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Conference Report


D-Lib Magazine
July/August 2006

Volume 12 Number 7/8

ISSN 1082-9873

Report on the Sixth ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL 2006) - Opening Information Horizons

Held June 11-15, 2006, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina


Michael Khoo
National Science Digital Library, Core Integration
UCAR, Boulder, Colorado

Red Line


The Sixth Annual ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL) was held from June 11 to June 15, 2006. In contrast to JCDL 2005's high and dry location in Denver, the setting this year was the lush lowlands of Chapel Hill, and the campus of the University of North Carolina (UNC). Conference chair Gary Marchionini (UNC) – assisted by program committee chairs Michael Nelson (Old Dominion University) and Cathy Marshall (Microsoft); tutorial chair Herbert Van de Sompel (Los Alamos National Laboratory); workshop chair Javed Mostafa (Indiana University); poster chair Richard Furuta (Texas A&M University); demo chair Xia Lin (Drexel University); local arrangements chair Elizabeth Evans (UNC); publicity co-chairs Wanda Monroe (UNC), Jose Borbinha (Universidade Technica de Lisboa), and Ee-Peng Lim (Nanyang Technological University Singapore); registration chair Marianne Afifi (University of Southern California); sponsorship chair Ron Larsen (University of Pittsburgh); student volunteers chair Jeff Pomerantz (UNC); treasurer Barbara Wildemuth (UNC); website and wiki manager Jackson Fox (LuLu), and wireless network manager Fred Stutzman (UNC); a large program committee; and many student volunteers – assembled a wide-ranging and stimulating conference program that addressed the theme "Opening Information Horizons."

The Sunday evening before the main conference, however, it was the heavens that opened, as Raleigh experienced a torrential downpour and a formidable display of lightning. The spectacle was enjoyed by some of the 478 delegates from a range of hostelries on Franklin Street and downtown Chapel Hill, and witnessed with somewhat more trepidation by others flying into Raleigh-Durham airport that night. The deluge did nothing to dampen spirits at the conference, however, which was held in the Medical Biomolecular Research Building, a location that prompted Cathy Marshall, in her opening remarks, to caution attendees against opening any fridges in the building, lest they encounter any biomolecular 'works-in-progress.'

This year, there were 248 total submissions from 22 countries. From 107 full papers and 81 short papers, the program committee selected 28 full papers and 29 short papers for presentation at the conference. In addition, 37 posters and 13 demonstrations were presented in a special reception. The accepted long and short technical presentations were organized into 14 sessions, and addressed such topics as visualization for libraries, named entities, classification and links, digital preservation, document analysis, time and space, digital library curricula, images and sound, information retrieval, supporting education, metadata, and usage and relationships. A list of accepted papers is available on the JCDL 2006 web site. The conference program also included a range of meetings that supported the in-depth and focused discussion of digital library issues in interactive settings. These included eight tutorials, five workshops, and a Doctoral Consortium that provided a space for Ph.D. students in the process of their dissertation work to meet digital library faculty and professionals. (Reports of some of these activities are included in this issue of D-Lib).

The sessions alternated with plenaries and panels that engaged the theme of "Opening Information Horizons" in a variety of ways. The first plenary, "Getting Books Online: Practices and Strategies," brought together Daniel Clancy (Google Print), David Ferriero (New York Public Library), and Daniel Greenstein (California Digital Library). (This session continued a discussion on 'Google as a Library' begun at JCDL 2005.) Only 15% of book titles are in print, Dan Clancy told the audience, and 92% of the world's books are not generating revenues for copyright holders or publishers; it would seem to be an obvious choice to open up these books to public access by scanning them and placing them online. This work faces a number of obstacles, however, including the hardware issues, legal issues, sustainability issues (might users pay per page, as with photocopying?), and software and OCR issues. Technologically, large-scale book scanning requires both powerful computers and dedicated human support, and while Dan Clancy alluded to a yet-to-be-revealed Google technology that addresses many of these issues, Dan Greenstein described some of the more prosaic problems faced by organizations such as the Open Content Alliance, including cooling the machines and scanning rooms, and providing refreshment and break facilities for the humans engaged in the digitization process. Copyright and intellectual property issues were well to the fore (see for example issues related to the Google Print Controversy), and David Ferriero described some of the concerns of both libraries and publishers in this area. Cliff Lynch, moderating, questioned the progress of OCR technology. Dan Clancy described this as the most expensive part of the operation, and too expensive to be repeated on a frequent basis, but that OCR was probably "99% good"; but as David Ferriero observed, it could be the 1% of mis-recognized words that people might be interested in searching on. Further, the efficiency of OCR decreases rapidly as one leaves the world of recent English-language imprints, and older books, non-roman alphabets, etc., still pose considerable challenges. Other issues raised included the lack of standards for describing, paginating, annotating, versioning, etc. scanned books; and at the end of the plenary, Dan Clancy appealed to the delegates for ideas for research questions that could be run on Google's existing database of scanned books.

