Aggregating Digital Data: Interoperability Changes How We Build Collections

Article excerpt

The Open Archives Initiative Object Reuse and Exchange specification defines a set of new standards for the description and exchange of aggregations of web resources. This presents an exciting opportunity to revisit how digital libraries are provisioned. ORE and its concept of aggregation--that a set of digital objects of different types and from different locations on the web can be described and exposed together as a single, compound entity--may present the next major disruptive technology for librarians who develop and manage collections of digital information.

Speaking in generic terms, an aggregation is simply a group or collection of things. For example, you may aggregate food to prepare a meal. You can begin with recipes that include lists of ingredients and descriptions of how to prepare the dishes you've chosen to make. Some of the ingredients may come from different places. You probably have some of them locally in your fridge or cabinet, but you may need to fetch some of them from various remote locations. For example, you may pick up a loaf of bread at the bakery or a bottle of Merlot from your local wine shop. You may even be interested in a particular instance of wine, perhaps from a specific year, that has been recommended to you by a friend.

Everything for your meal has been represented all together above as an aggregation, but you can also view the dishes and their recipes and ingredients as their own aggregations. Aggregations can include other aggregations.

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This concept of aggregation is not new to librarians, who have been aggregating content into library collections for centuries. The problem, though, is that most digital libraries have been provisioned for people, not computer programs, to use.

Opening silos

Currently, the management and presentation of digital library collections revolve mostly around the digital library systems that house them. …