MODELS was a UKOLN initiative supported by the Electronic Libraries Programme and the British Library. It was motivated by the recognised need to develop an applications framework to manage the rapidly multiplying range of distributed heterogeneous information resources and services being offered to libraries and their users. Without an appropriate framework, use of networked information will not be as effective as it should be. MODELS provided a forum within which the UK library and information communities could explore shared concerns, address design and implementation issues, initiate concerted actions, and work towards a shared view of preferred systems and architectural solutions.
To allow progress to be made, the project partitioned the problem into a number of project lines. A workshop was held for each line. These inevitably involved overlapping concerns and were not planned to deliver a universal view, but by progressively working towards a model incorporating the insights of each, we helped to contribute to future developments. At the same time, each workshop was of self-standing interest.
MODELS was carried out by UKOLN with technical consultancy from Robin Murray of Fretwell-Downing. The project manager was Rosemary Russell, UKOLN (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The MODELS Steering Committee was: Richard Heseltine - Chair (University of Hull), Chris Rusbridge (eLib), Neil Smith (The British Library), Peter Smith (LASER).
In our world there are information objects. These might be books or gif images or bibliographic records or web pages or journal articles. Typically such information objects exist in collections. These collections might be databases, web sites, document supply centres or libraries. Indeed, in some perspectives, the Internet itself is a collection. Such collections are also, of course, information objects, and collections may contain other collections.
Information objects may be categorised in various ways: they may be digital or paper-based, they may be simple or compound, they may be static or dynamic, they exist at different levels of granularity and aggregation.
Information objects may be data or metadata, they may be 'first class' objects of interest or they may be data which assists in the identification, discovery, selection, location or documentation of such objects. Catalogues are collections of metadata which describe collections of books. Web crawlers provide collections of rather terse metadata which describe network information objects.
Metadata services were developed independently across different domains. Abstracting and indexing services typically describe journal articles. But they support discovery and selection, not location. Typically, inclusion criteria are subject and quality based: such services have no one-to-one correspondence with any collection of information objects. A library catalogue supports discovery, selection and location. Typically, there is a relationship between a catalogue and a collection, and the catalogue tries to mirror some of the relationships between objects within the collection. A web crawler supports discovery and location.
Information objects, or collections of objects, may be grouped into 'resource spaces' depending on the protocols used to access them. Metadata collections may be searched using http, telnet, Z39.50, SQL or one of a number of other approaches. Information objects may be requested using ARTTel, http, BODOS (BIDS), one of a number of other approaches, and may be returned in print or electronic form. The physical use of libraries involves rather a different set of protocols involving going to shelves, browsing and so on.
Collections will also have different terms and conditions associated with their use. They are embedded in particular organisational and business practices, which may impose additional technical requirements on any networked solution, charging and copyright management for example.
The MODELS project involves the examination of metadata and the collections they describe. Metadata and collections currently reside in multiple disjointed print and digital resource spaces. MODELS seeks to explicate some of the issues involved in reducing this disjointedness and moving towards more unified access to information systems and resources.
The project lines are:
Article discovery and request. This first line looked at the discovery, location and request of journal articles. It is especially interesting because of the highly fragmented and variable levels of metadata content (abstracting and indexing services, catalogues, ) and the hierarchical nature of the information object (title, volume, contribution). Accordingly, many of the necessary issues were raised in this line. The recommendations are available, together with information about followup work.
Metadata for network information objects. The second line looked at current approaches to metadata for network information objects. This built on previous work with the Dublin Core - a common set of metadata elements, and introduced the Warwick Framework, a container architecture for aggregating metadata. The outcome of this work, jointly carried out with OCLC, was reported in the July/August issue of Dlib.
National resource discovery: organising access to printed scholarly material. This line examined the problems of providing access to existing catalogue data based on the heterogeneous, fragmented resource that currently exists in the UK. The focus was on discovery, not on request or delivery of materials. It introduced business and organisational considerations which are likely to influence developments. A significant outcome was the recommendation for a National Agency for resource discovery; a scoping study for the Agency is being commissioned. The workshop report.
Integrating access to resources across multiple domains. This line covers resources from a range of domains, including libraries, museums, archives (print, data, electronic text, image). As access to distributed electronic services and resources becomes more widely available, and with a growing body of digitised materials, there will be an increased need to provide user discovery services across domains. The aim was to develop a broad framework to move things forward. The workshop report.
Managing access to a distributed library resource. Recent developments have encouraged renewed attention to resource sharing at various levels. The current library systems environment does not support unified access to a library resource distributed across several libraries with heterogeneous systems. This project line examines some of the infrastructure which would support effective resource sharing. It extends the discussion of systems support for organisational and business models.
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