Web Magazine for Information Professionals


William Y. Arms, D-Lib publisher and Amy Friedlander, the editor, describe this successful Web-based magazine that carries more technically-minded articles on all aspects of digital/electronic libraries research.

Shortly, D-Lib Magazine will go to press with our fourteenth monthly issue - and it is remarkable that even after a year, we are still using the language of print to describe something that only exists on the web. D-Lib is funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) on behalf of the Information Infrastructure Technology and Applications (IITA) Working Group of the High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) program. The magazine has become a highly visible element of a broader effort at the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI) to stimulate communication among the several research and professional communities that have an interest in networked telecommunications and digital information. Our starting point was the broad program of research associated with the six projects of the Digital Library Initiative (DLI), but then has expanded to embrace all aspects of research into information on networks. Thus, using the Internet is central to our identity.

Dlib Magazine This early decision, to treat the Internet as the default and to identify print-and-paper as the alternative, has had some interesting and possibly profound implications for what we do. For example, our lawyers have advised us from the outset to think about terms and conditions for access rather than traditional aspects of copyright. We treat the net as a medium in its own right rather than as a means of distribution wherein digital communication was somehow a substitute for paper. Therefore, we are very flexible in our instructions for authors. The medium itself, both the technology and the track record of what works and what does not, seems to change weekly if not daily. But we encourage writers to avail themselves of what is "out there" - we like pointers to other sites, demos, and on-line resources. Thus, the editor (who still greatly misses her blue pencil) spends more of her time worrying about hyperlinks than about citation formats. On the other hand, many of print publishing's standards and values have migrated with us! On more than one occasion, we have resolved differences between editor and publisher by consulting H. W. Fowler's Modern English Usage (Oxford University Press, 1965).

Relying on the web presumes an active reader, who will seek us out. But active readers seem to appreciate the routine of a regular monthly magazine - another carry-over from print publishing - announced by e-mail to a "subscriber" list. This decision may have made it more difficult to build circulation, the difficulties in measuring the notion of "circulation" notwithstanding, since we do not have an equivalent to mass mailings of trial issues. Moreover, the decision effectively excludes the great portion of the world that does not have web access or for whom access is slow or costly. Although we recognize this price, we do not believe that it loses us our basic audience: the researchers engaged in the research and implementation projects in digital libraries and the various groups who may be affected by this research (e.g., publishers, lawyers, economists, many kinds of librarians) but may not participate directly in the research process. These people have access to the network either at work or at home. But their connections may not be as advanced as their interests, so D-Lib's own use of technology tends to lag the cutting edge it seeks to cover. The point of publishing, after all, is to reach readers and, in our case, to promote scientific literacy across several disciplines, not all of which may be equally sophisticated all of the time.

On the other hand, D-Lib has aggressively courted content. We do this in two ways. We stay current with the progress of the six DLI projects, and encourage the Principal Investigators to discuss their work in the magazine. Because we employ a magazine-style acquisitions strategy and are not juried, we encourage writers to provide us with succinct and informal discussions of technical papers and to include pointers to the formal literature, which, more often than not, is first made available on-line. In this way, we have discovered that a story which is an introduction for a naïve reader often acts as synopsis for a sophisticated reader who then pursues the links to the professional papers.

The second way we pursue stories is to identify areas of digital library research that are subject to investigation in other venues or that are pursuing congruent goals. For example, the National Endowment for the Humanities has historically supported digitization and conversion programs in which mark-up techniques were pioneered and in which workflow and other management concerns have been systematically investigated. Although outside of the DLI, these projects have much to contribute to the discussion, and related stories were run in November and February. Other non-DLI agencies and organizations in the U.S.A. that have contributed to D-Lib include the Library of Congress, National Agricultural Library, National Library of Medicine, and numerous universities and corporations. Overseas contributions have come from the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM), and eLib itself. Over the next several months, we expect to run stories on programs in Australia and New Zealand.

Both eLib and ERCIM have been important to our aim of to achieving a global perspective that we believe is essential to covering digital libraries research. ERCIM provided us newsfeed almost from the start and members of the consortium contributed stories on their research. And our very first unsolicited story idea came from one of the eLib projects: it described the Edinburgh Engineering Virtual Library (EEVL), and we ran it as part of "Clips and Pointers" in the September 1995 issue. "Clips and Pointers" has since morphed into a new column and project descriptions have been spun off into an occasional column called "Project Briefings", which first ran last December with a lead story by Chris Rusbridge on "The UK Electronic Libraries Programme". Finally, UKOLN has maintained a mirror site for us since March resulting in an estimated increase to our readership of about 25 percent.

D-Lib Magazine came out of the Digital Library Initiative in the U.S.A. But much to our delight, we have found ourselves contributing to a movement that is worldwide.