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Chapter 2, Features of some digital libraries

Chapter 2

Features of some digital libraries


A large number of digital libraries have been developed throughout the world over the past few years. Many of these have been born in the course of digital library research and development activities. They differ in terms of such matters as their nature and characteristics, content and facilities. This chapter provides a brief overview of some selected digital libraries from around the globe. Through these discussions, this chapter aims to provide an idea of the variety of digital library available today in different parts of the world.


Interest in digital libraries, both scholarly and professional, grew very rapidly in the 1990s. However, the basic notion of digital libraries differed according to the contexts, approaches, emphasis, practices and views of the researchers. For example, early digital library developments in the USA took place mainly in the course of research led primarily by the computer science community that con­centrated on designing and developing technologies for various digital library systems, developing interfaces, improving search facilities, and so on; later the research also focused on digital library collections, users and services as well (Fox and Urs, 2002). However, in the UK, the picture was different from the beginning. The library and information science community took the initiative and thus digital library research mainly focused on enhancing the information collection and services.

Nevertheless, as a result of digital library research in the USA, UK, Europe and in other parts of the world, a number of digital libraries have been estab­lished during the past ten or so years. These digital libraries differ in terms of their objectives, content, facilities, and so on. In this chapter we shall briefly dis­cuss the features of some digital libraries chosen from around the globe.

Digital libraries; types______________________

Digital libraries can be grouped in different ways. They can be classified by ori­gin, such as digital libraries developed in the USA as part of DLI 1 and DLI 2 (the Digital Library Initiatives), digital libraries developed in the course of the eLib (Electronic Libraries) programme in the UK, digital libraries built by indi­vidual institutions, digital libraries that are part of national libraries, digital libraries that are part of universities; or by period, by country of origin, and so on. For our discussions in this chapter we have grouped the chosen digital libraries as follows:

Q early digital libraries, e.g. ELINOR, Gutenberg

Q digital libraries of institutional publications, e.g. ACM, IEL

(•/" digital library developments at national libraries, e.g. the British Library,

Library of Congress (THOMAS), Digital Library of Canada (•/ digital libraries at universities, e.g. Berkeley Digital Library SunSITE,

Bodleian Library Digital Library Projects, California Digital Library, DIG-

ILIB, iGEMS and SETIS (y digital libraries of special materials, e.g. Alexandria, Informedia, Grainger

Engineering Library

Q digital libraries as research projects, e.g. GDL, NCSTRL, NDLTD (*: digital libraries as hybrid library projects, e.g., HeadLine.

Brief information on 20 digital libraries is provided in this chapter and detailed discussions of their specific characteristics, such as information organization, information retrieval and user interfaces, are provided in the later chapters in this book.

Brief descriptions of selected digital libraries__________

A brief description of each chosen digital library is provided in the following sections.

Early digital libraries


ELINOR (Electronic Library Information Online Retrieval) was the first elec­tronic library project in the UK, starting in 1992 and continuing until April 1996, and was funded by De Montfort University, the British Library and IBM UK (Ramsden et al., 1998). The project started with the objective of building an elec­tronic library system that could be directly accessed by students and staff via Window-based PCs and workstations. It was a two-phase project: the first phase (March 1992-May 1994) focused on the technical issues of delivering scanned images of books, journals, course materials, multimedia learning packages, and so on; and the second phase (June 1994-April 1996) aimed to develop better copy­right management, and the user and modelling aspects of the electronic library.

A prototype web interface was developed for general users, and a prototype electronic library user interface (ELVIS) was developed for those who were visually impaired. Initially, the subject coverage of the system was limited to the business and computing needs of the pilot undergraduate course. However, the coverage was later extended to the high-demand core texts such as reading lists provided by academic staff for the other courses taught in the University. Users browsed, viewed, searched and printed electronic collections of high-use (copy­right) materials, examination papers and other university documents. Full-text searching and hierarchical browsing were possible in this system. Natural lan­guage queries and fuzzy searching were also available.

Project Gutenberg started in 1971 at the Materials Research Lab at the Univer­sity of Illinois. The main objective of the project was to provide easy access for the general public to the humanities literature available in electronic format. It is one of the oldest digital libraries, with a collection of electronic texts mainly on literature, which is grouped as: light literature and heavy literature, and ref­erences. Electronic texts are stored in ASCII format so that they can be read and searched using most of the hardware and software in use all over the world. The digital library can be searched with a simple search program.

