Conference Report

D-Lib Magazine
October 2001

Volume 7 Number 10

ISSN 1082-9873

Report on the First Joint Conference on Digital Libraries

June 24 - 28, 2001, Roanoke, Virginia


Christine L. Borgman
Heather Hessel
University of California, Los Angeles

Red Line


In a closing panel on the future of digital libraries conferences held at the ACM-sponsored DL'99, Hector Garcia-Molina famously said, "if the ACM and IEEE conferences merge, I'll eat this slide!"

Professor Garcia-Molina of Stanford University graciously ate his slide -- which we had replicated on a sheet cake -- at the banquet of the first Joint Conference on Digital Libraries, held in Roanoke, Virginia, from June 24 through June 28, 2001. Rob Akscyn of Knowledge Systems had held the slide "in escrow" for 2 years, and was assisted by Ray Larson of UC-Berkeley in the cake-based reproduction.

They were among more than 450 people from 20 countries who participated in the conference. Our goal was not only to merge the two successful conference series, but to bring together a larger and more diverse community of researchers and practitioners to advance the state of the art of digital libraries. By all accounts, the conference was a great success, attracting long-time researchers on digital libraries and a substantial proportion of first-timers who are actively engaged in creating digital collections, large and small. Community-building efforts also benefited from the conference venue, which was small enough to keep all the sessions in a contiguous area of the hotel, and inexpensive enough to include breakfasts, lunches, breaks, and evening receptions as part of the conference fee.

Work presented at the JCDL encompassed the many meanings of the term "digital libraries." These include new forms of information institutions, operational information systems with all manner of digital content, new means of selecting, collecting, organizing, and distributing digital resources, and theoretical models of information systems and services, such as new document genres and new forms of electronic publishing. In reviewing papers submitted to the conference, we noted that digital library research has become more clearly distinguished from information retrieval research. Digital libraries usually include more types of media, and have greater functionality, additional services, and support for the creation and use of digital content than do information retrieval systems. This distinction also was apparent in the several papers on information retrieval methods specific to digital libraries.

The program ran three concurrent tracks for three days, comprised of two paper tracks and one panel track, plus a keynote speaker each day. The conference offered a full day of tutorials at the beginning of the week, a full day of workshops on the last day, and an evening of demonstrations and posters over drinks and hors d'oeuvres on Monday night. The program consisted of 40 full papers, 36 short papers, nine panels, ten demos, 16 posters, six tutorials, and three workshops. These were selected from more than 250 submissions from more than 20 countries. On Wednesday evening and all day Thursday, the National Science Foundation held a meeting of investigators funded by the Digital Libraries Initiatives. The NSF-DLI2 meeting was keynoted by Stevan Harnad of Southampton University, who talked about new models of scholarly communication and electronic publishing.

The formal program opened on Monday morning, June 25, with a welcome by Ed Fox of Virginia Tech, Conference Chair, and Christine Borgman of UCLA, Program Chair. Brewster Kahle, President of Alexa Internet and Director of the Internet Archive, gave the first keynote address. He talked about public access to (historical) digital resources, addressing a wide range of technical and policy issues. Tuesday's keynote speaker was Pamela Samuelson, UC-Berkeley Professor of Information Management and Systems and of Law. Professor Samuelson concentrated on the current issues in digital rights management and what present legislation like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act means for libraries. Clifford Lynch, Executive Director of the Coalition for Networked Information, provided the Wednesday keynote, in which he addressed unresolved interoperability issues confronting digital libraries and networked information.

Papers and panels addressed themes such as multimedia storage and retrieval, Web-based applications, policies and practices, interoperability, distributed collections, cultural issues in global development, classifying and organizing content, preservation, and methods of evaluation. Application areas included education, the humanities, science and technology, healthcare providers, and government institutions. Panels reported on the National SMETE Digital Library Program, the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee's Digital Libraries Report, the Library of Congress digital strategy, and digital music library development. The panel on "High Tech or High Touch?", organized and moderated by David Levy of the University of Washington, featured a provocative (but friendly) debate between Barbara Tillett, Head of Cataloging Policy at the Library of Congress, on how library cataloging practices were being adapted effectively to manage digital resources, and William Arms of Cornell University, who claimed that Google was more effective than most library catalogs, and that cataloging may no longer be an economically viable approach to collection management.

