Conference Report


D-Lib Magazine
September 2002

Volume 8 Number 9

ISSN 1082-9873

Report on the Second Joint Conference on Digital Libraries

14 - 18 July 2002, Portland, Oregon


Edie M. Rasmussen
University of Pittsburgh

Red Line


This July meeting marked the second occasion on which the Digital Library conferences held annually by ACM and IEEE were integrated to create a single Joint Conference. Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the Second Joint Conference on Digital Libraries was how quickly members of the digital library community have adapted to the joint nature of the conference, so that what was remarkable and a cause for celebration the previous year (Borgman, 2001) was accepted as the norm this year. Given the expansion of the digital library conference circuit to include a number of international conferences such as the European Conference on Digital Libraries (ECDL) [1] and the International Conference on Asian Digital Libraries (ICADL) [2], appreciation of the reduction of the two major U.S. conferences to a single entity was expressed by many of the attendees. Incorporation of the PI meeting for those holding NSF DLI-2 grants as a special workshop added to the convenience of the Portland event.

Conference Chair Bill Hersh expressed satisfaction with the success of the conference, both in terms of the number of registrants and the quality of the presentations. Attendance was up slightly over 2001, with 479 participants. Although 85% of these had a US affiliation, the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany were well represented, and one or more individuals from 21 other countries also attended. Over 30% of the conference attendees stayed on for (or came for) one or more of the post-conference workshops, and almost as many signed up for a tutorial. These figures suggest a marked degree of success in attracting those new to the field as well as those who are established and who see the conference as a way to pursue their own research or technical interests.

Like its predecessor, JCDL'02 followed a common format: a day of tutorials, three days of papers and panels, an evening poster/demo reception, and a day of workshops. The schedule allowed ample time for conversations over breakfast, coffee and lunch, and during evening receptions and a banquet. The JCDL tradition of offering a continental breakfast to attendees set a casual tone and eased the transition into the day's sessions. Portland provided an attractive and interesting backdrop to the conference. Easy access to the city center and fine Pacific Northwest weather further enhanced the conference experience.

Most of the tutorials offered a split format, with an initial morning session followed by an advanced afternoon session. This was true of Dagobert Soergel's tutorials on thesauri and ontologies, Ian Witten and David Bainbridge's hands-on, build-your-own-digital-library tutorials based on the Greenstone Open Source software, and tutorials on the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for metadata harvesting offered by Hussein Suleman in the morning and Michael Nelson, Herbert Van de Sompel, and Simeon Warner in the afternoon. (Also available at the conference, for those who missed the tutorial, was Witten and Bainbridge's recently published book on the same subject, How to Build a Digital Library (Witten, 2002)). For newcomers to the field, Ed Fox offered his popular morning overview on digital libraries. An afternoon session on bioinformatics and digital libraries by Bill Hersh and Christopher Dubay reflected the organizers' affiliation with Oregon Health Sciences University and offered an opportunity to bring together the bioinformatics and digital library communities.

In the opening keynote address, Jessica Litman, Professor of Law at Wayne State University, and author of a recent book on digital copyright (Litman, 2001), spoke on "Digital Copyright and the Progress of Science". She provided an historical perspective on copyright and pointed out that for dissemination media such as radio, jukeboxes and cassette recorders, copyright evolved and matured, finding ways to ensure that copyright owners were compensated for use, while meeting copyright's goal of enhancing and spreading knowledge. She noted that there are significant limits to copyright owners' control of their work, but that in the digital arena, copyright is often perceived as a system to control distribution and use. Litman described the frustration of developers who are willing to code in compliance with copyright rules but can't find anyone to tell them what the rules are. According to Litman, "Here's why: we can't!". She attributed this uncertainty to a policy of scorched earth litigation that slaps down upstarts with new business plans, driving them out of business before the trial has even been held that might lead to establishment of case law. She feels that copyright uncertainties are going to take some time to sort out, and in the meantime advised developers to do what innovators before them have done: design systems that are optimized for storage and use of information.

