Generating Collaborative Systems for Digital Libraries: A Model-Driven Approach

By Malizia, Alessio; Bottoni, Paolo et al. | Information Technology and Libraries, December 2010 | Go to article overview

Generating Collaborative Systems for Digital Libraries: A Model-Driven Approach


Malizia, Alessio, Bottoni, Paolo, Levialdi, S., Information Technology and Libraries


The design and development of a digital library involves different stakeholders, such as: information architects, librarians, and domain experts, who need to agree on a common language to describe, discuss, and negotiate the services the library has to often To this end, high-level, language-neutral models have to be devised. Metamodeling techniques favor the definition of domain-specific visual languages through which stakeholders can share their views and directly manipulate representations of the domain entities. This paper describes CRADLE (Cooperative-Relational Approach to Digital Library Environments), a metamodel-based framework and visual language for the definition of notions and services related to the development of digital libraries. A collection of tools allows the automatic generation of several services, defined with the CRADLE visual language, and of the graphical user interfaces providing access to them for the final user. The effectiveness of the approach is illustrated by presenting digital libraries generated with CRADLE, while the CRADLE environment has been evaluated by using the cognitive dimensions framework.

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Digital libraries (DLs) are rapidly becoming a preferred source for information and documentation. Both at research and industry levels, DLs are the most referenced sources, as testified by the popularity of Google Books, Google Video, IEEE Explore, and the ACM Portal. Nevertheless, no general model is uniformly accepted for such systems. Only few examples of modeling languages for developing DLs are available, (1) and there is a general lack of systems for designing and developing DLs. This is even more unfortunate because different stakeholders are interested in the design and development of a DL, such as information architects, to librarians, to software engineers, to experts of the specific domain served by the DL. These categories may have contrasting objectives and views when deploying a DL: librarians are able to deal with faceted categories of documents, taxonomies, and document classification; software engineers usually concentrate on services and code development; information architects favor effectiveness of retrieval; and domain experts are interested in directly referring to the content of interest without going through technical jargon. Designers of DLs are most often library technical staff with little to no formal training in software engineering, or computer scientists with little background in the research findings of hypertext information retrieval. Thus DL systems are usually built from scratch using specialized architectures that do not benefit from previous experience and from research in software engineering. Wasted effort and poor interoperability can therefore ensue, raising the costs of DLs and jeopardizing the fluidity of information assets in the future.

In addition, there is a need for modeling services and data structures as highlighted in the "Digital Library Reference Model" proposed by the DELOS EU network of excellence (also called the "DELOS Manifesto"); (2) in fact, the distribution of DL services over digital networks, typically accessed through Web browsers or dedicated clients, makes the whole theme of interaction between users important, for both individual usage and remote collaboration. Designing and modeling such interactions call for considerations pertaining to the fields of human-computer interaction (HCI) and computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW). As an example, scenario-based or activity-based approaches developed in the HCI area can be exploited in DL design.

To meet these needs we developed CRADLE (Cooperative-Relational Approach to Digital Library Environments), (3) a metamodel-based Digital Library Management System (DLMS) supporting collaboration in the design, development, and use of DLs, exploiting patterns emerging from previous projects. The entities of the CRADLE metamodel allow the specification of collections, structures, services, and communities of users (called "societies" in CRADLE) and partially reflect the DELOS Manifesto. …

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