All Things in Good Time
Next month, D-Lib Magazine will celebrate its first anniversary. It is clearly time for a party. The first order of business is our own schedule. We plan to issue a double anniversary issue for July/August around July 15th and to leave this issue in place in mid-August while the Northern Hemisphere goes to the beach. We'll be back in mid-September with a special issue on education.
By now, many of you will have noticed a few changes in these pages. First, we have added pages that help you browse stories, editorials, and project briefings. Shortly, we shall be adding a search capability so that using us will become easier for you.
Second, we have re-cast the magazine into two principal parts: D-Lib Magazine This Month and D-Lib Ready Reference. D-Lib Magazine This Month is the part of the magazine that changes every month; it is where we put editorials, stories, projects updates, and clips and pointers -- the items you are used to seeing on the contents page. D-Lib Ready Reference is the part of the magazine where we point to stable sites, like IFLA, where users can expect to find resources that are useful for exploring digital libraries and digital library research. Look, here, for pointers to collections of technical papers or announcements of conferences, meetings, workshops, training programs, institutes, and the like -- whether these are open to the public or are by invitation only since the schedule itself serves as a barometer of what's happening where.
Periodically, I take the pulse of the digital libraries research program. I do this in several ways: I listen in on listservs; I browse the Scout Report, EduPage, and Current Cites; I read books, newspapers, magazines, and a few professional journals; I attend conferences, I surf the net; and I work with authors. But mostly I listen. From time to time, I hear echoes of an underlying anxiety that there may be no core to digital libraries research, that there is "no there, there".
Superficially, there is some cause. Consider the range of ideas, concepts, and topics that the various authors in this issue address: Hal Varian sets forth an economic model for pricing scholarly journals. Bob Norris discusses decision support, expert systems, and distributed digital libraries. Marti Hearst and her colleagues Gary Kopec and Dan Brotsky describe a wide range of projects in progress at Xerox PARC that cover data capture, information access and visualization, middleware, and a possible new end-user print-on-demand service. Finally, David Fenske and Jon Dunn discuss the requirements that building a music library impose upon technological decisions as well as the new kinds of research that digital representations of music potentially enables. In Clips and Pointers, we identify a newly available collection of documents at University of Maryland's Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory, two resources associated with metadata, a new report on digital preservation, and a handful of sites that offer access to the web's riches in the area of mathematics. Thus, it is not surprising that diverse and numerous venues host programs devoted to digital libraries -- hence the need for pointers to conferences, proceedings, calendars, and schedules of events, such as are maintained by the IFLANET, University of Michigan, and UKOLN, among others.
The notion of digital libraries and their many associated research and advanced implementation projects are not easily condensed into a phrase or sound bite, which partially accounts for what sometimes seems to be incoherence. But looking broadly across them, these many projects all deal with some aspect of the storage, retrieval, display, and manipulation of digital information across distributed systems. How we will do this is in its infancy and borrows from many methodologies and technologies -- from an anthropologist's model of workplace interactions to MARC records to network security architecture. Research in digital libraries is not the first effort to bring together diverse constituencies, each of which has inherited powerful methodologies and traditions. If it were codified and coherent, it wouldn't be new. And if it weren't new, it probably wouldn't be fun.
Editor, D-Lib Magazine