Australian Digital Library Initiatives

Renato Iannella (Editor)
DSTC Pty Ltd
The University of Queensland

D-Lib Magazine, December 1996

ISSN 1082-9873


The Digital Library undoubtedly promises to provide many social, economic, scholarly, and technical advantages to the information industry. Enabling information to be accessed and manipulated over networked environments and providing enhanced services to clients will further the importance and contributions that Digital Libraries provide. But there are still many issues to be addressed by Digital Library projects - apart from the purely technical issues such as interoperability. Some of the thorny issues still to be resolved (and for which technology may provide a means of implementing) include understanding intellectual property rights, which has national and international implications; security; and privacy.

Australian libraries (at the Federal, State, and University levels) together with commercial and research organisations are supporting a diverse set of Digital Library projects that take on many of these technical and related issues. Collectively, the projects add up to an extremely proactive approach. This report provides an overview of some of the current projects and gives an insight into the issues being addressed. Only eighteen projects are reported, but this is by no means a complete and exhaustive list - its main aim is to give a snap-shot of some of the current activities. Each report has hypertext links to documents containing more detailed information.

The projects (in no particular order) include:


The National Library of Australia's WORLD 1 service is being developed by the National Document and Information Service (NDIS) Project in partnership with the National Library of New Zealand.

WORLD 1 has the key objective of ensuring the most efficient process for Australians to access recorded knowledge, whether in print, electronic, or multimedia formats. This objective will be achieved by supporting the entire document supply cycle from the creation of data to the search for, location and delivery of information. In particular, the service is aimed at assisting libraries and individuals to obtain documents when local resources need to be supplemented. In this way, any individual will have access to national and international documentary sources for research, business or recreational purposes.

The WORLD 1 suite of services will be Internet-based and include the WORLD 1 Search Service, the WORLD 1 Collection Management Service, and the WORLD 1 Document Delivery Management Service. The WORLD 1 Search Service will be released during 1997.

Further information:

Electronic Reserve Project

Monash University Library's new branch on the Berwick Campus was opened in March 1996. It contains four banks of computers and there are virtually no books on the shelves. It reflects the University's declared intention to create an electronic campus at Berwick and to provide library facilities by electronic delivery (however there is back-up from a conventional library located on the adjacent Casey TAFE campus.) The electronic reserve collection is at the core of the "electronic library" at Berwick. Students may retrieve, view and print bit-mapped images of journal articles, book chapters and similar recommended course readings. There are now more than 400 items in this rapidly growing "collection". The existing arrangements require the Library to approach publishers for each item separately requesting approval to scan and store the item in digital format. In the majority of cases, publishers have given this approval without charging a royalty fee.

The system resides on a Windows NT server. The viewer software for the project was developed in the Library. Multi-page TIFF Images are accessed via a WWW front end to the Library Catalogue on which records for all imaged documents are created. Users may click on a hot link to view the image of the document.

Further information:

Electronic Journal Project

In 1995, the Australian Vice Chancellor's Committee made a research grant to Monash University Library to conduct a pilot project in the transfer of an existing conventional journal, the Australasian Journal of Engineering Education (AJEE), to electronic media. The project involves the University Library, the Unit of Medical Informatics, and the UNESCO-supported International Centre for Engineering Education (USICEE), in the Faculty of Engineering. During 1995, the appropriate hardware and software were acquired to serve as the host for the project and for future electronic publishing ventures. A staff member from the Library was trained in the various skills required in creating information for distribution via the World Wide Web. Three electronic issues of the journal (volume 6, numbers 1 and 2, and volume 7, no. 1) have been published to date in parallel with the paper versions and made available for viewing on the World Wide Web. Reader comments were obtained by means of a questionnaire sent to all subscribers.

A further research grant of $30,000 was provided by the University from its 1996 Quality Funds. This will enable the project team to continue to publish all issues of the AJEE electronically on the World Wide Web, using the techniques that have been pioneered during 1995. Procedures for the electronic submission, reviewing, refereeing and editing of all manuscripts to the AJEE will be developed and trialled. Alternative methods for the processing of electronic subscriptions, including the collection of subscription fees, using electronic payment software, credit card secure on- line transactions, micro-billing for specific information visited, etc. will be investigated and trialled. Expansion of the scope of the publishing venture will be explored with the editors of other scholarly journals that are published by or under the auspices of Monash University faculties and departments.

