Magazine article Information Today

Academic Libraries Develop Integrated Portal Software Package. (News Break)

Magazine article Information Today

Academic Libraries Develop Integrated Portal Software Package. (News Break)

Article excerpt

Libraries continue to expand their "turf' in virtual space. Academic libraries that belong to the Association of Research Libraries (ARL; http://www.arl.org) have launched a Scholars Portal Project in collaboration with Fretwell-Downing, Inc. (ED; http://www.fdusacom), a digital library software vendor. The ARL undertaking will facilitate the extension of digital library service through the provision of tested, effective, and integrated portal-level software.

The Scholars Portal Project will provide software tools that allow an academic library to supply a community of users with a single point of Web access that can reach a full array of diverse, high-quality information resources and deliver material directly to the user's desktop. Initially, it will use Fretwell-Downing's ZPORTAL and several related products as a base. Once deployed, ZPORTAL will offer cross-domain searching of licensed and open Web content in a range of subject fields from multiple institutions. The portal will then aggregate and integrate search results. In time, the designers plan to add other improvements, such as the integration of searching within local online learning and course environments, links to 24/7 digital reference services for immediate consultation with reference librarians, transfer of orders to document delivery outlets, etc.

Selected in part for its readiness and experience in advancing priority enhancements, ED develops open, standards-based solutions that are designed to integrate with each other and with other components from third parties. This should let libraries that use the Scholars Portal Project software mix and match FD's tools. ED has led a number of successful research and development projects before, especially in the U.K.

Current plans anticipate that, in most academic environments, the tools developed through the Scholars Portal Project will function as a library channel within a university-wide portal. The project grew out of an ARL Scholars Portal Working Group that was set up in 2000 to explore how best to establish a collaborative research library presence on the Web. The Scholars Portal Project will demonstrate the viability of that vision with one vendor's products, although plans don't limit future software development to any single vendor. ARL planners hope the project will encourage other vendors to enter the marketplace with competitive tools to advance portal functionality. ARL will continue to monitor available software tools that can "meet the needs of the 2 1st-century academic Web user."

Seven of ARL's major member libraries--the University of Southern California (USC), University of California-San Diego, Dartmouth College, University of Arizona, Arizona State University, Iowa State University, and the University of Utah--will collaborate on the initial release of the Scholars Portal Project. Over the course of the 3year undertaking, ARL plans to expand the number of participating libraries. Mary E. Jackson, ARL's senior program officer for access services, notes that several other ARL members have expressed serious interest in joining the project. "We're now welcoming all other ARL members. Not all will be interested, but the project has the ability to handle any number. It's anyone's guess what the eventual number will be."

Jerry Campbell, chief information officer and dean of University Libraries at USC, chaired the ARL Scholars Portal Working Group. In the announcement, he said: "Fretwell-Downing, Inc. is not the only portal game in town. We selected them to work with us in this project for two reasons. The first reason is that we believe ED's existing ZPORTAL product suite will work together to take us significantly down the road toward achieving our initial project goals. …

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