The Digital Library

Tom Worthington FACS HLM

Visiting Fellow, Department of Computer Science, Australian National University, Canberra

For: Computing 3410 Students 2003, The Australian National University
This document is Version 2.0 17 August 2003:

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction

  2. Digital Library

  3. Library Metadata


This material was prepared for Information Technology in Electronic Commerce (COMP3410) at the Australian National University, semester 2, 2003.

The Digital Library allows access to electronic documents, while respecting the intellectual property rights of the author. Before the web, the distinction between internal organisation documents and external publishing was clear. With the advent of the web, these distinctions are disappearing and there is a tendency to use the same technology for creating and indexing internal documents and for external document publishing. However, the legal distinctions remain and business practice has not caught up with technological developments. Therefore "publishing" for the electronic library remains a separate and distinct activity.

A good overview of e-publishing issues was provided in the Guidelines for Commonwealth information published in electronic formats:

The introduction of digital technology allows information be stored in open formats from which a range of end products can be generated. Modern communications and computer technology allows transmission of one digital file from which several different user-formats can be generated. For example, a file meeting the latest specifications for Internet text can be viewed on a screen as text, displayed as Braille or run through a speech synthesiser and read aloud. These developments have profound importance in enabling the creation of documents that are accessible to a wide range of people. With a small amount of care at the outset, one document prepared in a standard format can meet a variety of needs, with the end-user taking responsibility for how the document is accessed.
From: Guidelines for Commonwealth information published in electronic formats, AusInfo, Commonwealth of Australia 1999, Revised Edition, January 2000, URL (no longer online):

Responsibility for the guidelines was transferred to Department of Finance and then National Office for the Information Economy, unfortunately they have not been properly maintained following the transitions and are now only available in Ms-Word and PDF format.

The guidelines recommend the use of the AGLS metadata, as previously discussed.

Anecdote: Publishing Mistakes Are Dangerous

Publishing, even academic publishing, is a significant economic activity and can also have significant effects on the lives of the public. As an example in looking for articles on “electronic publishing” I came across this:

Sirs: Recently we found out that our abstract ‘Severe Tardive Dystonia: Treatment with Continuous Intrathecal Baclofen Administration’ (J Neurol 243 Suppl 2: S75) contains a severe and potentially dangerous mistake.
The dose of intrathecal baclofen in the patient presented was 100 mg/day rather than 100 g/day. The abstract submitted as well as the computer disk (Microsoft Word for Windows Version 2.0b) additionally handed in for electronic publication contained the correct figure spelled with the Greek character ‘m’.
Investigations into this subject revealed that occasionally special characters may be misinterpreted by different versions of the same wordprocessing programme and may possibly be omitted by the publishing programme, thus producing grossly inaccurate figures. ...
From: Risks of electronic publishing, D. Dressler, page 61, Letters to the Editors, Journal of Neurology, Steinkopff Verlag , Volume 244, Number 1/November 28, 1996, URL:,1,14;


The Commonwealth guidelines also recommend use of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission advisory notes on World Wide Web access, issued under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 for the purpose of avoiding discrimination:

Availability of information and services in electronic form via the web has the potential to provide equal access for people with a disability; and to provide access more broadly, more cheaply and more quickly than is otherwise possible using other formats. Examples of access are:

In August 2000 the Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games was found to have engaged in unlawful conduct by providing a web site which was to a significant extent inaccessible to the blind. This is discussed in detail in the ANU course Internet, Intranet, and Document Systems (COMP3400).

Library Metadata

Libraries, such as the ANU Library, now provide web based search facilities which look similar to web search engines. They look like web search engines partly because web search engines evolved from concepts of libraries and partly because on-line library users are now used to web search interfaces.

Libraries are progressively changing from paper based to electronic systems, first for metadata and then for the information resources themselves. It should be appreciated that libraries have been in the information business for longer than IT professionals. As an example the Library of Alexandria was founded around 290 BC, destroyed by fire around 48 BC and opened again for business in 2002AD, with an on-line catalogue:

The new Bibliotheca Alexandrina will be officially opened by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at a ceremony attended by other heads of state and top officials.
Based on the old Library of Alexandra, the most famous library of Ancient Times, this modern public study centre will be open to students, researchers and the general public. ...
From: Inauguration of the Alexandria Library, UNESCO, 2002, URL:

It was only in 2001 that the National Library of Australia changed from using pieces of paper propelled by air pressure to send around book requests in the building:

It is the end of an era in the life of the National Library of Australia. The paper call slips, long used by readers at the National Library have been replaced with electronic call slips. The pneumatic tube system, a source of fascination to users and visitors over the last 33 years has now assumed museum status. ...
The procedure for requesting material using e-CallSlips is quite easy. After selecting an available item from the catalogue, clients swipe their cards through swipe readers located at each computer terminal. Data from the bibliographic record including the call number, together with the reader’s registration details, is downloaded into an e-CallSlip. Requests are sorted electronically and transmitted electronically to a printer at the appropriate stack location.
From: Call Slips ONLINE—Save Time!, Gateways, National Library of Australia, ,no. 51| June 2001, URL:

