The Berkeley Digital Library SunSITE

Roy Tennant
Digital Library Research & Development
The Library, University of California, Berkeley
[email protected] u

D-Lib Magazine, February 1996

ISSN 1082-9873


One day in the fall of 1995...

Someone walks up to you on the street. He says, "Here's a multi-processor RISC machine with 60 gigabytes of disk storage. It's almost infinitely expandable -- as much hard drive capacity as you can attach to it and space for 20 fast CPUs." He looks away briefly as a taxi roars past. "Go, do something interesting with it," he says, "put some unique content on the net and help others do the same." He's gone before you know it, and you're left standing there with a box as big as a refrigerator and the simultaneous feelings of elation and despair. What a gift! How will you ever be worthy?

You have just become the newest Sun SITE, a Sun Microsystems, Inc. Software, Information, and Technology Exchange site. What are they? A couple dozen locations around the globe where Sun has positioned some of its largest computers to seed software development, exchange, and general good works. There are now three in the United States -- one in North Carolina (world-renowned), one in New York (the ERIC site), and yours, in Berkeley, CA. Another is planned at Stanford.

As you inspect the box among the jostling crowd you discover a note. It says "You know about libraries, right? The UC Berkeley Library is known the world over as a gem beyond measure. You have Mark Twain's papers, Jack London's correspondence, a vast treasure trove of unique materials." You feel uncomfortable, as this stranger obviously knows you too well.

You read on. "Who better to usher in the digital age for libraries than Berkeley? Who else is in a better position to marry technology to scholarship, the past to the future?" Now he's really gone too far, you think. There are many institutions all over the world that could do as much. But you continue reading, eager to discover what you must do to justify this largesse. "With this gift you will have the infrastructure required to mount a world-class digital library." Wow, you think, that is an incredible task but one you think you might be able to handle. But there's more. "And you will also have the wherewithal to help others do the same." Someone, somewhere, is honking their horn. Or is it your ears ringing? OK, you think, let me get this thing to a climate-controled room and get my thoughts together. I've had enough excitement for one day!

January 31, 1996:

Sun Microsystems, Inc. and The UC Berkeley Library today dedicated the first Digital Library Sun SITE at a dedication ceremony held at the Berkeley Library. They unveiled a SPARCcenter 2000E server at that hosts both digital library collections as well as information, tools, and services for digital library, museum, and archive developers. At the ceremony they demonstrated the major areas of the server and the programs, both current and planned...

Server, Services, and Strategies

The Berkeley Digital Library SunSITE will be a library in the classical sense -- not just a collection, but also a number of value-added services provided by trained professionals. Items will be selected for their contribution to the purpose of the collection and their possible utility to the clientele; the collection will be organized and made easily accessible to those who need it. Ample opportunity will be provided for obtaining assistance when required.

But the Berkeley DL SunSITE also goes beyond a traditional library role to serve as a catalyst for the development of digital libraries around the globe. You can come here to find out about some of the latest digital library technologies (e.g., JavaTM), or discover which electronic discussions you should join or periodicals you should monitor. If you have questions about copyright and intellectual property, imaging, or preservation of materials you can come here. If standards development is your interest (lucky you!) here you will find information on SGML, Z39.50 and even the authoritative source of the draft standards themselves (e.g., ANSI/NISO Z39.56-199X Version 2 Ballot Draft).

The Berkeley DL SunSITE is employing five strategies to support the development of digital libraries, museums, and archives:

  1. Gather and publish information about digital library projects
  2. Gather and provide access to digital content
  3. Provide a platform for digital research and development
  4. Promote discussions on topics related to digital libraries, museums, and archives
  5. Provide current awareness services

Strategic Partners

Strategic partnerships with others working in the field is a key strategy we are employing to leverage our infrastructure into a collection and service better than we could create on our own. These partnerships currently include public libraries, professional associations, universities, and commercial companies. A few examples of such partnerships include:

Sun Microsystems, Inc.
Sun is obviously a partner in the Digital Library SunSITE, but we see them as an ongoing strategic partner who will help us expand and enhance our digital library through innovative technology.

Electronic Book Technologies (EBT)
Our SGML projects have been well-supported by generous donations of software from Electronic Book Technologies, an SGML software company. The Digital Library SunSITE currently uses their DynaWeb software to translate SGML-encoded files to HTML on-the-fly to deliver to Web clients.