Digital libraries of institutional publications

ACM Portal: the ACM Digital Library (

The ACM (Association of Computing Machinery) digital library provides access to:

over 69,000 full-text articles from ACM journals, magazines and conference proceedings

tables of contents with nearly 23,000 citations from articles published in ACM journals and magazines from 1954 onwards

tables of contents with more than 48,000 citations from articles published in over 990 volumes of conference proceedings since 1985.

Selected works published by affiliated organizations are also available. Mem­bers of the Association and registered users can access the digital library through the ACM digital library portal website. Users can search and browse the digital library by magazines, transactions, proceedings, journals, newsletters, affiliated organizations and by special interest groups (SIGs). The search engine has some unique search features, which are discussed in Chapter 9.

IEL Online ( The IEEE/IEE Electronic Library (IEL) is a digital library of publications from the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE). IEL provides access in one single source to almost a third of the world's current electrical engineering and computer sci­ence literature comprising:

more than 750,000 documents from over 12,000 publications, including journals, conference proceedings and IEEE Standards

more than two million full-page documents, including all original charts, graphs, diagrams, photographs and illustrative material

more than 25,000 new pages per month

full-text archives of IEEE and IEE publications from 1988 to the present

unlimited access to a subset of the INSPEC bibliographic and abstract data­base.

Members of the Institute and Institution and registered users can search and browse the entire collection through a simple search interface.

Digital library developments at national libraries

The British Library's digital library programme

The British Library's Research and Innovation Centre is leading the Library's digital library programme, which entails establishing a number of digital infor­mation services based on the content of the British Library's collections including text, images, sound and a combination of these. 'The British Library on the web' contains information about the Library, the collections and about its services. The Treasures section of the British Library website includes infor­mation on a selection of the major literary treasures in the British Library's collections. Two items that are available in their entirety over the web are the Magna Carta and the Gutenberg Bible. The Library has many other unique and important items in digital form from early manuscripts to sound recordings.


THOMAS, a digital library of the Library of Congress established in January 1995, is a comprehensive library of federal legislative information. THOMAS currently offers the following databases:

House Floor This Week,, For the current week (when the House is in ses­sion), the date and time of the House session is listed, along with bills that are expected to be passed under suspension of the rules or expected to receive floor action. The file is updated throughout the week when the House is in session.

House Floor Now. For the current legislative day, floor actions occurring in the House are listed in reverse chronological order.

Quic% Search of Text of Bills. Searches text of legislation for current Congress by word, phrase or bill number.


Bill Summary and Status. Information about bills and amendments.

Bill Text, Searchable by word, phrase and number.

Public Laws by Law Number. Summary and status records for each bill that became public law, listed by law number and in bill number sequence.

House Roll Call Votes

— Senate Roll Call Votes

Congressional Record:

— Most Recent Issue

—'Congressional Record Text. Searchable by word or phrase, by Member of Congress and/or date or date range.

Congressional Record Index

— Days-in-Session Calendars

Committee information:

Committee Reports. Searchable by word or phrase, report number, bill number, committee; searches can be limited by type of report (House, Senate, Conference, Joint).

Committee Home Pages. Browsable links to House and Senate Committee home pages residing on House and Senate servers.

House Committees. Browsable links to House servers with information on (1) schedules and oversight plans for each of the House committees, and (2) selected hearing transcripts from some of the House committees. Because each committee provides its own hearing schedules, there is no common format.

Senate Committees. Browsable links to Senate servers with information on Senate hearing schedules.

In addition, the THOMAS home page provides the following links of interest to the legislative searcher including:

Frequently Asked Questions

House and Senate Directories

Congressional Internet Services

Library of Congress Web Links

The Legislative Process:

— House: How Our Laws Are Made

— Senate: Enactment of a Law

Summary of Congressional Activity

Historical Documents

US Congressional Documents and Debates: 1774-1873.

Each collection can be browsed or searched separately by appropriate criteria.

