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Conference Report


D-Lib Magazine
July/August 2006

Volume 12 Number 7/8

ISSN 1082-9873

Developing a Digital Libraries Education Program

JCDL 2006 Workshop Report


Kristine R. Brancolini1 and Javed Mostafa
Indiana University
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Red Line


Indiana University Bloomington (IU) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) offered a full-day workshop aimed at digital library professionals, researchers, and educators to cover prominent issues surrounding digital libraries education. It is one of the activities of an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)-funded collaborative digital library education project ( This is the second year of a three-year project, with a digital library workshop or conference in each of the three years. We have spent the past year recruiting our first classes of Digital Library Fellows, learning about the requirements of the digital library profession, and developing new courses. The workshop built upon a similar workshop at last year's Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL) and brought together a number of speakers on topics of interest to digital library educators and working professionals. The workshop, attended by approximately 35 participants, brought together IU and UIUC students, faculty, and librarians, other IMLS grant recipients, and representatives from digital library programs in other countries to report on project details, including requirements analysis, curriculum development, and program evaluation. Recurring themes included the balance between theory and practice in the digital library curriculum, the relationship between computer science and library and information science in the education of digital librarians, and the importance of providing internships in working digital library programs.

Keynote Addresses

In his keynote presentation, "Curriculum Development for Digital Libraries," Ed Fox, a professor at Virginia Tech, presented a model of digital libraries that he referred to as 5S. The five elements in the model are: structure, scenario, spatial, society, and stream. He went on to explain specific elements of the 5S model and provided rationale for these high level elements. Later, Fox presented an example of applying 5S in a particular domain. He focused on archeology and showed how 5S can be used to analyze digital library requirements specific to this field. He went on to show how 5S model relates to the reference model under development by the DELOS group in Europe. Fox pointed out that the reference model does not have as strong an emphasis on social aspects of digital library usage as the 5S model. He mentioned that it is important to have one reference model that integrates the key elements (even across geographic locations). He showed a demonstration of how 5S can be used to help guide the production of digital library components using a tool that his research group created. The tool is similar to a 'wizard' supported in common MS Windows applications. It prompts developers as they design a digital library component and helps them create the component in a step-by-step manner.

In their keynote addresses Linda Smith, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Edie Rasmussen, University of British Columbia, focused on specific knowledge required to become a successful digital library professional. A wide variety of knowledge types were identified, covering information technology, content management, and organizational management. In one survey, it was found 'Markup languages' was the most desired current IT knowledge, while knowledge of 'Content Management Systems' was identified to be the most important knowledge that will be required in the future. 'Metadata' was identified to be most important current content management knowledge and 'Digital Preservation' was projected to be the area most likely to grow in importance with time. The topic of 'Legal Issues in Digital Libraries' was pointed out as the most important and most likely to grow in importance under the area of digital library organizational management.

Morning Panels

In the panel session that followed the keynote speeches, "Discipline-based & International Issues," moderated by Javed Mostafa, David Nichols of Waikato University, New Zealand discussed from a computer science perspective the knowledge that may be relevant to digital librarianship. He pointed out five topical areas: 1) integrating and analyzing networked information sources, 2) ingesting, digitizing, and organizing content, 3) designing interfaces, 4) creating and evaluating search strategies, and 5) guiding and training users. A proper balance of computer science and librarianship knowledge is perhaps required. It was pointed out that building systems and managing them probably are essential parts of becoming a successful digital librarian. A curriculum on teaching system development and management must take into consideration the appropriate level of abstraction (of system) and should also include exposure to failure analysis.

Barbara Wildemuth of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill provided a comparison of computer science (CS) and library and information science (LIS) in terms of the potential disciplinary home of digital libraries. She noted the strong focus on systems, structures, and processes in CS. In contrast, LIS is perhaps a "meta-discipline concerned with documentary products and activities of other disciplines" (Bates, 1999). There are important differences in entry-level knowledge, disciplinary values and vocabularies, and employer expectations between CS and LIS. She went on to discuss the implications of these differences on training digital librarians, particularly emphasizing pre-requisite knowledge, current content of curriculum, and emerging areas that may be relevant in the future.

