference Service in a Digital Age" institute, sponsored in June 1998 by the Library of Congress and the Library Solutions Institute of Berkeley, Calif.
"More than 130 librarians and administrators gathered to talk about how technology was affecting library services, specifically reference services. That meeting served as a wake-up call to the fact that the profession [librarianship] is changing irrevocably," Ms. Kresh added.
She then noted that the initial CDRS pilot has three phases that will run from Feb. 28 to October 1, 2001, when CDRS will be launched and made available to the public. "The challenge for libraries is to redefine their role in the Internet age. The health and wealth of our profession depends on the success of this project. Libraries must develop e-reference [electronic reference] services for the 21st century."
Digital Dissertations and the Library of Congress
Associate Register for National Copyright Programs Mary Levering, with William E. Savage, director of UMI Dissertation Publishing, gave an overview of CORDS (Copyright Office Electronic Registration, Recordation and Deposit System) and how it supports the UMI-Library of Congress agreement on digital dissertations. In January 1999 the U.S. Copyright Office and the Library of Congress signed a cooperative agreement with the UMI Co. (now Bell & Howell Information & Learning) that initiated fully electronic copyright registration and deposit of dissertations over the Internet using CORDS.
In addition, the agreement designates UMI's ProQuest Digital Dissertations as the Library's official offsite repository for a collection of more than 150,000 dissertations and theses converted to digital form since 1997, as well as those to be produced in the future. The agreement marks the first time that the Library has designated an official offsite repository for digital collections deposited with the institution. This represents an innovative method for expanding the Library's collection of digital research tools and for improving access, while reducing costs.
Linda Arret, a network specialist in NDMSO, discussed the four methods for accessing dissertations in the Library's reading rooms: the print versions of indexes and texts in the Microform Reading Room; the dissertation file provided by the Dialog Corp. for use by staff and researchers who have their own Dialog accounts; the remote access version provided by OCLC FirstSearch; and the new UMI Digital Dissertation service for dedicated access by Library staff and onsite researchers. (The standalone and networked CD-ROM version of dissertations is no longer available.)
According to Ms. Arret, much has been learned about user behavior with the Digital Dissertation service: Researchers perform about 3.5 searches per login session; in only one of three sessions do researchers request more than one full-text download; in any given month, the number of inquiries of Microform Reading Room staff regarding dissertations is outstripped by the number of searches and downloads handled electronically; in general, researchers do not print the entire texts of digital dissertations using Library printers; and researchers are pleased that, for a limited time after an online request, they can still retrieve the full text from onsite and offsite locations.
W3C and Libraries
Network development and MARC Standards Office Chief Sally McCallum moderated a session about the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that led to a discussion of whether the library community's interests are properly represented in the consortium and how the community might better influence the consortium. Panelists were Ray Denenberg, senior network engineer in NDMSO; Terry Noreault, vice president, Office of Research, OCLC; and Mark Needleman, product development specialist for standards at Data Research Associates Inc. (DRA).
Mr. Denenberg, who is the Library's representative to the W3C, gave an overview of the W3C, which was established in 1994 to develop common protocols for the Web, promote its evolution and improve interoperability. He noted that of approximately 400 W3C members, very few have strong ties to the library world, though most share interests in common with the library and information community. The W3C is developing standards in areas where the library community has much at stake, including character sets, identifiers, metadata, style sheets, privacy, digital signatures and accessibility for people with disabilities.
Each panelist described his organization's interests in the W3C and perspective on the library community's interest. Mr. Noreault also described the Resource Description Framework, RDF, the fundamental building block of the "Semantic Web," which the W3C envisions will allow humans to express themselves in terms that computers can interpret, thus leading to improved problem-solving and resource location.
CNI Executive Director Cliff Lynch and Tim Berners-Lee, the W3C staff director and "founder" of the World Wide Web, were part of the audience. Mr. Berners-Lee thanked Mr. Denenberg for his presentation.
Ms. Morris is in the Cataloging Directorate, and Ms. Pyne is in the Operations Directorate. Ms. Arret, Mr. Denenberg, Ms. Kresh and Mr. Tabb contributed to this article.