Questions about access to scholarship go back farther than recent debates over subscription prices, rights, and electronic archives suggest. The great libraries of the past—from the fabled collection at Alexandria to the early public libraries of nineteenth-century America—stood as arguments for increasing access. In The Access Principle, John Willinsky describes the latest chapter in this ongoing story—online open access publishing by scholarly journals—and makes a case for open access as a public good.
Instant electronic access to digital information is the single most distinguishing attribute of the information age. The elaborate retrieval mechanisms that support such access are a product of technology. But technology is not enough. The effectiveness of a system for accessing information is a direct function of the intelligence put into organizing it. Just as the practical field of engineering has theoretical physics as its underlying base, the design of systems for organizing information rests on an intellectual foundation.
Georeferencing—relating information to geographic location—has been incorporated into today's information systems in various ways. We use online services to map our route from one place to another; science, business, and government increasingly use geographic information systems (GIS) to hold and analyze data. Most georeferenced information searches using today's information systems are done by text query. But text searches for placenames fall short—when, for example, a place is known by several names (or by none).
The Text REtrieval Conference (TREC), a yearly workshop hosted by the US government's National Institute of Standards and Technology, provides the infrastructure necessary for large-scale evaluation of text retrieval methodologies. With the goal of accelerating research in this area, TREC created the first large test collections of full-text documents and standardized retrieval evaluation. The impact has been significant; since TREC's beginning in 1992, retrieval effectiveness has approximately doubled.
The contributors to this volume view digital libraries (DLs) from a social as well as technological perspective. They see DLs as sociotechnical systems, networks of technology, information artifacts, and people and practices interacting with the larger world of work and society. As Bruce Schatz observes in his foreword, for a digital library to be useful, the users, the documents, and the information system must be in harmony.
Will the emerging global information infrastructure (GII) create a revolution in communication equivalent to that wrought by Gutenberg, or will the result be simply the evolutionary adaptation of existing behavior and institutions to new media? Will the GII improve access to information for all? Will it replace libraries and publishers? How can computers and information systems be made easier to use?
The emergence of the Internet and the wide availability of affordable computing equipment have created tremendous interest in digital libraries and electronic publishing. This book is the first to provide an integrated overview of the field, including a historical perspective, the state of the art, and current research.