Web Magazine for Information Professionals

Editorial Introduction to Issue 24: Plumbing the Digital Library

Philip Hunter introduces Ariadne 24.

Lorcan Dempsey Farewell

Lorcan Dempsey, Director of UKOLN for the past six years, has recently moved up to head the newly constituted DNER (the Distributed National Electronic Resource), and is now based in London. This is UKOLN’s loss, but a great plus for the DNER. Ray Lester, head of UKOLN’s management committee, points out that Lorcan:

… has presided over a remarkable period of growth and diversification during his almost 6 years as Director of UKOLN. He has ensured the Centre has been able to respond to the opportunities offered within the UK, within Europe, and internationally, as those concerned with networked information sought to react to the Internet and the World Wide Web…. Lorcan moved early to expand work in the UK public library arena and then to embrace the similar needs of museums and archives. [He also]….. had long recognised the need to establish UKOLN as a world player in the field of metadata and resource discovery and he proceeded to spearhead this to great effect.

Ray Lester also comments that:

Leaders need vision: and they do so most especially when working in a rapidly changing external environment. Many of us have frequently commented that it is the combination of being able to engage with and articulate the technical details of ‘shared information spaces’ in ways that we can all (usually!) understand, coupled with a masterly appreciation of what all this networking business means for society, that makes Lorcan such a rare beast.

He has our best wishes with the DNER, and we hope to see him again soon, possibly sporting a ‘Book of Kells’ tie, which is just visible (boxed) on the table in the accompanying photograph :-)

Lorcan at the Moon and Sixpence lunch (picture)
Lorcan Dempsey’s farewell lunch at the Moon and Sixpence, Bath

Ariadne Issue 24

A number of projects, with which UKOLN has been and is currently involved, have explored areas related to DNER type services. The AGORA project for example, which is outlined in an article in this issue by Bridget Robinson, David Palmer and Rosemary Russell, allows users to create a personal landscape of relevant resources on the basis of z39.50 databases in libraries around the world. Those who attended the UKOLN conference in the summer of 1998 will recall that the name of the conference was ‘Information landscapes for a learning society’, and that it explored a range of issues connected with the the intelligent delivery of information across networks, plus the use of user profiles for resource discovery.

In the last issue of Ariadne we ran two articles on the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary, which was launched successfully on the 14th of March: one from Juliet New, who is involved in the project, and also a user review by Peter Cliff (of UKOLN and the RDN). Both of these articles have received a lot of interest. These two articles are followed up in this issue by a final piece written by Laura Elliot, a technical expert associated with the project, who explores the use of SGML (Standard Generalised Markup Language) in the management of the (extensive) OED text. This technology is particularly interesting since there is a lot of it out there behind HTML pages. It is just that it cannot be seen or easily detected for what it is. Easy therefore for users of the web to assume that there isn’t very much SGML/XML activity happening out there, and to make systems architecture decisions on this assumption. Most publishing houses which use electronic markup systems use SGML for archival, editorial, structural and analytical purposes (creation of indices, tables of contents, etc): they don’t use HTML behind the scenes because it does not have available the necessary richness of markup possibilities. (this deficiency is and was one of the motivations for the creation of the XML standard in 1996). The OED text is delivered to the user in HTML format, but not held or manipulated in that form by the publisher.

Ariadne was present at the Glasgow CLUMPS conference in April this year, and has contributed a report on the event. The issue of free text searching as opposed to structured information surfaced, as well as a number of other issues. The conference was attended by a significant number of non-eLib participants, particularly those from an interlibrary loans background: this has turned out to be a significant area for the CLUMPS projects. The JISC-CNI conference in Stratford this month has also been covered in this issue. Another conference reported on is the recent JASPER Further Education meeting held in London: the author has contributed a highly valuable ‘Acronym Alert’ section, giving an overview of the new terms which the HE and the FE communities have to learn, as well as a guide to where the same acronyms are used in different senses.

Glasgow CLUMPs conference picture

Glasgow CLUMPS conference, April 2000

Lou Burnard contributes an introduction to the new Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Consortium, which, I am assured, will be a lot cheaper to join than W3C. The TEI was an important refinement to the SGML standard, launched in 1994, which offered a standard for the markup used in humanities computing projects, to ensure logical consistency and interoperability. This standard has been widely used by a number of prestigious projects. It is now being relaunched as a mark-up independent standard for text encoding (meaning it might be used also with XML and other text mark-up metalanguages).