Digital Library of Canada ( The National Library of Canada (NLC), under its digital library programme, has built the Digital Library of Canada, which provides access to digital libraries of music, history and literature. Users can select any specific digital library from the main NLC web page that will lead the user to the specific dig­ital library's page showing the list of resources accessible under each collection. Users can select any particular resource and the corresponding search/browse screen appears. In addition to text, specific search options for images and music are also provided.

Digital libraries at universities

Bodleian Library Digital Library Projects ( A number of digital collections have been built under the Bodleian Library Dig­ital Library Projects umbrella:

the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera

images of manuscripts arranged by century and country of origin

early manuscripts at Oxford University: over 80 early manuscripts now in institutions associated with the University of Oxford

the Bodleian Library/Toyota City Imaging Project

the Internet Library of Early Journals: a digital collection of 18th- and 19th-century journals

the Broadside Ballads Project: holdings of over 30,000 ballads ranging from the 16th to the 20th century

Oxford examination papers online

the Todhunter Alien Collection of maps and county atlases.

Each collection can be browsed separately.

California Digital Library (

The California Digital Library (CDL) was founded in 1997 at the University of

California. It provides access to the following digital resources:

the Online Archive of California (OAC): a digital information resource that facilitates and provides access to materials such as manuscripts, photographs and works of art held in libraries, museums, archives and other institutions across California

Counting California: government data and statistics about California

the Melvyl® Catalog: records for materials (books, archives, audiovisual mat­erials, computer files, video recordings, dissertations, government documents, maps, music scores and recordings) in the libraries of the nine UC campuses with over 10 million unique tides representing over 15 million holdings

the California Periodicals database containing periodicals, newspapers, annuals, some monographic series, and other ongoing publications owned by more than 550 California libraries

electronic journals: thousands of e-journals from major scholarly publish­ers and information providers

abstracting and indexing databases: abstracts and indexes to tens of thou­sands of journals for scholarly research, instruction and reference

specialized and reference resources: such as the Web of Science, govern­ment data and Encyclopedia Britannica online.

Users can select a particular collection for searching and/or browsing. The SearchLight option allows users to conduct a cross-database search in specific collections. Details of the user interfaces and information retrieval features of CDL appear in Chapters 8 and 9.


DIGILIB is an initiative of the Department of Architecture and the University Library, University of Queensland, Australia, providing easy access to a collec­tion of architectural images of Queensland historic buildings including a wide range of domestic, public, mining and agricultural buildings. A simple search interface allows users to enter search keywords or phrases, and searches can be limited by selecting a specific collection, a specific format of image (for example sheet images) and a sort criteria. The advanced search interface allows users to conduct complex searches by selecting various options from drop-down boxes, such as town name, building type (e.g. agricultural, commercial, educational), features (e.g. arches, circular), structure (e.g. concrete, steel, timber) and context (e.g. cliffs, cloud, grass).


iGEMS (i-Gateway to Educational and Media Services) was launched as GEMS in April 1999. It is an internet-based university portal that provides essential information on Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU). A number of digital library services are available through iGEMS, such as:

consolidated search, which allows users to select a number of data sources including subscribed databases, the NTU web pages, public folders, OPAC and NTU publications

access to library resources online, viz. audiovisual, online CD-ROMs and databases, e-journals, multimedia resources, full-text NTU publications such as theses, applied research projects, final-year projects, the OPAC and subject guides to authorized users

access to EdveNTUre, the campus online learning platform maintained by the Centre for Educational Development, to authorized users

personalized information services on such topics as campus news and events, conferences, seminars and talks, short courses and recent library acquisitions and resources, and an AV programme listing, new title alerts from publishers, event calendar, and so on

selective dissemination of information (SDI) services that include new title alerts, new preview resources from the library, conference announcements, resources from other institutions or organizations.


The Scholarly Electronic Text and Image Service (SETIS) was formed in 1995 at the University of Sydney Library. It provides access to a large number of net­worked and in-house full-text databases, primarily humanities texts. SETIS also provides access to digital theses. The Australian studies resources comprise a number of collections such as:

the Australian Federation Full Text Database

Australian Literary and Historical Texts

Australian Literature Articles from the AustLit Database

the John Anderson Papers at the University of Sydney

Joseph Henry Maiden's Botanical Works

Journals of Inland Exploration

R. W. Parson's Australian Taxation Law

the Henry Lawson Manuscripts.

