Proposed implementation plan
We believe that the development of routine sustainable services in this area should be a shared activity. The issue is too large for single organisations to tackle, but it is probably not a suitable activity for national decision and action. Collaboration is the best way to reduce uncertainty and increase confidence in appropriate future directions.
The collaborative framework
Agora provides a framework in which a group of libraries, a group of information providers, and a group of developers can learn how to develop routine production services in this new environment. These experiences will be widely shared and fed back into other activities. Working groups will be formed to address specific issues (e.g. collection development, technical profiles, user training, and so on). The library group will be convened by UEA. The technical and service provider groups will be convened by UKOLN, with support from Fretwell Downing Informatics.
Internal and external communications
We recognise the difficulties of consortial working and the natural tendency for dissemination to slip down a busy agenda. We propose to develop a web-based communications environment for internal and external communication. The UK Web Focus, at UKOLN, will advise on the development of an appropriate configuration based on current initiatives. This will allow discussion list type communication, on-line conferencing and presentation facilities. This will have a low entry-cost, both in terms of specialist knowledge required and funds and will be an important cohesive factor.
Working groups will form around individual conferences and a strategy for ëpublicí and ëclosedí discussions will be developed. It is the intention of Agora to be as open as possible in terms of discussion and a mix of read-only and read/write access will be provided to conferences from an Agora web site. One on-line ëworkshopí will take place at the end of each year of the project, where reports of developments and demonstrators will be made available for discussion.
We believe that in this way, a valuable archive of opinion and experience will be built up. This will be made available on the web and also through the NewsAgent current awareness service. The Agora web-site will provide links to relevant contextual material and to other relevant initiatives.
Agora partners will also use Ariadne, D-Lib Magazine and other appropriate outlets for communication and dissemination. Agora partners are also active in a range of European projects and initiatives and will use appropriate avenues to disseminate work. UKOLN is involved in Exploit, an EU Libraries Program project which will provide concertation and web-based information services in support of the EU Libraries Program projects.
It will be important that dissemination activities do not merely focus on technical aspects of the project. The practical hands-on experience of the working libraries is an important deliverable and will be widely reported.
An important aspect of this approach is that it will include within the same framework reports from information providers and technical developers. We feel that this open encounter will be fruitful.
The hybrid library management system (HLMS)
As suggested in the call document, an appendix outlines the logical architecture of the framework proposed here. The HLMS will take the existing EDDIS system as a base and incorporate additional features developed in the NewsAgent project. This will give much of the required functionality. In addition local metadata management tools developed by UKOLN for use in NewsAgent, Desire, and ROADS will be available for creation and harvesting of Dublin Core and other metadata.
Additional development work will be carried out by Fretwell Downing. An important area for development will be in the area of collection description (the open standard service description layer) and work with Centroids and other approaches to provide some high level guidance and navigation support to users. The technical group (BLCMP, Fretwell Downing Informatics, and SilverPlatter) have agreed in principle to fund a development post at UKOLN to work in the area of collection description and navigation. The results of this work will be available to the project and to other initiatives in this area.
Integration with Hybrid Library Components
Example components that can be integrated into the hybrid library system:
- Local library catalogue ñ through Z39.50 service. If the service supports the explain service then the catalogue will describe its facilities to the HLMS, otherwise the facilities of the local catalogue are entered in the explain proxy database within the HLMS.
- CD services that support the Z39.50 interface ñ e.g. Silver Platterís.
- Clump entry points that are visible as Z39.50 servers (i.e. a clump represents a virtual database and therefore should be a Z39.50 server). Alternatively, because the HLMS itself has parallel Z39.50 capabilities and database description facilities it also can provide clump support for its local user population.
- Electronic Document Integration ñ Electronic documents can be integrated into the hybrid library as web servers or as Z39.50 servers.
- Web Indexes ñ Any web index that is available as a Z39.50 server can be integrated into the hybrid library system ñ if the index is Dublin Core enabled it will provide richer facilities. In the absence of such an index the HLMS server itself will provide web-indexing capabilities.
- Subject information gateways. These can be integrated through the Z39.50 to WHOIS++ gateway which is being developed in the ROADS project.
