The Joint Conference on Digital Libraries

Article excerpt

ACM and IEEE have joined forces to introduce this new event

Since I always enjoy reading Sue Feldman's insightful reports about digital library conferences in Information Today, I've longed to attend one. I just couldn't decide if I should go to the one organized by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) or the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society's Advances in Digital Libraries conference. My dilemma was solved this summer when these two prominent associations joined forces to launch the first ACM/IEEE-CS Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL 2001), held June 24--28 in Roanoke, Virginia. The conference program was so rich, colorful, and engaging that hardly anyone paid attention (except for a passing glance perhaps) to the Miss Virginia contestants, who convened at the same hotel to prepare for the following week's pageant.

A Rich Menu of Choices

The topic itself has always been very attractive to me. After all, I teach a course on digital librarianship, write a column with the same title for Computers in Libraries, and have created small digital shelves with my students for the past few years. It added to the attraction that Edward A. Fox, a computer science professor at Virginia Tech, was the general chair, and Christine L. Borgman, a professor at UCLA's Department of Information Studies, was the program chair. They created an exceptionally well-rounded conference program, with the obvious purpose of being all-inclusive and still high-quality. The joint nature of JCDL 2001 brought together the best people from both of the previously competing conferences as attendees and speakers. There were more than 420 attendees from 20 countries.

It was a special bonus to see and talk to many people whom I hadn't met before but whose names I knew from conference papers and journal articles. Even better was running into "long time, no see" acquaintances. Such encounters add a personal touch to conferences for me.

It was an excellent idea to schedule short papers (15 minutes), long papers (30 minutes), expert panel sessions, keynote speeches on each day by key industry figures, poster sessions, demonstrations, preconference tutorials, and post-conference workshops. The social events in the evening nicely rounded out the daytime programs, and even the substantial breaks provided good opportunities for mingling and chatting with researchers, teaching faculty, and deans of computer and information science schools. And while on the subject, I can't help mentioning that the reasonable $395 conference fee also included a reception, a banquet, and breakfast and lunch every day--far superior to the rubber-chicken dish served at most of the information industry conferences. And after this detour about food, here comes the food for thought.

The Appetizer

To prepare the uninitiated, Fox offered a full-day tutorial that provided an overview of the practical aspects of digital libraries: definitions; foundations; and issues, including resource discovery, architectures, de jure and de facto standards, protocols, interoperability, 3-D interfaces, search agents, distributed processing, data representation formats, and social and legal issues. It was a sampling of subjects that the conference presentations touched upon. Fox is utterly qualified to put together the full picture from pieces, as he already proved as editor of an excellent special issue of the Journal of the American Society for Information Science that focused on digital libraries--years before conferences were dedicated to the topic.

Dagobert Soergel's full-day tutorial discussed thesauri and ontologies in digital libraries. I remember him as the thesaurus specialist when we met in 1976 during my 1-month research stint at the University of Maryland, and he's now imparting his immense knowledge to the Web environment. Hussein Suleman's half-day tutorial addressed the issues related to building interoperable digital libraries-- such as the concept of the Open Archives Initiative--and protocols for metadata harvesting and exchanging. …

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