Project Briefing

D-Lib Magazine
April 1999

Volume 5 Number 4

ISSN 1082-9873

Global Info

The German Digital Libraries Project

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Diann Rusch-Feja
Library and Research Documentation
Max Planck Institute for Human Development
Lentzeallee 94, D-14195
Berlin, Germany
Tel. +49 30-824 06 230
FAX +49 30-824 99 39

Hans Jürgen Becker
State and University Library of Lower Saxony Göttingen
Platz der Göttingener Sieben 1
D-37073 Göttingen, Germany
Tel. +49 551-39 52 30
FAX +49 551-39-3199



The concept for the German Digital Libraries Program is imbedded in the Information Infrastructure Program of the German Federal Government for the years 1996-2000 which has been explicated in the Program Paper entitled "Information as Raw Material for Innovation".3 The Program Paper was published 1996 by the Federal Ministry for Education, Research, and Technology. The actual grants program "Global Info" was initiated by the Information and Communication Commission of the Joint Learned Societies to further technological advancement in enabling all researchers in Germany direct access to literature, research results, and other relevant information. This Commission was founded by four of the learned societies in 1995, and it has sponsored a series of workshops to increase awareness of leading edge technology and innovations in accessing electronic information sources. Now, nine of the leading research-level learned societies -- often those with umbrella responsibilities for other learned societies in their field -- are members of the Information and Communication Commission and represent the mathematicians, physicists, computer scientists, chemists, educational researchers, sociologists, psychologists, biologists and information technologists in the German Association of Engineers. (The German professional librarian societies are not members, as such, of this Commission, but are represented through delegates from libraries in the learned societies and in the future, hopefully, also by the German Association of Documentalists or through the cooperation between the documentalist and librarian professional societies.)

The Federal Ministry earmarked 60 Million German Marks for projects within the framework of the German Digital Libraries Program in two phases over the next six years. The scope for the German Digital Libraries Program was announced in a press release in April 1997,4 and the first call for preliminary projects and expressions of interest in participation ended in July 1997. The Consortium members were suggested by the Information and Communication Commission of the Learned Societies (IuK Kommission), by key scientific research funding agencies in the German government, and by the publishers themselves. The first official meeting of the participants took place on December 1, 1997, at the Deutsche Bibliothek, located in the renowned center of German book trade, Frankfurt, thus documenting the active role and participation of libraries and publishers.

In contrast to the Digital Libraries Project of the National Science Foundation in the United States, the German Digital Libraries project is based on furthering cooperation with universities, scientific publishing houses (including various international publishers), book dealers, and special subject information centers, as well as academic and research libraries. The goals of the German Digital Libraries Project are to achieve: 1) efficient access to world wide information; 2) directly from the scientist’s desktop; 3) while providing the organization for and stimulating fundamental structural changes in the information and communication process of the scientific community.

The Organization and Structure of Global Info -- The German Digital Libraries Project

The German Digital Libraries Project is based on a Consortium with representatives from each of the following groups: the Producers (representing authors, publishers, etc.), the Distributors (such as publishers, booksellers, information centers and libraries), and the Consumers (readers, students, and scientists -- especially represented by the learned societies, university departments, professional organizations and also libraries). The actual representation is divided, with four persons representing the publishers’ group, four representatives from the learned societies, one representative from libraries, and one representative from information centers. Additional learned societies, publishers and, indirectly, libraries are further represented by the chairman, the stand-in representatives, etc.

The German Digital Libraries Project consists of five focal points. Three are chaired by a pair of Consortial members: one representing the publishers’ group and the other representing the learned societies’ group. In Focal Points III and IV, the second representative of the pair is either the information centers' representative or the libraries' representative. These five Focal Points were originally assigned the following aspects as parameters for helping define project proposals in the following round of tender:

I Expansion and processing content (later developed into: Electronic document types, procedures for electronic publishing from author to internal publisher, editorial procedure to better manage electronic publication, authoring tools, conversion aspects, indexing, etc.)

