SMETE-Lib Workshop July 21 to 23, 1998

National Science Foundation
Arlington, VA

Topic 1: Scope and features of the SMETE Library

The agenda for the workshop concentrates on two topics, which have been identified by the Steering Committee and the staff of the National Science Foundation. The topic that will be addressed by the first set of breakout groups is:

What is the possible scope of a digital library for undergraduate science education? What features might the library have? What might be the educational impact of different features, scope, organization, and content?

The background to this question is as follows. There are a variety of concepts for the form that digital libraries for undergraduate education might take. They differ in the intended audience, the types of material collected, the methods of organization, the features and services provided, and their impact on education.

For faculty, the key question is, "If you had this service from the SMETE Library, would you use it, and how? What impact would it have on your teaching?" For learners, the question is, "Would this service from the SMETE Library help me study science? How? Would I use it as part of a course or when studying independently?"

Here is a list of some of the decisions that might be made in designing the SMETE Library. This is not a full list, and the breakout groups are invited to add or modify the topics.


The SMETE Library could concentrate on the needs of SMETE teachers. Or it could aim to serve students directly. It might ignore independent learners or give them special attention. Are these audiences alternatives? Or is it possible to conceive of a library that serves them all well?

Collection scope

The SMETE Library could concentrate solely on educational materials. Or it could be a general purpose science library, with both primary scientific materials and tools. It could concentrate on open access materials, or it could be linked to restricted access information, such as journal publishers. It could concentrate on formally published materials or include preprints, web sites and similar materials. Which would have the greatest impact?

Location of collections

The SMETE Library might have a large computer system where it collects science materials. Or it might be a federation of smaller libraries each of which maintains a specialized collection. Or it might be a virtual library, with no collections of its own, that provides access to collection maintained by other, independent organizations. What are the benefits (or otherwise) of each approach?

Information discovery and quality of materials

How does SMETE help people find information? Does it provide catalogs and indexes? Does it review educational materials and validate them for scientific content and educational impact? What kinds of reviewing and validation are needed to help users to find high quality and appropriate material?


What features might the library have to facilitate new kinds of collaboration? What impact would such collaborations have on teaching and learning?

The task is to categorize these options and to list the educational benefits associated with each. Each breakout group is invited to submit a list of options, with judgement of the educational impact of each. However, breakout groups should feel free to address the topic in whatever manner they find most productive.