Paul Miller has contributed two articles to this issue: one on ‘Interoperability’, and another on Digital Object Identifiers .

This issue also contains the usual Regular Columns section, and the Get Tooled Up section. This month the latter section contains two articles by Brian Kelly. The Web Focus article reports on WWW9 held in Amsterdam just a few weeks before this issue of Ariadne. The Web Watch article looks at just how many web servers there are in the UK Higher Education community. The article provides some answers.

The Odds and Ends section, contains the usual cartoon, the caption competition, plus a book review, as well as access to the old Checkout Archive.

eLib and the DNER

Ariadne is gearing up to cover the development of the new Distributed National Electronic Resource (DNER) and its services. A number of the JISC eLib programme projects are now winding down, but there is still substantial scope for coverage of these until at least the end of the year, and a little more thereafter. Those projects which have made a successful transition from demonstrator project to service will of course continue to be a focus of interest. Ariadne reviewed the CLUMPs one day conferences in issues 23 and 24, and also featured the Agora project in issue 24 (all Z39.50 projects).

At the turn of the year (as regular readers will know) an article on the proposed DNER service was mooted for Ariadne, which we hoped to run in issue 23; due to the pace of events however, the article was rescheduled for issue 24. We’ve postponed it again, since the pace of events continues (the DNER is now being set up and staffed, as our opening paragraph indicated). We hope to run a significant article on this subject at the earliest sensible opportunity.

UKOLN Web Magazines

The UKOLN Information Services Team now has two Information Officers once again with the arrival of Marieke Napier. Marieke comes to us from Manchester. Prior to joining UKOLN she worked as corporate desktop support officer and webmaster for Building Design Partnership, a multidiscipline architectural design company. For the remainder of the year the IST will be fielding three electronic magazines, and Brian Kelly, who has been acting editor for Exploit Interactive for the past two issues, is continuing to contribute substantially to the commissioning effort for the magazine, as well as providing important extra effort for the launch of our latest magazine. Marieke will be lead editor of Exploit Interactive for its remaining issues (seven were planned in all), and lead editor for the forthcoming EU Fifth Framework Digicult project magazine Cultivate Interactive released on the 3rd of July at http://www.cultivate-int.org, as well as Ariadne Deputy Editor. This new magazine will cover the wider cultural community of Museums and Galleries in Europe involved in digital library initiatives, in addition to the library and archive sector currently addressed by Exploit Interactive.

Summary Access Statistics for Ariadne, January through May 2000

Hard hat zone only. User sessions for the whole Ariadne site in January 2000 were 902 per day, and 27,963 for the whole month. Page views for the month ran to 103,222, and the site as a whole took just over a third of a million raw hits. In February the user sessions amounted to 1,000 per day, and 29,009 for the month. Page views were to 107,352. Total number of hits: 312,325. User sessions rose again in March (Ariadne 23 was published on March 23rd), with an average per day of 1,257, and a total for the month of 40,234. Page views were 118,492 altogether, with raw hits at 405,466. In April Ariadne collected 1,133 user sessions per day, 34,019 for the month; and page views were 101,252 during the same period. Total hits for April were 329,005. During the same four month period the average length of user sessions varied between twelve and a half minutes and 17 minutes. May saw the raw hit count at 348,214, page views at 116,446, monthly user sessions at 35,813, and daily user sessions at 1,155. The figures are summarised in the table below:

Hits (month)333,800312,325405,466329,005348,214
Users (month)27,96329,00240,23434,01935,813
Users (day)9021,0001,2571,1331,155
Page views (month)103,222107,352118,492101,252116,446


Suggestions for articles for issues 25 to 27 are now being considered. Article proposals should be sent to: ariadne@ukoln.ac.uk. Books for review should be sent to:

The Editor
The Library,
University of Bath
Claverton Down
Bath BA2 7AY
United Kingdom

Enjoy the issue.

Author Details

Philip Hunter
Ariadne Editor

Email: p.j.hunter@ukoln.ac.uk
Web site: http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/