The 'browse all texts' option allows users to browse the collection by author, title or subject. Alternatively, users can conduct a search by keywords or phrase. A search can be limited by field (e.g. title, author), collection, etc. The 'digital the­ses' option links to locally stored theses available in PDF (portable document format), as well as to the national distributed database.

Berkeley Digital Library SunSITE ( The objective of this project was to develop tools and technologies to support models of the scholarly information life cycle in a distributed, continuous and self-publishing mode. A large variety of digital information resources are now accessible through this digital library, such as:

the Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS): the largest US collection of papyri from a single site

the American Heritage Project: collections documenting American history and culture

die Anthropology Emeritus Lecture Series — UC Berkeley: biographical and bibliographical selections featuring the UC Berkeley Anthropology Faculty

Association of Research Libraries (ARL) @ SunSITE: a collection of digital-library-related documents from ARL

Bridging the Bay: Bridging the Campus: a collaborative exhibit document­ing the design and politics of San Francisco Bay Area bridges

California Heritage: a collection of thousands of photographs relating to the history of California

Catalonian Manuscripts

Current Cites: the complete collection of this annotated monthly bibliogra­phy of selected articles, books and electronic documents on information technology

Days of Cal: a virtual tour through the history of the University of Califor­nia, Berkeley

Digital Scriptorium: a joint project of the Bancroft Library (UC Berkeley) and the Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Columbia University to dig­itize and make available on the world wide web the two universities' medieval and early Renaissance manuscript holdings

Electronic Reserves at UC Berkeley: online course readings for UC Berke­ley classes

the Emma Goldman Papers: selected documents and photographs relating to Emma Goldman's life and work as well as indexes to thousands of other documents and photographs available in collections aroound the world

the Free Speech Movement: a co-operative project between the Bancroft Library and the FSM-A; funding provided by Stephen M. Silberstein

Government Documents Round Table

the Jack London Collection: materials that reflect on the life and influence of one of turn-of-the-century America's most enduring authors

The Last Jews of Libya: a site chronicling some of the last Jews remaining in Libya, by photographs, writings and the spoken word

Literature @ SunSITE: a collection of literature, largely US authors at the moment

Making PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction): a collection of documents relating to the history of the discovery of PCR

Mapping the Icelandic Genome

NCSTRL: Networked Computer Science Technical Reports Library

Online Archive of California

the Online Medieval and Classical Library: a collection of medieval and classical texts

Oral Histories Online: oral histories from the UC Berkeley Regional Oral History Office.

Users can search the Berkeley Digital Library SunSITE though a simple search interface where the user is expected to enter a word or a phrase. The user can also select a particular collection for more detailed searching and/or browsing.

Digital libraries of special materials

Alexandria Digital Library ( I .html) The Alexandria Digital Library (ADL) was designed in 1995 to provide access to a large range of maps and images to text and multimedia using spatially indexed information. The major objectives of ADL were:

research on issues critical for the construction of distributed digital libraries of geospatially referenced, multimedia materials

the development of technologies necessary to support such a library

the design, construction and evaluation of test-bed systems based on research and development results

the resolution of organizational and technological issues underlying the transition from test-bed system to operational digital library.

ADL has a collection of geographically referenced materials in earth and social sciences such as maps, images and texts and datasets in multimedia form. The datasets include the following:

metadata and basic data

— AVHRR imagery

— digital elevation models (DEMs)

— digital raster graphics (DRGs)

— scanned aerial photographs

— Landsat™

— Seismic datasets and technical reports

— Sierra Nevada Ecologic Project datasets

— Mojave Ecologic Project datasets

metadata only

— gazetteers

— Geodex

— GeoRef

— Mojave bibliography

— PEGASUS map records.

ADL can be browsed and searched through the Map Browser interface (, as well as through the ADL Gazetteer Server ( Interesting search and retrieval features of ADL are discussed in Chapters 8 and 9.

Informedia Digital Video Library ( The Informedia project at Carnegie Mellon University has pioneered new approaches for automated video and audio indexing, navigation, visualization, search and retrieval. The Multilingual Informedia project developed automated systems and tools to enable multilingual and multimedia information capture, search, retrieval, summarization and reuse. The second phase of the project, Informedia-II, deals with video information summarization and visualization.

