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In Brief


D-Lib Magazine
December 2000

Volume 6 Number 12

ISSN 1082-9873

In Brief

Report on the Virtual Reference Desk Conference October 2000, Seattle, Washington

Contributed by:
Roxanne Missingham
Director, Reader Services
National Library of Australia

The second Virtual Reference Desk (VRD) conference attracted many more delegates than last year, and more than anticipated by the organisers. Last year around 250 attended, this year over 500 attended. It provided a very valuable opportunity for librarians, "ask-a" services and IT developers to exchange ideas and discuss key issues in the delivery of online information services. Four major areas were discussed -- nature of services, information infrastructure required to operate services, software, and service quality/standards. Many issues were very controversial -- the most argued being service quality. The two ends of this spectrum were represented by Ask Jeeves, which was widely criticised for answering questions from an automated “knowledge base” and the individual human answers to AskERIC. Pennie Finney from Ask Jeeves reminded the conference that any service that answers 4.5 million questions per day, as Ask Jeeves does, cannot provide this service based on full human answering systems. What is virtual reference? At the conference presenters and delegates covered three different types of virtual reference services, and it was often difficult to determine which sort of virtual reference service was being discussed. The types of services are:

  • E-mail reference services
  • Online/chat to the librarian reference requests
  • Fully automated solutions providing access to an answer base/knowledge base

Key issues discussed at the conference:

  • Reference services standards
  • Software
  • Who pays?
  • Partnerships

Please see the expanded version of this report for more complete descriptions of the services and issues listed above.

The conference was a very eclectic mix of technical, operational and policy issues. The papers will be available shortly on <>. The next conference will be in Atlanta in 2001.

NKOS Group Reviews Draft DTD for Thesauri

Contributed by:
Gail Hodge
Consultant/National Biological Information Infrastructure
Information International Associates, Inc.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Interest in controlled vocabularies, categorization schemes, authority files and other knowledge organization systems (KOSs) for organizing and standardizing subject access has increased substantially with the introduction of the Web and knowledge management initiatives within organizations. As companies consider the development of KOSs, the extensive investment required to develop and maintain them becomes apparent.

One way to reduce the investment is to use KOSs that already exist in a variety of subject areas from architecture to zoology. However, many of these KOSs are not available on the Internet, or they are not in an electronic format that allows for easy access to and retrieval of “pieces” of the vocabulary with its structure intact.

This problem is the focus of the Networked Knowledge Organization Systems/Services (NKOS) Working Group, an ad hoc group of more than 70 KOS developers and implementers from 10 countries. Beginning with an initial workshop at the ACM DL ‘97 Conference, the group has focused on the standards needed for interoperable, networked KOSs -- metadata for describing KOSs and a protocol for transferring information from the electronic KOS to the application that will use it.

At a recent meeting held in conjunction with the American Society for Information Science and Technology Annual Meeting in Chicago on November 13, members of NKOS focused on a scheme for marking up a KOS. A draft XML DTD, developed by Joseph Busch and Ron Daniel of Metacode, Inc. (now part of Interwoven, Inc.) was presented and reviewed. The schema, called VocML (Vocabulary Mark-Up Language), defines a structure for tagging KOS content to retain the structure. The DTD allows for Dublin Core metadata that describes the KOS itself. It also provides tags and syntax for uniquely identifying each term, its relationship to other terms (using the standard Z39.19 relationships as well as more detailed types of associative relationships), and information such as scope notes and definitions.

The goal is to make the DTD as generalized as possible, so it will work for a variety of KOSs, including authority files, hierarchical thesauri (including those with polyhierarchies), classification schemes, digital gazetteers, and subject heading lists. Comments were gathered, and a revised DTD will be made available in the next few months. In addition, a subgroup of the NKOS is developing a taxonomy of KOSs, which defines types of KOSs based on their structure and behavior in a networked environment.

Information about NKOS, the draft VocML DTD, and the draft Taxonomy of KOSs can be found at <>. Questions and comments are welcome to Gail Hodge, National Biological Information Infrastructure/Information International Associates, at <>.