The second morning panel, "Student and Recent Graduate Discussion," featured three current IMLS-funded Digital Library Fellows, Parmit Chilana from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Annette Richmond and Melanie Schlosser, both from Indiana University Bloomington. The panel moderator, Kristine Brancolini, asked the panelists to respond to a number of questions:

  1. Please describe your internship activity. How useful was your internship experience and how well did it complement your coursework?
  2. Now that you have completed much of your LIS coursework and you have some experience working in a digital library program, how would you assess your preparation for work?
  3. Which courses were the most helpful?
  4. What course content was most useful?
  5. What types of course-related assignments were most useful?
  6. What courses does your LIS program not offer that you believe would be most beneficial to you and other students preparing for digital librarianship?

The first speaker, Parmit Chilana from UIUC, demonstrated some of the work she had done as a student in digital library courses and during her internship during the spring of 2006. (This is the link to her website: <>.) Ms. Chilana discussed her experience with digital library courses and internship projects. The UIUC courses consisted of theory and practical team-based projects, which was helpful. Since Ms. Chilana has a CS background, it wasn't too difficult for her to pick up the technical skills; she has focused on developing insight about library concepts. The internship projects were great because the concepts from the classroom could be immediately turned into practice. The other two students, Melanie Schlosser and Annette Richmond from IUB, are in the middle of internships and spoke more generally about their coursework and work experiences. Ms. Schlosser and Ms. Richmond covered four major topics: Internships; Preparation for Work; Specific Courses and Content; and Course Assignments.


Both of their internships will be varied. Ms. Schlosser will to do a little bit of everything:

  • Policy development– helping draft policies for the Digital Library Program to be included on the new departmental website;
  • Website design – organizing and placing content into the new site;
  • Institutional repository – helping draft policies for the Digital Library Program community in IU ScholarWorks;
  • Metadata mapping – mapping a native metadata schema and MARC records for a sheet music digitization project to MODS, TEI text encoding project; and
  • Project management – working with a smaller partner on an LSTA grant-funded project; she will serve as first point of contact for project partner

Ms. Richmond's first internship project, which involves text-encoding using TEI, has been extremely beneficial. It has been helpful to actually see the theories learned in class applied. The internship also provides real projects to work on; she felt that classroom projects sometimes seem artificial or contrived, a sentiment echoed by the other students as well.

Preparation for Work

The students felt that they had been exposed to a wide variety of concepts and technologies. Ms. Schlosser recounted a conversation she had with a woman who runs an institutional repository at a large university. They discussed institutional repositories, DSpace, open access, and the digital library world in general. Although at this time Ms. Schlosser can't do all of the things the repository director does, nor understand the more technical details of the director's work, Ms. Schlosser was able to carry on a conversation with the repository director and understands in theory how the system works, why it is run as it is and how the system fits into the larger IR and DL community. Although there isn't anything Ms. Schlosser could say without hesitation that she's 100% qualified to do right out of school, her internship is complementing some of the theoretical knowledge gained from her classes. Ms. Richmond noted that she feels familiar with many DL issues and the terminology, and she feels capable of holding an intelligent conversation with someone in working in the digital library area. However, because so much of her knowledge is theoretical, she is unsure of her ability to apply it immediately in a job setting. All of the student panelists noted that they will need significant on-the-job training despite the rigor of their academic preparation.

Specific Courses and Content

Ms. Richmond noted that the digital library classes have been good for introducing basic concepts and theories, since she knew very little about digital libraries when she began the program. At IU the Digital Library introductory course covers broad concepts; it was designed to create familiarity with the history, philosophy, practices and standards of the DL world. The final project at IU was creating a detailed proposal for a digitization project. This is very different from the introductory course at UIUC, which actually requires the students to use the Greenstone software to complete a project. Ms. Richmond cited the short XML workshop at IU as beneficial for her internship. Other programming classes have some application to digital libraries, but Ms. Richmond noted that digital libraries were not mentioned in any of her non-digital library classes, leaving the students to draw their own conclusions about the relationship between the class material and the digital library world. In the digital library courses, students spent a fair amount of time looking at the projects done by various libraries across the country. While nothing replaces work on an actual project, it was helpful to see what others had done and to study what metadata they displayed and how their interfaces worked (good vs. bad). Viewing other projects also helped students understand the great variety of things that digital libraries provide in the way of content and services. Ms. Chilana noted that the metadata course at UIUC covers both theory and practice, which the students regarded as a useful model.

Student panelists also indicated that a full semester XML course would be useful (as XML is the building block of so much digital library work) as well as an advanced, capstone course to bring together the entire program of study.