II Networking of instructional materials and multimedia

III Formal description, identification and retrieval (later modified to: Description, identification, metadata, and retrieval in heterogenic data environments and subject areas)

IV Content usage (later modified to: Development, structuring, and conversion of scientific information systems)

V Business models, billing and invoicing (later expanded to: Business models and administrative procedures in electronic publishing)

In the following, the original content intended to be treated in each of these five focal points will be expanded to give an idea of their comprehensiveness:

Focal Point I -- This Focal Point, which is intended to facilitate more efficient publishing procedures by exploiting electronic means, focusses on authoring systems, format conversion, new forms of publication, editing systems, interfaces within the procedural phases which can be used for management of the publication process, as well as version management, issues of means to establish authenticity and guarantees of originality, and archiving problems.

Focal Point II -- This Focal Point, as opposed to any of the other Focal Points, emphasizes the utilization of electronic technology to advance teaching and learning possibilities and resources. Since the German Digital Libraries Project is to produce prototypes which can be put into effect within the academic community, this focal point was geared to providing tools and gaining expertise in the area of instructional use and development of such resources. This includes development of interactive courses, educational software, multimedia with self-updating mechanisms, tools for developing multimedial teaching materials, didactic aspects of educational software for use at all levels of education, and user training.

Focal Point III -- This Focal Point is directed toward improving the content organization, retrieval and indexing through metadata, establishment of standards for identification and indexing, building concordances between classification systems, thesauri, contributing and maintaining internationality, building adequate database structures and retrieval instruments to respond to the needs of the scientific community, and maintain dynamic management of linking and reference structures. The Information and Communication Commission Task Force on Metadata and Classification has had considerable input into this focal group. Their recommendation to Global Info to utilize and support development of the Dublin Core Metadata within any relevant projects in this focal point has been generally accepted and reflected in the project proposals.

Focal Point IV -- This Focal Point concentrates on the aspects of retrieval and content usage which are facilitated through user interface design (GUI); alerting and profile services; integration of local and subject-oriented systems; issues in classification and indexing; conceptual analysis; forms of integrating larger digital libraries with heterogenic databases; fact databases, etc.; and building up structures for distributed information systems.

Focal Point V -- This Focal Point addresses the issues connected with all aspects of ownership, authenticity, pricing structures and billing which include costs and feasibility of electronic publishing, business models, licensing and legal issues, payment models including author payment and user invoicing. However, it also includes studies to determine user acceptance, behavior and statistics in using electronic resources, marketing, and structuring electronic resources offerings (for example, by publishers, by libraries, and by information centers).

The Involvement of Libraries and Information Centers in Global Info

Libraries and information centers are both represented by one person officially in the major recommendation body of the German Digital Libraries Consortium, although one further member has a dual role by virtue of delegation through the learned societies and professional status as librarian. Furthermore, the learned societies support the involvement of libraries and information centers as they, of course, are key players in the process of establishing collections of electronic resources, negotiating optimal access conditions for the academic and scientific community, providing indexing, content analysis, and alerting services, and developing other use conditions. Thus, the learned societies have encouraged participation of libraries and information centers, and the Global Info structure has also been expanded to include libraries, information centers and computer centers as the third important partner group in all of the projects.

Just to give an overview on the involvement of libraries and information centers, the following libraries and information centers are currently involved in the preparation of project proposals: Die Deutsche Bibliothek, the Bavarian State Library, the State and University Library of Lower Saxony Göttingen, the university libraries in Regensburg, Dortmund, Osnabrück, Oldenburg, Kaiserslautern, Humbold-University of Berlin, etc., and the subject-oriented information centers FIZ Karlsruhe (technology, physics, natural sciences, etc.), FIZ Chemie (chemical information), FIS Bildung (education and pedagogics), IZ Sozialwissenschaften (SSIC - Social Sciences Information Center), ZIB (the supercomputing center and center for mathematics) and the GFZ (Center for Geophysical Research).

