DL.org, an EC-funded Coordination Action on Digital Library Interoperability, Best Practices and Modelling Foundations, has adopted a comprehensive and innovative approach to top-level challenges in the field by harnessing the global expertise that exists through dedicated groups.
Digital Libraries should enable access to knowledge in multi-modal format to any citizen, anywhere, anytime, breaking down the barriers of distance, language and culture. Building and maintaining scientific e-Infrastructures, preserving cultural heritage, and supporting educational processes are just some examples of the value-add of Digital Libraries, which are by definition complex systems, intrinsically interdisciplinary and heterogeneous. Interoperability is a key-step to ensuring that digital libraries continue to grow in a way that allows users to navigate through different sources within an integrated single environment. It is also a multi-layered, context-specific concept which can be analyzed from organizational, semantic, and technical levels. The role of repositories and Open Access has been crucial to broaden the function of Digital Libraries within the research community. Open Access Repositories (OARs) have also enhanced the reputation of institutions by making their research more visible and bringing greater return on investment for funding agencies.
To weave together these topics central to advancing a collective mission that cuts across disciplines, professional roles and geographical boundaries, DL.org hosted a workshop on 4 February 2011 at the British Academy in London. The Workshop shone the spotlight on existing frameworks and best practices key to achieving open, interoperable information systems by triggering a multi-disciplinary debate. Discussions proposed common strategies for interoperability and how to implement mechanisms for exchanging, sharing and integrating results between Digital Libraries and Open Access Repository communities.
Leonardo Candela (ISTI-CNR. Italy), Vittore Casarosa (ISTI-CNR, Italy), and Giuseppina Vullo (HATII, at the University of Glasgow, UK) showcased key DL.org outputs produced for the Library and Information Science community. The DL.org Digital Library Reference Model, stemming from the DELOS Network of Excellence, has been enhanced and expanded to reflect the investigations of international experts on content, functionality, user, policy, quality and architecture. A dedicated Checklist enables designers and assessors of a digital library to determine conformity with the Reference Model. The Cookbook, with a comprehensive and pragmatic approach, provides a portfolio of best practices and pattern solutions to face common challenges when it comes to developing large-scale interoperable Digital Library systems.
Hans Pfeiffenberger (Alfred Wegener Institute, Germany) underscored the need to ensure long-term preservation of scientific knowledge with policy embedded in data repositories to create digital data libraries with persistent accessibility. DataCite, a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) registration agency for research data, is now considering to ask data repositories for some kind of certification, while also fostering global interoperability about a specific policy issue. Heather Joseph (SPARC, US), director of the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition, brought new policy insights from the U.S. Open Access serves as a compass point to ensure more open and equitable system of scholarly communication, leveraging digital networked technology and ultimately reducing the financial pressure on libraries through a holistic approach. Clear trends are emerging at higher policy level for Open Access to achieve the interoperability promised by Open Access by making it “the default”.
The talk by Pablo De Castro (University of Carlos III Madrid, Spain) from the SONEX (Scholarly Output Notification & Exchange) Workgroup focused on deposit-related interoperability and the analysis of use cases by teaming up with initiatives already working on technical solutions. One of the impediments to collaboration between the Current Research Information Systems (CRIS) and Open Access Repositories (OAR) in the UK stems from different approaches to metadata publishing with data fragmented across different services. Peter Burnhill (EDINA, UK) advanced the idea of interoperability between repositories and of repositories with the wider web. However, important questions include determining whether such an approach should be chiefly within and for the research and education sector or extend beyond it. Wolfram Horstmann, Bielefeld University, explored the many ways to interoperability drawing a number of important conclusions. While interoperability is multi-levelled, a network rather than a layer model is needed. Semantics are a core challenge for Digital Library interoperability. Such a focus would allow the autonomy needed to meet heterogeneous needs. Simplicity is key to the uptake of standards.
The Round Table chaired by Seamus Ross, University of Toronto, brought into sharp relief the need for a far-reaching approach to interoperability, as well as the need to address data management, including the data diversity that exists even within the same discipline. While data management is implemented in several large collaborative infrastructure projects, ownership of preservation and transfer of content remain important questions. Technology in itself is not enough. There needs to be a policy push to enforce the actions required while fostering effective dialogue across a spectrum of organisations.