Volume 5 Number 7/8
A New Generation of Digital Library Research
The announcement in this issue of D-Lib Magazine of the Digital Libraries Initiative Phase 2 (DLI-2) awards is a major landmark in the brief history of digital library research. In its size, scope, content, and direction, the list of proposed topics heralds a new maturity for the field.
Even a casual perusal of the list reveals some of the important changes since the announcement of the first DLI awardees in 1994. For one, there are twenty-four awards in the DLI-2 group, as opposed to six in the DLI-1 grouping. Thanks in no small part to the support of the National Science Foundation, interest and expertise in digital libraries have made a quantum leap from the Phase I awards.
Just as striking are the topics of the awards. "Traditional" DLI topics on architecture, information retrieval, and interoperability are still present, of course, but they have been joined by a number of new topics. For example, preservation -- the function that may truly distinguish the academic research library from the World Wide Web -- is a focus in several grants. Some of the awardees hope to add new kinds of materials (such as sound) to the digital library, while others intend to examine the practical issues associated with building and maintaining a functional digital library. Still others, most notably those related to electronic patient records, medical imaging, and other medical topics, are pushing the technical envelope in ways almost beyond comprehension.
The inclusion of projects based in practice as well as "pure" research marks another important change. Rightly or wrongly, the DLI-1 grants were frequently criticized as exercises in pure research, with few practical applications. As the articles in D-Lib Magazine over the past three years have shown, good research can take place both in the lab and in the library, in an academic department and in a production-oriented operation. The new DLI-2 grants recognize that successful digital libraries are going to be built by many different kinds of researchers working in many different settings.
It will be D-Lib Magazine’s pleasure to bring to you reports as they become available from these important DLI-2 projects as well as reports from the International DLI awards described in the magazine's June 1999 issue. Based on the potential quality of the research recently funded, we can safely predict that D-Lib Magazine will remain interesting reading for years to come.
Peter B. Hirtle
Copyright (c) 1999 Corporation for National Research Initiatives
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