The digital library technology demonstrations reinforced research presented in papers and panels. Projects such as the Indiana University Digital Music Library and the PERSIVAL system for medical information retrieval at Columbia University and E.piphany, Inc. were presented. Posters encompassed a broad range of research interests from science to the humanities, and from education to "The Virtual Naval Hospital." Presenters described projects underway in a variety of institutions including NASA, the Institute of Industrial Science at the University of Tokyo, and Miguel de Cervantes Digital Library at the University of Alicante in Spain.

The success of the conference was due in no small part to effective local arrangements. In addition to the tutorials, those who arrived on Saturday had options on Sunday of a tour of Virginia wineries or a hike through a canyon gorge. All were treated to a reception on Sunday evening featuring music by the band "No Strings Attached," with special guest on the clarinet, Ian Witten of Waikato University, New Zealand, along with plenty of Virginia ham and biscuits. Extensive "snacks," including a pasta bar, accompanied the poster and demo sessions on Monday evening.

The conference banquet on Tuesday evening was an informal affair, held at the Virginia Museum of Transportation next to the railroad tracks in downtown Roanoke. Participants could wander through exhibits on the history of railway travel, climb on old trains, and listen to the "Celtibillies" in the train yard, while partaking of food and drink. After a welcome by Dennis Kafura, Chair of Computer Science at Virginia Tech, Rob Akscyn and Christine Borgman presented Hector Garcia-Molina with his slide-cake to eat (the rest of the large cake was dessert for attendees). Rob Akscyn presented the Vannevar Bush Best Paper Award to Gregory Crane of Tufts University for "Building a Hypertextual Digital Library in the Humanities: A Case Study on London" by Gregory Crane, Clifford E. Wulfman, and David A. Smith. Gene Golovchinsky accepted the plaques given for honorable mention for the paper "Designing e-Books for Legal Research" by Catherine C. Marshall, Morgan N. Price, Gene Golovchinsky, and Bill N. Schilit. Following the banquet, groups of JCDL attendees continued to share informally and discuss ideas at several of the local Irish pubs and coffee houses.

JCDL participants had the option of registering for six tutorials offered Sunday morning and afternoon before the conference opening. All the tutorials focused on practical skills such as building digital libraries and open archives, evaluating eBooks, and understanding the role of metadata in digital library development. Three of the tutorials were offered as full-day classes; the other three were morning or afternoon only. The JCDL workshops were held opposite the NSF DLI2 meeting on Thursday, the day after the conference officially closed. In total, the three workshops on information visualization, classification crosswalks, and browsing applications drew more than 70 attendees. The information visualization workshop presented participants with the opportunity to interact directly with new visualization tools, underscoring visual interface challenges for digital library developers. The classification crosswalks workshop reported on activities of the 4th Networked Knowledge Organization Sources/Systems, focusing on vocabulary, metadata, and interoperability issues in general.

The JCDL program achieved this large and diverse array of high-quality contributions through the work of many individuals. We invited people from a wide range of perspectives, disciplines, and countries to serve on the program committee, and they in turn solicited contributions from their respective communities. All of the program committee members reviewed conference submissions, and more than half of the members participated in an intense working weekend in March to make final selections and to organize the final program. Robert France of Virginia Tech served as local arrangements chair. He and his team effectively managed the rooms, food, and logistics for our capacity crowd. Organizing the conference has itself been an important community building process as we explore the fertile ground of research, practice, and policy making in digital libraries.

In addition to ACM and IEEE-CS, JCDL sponsors included the Coalition for Networked Information, the Center for Organizational & Technological Advancement, Lucent Technologies, Sun Microsystems, and VTLS. Virginia Tech provided additional local resources in staffing and logistical support from nearby Blacksburg.

Preparation for the second ACM/IEEE-CS Joint Conference on Digital Libraries is already under way. JCDL 2002 will expand on the topics addressed in the 2001 conference and will give opportunities to present new research through papers, panels, posters, workshops, and demos. JCDL 2002 will take place at the Lloyd Center Doubletree Hotel across the river from beautiful downtown Portland, Oregon. The conference committee includes William Hersh (Oregon Health & Science University) as General Chair and Gary Marchionini (UNC - Chapel Hill) as Program Chair. The call for participation details conference scope, submission requirements, and location information. The deadline for full papers, panel and tutorial proposals is 14 January 2002; short papers, posters, workshop and demonstration proposals are due 11 February 2002. All are encouraged to submit appropriate work. More information about JCDL 2002 can be found at <>. See also <> for general information about the Joint Conferences on Digital Libraries.

Copyright 2001 Christine L. Borgman and Heather Hessel

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DOI: 10.1045/october2001-borgman