Editorial Introduction to Issue 40: Horses for Courses
Reading the interesting points Karen Coyle has to make in Rights Management and Digital Library Requirements puts me in mind, not so much of horses actually, as of one of cartoonist Gary Larson's cows. The bovine unfortunate in question, bedecked with shower cap, is being pushed along by the rest of the herd and complaining that no sooner has she stepped into the shower than some fool cries 'Stampede!' Much the same effect may be claimed from the fallout of the Napster affair and the sharing of millions of music files. This had a profound influence on the behaviour of the media and entertainment industries, which, as Karen points out, are now the driving force behind the technology of Digital Rights Management in respect of commercial content. This pressure has provoked debates within the digital library community about the most appropriate rights expression language, when in fact such discussions, she feels, are way too premature. In her article Karen sets about illustrating aspects of developments in rights management likely to prove problematic for digital libraries and invites us to consider more carefully what their needs are going to be, as distinct from those of the stampeding commercial sectors. Fitness for purpose would seem to be the watchwords here - or horses for courses.
Meanwhile Daniel Chudnov, Jeremy Frumkin, Jennifer Weintraub, Matthew Wilcox and Raymond Yee have all contributed to Towards Library Groupware with Personalised Link Routing and set us thinking about library groupware, a new class of service to help people manage the myriad of information they encounter as they navigate the increasingly complex range of online resources and communities that constitute the current information landscape. The aim of such a service would be to provide users with a common set of information functions applicable to any information anywhere. They illustrate their proposition with three heavily used network applications we might not all automatically club together: link resolvers, bibliographic reference managers and weblogs. They ultimately suggest an architectural solution arguing that it represents a significant step towards a vision of integrated groupware and an effective means of employing all the disparate resources and services that now abound.
We have Eric Lease Morgan to thank for An Introduction to the Search/Retrieve URL Service in which he describes the 'brother and sister' Web Service protocols SRW and SRU, with an emphasis on the latter. Eric not only provides a sound rationale for these protocols but goes on to show how SRU is being used by a project to facilitate an alerting service. He furnishes us with tranches of the actual code to illustrate his points. Furthermore he comments upon the complementary nature of OAI-PMH (Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting) and SRW/U and their respective strengths. An extremely sound introduction to two protocols that are beginning to attract more attention.
A significant proportion of this issue is devoted to the Collection-level Description Focus and Ann Chapman and Bridget Robinson start us off with the notion of Thinking globally before acting locally and in so doing illustrate their point by referring us to three projects which have followed this premise: Alison Baud and Ann Chapman write on a project entitled Tap Into Bath , a small-scale demonstrator project bringing together collection-level descriptions of resources local to Bath, UK; Chris Turner writes on Cornucopia now entering its fourth year and currently providing cross-searchable collection-level descriptions to some 1800 British museums; and at the other end of the spectrum Amanda Hill explains what the Information Environment Service Registry will mean for its stakeholders in its role of promoting the use of electronic resources.
On another tack, Jessie Hey keeps the matter of scholarly publishing ticking over nicely with her description of Targeting Academic Research with Southampton's Institutional Repository. Jessie, based on her experience with the TARDis Project, explains how the needs of users have contributed to the evolution of e-Prints Soton.
As usual the foregoing are all supported by our other sections, including our Regular Columns added to which is another raft of At the Event and Get Tooled Up articles, as well as News and Reviews. In the latter we have reviews of works on information architecture, managing Internet and intranet services, the issue of staying legal, Web-based instruction and how librarians can manage the unintended consequences of the Internet. I am pleased to see this section continue to grow and am very grateful to the many readers of Ariadne and members of academic lists who have offered to review for us. Equally the Ariadne Newsline has been re-organised to be, I hope, a little more user-friendly. My thanks to Shirley Keane for her support in this regard.
In addition to Brian Kelly's exposé on Web Focus: The Web on your TV, our Get Tooled Up section is also carrying another article from Dey Alexander, this time in concert with Derek Brown on the subject of Testing Web Page Design Concepts for Usability. While the geographical context is once again Australian Higher Education, as with How Accessible Are Australian University Web Sites?, there can be no disputing the universal applicability of its content.
I am of course indebted to Ariadne's columnists for their reliable and regular contributions and in particular to Penny Garrod who has been writing her column for public libraries since December 2001. Penny will be moving on from UKOLN at the end of August. Not only has she always approached her columns with a spirit of investigation and a propensity for calling a spade a refreshing spade, but she has also been greatly valued here for her sense of curiosity and humour. As editor I am indebted to Penny for her unflagging support and advice in matters public libraries as well as her unfailing patience with some of my dafter questions!
I hope you will enjoy issue 40.