ERCIM News No.48, January 2002 [contents]
International Mediterranean Workshop on Digital Libraries
by Hachim Haddouti
A joint DELOS and South Mediterranean countries Workshop on Digital Libraries was held at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco, from 8-9 November 2001.
One of the tasks of the DELOS Network of Excellence on Digital Libraries is to encourage the exchange of ideas and knowhow and to establish collaborations with non-European research communities active in the DL domain. The objective of the workshop held recently in Ifrane, Morocco, was therefore to bring together researchers and users from both sides of the Mediterranean to discuss their experiences and best practices in this area. It aimed also at exploring subjects of common interest for possible synergy and co-operation.
The workshop, organised and sponsored jointly by Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane (AUI) and DELOS NoE, was attended by about 40 participants from both Europe and the Southern Mediterranean area. The attendees came from a wide range of backgrounds, including universities and research institutions, libraries, documentation centres, software companies, and other information providers.
As this was the first workshop in what may hopefully become a series, it was decided that the programme should provide an overall introduction to some key areas in DL research. A series of project presentations was also included in the programme in order to provide an overview of ongoing activities on both sides of the Mediterranean and to identify areas of common interest. It is to be expected that future follow-up events will focus on technologies of specific interest to a given thematic area.
The meeting was opened by Professor Benmokhtar, President of AUI, who stressed the importance of co-operations of this type in strengthening the ties between European and southern Mediterranean research communities. The Workshop Chair, Driss Kettani, then presented the workshop programme and Costantino Thanos, Director of DELOS, briefly outlined the activities and goals of DELOS.
The first talk by Hachim Haddouti, the workshop co-chair, introduced basic DL concepts and technology stressing the new roles played by libraries and information providers, and presenting the main issues that must be tackled in designing and implementing a DL. Tom Baker from FhG then gave a presentation on metadata modelling which included a description of the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative. Carol Peters, CNR, discussed problems involved in developing systems for cross-language information retrieval and mentioned recent trends in this area. The final talk on basic technology was given the following day by Mounya Elhilali, University of Maryland, USA. Mounya Elhilali gave a comprehensive overview of issues raised when processing sound (music, speech, etc) in multimedia applications.
Other talks from the South Mediterranean basin included Saleem Zougbi from Bethlehem University, Palestine, who spoke about integrating knowledge-based techniques into DLs, and Nejib Abida, IRSIT, Tunisia, who described his activities in Distance Education underlining the importance of building links between programmes for Distance Education and DL applications. Mohammed Chafchaouni from the Al Andalous Foundation gave a presentation on the preservation of cultural heritage, in particular the Andalusian patrimony, and on the relationship between art, science and the spirit. One of the last talks was by John Murray, who presented the current status of the AUI DL and future milestones. Murray asked for suggestions from the audience as to how AUI should best proceed with the design and the implementation of its digital library.
The other communications during the two-day workshop were mainly dedicated to EU-funded project presentations, with particular emphasis on areas of interest for potential co-operation. Projects presented included: COLLATE, CYCLADES, ECHO, E-Maktaba, MIND, LEAF and Italian/Arabic Linguistic Tools.
The final session of the workshop was directed towards identifying possibilities for co-operations and joint future actions. Multilinguality and metadata were immediately identified as being areas of common interest. However, as a first action, before beginning to discuss plans for collaborative work in detail, it was decided to apply for an extension to the DELOS Network to include the Southern Mediterranean countries. The workshop was closed by Amine Bensaid, Dean of the Computer Science and Engineering School, who thanked all the speakers and attendees for their contributions and by Costantino Thanos who expressed the appreciation of the external participants for the warm hospitality provided by Al Akhawayn University.