Beyond the Beginning: The Global Digital Library

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Principal and Vice Chancellor, University of Strathclyde, UK
Chairman, JISC


The JISC is a committee of the UK’s four higher education funding councils. Its mission is to stimulate and enable the cost effective exploitation of information systems, and to provide a high quality national infrastructure for the UK higher education and research councils’ communities. It provides a computer network to link all higher education institutions (JANET), and funds a number of national information services and initiatives which benefit the higher education and research communities in the UK.

The JISC’s organisational structure includes a number of committees, including:

The JISC published in 1996 a five year strategy [2], in support of its objectives. The key actions, relevant to the subject of this conference, are to concentrate on developing the following activities over the next five years:


The five year strategy includes, as another aspect, co-operation with national and international partners. This conference, which builds on the very successful conference held with the British Library, the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) and CAUSE in February 1996, is further evidence that the JISC is absolutely committed to such collaboration.

The forthcoming appointment of a JISC convenor/co-ordinator for international issues further illustrates our commitment to trans-national working.

In addition to the British Library, CNI and CAUSE, this conference is co-sponsored by the Council of Australian University Libraries (CAUL). This arrangement follows a visit by members of the JISC and UK Funding Council representatives to Australia, during which CAUL expressed the desire to be included in future collaborations.

So, while the 1996 conference was primarily organised on a UK/US axis, this event is truly international in scope. Indeed, there are attendees from no less than fifteen nations:

We intend that this will mark the first of many international collaborations. Research and education is a global business, not constrained by national boundaries. It uses and requires common standards for information, and improved mobility. The benefits of an international outlook include the exchanging of expertise, learning about new developments, and improved value for money. This conference will build on the international recognition JISC has already gained through its projects and services, such as JANET, eLib and the Dataset Programme.


We are now beginning to have a global digital library. The comprehensive programme of this event demonstrates that we have already moved "beyond the beginning". The delegates assembled are at the core of this important and developing activity. Academe is now in a position to take the lead; indeed, it must do so, else commercial interests will come to dominate the scene.

[1] This account was drafted for this report by The Marc Fresko Consultancy. It is based on notes taken during the presentation.

[2] JISC Five Year Strategy 1996 - 2001, July 1996,

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