Further information:

REDD: An Electronic Document Delivery Project

REDD is a "first" for Australia - an electronic document delivery system which uses a World Wide Web (WWW) browser, Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension (MIME), e-mail and Common Gateway Interface (CGI) programs to electronically transmit requests for documents and the documents themselves between users. It is a hardware independent solution that does not necessitate the purchase or use of vendor specific software on each user's workstation.

REDD was developed by The University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology and Griffith University Libraries to meet the need for a fast, inexpensive and accessible electronic document delivery infrastructure for Australia. The project received seed funding from the Australian Research Council's 1994 Research Infrastructure (Equipment and Facilities) Programme.

Registered REDD users access an electronic request form on their library's World Wide Web server, fill in their personal and bibliographic details, and send the completed request form to their local library. Interlibrary loans staff in the local library edit the form and then send it to the selected supplying library. The supplying library then retrieves the requested item, scans it and emails it to the requesting library. At this stage, the requesting library prints the item for the requester. The implications of sending scanned items direct to the user's workstation are under investigation.

Currently, REDD is being used by staff, students and document delivery staff at eight institutions: The University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, Griffith University, the University of Southern Queensland, University of Central Queensland, Southern Cross University, the Australian Catholic University and the State Library of New South Wales.

Further information:

Hume Image Collection Project

The University of Queensland's Hume collection consists of a rare collection of photographic prints that capture the life of the Hume family, a leading Queensland pastoral family, between 1870 and 1890. The collection is a primary research resource on the development of Queensland's Darling Downs area and is unique, in heavy demand, and largely inaccessible due to its fragility.

Photographs were described, scanned, and compressed using JPEG compression at 25:1 compression ratio. CGI scripts were written to integrate text and image files. Files were then stored and made available via the Library's web server. Testing is still under way and public access to the database should be available via the Library's home page by January 1997.

Further information:

DIGILIB: Queensland Country Towns Image Project

The Queensland Country Towns Database (DIGILIB) is a collaborative project between The University of Queensland's Architecture Department and Library. Stage 1 of the project involved using a broadcast quality video camera to digitise one thousand colour slides, compressing these using JPEG compression at 25:1 compression ratio, and storing the data on the Library's file server. Each image was described and a MARC-based proforma developed to guide the descriptive process.

The slides focus on Queensland historic buildings ranging from domestic, public, mining, and agricultural buildings, many of which have now been demolished. As a number of the buildings have not been recorded elsewhere, the collection is significant as a record of the nation's cultural heritage and is a heavily-used teaching, learning and research resource.

Stage 2 involved transferring the text and image files created in stage 1 to a format suitable for the World Wide Web. The Web- based product allows both simple searching and advanced searching where users can select multiple combinations of terms. There are also a number of ways in which records retrieved can be viewed. The database is still under development with plans to incorporate Quicktime VR and enable searching by image shape as well as traditional text based searching.

Further information:

NSW Parliaments Newspaper Clippings and Press Releases Imaging Project

The NSW Parliamentary Library clips and maintains a large collection of newspaper articles for the use of Members and their staff. The collection comprises around 1 million clippings stored on a mixture of paper and microfiche and grows at a rate of 35,000 articles annually. The current collection is maintained entirely on a manual system with the articles being indexed by a Librarian under a number of different headings and photocopies of the articles made for each heading used. Searching is done by leafing through manila folders of clippings kept for each heading. In 1995 funding was obtained from NSW Treasury to move to a digital storage and delivery system for this service.

The aim of the project was to find a system that would allow for both the storage and indexing of this collection to be converted from a paper based system to a digital system. It was also intended if possible to deliver the images over the Parliament's LAN and WAN.

The system that has been chosen for the project is SIRSI's Digital Media Archive which will be integrated with SIRSI's Unicorn Library system to provide a complete solution to the Library's requirements. The Media Archive system is a new product from SIRSI and is designed as an electronic repository for information from a wide variety of media. It differs from other Electronic Document Management Systems in that it is designed to maintain the latest published version of the documents rather than documents that are still being revised and changed. The emphasis of the Media Archive is to support knowledge-based searching for information and its delivery to the user's desktop in the most usable form.