Library terms (such as “Catalogue”) specialised terms for metadata items persist:

Search the ANU Library Catalogue (ANU material only)
  Search By: Search Call Numbers:   Title/Series
From: Australian National University (ANU) Scholarly Information Services / Library Catalogue - ANU Material Only, AU 2003, URL:

Some conventions designed to suit librarians, rather than their customers, persist in library systems, such as the need to type in author names backwards:

Search here for names of authors, artists, composers and corporate authors such as government bodies, organisations and conferences. For persons with family names, type the family name first.
From: ANU Library Catalogue - Author Search, ANU, 2003, URL:

As with corporate records management systems, library catalogues have been adapted to record both paper and electronic documents. The ANU library catalogue includes links to on-line versions of documents, where available:

Author Bourk, Michael J
Title Universal service? : telecommunications policy in Australia and people with disabilities / Michael J Bourk ; edited by Tom Worthington
Published Belconnen, A.C.T. : TomW Communications, 2000

Click on the following to:

View electronic text





 HV1559.A8B682 2000 





Author Worthington, Tom, 1957-
Descript xiv, 273 p. ; 21 cm
Subject People with disabilities -- Services for -- Australia Communication devices for people with disabilities -- Australia Telecommunication policy -- Australia Social perception -- Australia
Note Includes index
Bibliog. Bibliography: p. 241-252
Note Also available via the Web Catalogue
Add title Telecommunications policy in Australia and people with disabilities
ISBN 0646391593 :
From: ANU Full Database, ANU, 2003, URL:,1,2,B/frameset&FF=aworthington+tom+1957&2,,2

The same catalogue information can also be displayed in the MARC format, developed in the 1970s for “MAchine-Readable Cataloging” by libraries. This format uses numeric codes to identify each metadata item:

001 45755096
003 OCoLC
005 20010222181714.0
008 000221s2000 at 001 0 eng dpam a
020 0646391593 :
050 HV1559.A8B682 2000
100 1 Bourk, Michael J
245 10 Universal service? :|btelecommunications policy in
Australia and people with disabilities /|cMichael J Bourk
; edited by Tom Worthington
246 3 Telecommunications policy in Australia and people with
260 Belconnen, A.C.T. :|bTomW Communications,|c2000
300 xiv, 273 p. ;|c21 cm
500 Includes index
504 Bibliography: p. 241-252
530 Also available via the Web Catalogue
650 0 People with disabilities|xServices for|zAustralia
650 0 Communication devices for people with disabilities
650 0 Telecommunication policy|zAustralia
650 0 Social perception|zAustralia
700 1 Worthington, Tom,|d1957-
856 4 |zView electronic text|u
982 lnv
989 LTI01
994 cf|a0
994 E0|bANV

From: From: ANU Full Database, ANU, 2003, URL:,1,2,B/marc&FF=aworthington+tom+1957&2,,2,,

As with other metadata formats, MARC is being adapted to XML format:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
<collection xmlns="">
<datafield tag="245" ind1="1" ind2="0">
<subfield code="a">Arithmetic /</subfield>
<subfield code="c">Carl Sandburg ; illustrated as an anamorphic adventure by Ted Rand.</subfield>
From: URL:
See: MARC 21 XML Schema, The Library of Congress, 2003, URL:

However, it is more likely this would be converted to Dublin Core format for use in non-library systems:

<?xml version="1.0" ?>
<dc xmlns="">
  <title>Arithmetic /</title>
  <creator>Sandburg, Carl, 1878-1967.</creator>
  <creator>Rand, Ted, ill.</creator>
  <type />
  <publisher>San Diego :Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,</publisher>

From: URL:
see: MARC 21 XML Schema, The Library of Congress, 2003, URL:

Australian Digital Theses Program

The Australian Digital Theses Program aims to establish a distributed database of digital versions of theses produced by the postgraduate research students at Australian Universities. It uses PDF for document storage, which has severe limitations as an Electronic document format. Dublin Core metadata is automatically generated out of the ADT Deposit form. It is intended to use an e-commerce model to charging for printing/downloading of documents. The UNSW Online Payment System is used as an example of how this could be done.

Open eBook Publication Structure

The Open eBook Forum (OEBF) have published the Open eBook Publication Structure. This XML based format attempts to be expressive enough for paper publishing, while maintaining compatibility with web browsers. This XML format should also be usable with hand-held e-books, as well as being more efficient and suitable for on-screen reading that PDF.

Open Office package format

The Open Office package format may prove a more useful long term format than those discussed above. OpenOffice is an Open Source project with the aim to design and build free software to rival Microsoft Office. One spinoff of the project is a portable format for electronic documents, which builds on public XML standards developed for the web. This might be used to build an open source replacement the PDF format in Adobe's widely used Acrobat product.

Further Information

Copyright © Tom Worthington 2000 -2003