The Second Texas Conference on Digital Libraries

Last June the University of Texas, Texas A&M University, and the Texas Digital Library (TDL) convened a Texas Conference on Digital Libraries (TCDL) at the University of Texas at Austin. It was a small meeting, with generative presentations and discussion and showed that the TDL is a project with a vision. Just one year later, to judge from the attendance and energy at the second TCDL, it's also a project that has "legs". After day one my free association about the TDL is "This dog can hunt."

The second TCDL started with a keynote by Mark Leggott from the University of Prince Edward Island on "Virtual Research Environments". At PEI Mark and his collegues have developed a Virtual Research Environment that supports administration, learning, and research. They work in an agile and iterative way, building and learning as they go. The vision Mark has for the repository and it's supporting infrastructure is to be an invisible foudation to all areas of academic activity. It's an ambitious goal, but they seem to be achieving it. Although much of the content requires a login for access it's still worth checking out.

Mark Leggott made several points. First, research and teaching are not orthogonal, but rather on a continuum. There's no reason why fresh research results can't be accessed the next day by students for class assignments. Second, library and information management expertise is needed to help manage newly created research data, not just the published results. And third, with the tools and practices they have established at PEI it's possible to populate an institutional repository with 60% of faculty output with no faculty input. Libraries do not need to wait for faculty participation to get started. A tipping point may not be that hard to create. Finally, the PEI VRE is integrating Fedora, Drupal, and Moodle to build their services. Much can be learned from this project.

Here's a summary of the rest of the first day's presentations:

Texas Tech University is focusing on library outreach. They are prototyping Meebo as a way to implement an "Ask a Librarian" function. They are making changes ... stay tuned.

At Texas A&M University the Energy Systems Lab has constructed an online digital collection that is a model of both well documented content and development of skill and expertise.

The Texas A&M TDL Bridge Group reported on their first year of operation and laid out the real work of educating librarians and faculty on both institutional repositories and the TDL. Short story? It's real work.

At UT Dallas the library is working with researchers and faculty to provide access to datasets in management and social sciences. The library is accomodating the demands for data, but as you might imagine, it's not the easiest journey for any of the participants (researchers, librarians, and data providers).

At UT Austin tools are being developed to bring the library to users where they are. LibX, OpenSearch, a Facebook app, and an iGoogle gadget, have been developed to provide user access to the UT libraries. This is the "build it and bring it to them" model -- it looks good!

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission is working on making metadata that can support interoperability among systems. Sometimes choosing what is simplest to implement is the best choice, even when cool features are left out.

The University of North Texas Health Science Center is training librarians and faculty about the ramifications of the recent NIH mandate for deposit of research output into PubMed Central. This is a big deal. Compliance and consequences? These are empirical questions.

At UT Austin's School of Information, tools are being developed to provide rich markup and access to video materials. Quinn Stewart from the iSchool has been developing courses to teach digitization of video materials. The tools enable marking contents, indicies, and specific objects in videos. It's hard to underestimate how useful this might be.

Baylor University reported on a Black Gospel Music Restoration Project. The content collection and description work is excellent. The 30 second gospel music sample just blew me away. The one downside of this project is that all the music is locked up because the copyright issues are not clear. That's a loss.

The University of North Texas described their work with Archival Resource Keys. ARKs are a standard way of providing a persisitent naming scheme for digital information objects. An ARK provides a link to an object, its metadata record, and its available service agreements. This is an interesting project. Being able to query an object about what services it can provide is particularly interesting. But it's also creating (yet) another unique and persistent web identifier we all need to know and care about. I'd like to know the thinking that decided that DOIs and PURLs aren't good enough. I know, we're still in the early days of computers, inter-networks, etc.

So that's the end of day one. Day two promises more operational stories and an open forum. I know that a proper blog post should have URLs for all the sites and resources mentioned. I'll provide an online link to the conference presentations as soon as I have one.

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