The project is still in the early stages but the Parliamentary Library hopes to have it on-line for the first sittings of Parliament in 1997. We will scan the newspaper articles using an A3 flatbed B&W scanner. They will be stored on the Library's RS600 server which will be upgraded to a 16Gb hard disk to cope with the high volume storage requirements. The intellectual input of the professional staff in selecting articles and assigning index terms will still be carried out in the same manner as currently.

Further information:

Preserving Oral History Recordings Project

The National Library of Australia has embarked on a program of digital conversion of its large and important Oral History collections. The Library has been using and investigating digital recording and editing facilities since 1991. Responding to the benefits offered by digital technology, and recognising the need to transfer from analogue to digital to maintain access, the Library initiated the purchase of a digital system in early 1996. The collections, currently containing about 30,000 hours of original recordings, cover a very wide range of notable Australians, social history and folklore projects from the late 1940s onwards. It is arguably the most important oral history collection in the country.

The system uses a network of computer hard disk-based Digital Audio Workstations writing to recordable CD (CD-R), analogue reel-to-reel tape, and analogue access cassettes. As procedures develop, it is likely that the analogue components of the current system will be dropped in favour of full digitisation. The size of the collection and the conversion task mean that even with the full digitisation of current procedures the collection is likely to contain analogue tapes for many years to come.

CD-R was chosen as the most available technology to achieve the objectives of the project. CD-R is not the ultimate solution to digital archiving, and many other technologies offer some specific advantages over it. Overall, it appears to be the broadly acceptable solution to the Library's requirements for the foreseeable future. However, the volatility of the market will undoubtedly result in other digital technologies becoming available, with the eventual demise of the CD and its associated recording formats. The project assumes that there is no archival medium: there are only archiving procedures. The question is not how long a digital medium will last but how easily it will transfer to the next digital technology.

Further information:

Australian Cooperative Digitisation Project 1840-45

This project will create a unique research infrastructure in Australian studies through the digital conversion of Australian serials and fiction of the seminal period 1840-45. The project will ensure access to and preservation of this material by a process of microfilming, scanning, and networking. The first project of its kind in Australia, it will introduce international best practice, act as a technical benchmark, and provide a new level of resource sharing. This Commonwealth Australian Research Council funded project is a national collaborative project between the University of Sydney Library (project leader), the State Library of New South Wales, the National Library of Australia, and Monash University Library.

The project will work through several stages. These are: selection of items, conservation preparation of items, preservation microfilming to Australian and international standards, preservation digitisation of microfilm to TIFF image files, conversion of selected microfilm to ASCII text, design and implementation of document control structure and interface, design and provision of network delivery system (including compression), documentation and training, and preservation storage of microfilm masters and master digital data files.

Further information:

The Information Storage & Retrieval Project

The Australian Parliamentary Library's Corporate Plan emphasises the provision of quality information services in support of the work of the Parliament. The role of principal information and analysis resource is today supported via the use of a range of disparate in-house information stores, procedures, and tools, and access to various external data sources.

In general terms the Information Storage & Retrieval (ISR) Project will present as the "tool of choice", with regard to data coverage, data structure, and presentation of data for the Parliamentary Library, including the use of a common data access/retrieval mechanism to access various databases, and provide gateways to general external datastores.

Where information is held locally within the ISR, the use of hyperlinks will allow navigation to other related locally held items. Where information is held external to the ISR, it will be necessary to negotiate with that external information provider, to establish a hyperlink to external data items. Conversely, and within appropriate security constraints, external information providers may establish hyperlinks to ISR data items.

Material to be made available through the new system includes press releases, journal articles, party policy documents, research publications, bibliographic items, newspaper clippings (full text and image) and a range of other bibliographic and full text items of importance to the Parliament.

Further information:

Scholarly Electronic Text and Image Service

SETIS is the Scholarly Electronic Text and Image Service at the University of Sydney. Located in and operated by the University Library, SETIS aims to exploit fully the latest developments in information technology for students and scholars, particularly within the arts and humanities.

