UKOLN MODELS: MOving to Distributed Environments for Library Services

Annual report to the Electronic Libraries Programme: 1997-98 (edited version)

Rosemary Russell, MODELS Project Manager, UKOLN


The MODELS project is a UKOLN initiative which receives support from eLib. It has been continuing its work in developing a structured approach to the management of the growing mass of currently unconnected library and information services. In phases one and two eLib has provided funding for seven workshops (from a total of eight), and for technical consultancy. The third phase will continue until July 1999, with a further two workshops. UKOLN staff costs are covered by the UKOLN core grant.

MODELS Steering Committee members are Richard Heseltine (University of Hull), Chris Rusbridge (eLib Programme), Neil Smith (The British Library) and Peter Smith (LASER). UKOLN also convenes a small expert advisory group to help plan each workshop.

1. Activities and progress

MODELS is categorised as an eLib supporting study. It therefore has a different remit to projects which are developing services. The original aims of the supporting studies as an eLib group included helping to define issues in more detail and setting parameters for other work. MODELS has made a significant contribution to these objectives in the area of distributed library and information services. The workshops have brought together key players to discuss and define major organisational and technical issues for the development of distributed services. The recommendations have set parameters for continuing work in identified areas; much of this work is of major national importance. In addition, the project has produced a number of significant practical outcomes.

The project centres around the workshops. Since the last annual report in August 1997, two further MODELS workshops have been held.

Followup activities resulting from all the workshops have also continued throughout the timeframe. This has involved a range of work, including work on standards for serials, clump and Z39.50 profile coordination and development of a UK Z39.50 target directory service.

1.1 Major activities undertaken

Workshop 6

A Distributed National Electronic Resource? was the sixth workshop, held in February 1998. It was one of the largest to date, involving around 50 invited participants. Discussions about the content of a DNER have been taking place within other JISC fora – MODELS focused instead on what the ‘distributed’ part might mean. The workshop therefore developed further the MODELS Information Architecture, a framework for talking about distributed information resources with a shared vocabulary and set of concepts. MIA includes the concept of information landscapes, a term used to describe an organised, personalised view of information resources. Carrol Lunau from the National Library of Canada was invited to present a view of developments in Canada, focusing on the Virtual Canadian Union Catalogue project.

Workshop 7

MODELS 7 took place in May 1998, addressing the deployment of MIA. It looked at ways of developing the framework into a practical tool which can be used by library and information services and systems developers. The need to define interfaces between distributed components in the broker model was recognised, and this work is being taken forward, concentrating on external interfaces. The current state-of-the-art is individually-designed brokers which are built by one vendor; however it is possible that these could be the basis for a generic broker that would allow new resources (which conformed to the defined standards) to be ‘plugged in’ by library staff in a routine way (and similarly, obsolete resources to be removed in the same way). Renato Iannella from DSTC in Australia spoke about distributed service development in Australia, including the HotOil project.

1.2 Effects of changes made

The only significant change to the project plan has been to postpone workshop 8 from July until October 1998. The planned topic was An integrated environment for learning and teaching – since this needed to involve a number of academic staff, it was desirable to hold it during term time. This change was recommended by the Chair of the MODELS Steering Committee, then discussed and agreed with the eLib office. Since then, it has been proposed to change the order of workshops 8 and 9 (the suggested topic for MODELS 9 is Rights management) because of the urgency of this topic. A decision will be taken shortly in conjunction with the eLib Director, the workshop advisory group and the Steering Committee.

1.3 Main objectives/targets during the reporting period

The main objectives during this period were as follows:

1.4 Outputs from MODELS activities

MODELS is not producing a product or service; its outputs are intellectual: model architectures, articles and papers. The focus is instead on outcomes. Effective dissemination is therefore the key to sharing MODELS ideas and influencing future development. There is evidence (see below) that MODELS concepts are being used as a basis for development in other projects. This represents the key outcome.

MODELS is developing a shared understanding of the organisational and technical issues that need to be addressed in the move to distributed library services; a model systems framework to manage these services has been developed – the MODELS Information Architecture (MIA).

Two workshops have been held within the reporting period, as indicated in 1.3. A smaller technical meeting was also held in January 1998 to seek feedback on MIA before its presentation at MODELS 6.

A number of reports, articles and papers have been written during the reporting period, some directly reporting MODELS results, others based on MODELS and related distributed services work.



Additional documents available via MODELS web pages:

There are a number of additional MODELS documents available on the web; these include some of the significant workshop presentations.