How are these libraries and information centers participating in the German Digital Libraries Project? Working packages have been developed in various consortia and project groups to work on standardization and implementation of metadata, to work on classification and thesauri concordances, and to investigate all administrative and presentation aspects of offering electronic journals including: cataloging (both title level and article level), creating and evaluating various access systems, metadata for resource discovery and rights management, evaluating licensing models, collection management, user training, archiving, alerting profiles, and linking databases. Where existing databases exist, and where electronic documents such as dissertations, inhouse publications and databases are being produced, techniques and procedures to establish the linking structure (including references as well as databases using context links and factual databases) are to be explored. Various learned societies and libraries have created authoring tools for metadata creation and uploading, A further aspect in several proposals is the development of search engines and Harvester implementations which will process the new forms of metadata, including the future form in the proposed Resource Description Framework (RDF), etc. In addition, libraries and information centers are participating in projects creating broadscale integrative learning programs and access to electronic course materials, as well as in defining and prototyping other electronic information services.

Project Requirements

As mentioned above, the primary requirement for any project proposal including working packages is that project partners must come from each of the three major sectors -- producers, distributors and consumers. This can be better specified in the terms scientists, publishers, libraries, information centers, computing centers and endusers. Connected to this is the requirement that for each funded project each of these three groups, at least two of the official Global Info participants must be represented.

A second requirement is that the proposed project or working package build on current state of the art technology.

Third, the proposed projects and working packages must be interdisciplinary in their reflection of subject content. No one project may be focussed on one subject area and, thereby, only reflect the needs of one subject group or professional area.

Ideally, the working packages and sub-projects must all fit together to form one "rounded-out" project proposal for the final funding application. There must be a formal proposal structure (a model application form has been developed and is on the Global Info server), and the proposal must name the participants and give a catalog of the project intentions, its needs, its schedule, and its deliverables. Reflection of the knowledge of state of the art technology must be documented, and the project’s overall placement within this area must be indicated.

The last requirement is that all project proposals must reflect cooperative development of pre-competitive, prototypical methods, procedures, tools, and service structures. If proven successful and feasible, the conditions for continued use of these methods, procedures, tools and services after conclusion of the projects should be delineated. Project applications approved for funding will receive 50 % matching funds with the other 50 % of funds being provided by the institutions involved in the project. The financial plan and distribution of the work load must be delineated in the proposal.

After Evaluation, Acceptance and Project Onset -- The Next Six Years

The projects currently under evaluation will be carried out between 1999 and 2001 with most of the projects being planned for a two-year period. An additional third year will only be considered if appropriate and may require an additional application procedure. The second phase for project proposals is planned for 2001-2002 with the second project phase approximately from 2002-2004, although project proposals will be reviewed continually as funding allows. After project completion, prototypes will be tested for expanded use in a broader context, for their feasibility in other subject areas and certainly for their marketable value.

Thus, the final goal of the German Digital Libraries Project can be characterized as striving towards successful pre-competitive cooperation between the three partner groups -- without any of these groups being at a disadvantage -- while providing deliverables in the form of tested, workable prototypes to be implemented in the German national information infrastructure. In the course of this cooperation, through technological achievements, and progress in establishing standards and effective procedural practices, the German Digital Libraries Project can make a meaningful contribution to digital libraries worldwide and to the global scientific community.


  1. URL for the German Digital Libraries Project: < >
  2. This is a summary of a presentation held at the 64th IFLA General Conference, 1998 Session 109, Information Technology on 18 August 1998 in Amsterdam.
  3. Information als Rohstoff für Innovation - Programm der Bundesregierung 1996 - 2000. Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft, Forschung und Technologie. < alg.htm>
  4. Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft, Forschung und Technologie: Neues Förderkonzept "GLOBAL INFO" - Baustein für die weltweite digitale Bibliothek. FORSCHUNGS-INFOS, Nr. 14/97. Bonn, 30.04.1997. < >

Copyright © 1999 Diann Rusch-Feja and Hans Jürgen Becker

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DOI: 10.1045/april99-rusch-feja