Modeled on similar centres in the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and particularly the highly successful Electronic Text Center at the University of Virginia, SETIS is the first service of its kind in Australia. SETIS aims, therefore, to be in a position to provide a leadership and advisory role for similar developments in our region.

In addition to providing networked access to commercial electronic texts such as the English Poetry Full-Text Database, the Bible in English, the Intelex Past Masters philosophy texts and many more, SETIS also provides access to textual analysis software, electronic text creation software and equipment, and the necessary training and support required for these.

The skills developed at SETIS will allow the University Library to support the creation of electronic versions of public domain texts at the university and their dissemination throughout the World Wide Web. The collection of freely available texts will be significant because SETIS will be the Asia-Pacific mirror site for the substantial collection of electronic texts maintained at the University of Virginia.

Further information:

UNILINC Projects

UNILINC is a non-profit cooperative of higher education and related libraries in Australia and has several electronic journal projects. UNILINC has mounted two electronic journal databases (ABI/Inform and Periodical Research 11) which together deliver over 1000 electronic journals to the desktop. In addition, OVID's Core Biomedical Research (CBC)1 collection has been mounted and CBC2 will soon be made available. These collections comprise the fulltext including graphics of some 22 core journals. They are linked by keys in the Medline and other NLM databases available via OVID. These fulltext databases are additional to another 16 citation and abstract databases available online.

The participating libraries encourage full use by undergraduates as well as academics and researchers from within the library, the university network and from home. UNILINC will be putting up further electronic journal collections as they become available.

In addition to database services, UNILINC has a Shared Library System, CD-CAT (the first CD ROM produced in Australia and at its 24th edition and using software developed in Australia), a cooperative purchasing program for online and CD ROM databases and a contract cataloguing service.

Further information:

LISWEB Project

The LISWEB project provides Curtin University clients with information about the library services, tells them what we can do for them, and offers easy access to quality sources of scholarly information. It also includes at least three innovative features.

  1. Interactive Information Literacy. The WWW offers an excellent platform to make the core of our existing information literacy program available to students world-wide, irrespective of place or time. Skills enhancement programs on the WWW offer media-rich materials which can be explored in an interactive mode. The core literacy content for Health Sciences is currently offered, and content will be expanded to other subject areas later this year.
  2. Exam papers. Students use exam papers as a major and valued information resource. These have been scanned in for the past three years and made them available through LISWEB.

  3. EasySearch. In an increasingly web-centric environment, clients expect to be able to access catalogues and other databases through the WWW. DRAWEB, a commercial product, has been substantially enhanced by, for example, adding a Boolean "and" feature to meet these client needs.

Further information:

The Documentary Images Project

The "Images 1" database at the National Library of Australia contains more than 13,000 images of works of art including watercolours, paintings, drawings, prints and photographs. It constitutes a sample of the images available in the National Library's Pictorial Collection. It is expected that new images will be added as conversion of new acquisitions and older materials proceeds. The images found in Images 1 originated from two distinct projects: the APOLLO Videodisc Project and the Portraits Project.

In the APOLLO Videodisc Project, completed in 1992, approximately 12,000 images from the Pictorial Collection were reproduced onto a videodisc (6,000 original works including rare prints and 6,000 photographs). The Portraits Project, initiated in July 1995, had as its objective the digitisation at very high resolution of all the original portraits in the Pictorial Collection. In addition to these portraits (which include a large collection of caricatures), a selection of photographs by well known Australian photographers, portraits of all the Australian Prime Ministers and all the original works by Augustus Earle in the National Library's collection were scanned.

All original works of art have complete bibliographic entries, including subject headings which are indexed and searchable. Many of the photographs have been catalogued as collections and are not indexed individually. For these, access is through the title (the name of the collection), the photographer, the accession number or a broad subject, usually the geographic subject.

Further information:

Indian Ocean Rim Region Virtual Library Project

The Indian Ocean Rim Region Virtual Library Project has been jointly developed by Edith Cowan and Murdoch University Libraries, the Centre for Development Studies at Edith Cowan University and the Inter-University Consortium for Development Studies Western Australia (comprising Edith Cowan University, Murdoch University, Curtin University of Technology and, the University of Western Australia). The project is a co-operative venture initially focusing on Social Development, including health issues, in the Indian Ocean Rim Region.

