University of Illinois
Digital collections continue to grow in libraries, firms and other organizations. Whether locally developed documents, scanned collections, or other content, the next step in the evolution of these collections involves finding ways of linking them together to facilitate the effective dissemination, searching and preservation of content. That is a primary goal behind the Open Archives Initiative (OAI).
The OAI grew out of efforts in the sciences to develop e-print archives. These archives serve as a repository for scholarly papers. They began as informal ways of disseminating primary results and non-peer reviewed gray literature. A number of them have developed into essential mediums for sharing research results. The archives represent a shift away from the traditional paper based journal towards a faster and more economical method of publishing results. Established e-print archives exist in physics, economics, the health sciences, psychology and linguistics. As the size and importance of these archives has grown the need to search across and use them as a federated whole has become more and more important.
The OAI works to develop and promote interoperability standards to facilitate the efficient dissemination of content between and among these e-print archives. The fundamental technological framework and standards developing to support this work exist independently of the type of content and promise to have much broader relevance in opening up access to a range of digital materials. The OAI enjoys a broad level of support from both the library and computer science communities. The initial meeting of the Initiative was held in Santa Fe, NM, in 1999 and was sponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), the Digital Library Federation (DLF), the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The OAI divides archive participants into two camps: data providers and service providers. A data provider manages the e-print archive by providing systems for storing, submitting and accessing the works it contains. Typically a third party, a service provider creates applications to use or manipulate content stored in the archive. An example might be a search engine that could run queries across multiple collections using the metadata stored in each archive.
The current OAI technical infrastructure provides a method by which data providers make available metadata created to describe items in their archives. The current OAI descriptive method makes use of an unqualified version of the Dublin Core metadata set. Mapping among multiple metadata formats would place a considerable burden on service providers who harvest the metadata and use it to build higher-level services. While research continues on creating a common search interface across heterogeneous metadata formats, the OAI's less burdensome and ultimately more deployable solution requires repositories to map to a simple and common metadata format. The fifteen elements comprising the Dublin Core have developed into just such a common standard for simple cross-discipline description.
The goal of interoperability in these archives resembles the use of Z39.50 in libraries. The OAI technical framework remains intentionally simple with an aim of providing a low barrier for participants. Designed with more complete functionality, protocols such as Z39.50 deal with session management and results sets and allow the specification of predicates that filter the records returned. However, this functionality comes at an increase in difficulty of implementation and cost. The OAI technical framework is not intended to replace other approaches but to provide an easy-to-implement and easy-to-deploy alternative for different constituencies or different purposes than those addressed by existing interoperability solutions.
The system described by the OAI served as a model for the Legal Education Document Archive (LEDA). A repository on the web for law-related articles, working papers, theses, moot court briefs, and other legal academic documents offered by the Harvard Law School Library and Cornell's Legal Information Institute, LEDA makes materials available by their authors to facilitate research, collaboration, scholarship, and to provide an open publication forum for law students and faculty.
The project's manual states that:
From the point of view of a cataloger or librarian, LEDA is an archive system that collects electronic documents and associated, author-generated metadata in a way that permits a cataloger to review and perfect that data for subsequent use in bibliographic records and bibliographic searching.
From the point of view of the digital librarian, LEDA is a low cost way for individual institutions to build electronic collections that are then federated with the collections of other institutions.
From the point of view of a researcher, LEDA is a seamless collection of legal scholarship that can be searched either with fielded metadata or (soon) in full text.
LEDA consists of six subsystems:
Libraries and other organizations creating repositories of digital legal information face the same question. How do we move what are essentially small, locally focused digital projects into larger more production oriented mode? As applications such as the OAI gain in popularity, the roles that TS librarian can play in the management of digital libraries and in their transition from projects to production systems become more important and visible. Preserving, accessing and acquiring the material created and archived in this manner require long-term vision, commitment and a great deal of creative thinking. Inherent in each is the opportunity to rethink or reaffirm ways in which law libraries handle legal information.
For More Information:
The Open Archives Initiative (OAI) (http://www.openarchives.org)
The Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (http://www.openarchives.org/OAI/openarchivesprotocol.htm)
The Legal Education Document Archive (LEDA) (http://leda.law.cornell.edu/leda/)
The Santa Fe Convention of the Open Archives Initiative / Herbert Van de Sompel & Carl Lagoze (http://www.dlib.org/dlib/february00/vandesompel-oai/02vandesompel-oai.html)
ArXiv.org hosted by Los Alamos National Laboratory (http://arxiv.org/)
RePEc (Research Papers in Economics) (http://repec.org/)
The Technical Services SIS, Online Bibliographic
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