IESR/OCKHAM in Manchester

This text documents my experiences at a joint IESR/OCKHAM meeting in Manchester, UK, March 2-5, 2005.

Liverpool, Archives Hub, and Cheshire

Paddy's Wigwam
Paddy's Wigwam
Chetham's Library
Chetham's Library
Urbis
Urbis

After arriving in Manchester Wednesday morning, and resting up, I made my way to the University of Liverpool by train. There I met with folks from the Special Collections department, specifically Dr. Paul Watry, Dr. Robert Sanderson, and John Harrison.

The primary topic of discussion was the Archives Hub and Cheshire III. The Archives Hub (http://archiveshub.ac.uk/) is an index to sets of EAD finding aids throughout the UK. From the Hub's about page:

The Archives Hub provides a single point of access to 18,917 descriptions of archives held in more than 90 UK universities and colleges. At present these are primarily at collection-level, although complete catalogue descriptions are provided where they are available. The Archives Hub forms one part of the UK's National Archives Network, alongside related networking projects.

The Hub is presently implemented pretty much in the expected fashion. Librarians and archivists write finding aids and save them to a server. Each server indexes indexes its content and makes it available via Z39.50. The Hub application then does a federated search against these indexes.

The Hub's indexer/search engine is Cheshire II (http://sca.lib.liv.ac.uk/cheshire/), and we spent some time discussing the possibilities for Cheshire III. Things like customization, personalization, various Web Service interfaces, and "smart" form-based input are examples.

Manchester

Most of the second day was spent touristing around Manchester. For example, I visited the oldest (1653) publicly accessible library in the United Kingdom, Chetham's Library (http://www.chethams.org.uk/). Apparently Karl Marx and Frederick Engel used to hang out in the reading room and discuss political economies. The Urbis, a large, blue glassed, triangularly shaped building represents the other end of the architectural spectrum. I also enjoyed the circular library and cathedral. Manchester, the second largest city in England, offers a wide range of architectural styles. In the evening the IESR and Ockham folks got together for the first time over dinner.

IESR and Ockham

Day three was devoted to a joint meeting between people of IESR and Ockham.

The Information Environment Service Registry (http://iesr.ac.uk/) and aspects of Project Ockham (http://www.ockham.org/) have very similar goals. Both projects desire to create a registry of digital library collections, services, and/or agents. These registries -- lists or directories -- are designed to make it easier for learners, teachers, and scholars to do resource discovery. Members of the IESR group who were in attendance included: Amanda Hill, Ann Apps, John Harrison, Leigh Morris, Leona Carpenter, Pete Johnston, Rachel Heery, and Rob Sanderson. Representatives of Ockham were: Eric Lease Morgan, Jeremy Frumkin, Martin Halbert, Peter Krenesky, and Terry Reese.

IESR has its roots in JISC, an organization in the UK providing funding to institutions of higher education for information technology initiatives. As JISC was funding the creation of collections and services, there arose a need for a registry of these services and collections. Thus, IESR.

The IESR registry currently includes between 250 and 300 items. All of JISC funded the system is designed to contain items from any cultural heritage institution (library, museum, or archive) from the UK. Each item in the registry is one of the following:

The following diagram illustrates the relationship between these classifications.

IESR diagram
IESR diagram

Each of collection, service, or agent sets have metadata associated with them. The metadata fields come out of work done Research Support Libraries Program Collection Description (http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/metadata/rslp/), and they are very Dublin Core-like. Thus everything is described, more or less, with titles, creators, descriptions, locations, rights, etc. There are subtle differences between each schema but enough to enumerate here. (For more specifics regarding the schema see: http://epub.mimas.ac.uk/papers/appsdc2004.html.) In order to glue the all the collections together one Dewey term must be assigned to each collection as well as at least one education level. Data-entry is done through a combination of XML files, Excel files, and Web interfaces. The content of the registry is distributed under the Creative Commons License. The initial interface to the registry is via the Web and Z39.50-accessible index via Cheshire. Future interfaces will include OAI, RSS, OpenURL, RSS, and/or UDDI.

An overview of Project Ockham's registry was then given. Since the adoption of IESR's metadata scheme into the Ockham registry, the purpose and scope of the two projects is remarkable similar. The only significant difference is the implementation. Ockham's registry is designed to work in a peer-to-peer networking model. Each institution who wants to participate in the registry is expected to run a peer server. The server connects to the Ockham network and through the sharing of metadata records via OAI all peers know what the other peers contain. Search and retrieve services are the made available against the registry. Where the Ockham implementation is distributed, the IESR model is centralized. There is one IESR registry where everybody places content.

Because of the similarities it became obvious we should be working more closely together. Some ideas included application of the Ockham peer-to-peer networking scheme to disseminate the IESR data. Another idea was to "dump" the IESR records to some sort of file and see how well they could be imported to the Ockham registry. Another idea was to make the IESR data OAI-accessible so it could be easily harvested. (Ockham data is already harvestable via OAI.) At the same time, we all realized that our plate were already full, and we came away with the following action items:

The last day

On the last day, Saturday, everybody but Martin and I had departed. We took advantage of the opportunity and played tourist again. We made it to Lancaster and saw a castle. We made it to the Lake District and saw a lake. We made it to Keswick where we ate fish & chips, saw the world's largest pencil, and visited a 3,000 year old stone circle called Castlerigg. We even made it to Gretna Green. "I had a beer in Scotland."

Conclusion

Attendees
Attendees
Lancaster Castle
Lancaster Castle
Castlerigg
Castlerigg

I sincerely appreciate this opportunity, sponsored by the Digital Library Federation, to share experiences and build relationships with the folks of IESR. Building relationships is as important, if not more important, then the technical aspects of a computing problem. Since my visit to Manchester I learned of yet another registry activity called ISO/CD2146 and outlined in a DLib Magazine article, "Directories of Libraries and Related Organizations" by Judith Pearce (http://www.dlib.org/dlib/september00/pearce/09pearce.html). It feels like the registries are popping up all over the place, and I sincerely believe the creation of these registries can "save the time of the reader" as long as they have significant amounts of content and are transparently easy to use.


Creator: Eric Lease Morgan <eric_morgan@infomotions.com>
Source: This text was never formally published.
Date created: 2005-03-29
Date updated: 2005-03-29
Subject(s): Manchester, UK; OCKHAM (Open Community Knowledge Hypermedia Administration and Metadata);
URL: http://infomotions.com/musings/manchester/