A second keynote, by Daniel Greenstein, University Librarian and Director of the California Digital Library, addressed "Next Generation Digital Libraries". He provided an entertaining look at the phases of digital library development, which included "Let's digitize some stuff!" to agonizing over users and preservation, "working out of the skunk works", where a small team works outside the main organization, and later, digitizing strategically, developing modular architectures and interworking protocols, and finding a place fully in the library's mainstream. In the third generation, programs become building blocks and building blocks become infrastructure. Greenstein cited the California Digital Library as an example of an infrastructure aimed at making the research record available to all. Requirements for the next generation digital library include new modes of scholarly publication, new management skills, and interdependence and co-investment among institutions.

The technical program offered a mix of long (30 minute) and short (15 minute) papers in two parallel sessions. Sessions on non-textual digital libraries were well-represented, with sessions on collections of video and multimedia, image, music, and spatial data. Information retrieval and related issues were covered in sessions on summarization and question-answering, classification and browsing, language, time and space issues, and novel search environments. Sessions devoted to issues of content considered cultural heritage materials, oral history, education and science (the NSDL). Metadata issues were addressed in sessions on the Open Archives Initiative and federating and harvesting metadata. Sessions on users and user interfaces looked at problems from reading on small devices to wearable digital libraries. Preservation, evaluation, and adaptation in digital libraries were also covered. The Winner of the Vannevar Bush Award for Best Conference Paper was Donna Bergmark for her paper, "Collection synthesis", presented as part of a session on models and tools for generating digital libraries.

The program this year was particularly rich in panels, with eight offered. Several of these dealt with topical and sometimes controversial issues (digital preservation, metadata), others looked at specific DL projects or areas (science, as exemplified by the National Science Digital Library, statistical DLs, health and biomedical DLs). The whimsically entitled "You mean I have to do what with whom?" dealt with statewide museum and library collaborations. A panel on biodiversity and biocomplexity informatics and the role of citizen science, organized and moderated by Bryan Heidorn, brought a new topic before the DL community and presented a challenge to this community to find a role in this emerging field. The final panel on "Planning for future digital library programs", moderated by Steve Griffin and presented by funding agency representatives, also served as a final plenary designed to keep conference-goers, always alert to funding opportunities, interested to the end.

Workshops are emerging as a JCDL strength, offering an opportunity for smaller groups to focus on specific topics in order to build a community and/or develop an agenda. Some of these workshops have become regular features of JCDL, notably the workshop on digital gazetteers organized by Linda Hill, Gail Hodge and David Smith which was fifth in the NKOS (Networked Knowledge Organization System) series of workshops, and the workshop on visual interfaces to digital libraries organized by Katy Börner and Chaomei Chen, a follow-on from a workshop at JCDL 2001. Workshops on DL usability, music information retrieval and music digital library evaluation, and a pre-track workshop on the TREC genomics track, all aimed at sharing information and developing and strengthening a community of interest. The remaining two workshops, on document search interface design and developing DL education and training programs, were a morning-afternoon combination requiring registration as a package, a strategy which given the difference in targeted audiences for the two, served neither well.

Bill Hersh, as General Chair and Gary Marchionini as Program Committee Chair, did an excellent job of overseeing the organization of a content-rich, smoothly functioning conference. As Panels Chair Sally Howe pointed out in response to the final plenary panel, the papers and interaction at this conference demonstrated once more that it was the right decision to bring the separate ACM and IEEE communities and conferences together. Perhaps by next year at JCDL 2003 [3], to be held 27 - 31 May in Houston, Texas, no one will remember that it wasn't always so.


[1] European Conference on Digital Libraries <>.

[2] International Conference on Asian Digital Libraries <>.

[3] The Call for Papers is available at <>.


Borgman, C. (2001) Report on the First Joint Conference on Digital Libraries. D-Lib Magazine, October 2001. <>.

Litman, J. (2001). Digital Copyright: Protecting Intellectual Property on the Internet. Prometheus.

Witten, I. and Bainbridge, D. (2002). How to Build a Digital Library. Morgan Kaufmann.

Copyright 2002 Edie M. Rasmussen

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DOI: 10.1045/september2002-rasmussen