Currently, the management and presentation of digital library collections revolve mostly around the digital library systems that house them. A librarian decides what digital resources go together and then works within the capabilities of the system to present the resources in an appropriate and orderly context. The result is typically a series of webpages that human beings need to navigate to find and click on the links to the resources that meet their information needs. While the system may expose its metadata for harvesting or its index for federated searching, the digital resources themselves are tucked deeply inside proprietary silos.
ORE presents the possibility of breaking down these silos by exposing the semantics of these resources and providing hooks to retrieve them without the need for a human being to read a webpage and click on a link. Liberating digital library content from these silos for reuse and exchange may very well explode the construct of the “collection” as we know it today because it will no longer be the exclusive domain of librarians to bring together digital library resources and dictate the context of their presentation for use. Human beings and machines will be able to assemble their own “collections.”
For librarians working with digital content, the need to make sense of interoperable digital information by managing resources with care and quality metadata and by connecting users to resources—and resources to resources—is greater than ever. In the May issue of Library Technology Reports, Michael Witt offers insight on doing just that. For Electronic Resources Librarians, Digital Archivists or professionals who work with Digital Catalogs in any capacity, this report is a must-read.
The Open Archives Initiative Object Reuse and Exchange specification defines a set of new standards for the description and exchange of aggregations of web resources. This presents an exciting opportunity to revisit how digital libraries are managing. ORE and its concept of aggregation—that a set of digital objects of different types and from different locations on the web can be described and exposed together as a single, compound entity—may present the next major disruptive technology for librarians who develop and manage collections of digital information. This technology could change the way many people do their jobs. Through real-world examples, extensive diagrams and careful explanation, Witt details the potential of this exciting new technology, and how it can make the management and searching of digital content more effective and efficient.
The first chapter of this report is available to the public for free through our MetaPress site. You can access it (and purchase the full issue digitally) here: http://alatechsource.metapress.com/content/m5m8453nr630/.
You can also purchase the issue in print through the ALA Store: http://www.alastore.ala.org/detail.aspx?ID=3008
Michael Witt is the interdisciplinary research librarian and assistant professor of library science at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and an expert on the technology behind digital content management.