Taxanomic Databases Working Group Meeting TDWG 2000 - Digitizing Biological Collections

Contributed by:
Walter G. Berendsohn
Director, Dept. of Biodiversity Informatics
Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem
Berlin, Germany

TDWG 2000 - Digitizing Biological Collections
Taxanomic Databases Working Group meeting in Frankfurt, Germany

"TDWG 2000 - Digitising Biological Collections" was the title of this year's annual meeting of the Taxonomic Databases Working Group, held in Frankfurt, November 10-12. Almost 100 participants from 15 countries met to discuss current issues in biodiversity informatics relevant to biological collections (natural history museums, botanical and zoological gardens, biological survey data collections, etc.), to demonstrate software, and present the state of the art in taxonomic databasing. Handling of geographical data, IPR issues, digital imaging, and questions of on-line networking of biological collections were among the predominant issues. Abstracts of presentations and a list of participants are available under <>. TDWG 2000 was jointly organized by the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt (Michael Türkay) and the Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem (Walter G. Berendsohn).

TDWG was started in 1985 as an international working group to explore ideas on standardization and collaboration between major plant taxonomic database projects. TDWG has since expanded its scope to include taxonomic database projects from all biological disciplines. TDWG is affiliated with the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS) as the Commission on Taxonomic Databases and members include institutions and individuals responsible for biological databases with taxonomic components (please check the homepage <> for details).

TDWG annual meetings and seminars provide a forum for discussing technical aspects of taxonomic databases, discussing the form and content of proposed standards, and sharing information on current developments in taxonomic databases. TDWG recognizes that existing taxonomic databases will use different software, hardware, and file structures. Therefore, one objective has been to promote common use and interpretation of terminology, data fields, dictionaries, and common logical rules and data relationships, to encourage interoperability. TDWG forms working subgroups to consider standards developed independently by individuals, institutions or groups; or to develop standards where none exist.

All TDWG standards are made available in published form and now on the Internet so that those responsible for taxonomic databases may consider them, both in the planning of new projects and in the management of existing ones. This work bears fruit now that an increasing number of collection databases enter collaborative networks. Several working groups tackle issues such as the updating of existing standards and the integration of standards developed outside the biological community. For example, the subgroup on accession data is to develop an extendible query profile for biological collections in the wide sense, which can be used to define an XML-DTD (Document Type Description), or a Z39.50 profile. International consensus on such a document will greatly enhance possibilities for global co-operation and federation of collection databases, thus contributing to meet a priority issue for the OECD Megascience Forum's GBIF initiative (see <>). Contact: TDWG Secretary, Georgina MacKenzie, BIOSIS UK (Zoological Record), Garforth House, 54 Micklegate, YORK, YO1 6WF, UK Email: <> . The Open Content Encyclopedia

Contributed by:
Lawrence M. Sanger, Ph.D.
Editor-in Chief
San Diego, California, USA .

Launched in March 2000, is an online encyclopedia project that aims to build what is hoped will become the world's largest international, peer-reviewed encyclopedia. The project has attracted some distinguished volunteers -- over 80 Ph.D. editors and peer reviewers from around the world thus far -- and invites the involvement of additional qualified contributors to serve as editors, writers, peer reviewers, copyeditors, or observers.

Nupedia’s peer review process is elaborate and unique; to date, the process has been conducted via e-mail but by early 2001, peer review will be web-based. Over 125 articles, mainly scholarly, are in production currently, and a few of the first of these articles have been posted at the encyclopedia web site.

Nupedia is free and "open content" -- a relatively new buzzword that describes content in approximately the same sense that "open source” describes software. In other words, the encyclopedia’s open content articles will be freely distributable, just as long as an attribution requirement is met and as long as changes to the content are duly noted.

Nupedia also has in the works plans to include open content encyclopedia material created by other sources and, thereby, to become a storehouse of open content encyclopedia articles and media.

For more information, please visit the web site located at <>.

NoVA - Non-Visual Access to the Digital Library

Contributed by:
Jenny Craven, Research Fellow
Department of Information and Communications
Manchester Metropolitan University
Manchester, United Kingdom

The Centre for Research in Library and Information Management (CERLIM) at Manchester Metropolitan University is currently undertaking a project funded by Resource: the Council for Museums Archives and Libraries:

Non-Visual Access to the Digital Library:
the use of Digital Library Interfaces
by Blind and Visually-Impaired People

One of the hallmarks of a civilised society is its commitment to ensuring that all of its citizens can play a full part in its life, and that none are excluded by reason of birth, belief, aptitude or circumstance. Exclusion takes many forms and must be countered in many different ways. The NoVA project is concerned with countering the exclusion from access to information that can all too easily occur when individuals do not have so-called ‘normal’ vision. Our domain in this project is digital library services, and our concern is that all such services should, in their entirety, be as accessible to blind and visually impaired people as to anyone else.

