ERCIM News No.25 - April 1996

DELOS Kick-off Meeting on Digital Libraries

by Carol Peters
The first meeting of DELOS was hosted by INRIA at Sophia Antipolis, 4-6 March 1996. DELOS is a working group funded by the IT Long Term Research programme (LTR) of the European Commission to study and in-vestigate the most significant research issues in the digital library area.

The DELOS working group is just one of a series of ERCIM-sponsored initiatives aimed at promoting research and operational activities in the Digital Library field.

The main objectives of DELOS are: With the exception of ELSEVIER and the University of Michigan, the DELOS consortium is constituted by teams belonging ERCIM member institutes.

The workshop was attended by 45 partici-pants. In addition to the invited speakers and members of the DELOS consortium, a number of representatives from industry and the user community were also invited to participate in the meeting and contri-bute to the discussions. As this was the kick-off meeting, it was decided to present an overview of on-going research in the digital library field, focusing particularly on the activities and experiences of US projects already under way. The first day was therefore dedicated to technical presentations of key North American DL projects.

The first speaker was Clifford Lynch, Director of Library Automation of the University of California who described current efforts in the US to move towards operational digital libraries. He discussed the evolving view of the digital library and its relationship to traditional libraries on the one hand and networked information services on the other.

Next Bill Birmingham, chief technical architect of the Michigan Digital Library Project (UMDL), gave an overview of the Michigan project with particular emphasis on their vision of digital libraries and the software systems needed to realize this vision. UMDL sees digital libraries as heterogeneous systems populated by a vast number of software agents representing information goods and services. These agents collaborate to perform tasks, forming an "engineered" economy.

The third speaker was Andreas Paepcke of the Stanford University Integrated Digital Library Project. Work at Stanford is based on the premise that digital libraries will not just be online catalogs and collections, but will be made up of geographically wide-spread services that support users in their tasks. The Stanford project is comprised of five thrusts which each contribute to this vision: Digital library infrastructure, user interfaces, economic issues, software agents and information retrieval technologies. Technologies supporting interoperability among collections and services are being developed.

The last US speaker was Carl Lagoze of Cornell University, the co-architect of the Networked Computer Science Technical Reports Library (NCSTRL). He reviewed the current NCSTRL technology and its origins, described the future technical direction of the project, and discussed some of the policy issues and mechanisms for exploring them. NCSTRL makes available technical reports from over 35 computer science departments and laboratories in North America and Europe. This collection is expected to grow with the endorsement of the Computing Research Association (CRA) in the US. and the participation of ERCIM in Europe with the SAMOS project. The NCSTRL collection provides a framework for experimentation and demonstration of developing digital library technology. and provides an opportunity for exploration of the complex policy issues in developing and managing a federated digital library.

Invited US speakers at the DELOS kick-off meeting: from left to right: Carl Lagoze, Andreas Paepckeand, Bill Birmingham and Clifford Lynch

On the second day, the members of the DELOS consortium gave presentations on DL-related research activities under way in their organisations. It was clear that considerable research efforts are already under way in ERCIM institutes on activities which are relevant for the efficient and cost-effective development of digital library systems. Topics covered ranged from DL architectures, multi-lingual and multimedia information retrieval to economic models and payment schemes. From the general discussions throughout the two day workshop between the US and European participants a set of key research issues emerged; these regarded both technical questions and economic, social and legal problems. Particularly relevant topics on which future activities could be concentrated were identified and included interoperability and metadata, multilingual access and retrieval, intellectual property rights, economic models and charging systems. The proceedings in the form of extended abstracts of the presentations will be available shortly. Subsequent DELOS Workshops will focus on some of the topics identified at the kick-off meeting. In these workshops attention will be paid to establishing relationships with industrial and non-ERCIM institutions interested in the particular area. The idea is not to limit these meetings to the exchange of ideas and experiences but also to prepare the ground for the definition of new joint activities in the field. The next DELOS Workshop will be on Metadata and Interoperability and will be organised by Tom Baker, GMD, in autumn `96. A Call for Contributions will be issued soon and will be publicised on the ERCIM Web.

Please contact the Coordinator of the DELOS Working Group and the ERCIM Digital Library Initiative:
Costantino Thanos - IEI-CNR
Tel: +39 50 593492

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