Web Magazine for Information Professionals

The Digital Library and Its Services

Neil Beagrie and Rachel Bruce report on a two-day invitational conference on The Digital Library and its Services sponsored by The British Library, JISC and UKOLN under the aegis of the British Library/JISC Partnership, held in the British Library Conference Centre on over 6-7 March 2006.

Over the past decade there has been substantial progress in the use and delivery of digital resources. This evolving area has now reached a point of maturity where digital library providers, be they national libraries, universities, or bodies co-ordinating and delivering distributed national and global services, have begun to identify common service requirements and service frameworks. These emerging digital library services might be delivered in a distributed manner or shared centrally. The core aim of these approaches is to achieve interoperability, ease of access management and use, as well as ways in which to manage digital resources into the future.

The British Library and JISC are both heavily involved in the development of digital library services and joint partnership activities [1]. A key aim of these partnerships is to ensure that learning and research in the UK is supported by the leading-edge digital library technology and access to exceptional content. As a result, this two-day meeting on the Digital Library and its Services was jointly sponsored by the BL, JISC, and UKOLN to bring together experts to discuss evolving approaches to digital library services and focused on four major service areas. These were:

The aim of the meeting was to share approaches and to identify ways in which these services might be delivered or what work needs to be undertaken to develop solutions. In particular the meeting aimed to help identify potential future areas of joint work and collaboration.

The meeting was opened by Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of the British Library and Malcolm Read Executive Secretary of the JISC and had keynote addresses from: Peter Brantley from the California Digital Library; Pat Manson from the European Commission; and Liz Lyon, Director of UKOLN.

Peter Brantley gave a wide-ranging and thought-provoking keynote about the future of digital libraries including Service Orientated Architectures (SOA) and examples from the California Digital Library. He talked about the new environment for digital libraries and the fact that we are now seeing new practices where users are engaging in the creation of information not just the use of it and that there is the added new dimension of 'social software'. He argued that with this new context digital libraries need to work on making themselves available and relevant to users.

Pat Manson opened the second day and covered both past and current projects and directions in digital library research and services funded by the European Commission. She described work under the sixth framework programme which will shortly include two major new digital preservation integrated projects, and current initiatives such as i2010: Digital Libraries and how this might build on The European Library (TEL) project.

Liz Lyon closed the meeting with a presentation on Digital Libraries and Business Process. Liz gave an overview of business process and the numerous methods and approaches to capturing and designing work flows associated with research and learning. She spoke about the need to think about human and machine interactions and the fact that this is delicate balance which needs to be better understood. She concluded that the digital library is now about creation, interaction and recombination. The message to take away from this closing session was that much better and more thorough understanding of researchers and learners (and other digital library users) is required to inform digital library service development.

The plenary sessions included contributions from Rachel Bruce, JISC Programme Director, Information Environment; and Richard Boulderstone, Director of e-Strategy and Information Systems at the British Library, and these provided overviews of strategy and developments from the perspectives of both organisations [2].

In addition attendees participated in four breakout sessions facilitated by expert aspect leaders as follows:

It is hoped a longer article covering discussion and outcomes from the meeting will appear in the next issue of Ariadne (July 2006).

Notes and References

  1. The British Library/JISC Partnership was established in 2004 to carry forward and develop earlier collaborative activity between the British Library, the JISC and UK Higher Education. Further information on the Partnership and current joint activities are available online from the British Library Web site at http://www.bl.uk/about/cooperation/jisc.html
    and the JISC Web site at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/part_bl_info.html
  2. Presentations are available from the conference programme Web pages at http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/events/bl-jisc-conference-2006/programme/

Author Details

Neil Beagrie
British Library/JISC Partnership Manager
The British Library

Email: neil.beagrie@bl.uk
Web site: http://www.jisc.ac.uk and http://www.bl.uk
Publications: http://www.beagrie.com

Rachel Bruce
Programme Director, Information Environment
Joint Information Systems Committee 

Email: r.bruce@jisc.ac.uk
Web site: http://www.jisc.ac.uk

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