Although much work is continuing to make interfaces accessible (witness, for example, the work of the World Wide Web’s Web Accessibility Initiative (W3C WAI), there is little current work on how blind and visually impaired people navigate interfaces, and in particular on how the serial paradigm of a blind person’s search maps onto the parallelism displayed by interfaces. Work on accessibility concentrates on transcribing text (for example replacing images etc. with text) when the problem may, in fact, be much deeper.

The overall objective of the Project therefore is to develop understanding of serial searching in non-serial digital library environments, with particular reference to retrieval of information by blind and visually-impaired people.

The aims of the Project are:

  • to develop an experimental framework for exploration of serial searching and retrieval in non-serial environments
  • to undertake a series of experiments with serial searching and retrieval, and subsequent use of digital content
  • to map serial/non-serial approaches so as to develop understanding of how serial searching, retrieval, etc., can be optimised in non-serial environments
  • to report on findings and to make recommendations for digital library system design.

The project website is at: <>.

For further details about this project please contact:

Jenny Craven, Research Fellow
Department of Information and Communications
Manchester Metropolitan University, Geoffrey Manton Building
Rosamond Street West, Off Oxford Road Manchester M15 6LL
United Kingdom
Tel: 0161 247 6142
Email: <>

NASIG Seeks Applicants for Student Grants and for the Fritz Schwartz Serials Education Scholarship

Contributed by:
Anne E. McKee
NASIG Member at Large, Publicist
The North American Serials Interest Group, Inc. (NASIG)
Phoenix, Arizona, USA <>

The North American Serials Interest Group, Inc. (NASIG) is an independent organization promoting communication and sharing of ideas among all participants in the serials information chain. Our global membership includes serial publishers, librarians, subscription and systems vendors, bibliographic utilities representatives, educators, database producers, binders, students and others who have selected NASIG as a key organization to address concerns that span diverse professional interests. Through our annual conference, electronic discussions, publications, awards, continuing education, and other avenues of growth, NASIG members do much to promote learning and cooperation in a spirit of professional diversity, camaraderie and respectful discourse.

NASIG holds annual conferences, each on a different college or university campus, where the various segments of the serials community meet in an informal setting to network and share information. The conference includes the presentation of papers, panels, workshops, tours, and social events. NASIG is currently seeking candidates for student grants to attend the Sixteenth Annual Conference to be held at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas on May 23-26, 2001. Through the granting of these awards, NASIG desires to encourage participation in the serials information chain by students who are interested in pursuing some aspect of serials work upon completion of their professional degrees.

NASIG is also seeking applicants for the Fritz Schwartz Serials Education Scholarship, which is co-sponsored by NASIG and SISAC. This scholarship will award a $2500 scholarship to a library science graduate student who demonstrates excellence in scholarship and the potential for accomplishment in a serials career. The purpose of the scholarship is to advance the serials profession by providing an aspiring library student who has prior serials experience, with enhanced educational opportunities. This award will also grant the scholarship recipient all expenses paid attendance at the Sixteenth Annual Conference. For further information on these awards, including eligibility requirements or to learn more about NASIG, please point your browser to <>

E-Learning Takes Important Step Forward (Press Release)

Contributed by:
Stuart Weibel and Eric Miller
DCMI Directorate
Dublin Core Metadata Initiative
Dublin, Ohio, USA

(The following is an excerpt from a 6 December 2000 Press Release. The full press release may be found at <>.)

Metadata Standards Leaders IEEE LTSC-LOM, and DCMI Begin Designing Future Metadata Architecture for Web-based Learning, Education and Training -- 6 December 2000 - The Learning Technology Standards Committee Learning Objects Metadata (LTSC-LOM) Working Group of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) and the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI) today announced their joint commitment to develop interoperable metadata for learning, education and training. The joint Memorandum of Understanding is signed by officers representing the LOM Working Group and DCMI. The document, regarding the IEEE standard P1484.12, is co-signed by representatives of concurring projects: ARIADNE (Alliance of Remote Instructional Authoring and Distribution Networks for Europe), EdNA (Education Network Australia), GEM (Gateway to Educational Materials), and the IMS Global Learning Consortium.

"No matter how many search engines or information retrieval systems we use today, finding a needle in the data-haystack can be a fruitless effort. This enormous problem will not be solved overnight, but LOM and DCMI are building the path that will make information retrieval and exchange a much more rewarding process," said Stuart Weibel, Director of DCMI.

Both LOM and DCMI have been leaders in the formation of metadata specification for the Web. The overlapping constituency has led to the need for increased collaboration and a charge to build a single architecture that promotes creation, interchange and use of metadata. Both organizations seek to increase the use of metadata or "data about data."