1.5 Successes

Successful MODELS events are described in 1.1. There have been a number of successful direct outcomes, which are summarised below. However, perhaps more importantly, there is evidence that MODELS results are directly influencing the development of other projects and services; some of these are also listed below.

It is also possible to point to more intangible benefits. The evaluation exercise shows that MODELS workshops have had an impact on the way people are thinking about future services, and that they have raised the aspirational level of some services and players.

Direct outcomes

Influence of MODELS

The following initiatives have all been directly influenced by MODELS outcomes:

International attention

A range of international organisations and projects have been following MODELS developments with interest:

As a result of interest in the MODELS Profile, UKOLN has been in discussion with the National Library of Canada, the National Library of Australia, the US Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), the ONE project and others, about the development of an international Z39.50 profile which would support effective cross-border searching. UKOLN has been invited to join a working group to take this forward.

2. Learning from the process of implementation

The majority of this section is not applicable to MODELS, given its status as a supporting study – there is no implementation involved in the project.

2.2 Influence of other projects and the eLib Programme Office

MODELS has very close contact with a range of eLib projects, especially the clumps and hybrid library projects in recent months. The MODELS project manager also works on the Agora hybrid library project and is a member of the CAIRNS and RIDING steering committees.

A large number of eLib project staff participate in MODELS workshops and provide useful input. Several have been members of the advisory panels which are convened for each workshop. They have also provided information and materials for various MODELS-related articles and reports.

As a supporting study, it is particularly relevant for MODELS to work closely with the eLib Programme Office, and regular contact is maintained. The eLib Programme Director is on the MODELS Steering Committee and provides valuable input to decision making. eLib Programme staff have participated in all MODELS workshops except the second. This has been a key factor in achieving successful workshop results, both from the point of view of drawing up workable recommendations, and in subsequently taking them forward through the appropriate channels.

3. Interim evaluation results

It was agreed with eLib that the standard evaluation guidelines are not applicable to MODELS.

Further to evaluation recommendations at the MODELS Steering Committee meeting in August 1997, everyone who had participated in MODELS phase I workshops was sent a summary of phase I achievements, and asked to complete a short questionnaire. A summary of some of the relevant results from this exercise are presented below.

3.1 What did participants gain from the workshop(s)?

The most frequent response was that participants had gained a much wider understanding of issues, from taking part in MODELS workshops, and had benefited from the opportunity to interact with other stakeholder groups. This meant that there was exposure to a range of ideas in a supportive but critical setting and an understanding of the possibilities. Also reported was a sense of the direction in which libraries must move.

3.2 Workshop format

The majority of participants believed that the format worked well (as a result of an earlier recommendation by the MODELS 6 advisory group, the number of breakout sessions has been increased from one to two).

One suggestion was that there should be action points for delegates as well as JISC, BL, UKOLN and others; there have on some occasions been recommendations directed to other committees and organisations. This point will be borne in mind, although since there are often funding implications, many will continue to be directed to JISC. There is also likely to be a mixed response – some participants would welcome the opportunity of continued involvement, while others may be less willing due to other commitments.

Several public library participants requested that more background/preparatory material should be made available before the workshop for people who are unfamiliar with the concepts and acronyms.

Having a model to work on was considered to be the best approach by another participant; this has in fact been applied in the majority of MODELS workshops.

3.3 The project’s most significant achievements

Several participants acknowledged that the influence of MODELS is more important than specific individual achievements. One noted that the project has been successful in making things happen.

However, the overwhelming opinion was that the development of the clumps concept has been the project’s most significant achievement.

This was closely followed by the Interoperability Focus work, to be based at UKOLN. This was initiated by the national agency for resource discovery (NARD) scoping study which was commissioned by UKOLN in response to a MODELS recommendation. Respondents believe that this will be of key importance for future interworking.

Other significant achievements were considered to be metadata work and the Warwick Framework. The importance of cross-domain applications was also highlighted.

4. Future development

The broad aims for the next reporting period are to build on the important achievements of the preceding MODELS phases and to develop MIA further into a practical tool. The workshop addressing an integrated environment for learning and teaching will widen the scope for MIA considerably.

A number of existing MODELS recommendations will be taken forward in parallel, via events such as the meeting in September to discuss collection description (with a focus on eLib phase 3) and the planned later international meeting to explore information landscapes together with collection description.

The Interoperability Focus work is starting during the next reporting period and will cooperate closely with MIA development.

The MODELS project manager’s time has been divided across MODELS and Agora since June 1998; a new member of UKOLN staff has been recruited (starting 1 October) to take on a more technical role for MODELS. This will be particularly useful in developing MIA.

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