A Forward-Looking European Digital Library? Hence 5S?

by Edward A. Fox

Will The European Digital Library (TEDL), as it expands beyond current efforts with The European Library, be forward-looking? Will it consider the 5S checklist: Societies, Scenarios, Spaces, Structures, and Streams? Will it draw upon the expertise that DELOS helps to make visible, and that is apparent in conferences like the European Conference on Digital Libraries?

Europe has a wonderful opportunity to become a world leader in developing a comprehensive next-generation digital library that will serve the entire European Community. Doing so will require courageous leadership, careful investment, hard work and a willingness to share for the common good.

The EU has much to draw upon as it works toward TEDL. One key resource is DELOS, the Network of Excellence on Digital Libraries, partially funded by the European Commission's Information Society Technologies Programme (IST). Another resource is the annual conference on digital libraries in Europe; eg, ECDL 2006, the 10th European Conference on Research and Advanced Technology for Digital Libraries. (Though current holdings of The European Library are limited, ECDL does come up as one of the two things found when searching for 'digital library', as can be seen in the figure.) Even beyond the borders of Europe, there exist professional groups like the IEEE-CS Technical Committee on Digital Libraries (TCDL), and conferences like JCDL and ICADL. The field of Digital Libraries, which began around 1991, has led to many projects, services, systems, theoretical results and a great deal of advanced technology. I sincerely hope that the EU will ensure that this work and all its related successes will lead to a forward-looking TEDL.

Validating with Tau: SDL diagram (left), validation script (center) and validation results (right).
The European Library - http://www.theeuropeanlibrary.org - the portal for searching the content of European national libraries.

One way to focus this discussion is to use the 5S framework, a theory-based approach to the field of digital libraries. First, we consider the Society perspective. What social (and cultural, economic, legal, linguistic, national, to political, etc.) concerns apply? What is the target audience? Who are the users? How can their collaboration, membership in groups, and myriad other social relationships be made use of, for example through collaborative filtering? How can we move beyond TEL's current focus on librarians (as is clear from the interface, query language, use of federated search technology and provision mostly of catalogue records)? How can the citizens, students, teachers, scholars, researchers, businesses and other institutions in the EU be properly supported?

This leads us to think about Scenarios. For what purposes, goals, and objectives can TEDL be used? For what tasks and activities? Through what classes and types of services? How can such a system respect privacy, while at the same time remembering a user for longer than the brief time it takes to handle a single WWW transaction: that is, into sessions, investigations and lifelong learning activities? Will Open Access be fully supported, to all available content?

Considering Spaces, we must consider all the aspects of context, including the location of the user, the effects of time and space, the presentation of results using information visualization, integration with geographic information systems, and the simplification of searching that comes from reducing the dimensionality of a vector space (with features that range from terms, phrases and categories to concepts and color histograms)? Can TEDL work in 'Semantic Space' as we move toward Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web? Will search results be grouped into useful clusters based on similarity? Will results be presented, if desired, on a map (eg, of Europe), so that locations are understood, such as the site of an author's institution?

In the case of Structures, will TEDL make use of organization in its many forms? Of ontologies and thesauri? Of appropriate category systems? Of presentation using trees or graphs? Of fields and markup structure? Of database schema and related records? Of facts, snippets (ie structures atop content streams) and extracted information?
Considering Streams, will TEDL go beyond streams or sequences of characters and consider large books? Audio? Video? Animation? Sensor streams from surveillance or satellites? Will streams be managed in concert with structures in order to find suitable video frames or book sections? Will spatial considerations help in stream selection and subsetting (eg finding a scene in a news video covering a particular heritage site or important event or personage)? Will helpful scenarios allow users to work with all media types and mixtures, providing all the support afforded for textual content, and beyond?

Clearly, TEDL could serve millions, with tens of millions of resources, including theses, reports, papers, newspapers, images from museums and courseware. Will institutional repositories at all colleges, universities, centres, and even agencies and businesses support Open Access? Will the holdings of the regional, federal and national libraries of Europe catalogue both information and full-text (and full-content), and be opened as well? Will publishers cooperate to vastly increase their market and visibility?

This is a vision to challenge the entire R&D community worldwide. I hope the EU will work in this direction and call for broad involvement and assistance in a forward-looking digital library - of and for Europe (and beyond).

DELOS: http://www.delos.info
5S framework: http://www.dlib.vt.edu/projects/5S-Model
ECDL 2006: http://www.ecdl2006.org

Please contact:
Edward A. Fox, Virginia Tech, USA
Tel: +1 540 231 5113
E-mail: fox@vt.edu