The aims of the project are to:

Social development has been defined as a process of change which involves the interaction of political, economic, social, production, technological, international and administrative systems. More specifically, social development in the contemporary world focuses on social issues such as Health, Economic and Social Development, Environmental Issues, Economy, Education, Gender, Ethnicity, Indigenous Groups and Labour.

Further information:

The Resource Discovery Project

The goal of the Resource Discovery Project at the Distributed Systems Technology Centre is to investigate issues with locating and retrieving information in large networked environments - the Digital Library being a significant example. The Internet and WWW provide a challenging environment for deployment of Digital Library services. The needs of information publishers - to maximise audience reach - and the user - to minimise information overload - requires advanced technical solutions and investigative research.

Resource Discovery brings many technical problems and research opportunities to the field of digital libraries. These problems fall into three categories:

The Resource Discovery Project investigates these issues and produces prototypes to demonstrate various solutions. Current technologies include: Z39.50, Uniform Resource Naming, Dublin Core metadata, Internet and Web-based information protocols, browsing interfaces (with clustering algorithms), automatic metadata extraction, and resource replication and mobility.

Further information:

Multimedia Source Project

The Multimedia Source Project at the State Library of Victoria is providing on-line access to digitised content from the Library's vast, often unique, collections of paintings, drawings, postcards, maps, rare books, theatre posters, oral history tapes and other items ranging from 1803 to the present day. Although access is the primary focus of the Project, conservation needs are also being served as a result of less frequent contact with the fragile originals.

The Project is building on the foundations of Pictoria, a previous Library project which captured 104,000 images to videodisk and created 80,000 records in Dynix to facilitate their access. These images have now been digitised and compressed to JPEG files for serving over the WWW. Future content will be digitally scanned. The Library is pioneering the use of Ameritech's WebPAC WWW retrieval interface to its Dynix bibliographic database for the cataloguing and retrieval of multimedia materials.

On searching the catalogue, short, text only, views of the records are retrieved. These then link to a long view of the record with an embedded thumbnail version of the image, achieved through using a MARC 856 sub-field. A second 856 sub-field contains the URL to a 640x480 screen resolution version of the image embedded in an HTML page. Each image has had an associated HTML file generated around it providing information about the title, artist, subject, a library record number and, importantly, the Library's reproduction conditions. In addition, metadata consisting of title, artist, subject and the fact that it is a picture has been generated into the HTML header field. Although, in effect, duplicating the data that is held in the Dynix record, it does mean that the HTML pages with their images have the potential to be retrieved by Web search engines.

The Project did not design and build a new database specifically for its images because it was felt important to be able to integrate the Multimedia Source Catalogue with the Library's bibliographic catalogue in order to provide contextual links to related works in other collections within the library, to conform to international standards of data structure and interchange (notably MARC and Z39.50) and thus retain relevance to the international library world.

Further information:

Australian Museums On Line

The Australian Museums On Line (AMOL) project aims - in the long term - to provide access to the vast cultural resources of Australian museums via the Internet. When completed, AMOL will be a collaborative national network of information about cultural, historic and scientific heritage items.

AMOL is based on the principle that the national, state, regional, small and local museums have untapped cultural resources to which it is now possible to provide access through the use of new technologies - intelligent interfaces, open systems and communication protocols.

AMOL will enable easy access to museum information, facilitating activities and relationships between Australian and international museums - exhibitions, collection development and educational services. For museums without electronic databases or trained staff to develop and implement them, recommendations will be made to the Heritage Collections Committee on how small or isolated museums can participate in AMOL. In the short term, AMOL will give any museum a presence on the Internet's World Wide Web via the AMOL web site.

When fully developed AMOL will enable users to access information about all Australian museums, from objects in their collection to their exhibition programs, in one search. For example, a user researching gold mining in 19th century Victoria or planning a tour of south east Queensland museums will be able, through AMOL, to search the entire national network for relevant information.

Further information:

Copyright © 1996 Renato Iannella

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