The second plenary was presented by Jonathan Zittrain (Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard Law School, and the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford), who spoke on the topic of "Open Information: Redaction, Restriction, and Removal." An open information horizon is a double-edged sword, and there may be information that, for various reasons, we do not want to be freely available on the Internet. Jonathan took delegates on a whirlwind tour of some of the moral, philosophical, and societal implications of open information, including: the controversy surrounding a paper by Stanford's Lawrence Wein and Yifan Liu on a possible terrorist attack on the United States' milk supply; Negativland's 1991 single which sampled U2 and which subsequently was destroyed after action by U2's lawyers; a web site called that applies biometric facial recognition techniques automatically to identify faces in photographs you upload to their website; the confessions of a 'CyWorld' addict; the "We Suck" hack perpetrated by Yale students on hapless Harvard fans at the 2004 football game; the affair of the false Wikipedia biography (in which John Siegenthaler was portrayed as Kennedy's assassin); and many others. Around these and other controversies, Zittrain wove an argument for librarians, as custodians for the "controlled release of information," as having a key role to play in stabilizing future information scenarios. At the same time, Zittrain warned that, thanks to the unpredictable nature of expanding information horizons, we all now 'live in a small town,' in which we could not assume that our personal information would not become public in some way.

The conference also included two invited panels. The first, on "Augmenting Interoperability Across Scholarly Repositories," described the emergence of new complex forms of scholarly communication, supported by complex information objects, and looked forward to the ways in which repositories could function as active nodes in global information grids, facilitating the dissemination, exchange, and reuse of these complex objects. Panelists sounded warning notes, however, with respect to problems of standards and standardization across such repositories, issues which OAI had attempted to address, but which have still not been resolved. The second panel, on "The NDIIPP Preservation Network: Progress, Problems and Promise," brought together archivists and preservationists who examined some of the present and future technological challenges associated with preservation, including deciding what objects to preserve for the future, and how to make those objects intelligible to those in the future, when the immediate cultural contexts for the objects may have vanished. Once again the subject of interoperability (including technological and cultural interoperability over time) came to the fore, suggesting once again that successfully resolving this thorny technological and social question will be key to widening information horizons in the future.

Other conference activities included the ever-popular 'Minute Madness,' which provided authors of accepted posters and demos an opportunity to present a summary of their work in sixty seconds or less, monitored by the Bicycle Horn of Doom (authors who went over their allotted minute were subjected to a blast on a bicycle horn). Minute Madness was followed by the demo and poster reception, and discussions with the authors the presented research. This year's JCDL dinner was hosted at the Fearrington House Inn and Restaurant, where diners savoured a traditional "pulled pig" barbeque menu, while being serenaded by local musicians, and with a clarinet performance from Greenstone's Ian Witten. The evening concluded with the announcement and presentation of this year's conference awards. The Vannevar Bush Best Paper Award was presented to Carl Lagoze, Tim Cornwell, Naomi Dushay, Dean Eckstrom, and Dean Krafft, all of Cornell University, for their paper "Metadata Aggregation and 'Automated Digital Libraries': A Retrospective on the NSDL Experience," which discussed some of the technological and social lessons learned from an attempt to implement OAI in the large-scale distributed context of the National Science Digital Library. The award for Best Student Paper went to Yuan Yuan Yu, Jeannie Stamberger, Aswath Manoharan, and Andreas Paepcke, for their paper "EcoPod: A Mobile Tool for Community-Based Biodiversity Collection Building," a description of a PDA-based tool to aid the field observation, identification, and recording of wildlife. The award for Best Poster went to Marko Rodriguez, Johan Bollen, and Herbert Van de Sompel, for "An Analysis of the Bid Behavior of the 2005 JCDL Program Committee," which described an analysis of the match between reviewers' bids and fields of expertise for JCDL 2005, and the development of tools designed accurately to match papers and reviewers.

In closing the conference on Wednesday, conference chair Gary Marchionini noted the continued growth of the digital library research community, both in numbers, and in terms of disciplinary affiliations and research specialties. The future directions and horizons for this community are indeed wide open, and also to some extent unknown; and he prompted delegates to consider active participation in the community, in order to help shape this future. The discussion of questions such as 'Where are we as a community going from here?', and 'What might the digital library research community look like in the future?', is critical to the continuing development of the JCDL community, and he invited input from new interested parties in these areas.

Gary then formally passed the JCDL baton – in the shape of the Minute Madness Bicycle Horn of Doom – to Edie Rasmussen, School of Library, Archival and Information Studies (SLAIS), University of British Columbia, hosts of JCDL 2007. The conference will take place in a Vancouver waterfront hotel and conference centre next to Stanley Park, and judging by the audience's reactions to the beautiful slides of the conference location, participation should not be a problem; and neither, hopefully, should be the continued exploration of the expanding horizons identified at JCDL 2006. Information on JCDL 2007 will be made available on the conference website, <>. For further information on the JCDL 2006 and the JCDL community, please visit the JCDL blog, or check out the JCDL Flickr group, and follow what JCDL delegates have blogged about the conference on Technorati.


JCDL 2006 was sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the Institute of Electronic and Electronic Engineers Computer Society (IEEE-CS), the ACM Special Interest Group on Information Retrieval (ACM SIGIR), the ACM Special Interest Group on Hypertext, Hypermedia and the Web (ACM SIGWEB), and the IEEE Technical Committee on Digital Libraries (IEEE TCDL), and in cooperation with The American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T), the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), and the DELOS Network of Excellence on Digital Libraries. Corporate sponsorship was provided by LuLu, Microsoft, SAS and Springer. The conference was hosted by The School of Information and Library Science, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Copyright © 2006 Michael Khoo

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