Collaboration will focus on learning, education and training. The principal goal underpinning the MOU is to establish a coordinated discussion between the two groups. The agreement sets out to ensure semantic elements meet the needs of the users and metadata elements can easily work with other descriptions and be refined for specific encoding standards when necessary.

The metadata for the press release can be found at: <>.

First Personalized Alert Service for Preprints

Contributed by:
Dr. Walter L. Warnick
Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI)
U.S. Department of Energy

Enlist the latest technology and keep up with preprints in your scientific discipline! PrePRINT Alerts is a new personalized alert service for the PrePRINT Network <>. This is the first alert service that harvests information from the Deep Web, whereby the underlying content of multiple Web databases is searched rather than only surface pages.

PrePRINT Alerts is a feature of the PrePRINT Network, which offers a single-query portal to 340,000 preprints on 1,500 preprint servers in disciplines related to DOE research. PrePRINT Alerts allows patrons of the Preprint Network to register, create one or more personalized search profiles, and automatically receive notifications of new preprint information fitting the profile. As new servers are added to the Network, or as researchers add new preprints to servers already on the Network, PrePRINT Alerts sends an e-mail message calling your attention to all the new material that meets your profile. To register your search profile, follow the instructions linked to the PrePRINT Network home page <>.

To accomplish its novel search capability, PrePRINT Alerts applies the Explorer Distributed Query Engine, developed in collaboration with the DOE Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) <> by Innovative Web Applications (IWA) <>. IWA, a small business in Los Alamos, New Mexico, developed the software, which currently supports several OSTI Web-based applications.

OSTI is a component of the DOE Office of Science and the Director is Dr. Walter L. Warnick at <> or (301) 903-7996.

IDEALOnDemand Now Offers Pay-Per-View Access To All Journal Articles Published on IDEAL® (Press Release)

Contributed by:
Daria DeCooman
Academic Press

San Diego, November 24, 2000 - A new pay-per-view service called IDEALOnDemand allows access to all articles in Academic Press and Harcourt Health Sciences journals on IDEAL, the pioneering online resource library for science, technology and medicine (STM) researchers. IDEALOnDemand is the only Web-based and thus instantaneous service delivering access to original articles as they appear in electronic format on IDEAL.

Through IDEALOnDemand, journal articles on IDEAL are available to individuals not previously authorized to access the journals via IDEAL consortial or institutional licenses.

Each online order is payable with American Express, MasterCard, or Visa credit cards.

When purchasing access through IDEALOnDemand, a user must select an article, agree to terms of its use, and pay for this use. During a 24-hour access period, the user may view the article on IDEAL and may also download the article to his or her personal computer. The terms of use allow printing, copying, and storing the article for personal use.

According to Chrysanne Lowe, the director of online marketing and sales at Academic Press, "Until now, these vital research documents were available online only by institutional license. Introducing IDEALOnDemand means IDEAL becomes more versatile than ever, making research instantly accessible to more scientists and professionals around the world."

Researchers from a wide range of disciplines, including researchers affiliated with institutions licensed to IDEAL, might want to take advantage of IDEALOnDemand. Because IDEAL licenses differ, an authorized user such as a scientist or librarian affiliated with a licensed institution may not be able to access all journals on IDEAL. The feature "My Profile" -- available on the IDEAL home page -- can tell a user to which journals access is authorized. To learn more about this useful profile resource, anyone can go to <> and click on "My Profile."

How can researchers learn more about IDEALOnDemand? More information appears at <>. Also, an IDEALOnDemand screen appears whenever a user tries to view an article without having licensed access. This screen prompts the way through the quick and easy electronic pay-per-view ordering process.

Any institution needing access to a number of journals on IDEAL might be interested in the traditional IDEAL license named APPEAL (Academic Press Print and Electronic Access License). This type of license can provide access to all or many journals on IDEAL, as explained at <>.

IDEAL, the International Digital Electronic Access Library, is licensed in more than 20 countries by more than 1,700 academic institutions and industrial and pharmaceutical companies. IDEAL offers close to 250 STM journals published by Academic Press, W.B. Saunders, Churchill Livingstone, Baillière Tindall and Mosby, as well as access to IDEALReferenceWorks encyclopedias and SciVision’s Web-based information systems.

IDEAL is the online resource library of the Harcourt Worldwide STM Group. Academic Press is a Harcourt Science and Technology Company and part of Harcourt’s Worldwide Scientific, Technical and Medical Group. Academic Press is an international multiple-media publisher of high-quality journals, book serials, major reference works, databases, textbooks and monographs.