Grainger Engineering Library Information Center


This digital library of engineering information at the University of Illinois at

Urbana-Champaign has a variety of collections including:

article databases, such as Compendex, INSPEC, Current Contents, NTIS and the Applied Science and Technology database

Grainger databases, such as multiple local databases, multimedia database, new books database and the reference collection

electronic journals, such as ACM journals, IEEE journals, and full-text journals in physics, computer science and civil engineering

special resources, such as patents, standards and technical reports

web resources.

Each collection has a specific search interface that can be used to search the col­lection.

Digital libraries as research projects

Greenstone Digital Library (

The Greenstone Digital Library (GDL, formerly the New Zealand Digital

Library) aims to develop the underlying technology for digital libraries and make it available to the public. GDL provides access to a number of collections ranging from Computer Science to Human Computer Interactions, a Frequently Asked Questions archive, Humanity Development Library, Indigenous Peoples, Youth Oral History Collection and Music - audio and video collections. Users can choose a specific collection that has a specific search and browse screen attached to it. Interesting search and retrieval features of GDL are discussed in Chapters 8 and 9.


NCSTRL (Networked Computer Science Technical Reference Library) is a digital library of computer science research reports and papers made available for non-commercial use from a number of participating institutions and archives. Most of the NCSTRL institutions are universities that grant PhDs in computer science or engineering, with some industrial or government research laboratories. The objective of NCSTRL was to develop a distributed technical reports library containing a collection of technical reports relating to computer science from the institutions or organizations offering PhD programmes in computer science or engineering in different parts of the world. NCSTRL cov­ers computer science technical reports from computer science departments and industrial and government research laboratories from different parts of the world, and its collection is available from the servers of the participating insti­tutions from anywhere and to anybody in the world. Author, year and institution can be searched using the browse index facility, or keywords can be searched for under abstract and title. From the search results users can link to full-text documents subject to the authors' terms and conditions.


NDLTD (Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations) was designed to build a digital library of theses and dissertations by Masters and doctoral students from various universities in the USA and around the globe. It started at Virginia Tech, USA. Subsequently many institutions in the USA and overseas joined this programme to form a federation. Users accessing the NDLTD website can search theses and dissertations in Virginia Tech, or can conduct a federated search to retrieve information on theses and dissertations from all the participating institutions. The Virginia Tech Digital library of elec­tronic theses and dissertations (ETD) covers theses and dissertations in various disciplines submitted by the students of the University. In addition to theses and dissertations the Virginia Tech ETD has electronic journals, VT Spectrum and WDBJ7 script archives. Details of the search and retrieval features of ETD appear later in this book (Chapters 8 and 9).

Digital libraries built as part of the UK hybrid library projects

HeadLine (

HeadLine (Hybrid Electronic Access and Delivery in the Library Networked Environment) was one of the hybrid library projects funded under Phase 3 of the Electronic Libraries (eLib) programme of the UK higher education Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). The project aimed to develop and implement a working model of the hybrid library in an academic environment by providing facilities for personalized access to library resources regardless of physical form via a common web interface. A wide range of search options is available. Users can browse through the subject page created by the system, through the institutional resource page — the entire collection — or through the personal subject page, called the personal information environment (PIE). The PIE is the main feature of this digital library. When a user logs in for the first time the system automatically creates an information page on the subject of interest to the user. The necessary information is gathered from the user's log­in screen. The subject page gives information on the subject and allows user to customize the page to create their personal information page.


These brief discussions of selected digital libraries show that different types of digital libraries have been developed over the past few years. Some are designed to provide access to digital resources in one or more specific types of documents or in specific subject fields, for example NDLTD and NCSTRL. Other digital libraries were built in the course of experiments in developing enabling technologies for providing access to special type of materials, for example ADL and Informedia. Some digital libraries discussed above are perfect examples of hybrid libraries, for example CDL and iGEMS. HeadLine and iGEMS give examples of how a personal work environment can be created and supported for every user through the digital library interface. Overall this chapter shows the variety of digital libraries currently available - some accessible through membership and/or registration, while many others are available freely. Such features as their collection organization, user interfaces and information retrieval will be discussed in detail in the relevant chapters later in the book.

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