- Other Information repositories with Z39.50 or Web interfaces. For example, Agora will be working with the Arts and Humanities Data Service to ensure interworking.
- ILDRMS (Inter-lending / Document Request Management System) ñ The HLMS can send and manage document requests to any servers supporting any combination of ISO-ILL, Z39.50 Item order http ëgetí. In this way the HLMS can inter-operate with a local ILDRMS system or can provide this service for the local user community.
- News & Current Awareness ñ The HLMS can front local alerting systems or can operate an alerting service based on the underlying databases attached as system components. HLMS will interface seamlessly with NewsAgent servers.
An extensive prototype will be produced and evaluated in the first 9 months. This prototype will form the initial focus for development. This prototype will allow all stakeholders to have concrete hands experience of the system to inform their contributions. Further details of the year one prototype are included in the appendix.
The full-time staff will include the project manager plus 2 team members based at consortium member sites (UEA & UKOLN).
The project manager will be based at the lead site (UEA) and has already been identified (G. Newton-Ingham) and is able to start at project commencement. The library group will be convened by the team member at UEA. They will be responsible for the library partner roles and deliverables. They will also provide any project support required.
UKOLN will be responsible for internal and external communications and for convening the technical and service groups, and for contributing some technical R&D. One funded post will be based at UKOLN. This post will develop and be responsible for the communications strategy, and will support team members in the use of conferencing environment, disseminate results and help grow the potential user community. The post will also work with existing UKOLN staff to co-ordinate standards, metadata and profiles issues among service providers, and to make UKOLN's metadata work available within the project.
In addition, UKOLN is in discussion with the technical group about supporting a further post which will do R&D work on collection description, query routing and database representation. This work is proceeding in parallel with Agora and its results will be available to the project.
UKOLN will be actively tracking emerging standards and feed these into the technical and service provider groups.
The technical expertise for the project will be provided by Fretwell Downing Informatics Ltd (FDI). FDI are already involved in a number of eLib projects and have the necessary expertise and experience to deliver the technologies we require. FDI have invaluable experience in this area and are in themselves a good conduit of best practice between projects and wider initiatives. The technical work will be performed by FDI to clearly established and agreed goals and product definitions. This product based approach to the work contracted to Fretwell Downing will ensure the project obtains the best value for money and uses its resources in an effective, focused manner.
The project will use a variety of appropriate technologies. The glue for these tools will be implemented by FDI. Most of the component software is already available and the contribution from FDI will be in bringing the components together and providing a user centred environment for access the diverse resources.
The project will need to provide resources to support the adoption of the hybrid library management system. The project will help library partners to implement the HLMS on their own equipment. The project may provide some financial support where resources allow.
Contribution from partners
This project will benefit from synergies with other consortium member involvements. It will also benefit from the collaboration of the partner groups. Each library partner is committing half an FTE to act as an ëelectronic resource co-ordinatorí who acts as the service liaison point between the library and the project. This is recognised as an opportunity cost. As noted above, the project will benefit from development work at UKOLN in the area of collection/database description funded by the technical group. In addition the project partners are contributing the overheads for all staff.
Hardware and software
The HLMS will be based on EDDIS and developed further within the project. The library group will each require an administration client (32 bit PC running Windows NT) and a server from year two beginning with the Service Pilot. The server as currently developed is running on Sun Microsystems under Solaris v2.5, but an NT version will be available within the time frame of Agora. We would expect partners to provide their own end-user client platforms (PCís with web browsers).
Agora partners have a track record of standards-based development work and, indeed, in some cases are involved in standards development and promotion. They believe that closed or customised solutions will impede the development of rich information environments. The HLMS will be based on existing and emerging open standards for information management (Z39.50, ILL, HTTP, Dublin Core, Common Indexing Protocol, Whois++). Where agreed approaches do not exist (e.g. distributed authentication), Agora experiences will be made available in any consensus making forums.
Intellectual property rights
The intellectual property rights associated with Agora will be covered either through the existing agreement between UEA (Eddis project - Aug. 97) and Fretwell Downing Informatics or through a contract based on that agreement.