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DISC Analysis: Digital Library Initiatives
The technology landscape for digital library operations is always changing. Current and near-future
operations for the State University Libraries' (SUL) digital initiatives are constrained by available
technologies and resources. The DISC survey results reflect those constraints and the substantial level of
variation across the SULs.
Analysis of Survey
In the fall of 2009, the Florida Council of State University Libraries (CSUL) Digital Initiatives
Subcommittee (DISC) completed a Survey of Digital Library Inventory. The purpose of the DISC Survey
was to identify, report, assess, and address current and future needs of digital library initiatives of CSUL
DISC member institutions.1 The survey found that most institutions are involved in some sort of digital
initiatives at some stage of planning, introduction, growth, and maturity of infrastructure, with no
institution reporting a decline in digital collections building.
Surveys were completed by 11 institutions. Results for those completing the survey indicated:
All institutions are digitizing materials and creating metadata for their materials.
All offer some level of training to others at their institution.
All but two institutions create Finding Aids.
All either have an ETD program or are planning one.
2 accept digital materials through self-submittal.
3 digital archiving systems are in use: SUL internal, FCLA's Florida Digital Archive, MetaArchive.
5 SULs have organized committees charged with the coordination of digital projects.
Various digital library systems are in use, with no single system across all institutions.
SUL integration with FCLA digital library services varies from minimal to active.
Institutions reported the need for:
o Improved current technology, including digital library system functionality
o Robust and scalable systems for institutional repositories and digital collections
o More training opportunities; development of knowledge, skills, and abilities
o Statewide leadership in leveraging of resources and expertise across institutions and
resolution of issues relating to centralized/decentralized digitization
o Exposure to and understanding of emerging digital technologies
o Increased collaboration, resource-sharing, and partnerships across institutions
SThe full text of the survey is online. Links to it and all referenced documents are on the final page of this report.
Current Status & Implications for Setting Future Directions
Institutional capability and productivity for digital library initiatives is based on institutional support,
staffing, funding, technical expertise, commitment, and goals. As such, this continues to vary across the
SULs. However, all institutions are interested in supporting the lifecycle of digital assets conception,
production, dissemination, and preservation.
Looking forward, we expect that the needs for digital initiatives and services will continue to grow. As a
technology-intensive area, the already rapid rate of change will continue to accelerate. Moving forward,
new technologies and new implementations of existing technologies can free the SULs from some of the
current constraints and create much needed collaborative opportunities. However, success in current
and future digital library initiatives cannot be accomplished through the smart usage of new
To support the SULs, technologies and methods that support best practices and collaboration must be in
place for two critical areas:
Standards & Interoperability
Standards & Interoperability
The largest current constraint inhibiting digital initiatives is from digital library systems. Many digital
library systems are in use across the SULs, and some lack the needed support for standards. Many of the
current systems serve different needs and cannot be consolidated. These factors the limited
capabilities of some systems and necessity for multiple systems for specialized needs increases the
effort required for system functions and for inter-SUL collaboration.
Future digital initiatives require digital library systems that support standards-compliance in order to
support interoperability. Interoperability is the foundation of future digital library initiatives, which
require a robust, modular infrastructure that can be integrated with new tools, new technologies, and
external applications as appropriate. Future services will be impeded and the value of digital libraries
will be reduced at all levels if these necessary supports are not in place because they facilitate
information retrieval, accessibility, and resource discovery.2
For digital library systems that are standards-compliant and cannot be consolidated, record aggregation
or discovery systems facilitate interoperability. Record aggregation systems consolidate records from
multiple external systems, holding metadata for digital objects (and not the digital object), and then
2 Full support is needed for: creation, maintenance, and rendering for METS; same and indexing for Dublin Core,
MARC21, and MODS metadata; OAI-PMH and OAI-ORE; ALTO for text location in images.
linking to the objects in local systems. MANGO and Florida on Florida are two successful record
aggregation systems already in use.
Digital library services units within the SULs have traditionally focused on digitization. Through those
efforts, the SULs have created a core set of digital collections. These are heavily used and require
support specific to each digital collection. Other service needs are driven by faculty requests to their
digital units, often for assistance with copyright and innovative digital scholarship.
Established service needs will continue to be in high demand and include:
Digitization for defined projects; ongoing programs; and on demand digitization
Maintenance and support for digital collections
Outreach and training on digitization and digital library systems
The rise of digital technologies for access to resources, tools, and methods continues to shape our
academic institutions. Within the ever changing structure of academic institutions, libraries have
traditionally served as a neutral "third place" neither work nor home, but a place where all feel
welcome. Libraries are enormously important for simply offering a place where all researchers feel
empowered as stakeholders. Libraries are the most distinctively research-centered service unit on
campus and librarians continue to work more closely with the researchers they serve. Thus, researchers
and institutions look to us as new research questions arise from the impact of digital technologies.
