JCDL 2013: Digital Libraries at the Crossroads

By Ojala, Marydee | Information Today, September 2013 | Go to article overview

JCDL 2013: Digital Libraries at the Crossroads


Ojala, Marydee, Information Today


The Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL) met in July in Indianapolis. The name of the conference is prefaced with the word "Joint," noting the collaborative effort of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) and the IEEE Computer Society. Each of these companies previously held individual conferences relating to digital libraries; this is No. 13 of the joint conferences. Indiana, which is known as "The Crossroads of America," upheld the notion that digital libraries are at a crossroads--a theme that came up repeatedly during the conference.

JCDL featured three keynote speakers (youtube.com/user/JCDL 2013IND), numerous reports, and demonstrations of research and projects. Some were completed, and some are still in progress. An academic gathering comprising slightly more than 200 faculty and graduate students in library and information science attended. Many were within driving distance of Indianapolis, from Indiana University and the University of Illinois, which are the academic "homes" to Robert H. McDonald and J. Stephen Downie, the co-chairs of the conference; however, other attendees came from as far away as New Zealand, China, Singapore, Brazil, and several European countries.

In the opening keynote speech, Clifford Lynch, executive director of CNI (Coalition for Networked Information; cni.org), contended that digital libraries are pivoting toward larger scale initiatives. This has implications for access to cultural heritage institutions, preservation of nonphysical content, and communication of scientific exploration. Thinking that we can preserve digitally for all eternity has been supplanted by a 20-year horizon. He speculated that digital libraries are moving toward an engineering practice, which implies the need for more risk analysis. System design will become more explicitly tied to value, raising hard questions about the purpose and underlying assumptions of largescale social systems.

When it comes to larger scale digital libraries, Europeana (europeana .eu), with its 27 million digitized cultural objects, fits the profile. Jill Cousins, executive director of the Europeana Foundation, explained the changes in focus since its launch in 2008. The answer to "Why Europeana?" altered over time, partly due to technology that changed people's expectations about accessing information and partly due to spending cuts that required a different type of justification for cultural heritage preservation. Preservation for the sake of preservation gave way to how it benefits the economy. Europeana is in competition for funding with other e-services, such as e-safety and e-health, plus it's expected to be self-sustaining by 2020. She is optimistic that funders will see Europeana as a catalyst for change and its technology as the building block for other e-services.

Wrapping up JCDL was Oxford University's David De Roure, professor of e-research and director of the Interdisciplinary Oxford e-Research Centre, who talked about the ramifications of social machines and open science in today's digital world. "The world of science has changed," he says, "but the mode of communication hasn't. …

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