The next stage: moving from isolated digital collections to interoperable digital libraries

Abstract: Besser argues that online collections need to acquire more of the components and functions of traditional libraries in order to move toward being interoperable digital libraries rather than just experimental collections.

Efforts to move in this direction have correctly focused on standards for:

  • various types of metadata;
  • harvesting metadata; and
  • interoperable, user-centered architectures.

Likewise, these efforts have sought community agreement on best practices for:

  • preservation,
  • user authentication,
  • persistent identifiers, and
  • locating licensed copies of documents.

He asserts that further work is needed to ensure that the following library traditions are designed into the techological infrastructure for digital libraries:

  • service,
  • diverse collection development,
  • economic sustainability,
  • equal access,
  • privacy, and
  • free speech.


Unsurprisingly, given my love of information architecture, it was Besser's (2002) discussion of metadata types that I found most enthralling.

I'm curious, of course, as to whether any major changes and/or advances have occurred in the standards since 2002 (six years being a long time, technologically speaking). I know that Dublin Core is still key to interoperable findability, but am not sure about what else is going on.

I also know how much effort it takes to encode a document with structural (say, METS) metadata. The time and specialized knowledge that is required to encode these other types of metadata worries me: I'm not sure it's a scalable or economically sustainable model.

Besser, Howard (June 2002). The next stage: moving from isolated digital collections to interoperable digital libraries. First Monday, 7(6). Retrieved November 17, 2008, from