University of California Press
The University of California Press, the UC Berkeley Library, and the UC Division of Library Automation are cooperating on a project funded by the Mellon Foundation to place a core set of humanities journals on the Internet using the Web and SGML. The project is also investigating electronic policy issues such as cost recovery models.

InFoPeople Project
The California State Library has funded a project to place computers in public libraries around the state and train library staff in using the Internet to both access and publish information. The UC Berkeley Library has collaborated with the project over the last couple years, and we see this project as an important part of our strategy to make our digital library collections on the SunSITE easily and widely accessible to the citizens of the state.

Association of Research Libraries
The Berkeley Digital Library SunSITE has established a working relationship with ARL by marking up ARL publications related to digital libraries and mounting them on the SunSITE in a section of the server called Association of Research Libraries @ SunSITE. More documents will be added over time.

Standards Development

An important part of developing digital library applications is an ongoing commitment to creating and enhancing open standards. Standards are the foundation upon which interoperability and accessibility rest. The Berkeley DL SunSITE points to a number of resources on existing and draft standards, as well as de facto standards, such as non-standards track RFCs (Requests for Comments). Currently the DL SunSITE is the authoritative source for a draft ANSI/NISO standard Z39.56-199X: Serial Item and Contribution Identifier, in both HTML and Adobe Acrobat formats.

SunSITE Programs

Digital Librarians Program
Digital libraries cannot be constructed, managed, and preserved without digital librarians. Unfortunately, there are not a large number of people who can truly be called "digital librarians." Part of the SunSITE's mission is to seek out those who can be called digital librarians and help them to blaze the trail for the rest of us. We are seeking working librarians who have exhibited technical skill and imagination in bringing digital technologies to traditional library services. We then offer them an account on the SunSITE and a basic level of infrastructure support. Then we get out of their way. So far we have digital librarians from North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Berkeley, and Canada participating.

Digital Library Project Support
The DL SunSITE is actively seeking digital library research and development projects to host on the SunSITE that require the kind of infrastructure we can provide and that meet our review criteria. Those who have projects to propose for mounting on the SunSITE should review the information on Digital Library SunSITE Project Proposals.

SunSITE Highlights

The following are a few examples of SunSITE resources and collections:

The Association of Research Libraries @ SunSITE
The Digital Library SunSITE hosts a beginning collection of ARL documents related to digital libraries, including the executive summary of the Clinton administration's "white paper" on copyright and intellectual property in the digital age, and the proceedings of the 124th annual meeting.
Current Cites
Over five years worth of an annotated monthly bibliography of selected articles, books, and electronic documents on information technology. Over two years of the collection are in HTML, thereby allowing readers in many cases to click on a link to go to the resource being cited.
Finding Aids for Archival Collections
Discovering the content of archival collections can be difficult unless you travel to the location that holds the particular archive in which you have interest. Library catalogs usually have only the barest of records to describe an archival collection that may consist of boxes and boxes of materials. To provide better access to such collections, archivists create "finding aids", which are documents that describe the contents of a collection. Finding aids sometimes describe parts of collection down to the item level, but more often will consist of something like "Correspondence from Person X to Person Y from Date to Date". A project based at UC Berkeley, but including a number of other institutions, has encoded hundreds of archival finding aids in SGML and made them available on the Digital Library SunSITE. Some of the finding aids also provide access to digitized representations of the materials themselves, such as historical photographs.
Libweb: Library Servers via WWW
A list of library-based Web servers around the world, maintained by Thomas Dowling, one of the SunSITE digital librarians.
Nineteenth-Century Literature
A quarterly publication of the University of California Press. Currently the full-text of issues back to 1990 are available.
The Online Medieval and Classical Library
A selection of Classical and Medieval texts in translation are available here, from Chaucer and Homer to classic sagas by anonymous authors. This part of the DL SunSITE has been awarded Point Communication's "Top 5% Web Site" designation.

What the Future Holds

The only constant is change. That which we know to be true today may very well be false tomorrow. Our challenge is to pull together talent, foster flexibility, encourage active learning, and expect, support, and manage the process of change. Rather than constructing static monuments to failed ideas and technologies we must accept the challenge of preparing for a future that we cannot predict. The Berkeley Digital Library SunSITE is founded on this knowledge and we will strive to anticipate the changes that will transform libraries, museums, and archives the world over.

D-Lib Home Page |   
D-Lib Magazine Contents Page | Comments