Through its wholly owned subsidiary, Harcourt, Inc., Harcourt General (NYSE: H) is a leading global multiple-media publisher, providing educational, training and assessment products and services to classroom, corporate, professional, research, medical and consumer markets.

For more information about IDEAL, visit <>.

29 Leading Ecology Journals Now Available Online (News Release)

JSTOR and Ecological Society of America Collaborate on New Ecology & Botany Collection

Contributed by:
Carol MacAdam

For Immediate Release, December 4, 2000

JSTOR ( today announced the release of its new Ecology & Botany Collection. Developed in cooperation with the Ecological Society of America, the Collection will enable ecologists, conservationists and scholars in related fields to research, over the Internet, journals that go back 130 years and which represent 1,500 cumulative years of academic literature in the biological sciences.

The complete back-runs of 29 academic journals critical to researchers in the field have been converted by JSTOR from print to full-text, searchable electronic format. These journals will be preserved and maintained in electronic format for the benefit of present and future scholars and students.

"In addition to serving as an important archive, the Ecology & Botany Collection creates a new level of access to a significant collection of valuable scientific literature," says Kevin M. Guthrie, President of JSTOR. "The historical material contained in this collection will be valuable to scholars and professionals around the world. This is especially true in developing countries, where obtaining research in the field of ecology is taking on increasing importance but where access to these journals is limited."

The Ecology & Botany Collection, which totals approximately one million pages, contains some of the most well-established journals in the field. Many publications extend back into the 19th century, such as American Naturalist and International Journal of Plant Sciences. Newer journals disseminating groundbreaking research, such as Conservation Biology and the Journal of Tropical Ecology, are also included. (A complete list of journals follows.)

According to Katherine McCarter, Executive Director of ESA: "The titles in the collection were chosen to represent the basic body of knowledge needed in the field. By providing convenient access to the very best journals available, the collection is an invaluable research tool for ecologists and other scientists."

The ESA was one of the earliest participating publishers in JSTOR, and three ESA journals, Ecology, Ecological Applications and Ecological Monographs, are also included in JSTOR's original cluster of 117 journal titles, the Arts & Sciences I Collection.

"The ESA played an important role during the development of the collection, first, by convening a committee of experts to set priorities and select journals for inclusion and second, by building enthusiasm for the project in the community," says Heidi McGregor, Director of Publisher Relations for JSTOR. "This was the first cooperative venture of its kind for JSTOR with a membership society and it has been extremely successful. It will serve as a model for the development of new collections in the future."

JSTOR, a not-for-profit organization with a mission to create, maintain, and extend access to a trusted archive of important scholarly journals, is available to colleges, universities, research institutions, public libraries and other organizations. The Ecology & Botany Collection represents the third major release of digitized scholarly research from JSTOR, following in the initial Arts & Sciences I Collection and the more recent General Science Collection. Participating institutions may sign up for the new Ecology & Botany Collection separately, or together with the Arts & Sciences I Collection.

The Ecology & Botany Collection

American Journal of Botany 1914 - 1994
American Midland Naturalist 1909 - 1996
American Naturalist 1867 - 1994
Annals of The Missouri Botanical Garden 1914 - 1994
Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 1970 - 1994
Biotropica 1969 - 1994
Brittonia 1931 - 1994
Conservation Biology 1987 - 1996
Diversity and Distributions 1993 - 1996
Ecological Applications 1991 - 1996
Ecological Monographs 1931 - 1996
Ecology 1920 - 1996
Evolution 1975 - 1994
Functional Ecology 1987 - 1996
Global Ecology and Biogeography Letters 1991 - 1996
International Journal of Plant Sciences 1875 - 1994
Journal of Animal Ecology 1932 - 1996
Journal of Applied Ecology 1964 - 1996
Journal of Biogeography 1974 - 1996
Journal of Ecology 1913 - 1996
Journal of Tropical Ecology 1985 - 1994
Journal of The Torrey Botanical Society 1870 - 1996
Limnology and Oceanography 1956 - 1996
Missouri Botanical Garden Annual Report 1890-1912
New Phytologist 1902 - 1996
Paleobiology 1975 - 1995
Quarterly Review of Biology 1926 - 1994
Systematic Biology 1952 - 1996
Systematic Botany 1976 - 1994.

Copyright (c) 2000 Corporation for National Research Initiatives

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DOI: 10.1045/december2000-inbrief