The demand for new services continues to grow from ongoing changes in the scholarly environment,
with many of the changes redefining research and scholarship in traditional fields. The humanities have
rapidly embraced the digital humanities, and the Modern Language Association's rules for evaluating
digital scholarship will increase this demand. The sciences increasingly need support for data curation,
especially with new Open Access and data management mandates from funding agencies. Scholars in all
disciplines increasingly expect digital curation support and services. For interdisciplinary scholarship,
scholars look more frequently to the libraries as collaborative partners in scholarly production.
Outside of the SULs, digital library units are expanding to take on these new roles. The expanded
services often include:
Supporting faculty-driven digital collection development
Collaborating with researchers to develop new tools and functionalities for digital collections
Providing support, consultation, expertise, training, and outreach on data curation and digital
Providing services to connect scholars to supplement structures for scholarly publication3
Providing institutional digital asset management, especially for libraries, archives, and museums4
Digital Technologies Landscape and Future Options
Digital library technologies are rapidly moving from primary production models to production, service,
and innovation models. Many institutions have combined digital library units into special collections and
digital library units with scholarly communications. These shifts reflect the fact that digital library
services are often forward-facing service units that work closely with others to provide those services. In
order to support new and future service demands, the SULs digital collections need a highly
interoperable core system. New initiatives will rely on that system as the foundation for services and
All of the SULs have access to the FCLA-hosted DigiTool system. Some have one or more additional
digital library systems at the local level. The costs for digital library systems breaks into two actual sets
of costs for implementation: develop (open source) or purchase & develop (licensed). Because all
systems incur labor costs (set up, integration, maintenance and support), changes will also incur some
level of labor costs.
DISC wrote the Digital Library Requirements to define the necessary components for a robust digital
library system. Any potential changes to digital library systems can be evaluated against these
requirements for the best use of resources. Our detailed analysis of existing systems using these
requirements is in the Appendix, and the summary results are below.
Subarea Maximum DigiTool DigitalCommons ContentDM Omeka SOBEKCM
Architecture 11 9.5 9 9 8 11
Content 4 3.15 1.5 3.4 3.1 4
Metadata 8 6.07 5 6.5 5.5 8
Ingest 6 6 4.5 5.5 5.3 6
Search & Retrieval 11 9.75 7.5 9.3 5.4 10.3
Display & Use 10 8 6 9 2 9.5
Export 4 3 1.5 1 1 4
Manage & Reports 2 1.6 1.5 1.9 0.5 2
Budget 2 2 0.5 2 0 2
Total 58 49.07 37 47.6 30.7 56.8
3 This is also a goal in the Janus Challenge final report.
4 See Yale's Office of Digital Assets and Infrastructure: http://odai.research.yale.edu/
To meet current and expected future needs, DISC's recommendations fall into two main categories with
specific recommendations for each:
1. Stabilize the core foundation by implementing a robust shared digital library system and
standardizing the record aggregation system
a. Support a shared digital library system that best meets DISC's requirements as itemized
in the DISC requirements document and that supports record harvesting from local
b. Continue discussions on a single codebase for a shared digital library system
c. Continue support for local digital library systems for specialized local needs
d. Identify MANGO as the official record aggregation system
2. Position digital library staff to best support digital scholarship and emerging technologies
a. Implement, and increase awareness on data and digital curation services
b. Increase collaboration across SULs by developing shared resources for supporting
scholarly communications and digital initiatives, and for pursuing grant opportunities
c. Investigate and apply best practices from Scholars Lab, Library Lab, and Digital
Scholarship Commons models 5 to promote digital collections and services to faculty
d. Support opportunities to share and develop local expertise through workshops,
training, and speakers
Appendix & References
Digital Library Systems Evaluation (2010)
References are listed in the order in which they appear in the report above:
Full text and Executive Summary of 2009 DISC Survey: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00103111
Metadata and Access Guidelines for Digital Collections for the State University Libraries of
Florida: http://swiki.fcla.edu:8000/cagerrev (name: CAGER; password available from DISC)
Digital Library Requirements (2010): http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00103112
Janus Challenge Task Forces (2008): http://csul.net/cmc/janus/janus.shtml
5 See the University of Virginia's Scholars' Lab, Harvard's Library Lab, and Emory's Digital Scholarship Commons.