Digital Libraries 99: Fourth ACM Conference on Digital Libraries
Missingham, Roxanne, Australian Academic & Research Libraries
Berkeley 11-14 August 1999
ACM (the Association of Computer Machinery) is an organisation whose Digital Libraries conferences provide the opportunity for computer scientists, HCI researchers and librarians to come together. Over 120 attended the conference this year, coming from a wide range of countries including Lapland, New Zealand, Italy, the United Kingdom and Germany. I was the only Australian attending. ACM primarily serves computer scientists, with librarians involved often concentrating more on information retrieval issues. The technical aspects of building and retrieving information from digital libraries focused on computer issues, rather than service issues or digital reference. The computing emphasis was evident in the unusual use of language, for example one speaker talked of searching for items with `topicality relatedness' rather than `on the same subject'.
Four strong themes emerged from the presentations and posters: understanding the purpose and delivering digital libraries; user needs and evaluation; innovative projects (particularly in music); and sustainable funding models (including the National Science Foundation and DARPA). The major commercial digital libraries, such as Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis, ISI, Elsevier, High wire, Silverplatter, Dialog, JSTOR, were not represented in papers presented. This was unfortunate as Westlaw in particular has recently developed some online legal teaching systems that would have been very relevant, and all would have provided case studies of very large digital libraries in a production environment.
Purpose of Digital Libraries and their Establishment
David Levy, of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, gave the opening address to the conference, `Digital libraries and the problem of purpose'. He reviewed the historical role of libraries over the last century in providing both public services (education and social roles for public libraries) and research support to assist in scholarly development/communication (academic libraries). He proposed digital libraries created `to put digital materials online'. There was a need to define the communities served by digital libraries and the value of the libraries. Two conflicting purposes were established--public good, and commercial contents where sustainable funding models were essential. Access to the Internet is far from universal, with equity issues relating to race and social class. The community involved in the circulation of information (authors, publishers, sellers, libraries, users and copyright) all face different issues in the networked digital environment. Interestingly, David suggested that the complex issues of quality and veracity (or accuracy) of digital information mean that access to a very large quantity of electronic resources does not solve client questions well.
Taking a different approach, Peter Yialinos proposed a new type of computer memory--archival intermemory--to improve Internet performance using metadata of IP addresses of daemons.
The session on IR/multimedia papers described:
* a semantic indexing experiment based on MEDLINE to improve information retrieval
* use of PHAROS architecture to categorise Usenet groups by Library of Congress Classification to enhance automated classification and retrieval
* use of an oral automated interrogation system (yes, you speak into a system!) to retrieve information from a newspaper archive
* a description of audio and visual indexing of multimedia material using MDF (Multimedia Description Format).
User Needs/interface Issues and Evaluation
Catherine Marshall, who will be speaking at VALA in 2000 in Melbourne, described a study of six researchers who regularly meet to discuss research papers. The study compared the use of printed material with an electronic book surrogate, Xlibris. Reading was found to be opportunistic, a physical act, multi-purpose, self-interrupted and not at all straightforward. …