Course Assignments

Ms. Schlosser noted that faculty emphasize theory along with a small amount of practical implementation, but not enough practical implementation for students to apply that knowledge to real-world tasks. She felt, however, that this is a conscious decision on the part of faculty, because technologies change and people have varying technical expertise. She learned enough web design to create a simple website and to interact with more complicated websites, and she learned enough database theory to create a simple database and interact with more complicated ones. Still, she found it frustrating that there is inadequate time during the course of study to learn any one thing really well.

Ms. Richmond concluded that an overview of digital library concepts should be covered in non-digital library courses, both information science courses and library science courses. She noted at "an amazing number of LIS students don't know what digital libraries are."

Afternoon Panels

The two afternoon panels at the workshop were devoted to current digital library education programs at other universities and on the needs of practitioners, especially for new hires. The speakers for Panel 1, "Curriculum," moderated by Stephen Downie, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, were:

  • Dr. Daqing He, University of Pittsburgh, "Digital Library Education at Pitt,"
  • Dr. Xia Lin, Drexel University, "DIO: Digital Information Organization,"
  • Dr. Mary-Lynn Rice-Lively, UT-Austin, "Digitization in the Round," and
  • Dr. Nina Wacholder, Rutgers, "Digital Library Education at Rutgers SCILS."

These four programs approach digital library education from a library and information science perspective. Three of the four schools have received grants from IMLS from the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarians program to support the development of digital library curriculum. Three of the four programs are focused on master's level education. The Drexel program is designed to educate digital library faculty, and project fellows are doctoral students. Dr. He described University of Pittsburgh's efforts to extend their existing MLIS program to create a new Digital Library Information Management program. He presented a model called the DiLight System. In addition to the traditional LIS student, Pitt hopes the new program will appeal to students in computer science and related disciplines. Dr. Lin reported on progress at Drexel University. In the first year of the project, the five digital library fellows were paired with faculty and worked on digital library research projects. This program is exploring ways in which digital information organization is different from traditional information organization. Dr. Rice-Lively reported on the first year of the UT-Austin project, which focuses upon collaboration between the school and the university library's Digital Library Services Division, builds upon existing curriculum, builds upon institutional infrastructure, and aims to recruit outstanding students. Dr. Wacholder described the new program at Rutgers, which incorporates these themes: the need to broaden the existing LIS curriculum to account for the increasing impact of technology on librarianship and the social and cultural influences of technology. She provided an outline of Rutgers' online curriculum and their undergraduate program in Information Technology and Informatics.

The second afternoon panel, "Practice and Career Options," moderated by Mary Schlembach, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, featured three digital library practitioners: David Bainbridge, Waikato University, Kristine Brancolini, Indiana University Bloomington, and Bill Mischo, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. David Bainbridge discussed several professional positions taken up by people who worked on the Greenstone team, providing insight into possible career paths for individuals with digital library experience. One former member of the project team is now head of the Google branch in NYC. Another person has launched his own digital library consulting company. Ms. Brancolini described the ways in which the IU Digital Libraries Education Program seeks to bridge the gap between theory and practice with internship opportunities and to provide mentoring for the Digital Library Fellows. The IU DLP works in a number of areas, including digitization, metadata creation, digital library infrastructure, and digital library software tools. Student internships are available in all of these areas. In addition to classroom and work experiences, the IMLS grant has funded professional development experiences, such as a visit to UIUC to meet with colleagues there and to hear Roy Tennant speak to the GSLIS faculty and students; and attendance at a day-long copyright workshop sponsored by Ball State University Libraries. (Four of the five IU fellows attended the JCDL workshop.) Bill Mischo provided an overview of the digital library environment at UIUC, including the changing nature of digital library work, the complicated funding situation, the specific digital library environment in the Grainger Engineering Library, digital library project staffing, and digital library internship project areas.

Final Discussion

The workshop concluded with a discussion of follow-up activities. Next year will be the third and final year of the IU-UIUC Digital Libraries Education Project. The project team plans a larger digital library education conference for next year, and they solicited input from workshop participants on desired format, topics, and location for the 2007 event. The team will be conducting a survey of workshop participants to gather additional input and also seeks comments from others who may have ideas about next year's conference.

Slides from the Digital Libraries Education Workshop can be found here: <>.


Bates, M. J. (1999). The invisible substrate of information science. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 50(2), 1043-1050.


1. Although Kristine Brancolini was at Indiana University at the time of the JCDL 2006 Workshop, she is now Dean of University Libraries at Loyola Marymount University, a position she assumed in July 2006.
Copyright © 2006 Kristine R. Brancolini and Javed Mostafa

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