Volume 5 Number 11
Archives, Astronomy, and Authentication
A casual glance at the contents for this issue of D-Lib Magazine might lead one to conclude that November's issue is one of the most eclectic ever published. Topics of the articles include a database expressly designed for research astronomers, a description of the fundamental descriptive practices of archivists, and a report on some basic research in image information retrieval. You, the reader, might reasonably conclude that these disparate topics could have nothing in common, and therefore read only those articles closest to your own interests.
Perusing only those articles in this issue of direct interest to you would be a mistake, however. As Bill Arms noted in a recent editorial, "Specialist research should be published where the specialists will read it, but when you want a broader community to know about your accomplishments, contact us."
The articles in this month's issue, while seemingly about specialized research, all carry implications for the broader community and therefore are perfect for presentation in D-Lib Magazine. Take Daniel Pitti's article on Encoded Archival Description (EAD), for example. As Pitti carefully explains, EAD is a direct outgrowth of archival descriptive principles and practices as codified in printed finding aids; at its most basic level, EAD is nothing more than an attempt to reflect in electronic form existing practice in print guides. While it is easy to see why archivists might be interested in EAD, it is harder to see why anyone else would care about it. Yet EAD has stimulated broad interest among cultural heritage repositories, including libraries and museums as well as archives. As Pitti notes, the principles behind EAD, including description at a collection level based upon context, as well as EAD's ability to represent the organization of individual items, make it a powerful tool potentially useful to communities far beyond its initial home.
The other articles in this month's issue each have their elements of potentially broad interest. Could, for example, the information visualization techniques described in the article by Brüggemann-Klein, Klein, and Landgraf, be used to represent the information found in an encoded finding aid, and not just for references? Michael Kurtz and his co-authors in their article on the Astrophysics Data System Abstract Service (ADS) note that Astrophysical Journal kindly removed the access restrictions on one of their articles. Access to resources available through ADS possibly could benefit from the authentication approaches described by David Millman. The article about ADS notes that "more articles per month are read through it than in the sum of all the traditional print libraries worldwide." Could ADS therefore be a model for the future of all scholarly communication?
The research issues in digital libraries are shared by all, even if our implementations tend to be narrow. Are the articles in D-Lib Magazine this month eclectic? Yes. But they are also examples of how good research in narrow areas can help change the information landscape for everyone.
Peter H. Hirtle
Copyright (c) 1999 Corporation for National Research Initiatives
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