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NewsAgent for Libraries

Project web site

Programme area
Electronic Journals

Contact details
Robin Yeates, Project Co-ordinator,
Library Information Technology Centre South Bank University 103 Borough Road London SE1 0AA
Phone: 0171 815 7871 Fax: 0171 815 7050

Project description

as of 24th July 1996


Key publishers on library automation and information management have been brought together to create an innovative new information service for the library and information service (LIS) community. The aim is to create a user-configurable electronic news and current awareness service with a mixture of content streams, including metadata (descriptions of documents). Content will include refereed and other papers, reviews and editorial matter from the most highly respected UK journals in the field, including Program, VINE and the Journal of Librarianship and Information Science. News and briefing materials will be provided by the Library Association, the Institute of Information Scientists, UKOLN, the British Library, and LITC, which already produce printed publications in this field and which are all developing Web sites in addition. Additional material will be included from other sources identified during the project, in collaboration with suppliers, taking into account a variety of possible economic models. The technologies developed for librarians during the project are also intended to be adaptable for other subject sectors, such as health information.

Key Objectives

Create a high quality, accessible, user-configurable electronic news and current awareness service aimed initially at LIS staff, with a mixture of content streams and metadata.

Consolidate editorial skills of libraries as academic publishers and extend their contextual awareness.

Build three open distributed meta-information stores which facilitate the handling of duplicate resources, licensing, systems integration, copyright management.

Keep the management overheads to a minimum by means of advanced library resource management systems; direct user control over profiling; and the use of sophisticated object handling software for identifying and fetching information about relevant documents (crawlers), and optional full integration with a range of user desktop software environments.

Develop a management environment, to enable publishers to match their output even more closely to user needs.

Provide publishers with:

  • well-defined target audiences,
  • easily managed feedback from users,
  • clear options for quality information delivery,
  • opportunities to distinguish their output,
  • reduced development costs for advanced technology based electronic current awareness publishing and marketing.


Users will be able to filter information to overcome overload, using both automated and human editorial techniques. The service will consolidate the editorial skills of libraries as academic publishers and extend their awareness of electronic publishing issues. Profiling systems and metadata handling will enable publishers to match their output to user needs efficiently. An appropriate copyright management approach will also be developed, along with management information, user administration and billing systems.

Fretwell-Downing Informatics will develop technology for the project together with UKOLN and LITC. The core of the system will be a Distributed Virtual Content Store (VCS). This will provide unified access to both data and metadata. Original data may be temporarily stored in the VCS, or held remotely on a publisher's server. Three newsAgent servers will be established during the project at UKOLN, LITC and Fretwell-Downing Informatics sites linked via the Internet. Output will be fed according to user profiles to a number of client types, including Web browsers, Z39.50 clients, email addresses and specialised clients offering extended features such as saved searches, folders and workspaces to provide persistence of user activity between sessions. Output will be sent to individuals as well as to digital library services, electronic journals and archives. Profiles and user registration will be handled by each newsAgent server.


A consortium led by the Library Information Technology Centre (LITC) at South Bank University will implement the service, with a view to its continuing commercially following the project if the trials prove successful. Staff at LITC will commission research on news filtering, object analysis and routing technology, crawlers, agents and desktop client software available to meet these needs, and will publish a report on the state of the art with regard to customised news services.

User needs will be assessed using focus groups and email surveys by a team led by staff of the Department of Information and Library Studies (DILS/UWA) at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, who will also co-ordinate editorial content plans.

Technical consultancy will be provided by UKOLN (The UK Office of Library and Information Networking), which has relevant expertise in resource access techniques and distributed information service management, and by Fretwell-Downing Informatics, supplier of the Olib library automation system, based in Sheffield, who have relevant software and experience in the fields of information management, document delivery and multimedia database management.

Content providers involved as associates in the project include Aslib, Bowker-Saur, the Library Association, the Institute of Information Scientists, and the British Library Research and Development Department in addition to LITC.

Evaluation will be carried out throughout the project by the Centre for Research in Library and Information Management (CERLIM) at the University of Central Lancashire, which has completed work on user requirements for services in the JAVELIN-0 project funded by the British Library.

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