The Digital Media Manifesto



L. Chiariglione


Use case No. 01: Digital Library



1. Introduction

Purpose of this contribution is to use the methodology proposed in 030701chiariglione01 for the specific use case "Digital Library" (DL). This document is based on material contained in emails sent by Chiariglione, Greenhall, Herrick, Jephcott, Marti, Schultz and Sestini. Revisions have used contributions from Nesi.

This use case considers a DL as the digital equivalent of a traditional library run by a Public Authority (PA). The case of, say, a university library is not considered as it likely requires a different study.

This contribution is at a very early stage of development. It is hoped that it will stimulate much-needed refinements and, also, contributions on other use cases.

2. Description of a traditional library

A PA of a coutry is usually given the task of collecting all works created in that country. Additionally it coud also collect works from other countries.

In general works published in the country and stored in this type of library are not purchased but are simply donated by the publisher, possibly as a part of a legal obligation. In general every citizen of that country can have access to the works stored in the library.

Another form of library, either run by a branch of the PA itself or by a specially designated institution, has the more finalised purpose of facilitating access to works, thereby promoting culture. In this case the PA acquires the books and citizens satisfying certain criteria have free access to a large part of the stored works, possibly even to bring them home for a limited period of time, renewable unless another qualified citizen has requested the work. Unlike the previous type of libraries, only a selection of works, determined by the PA, are available for access.

2.1 Functions of the library

2.2 Value chain players

  1. PAs setting the legislative environment in which libraries operate
  2. Publishers providing/selling works to libraries
  3. Libraries performing the functions of
    1. storing works
    2. indexing works
    3. providing access services to users
    4. offering services to other libraries
    5. remunerating rights holders (e.g. photocopies of books)
  4. Users

2.3 Technologies

The technologies used by libraries used to be rather primitive. However, IT has now been widely introduced and indexing/access has been greatly improved.

2.4 Legislative framework

The legislative framework identifies libraries as providers of a public service. Every citizen (possibly, inhabitant of a city/town) has the right to access any work, unless another citizen with the same qualification is exploiting the same right and until that citizen has exhausted his assigned time.

2.5 Business model

Receives PA funding and private contributions. Other income comes in the form of payment in some cases for restoration work or the rental of rare works to other libraries or musea.

3. Description of the Digital Library use case

3.1 Functions of a DL

As DLs do not exist yet if not for trial, it is hard to make an agreed description of what is the DL use case. Fortunately the American Library Association (ALA) has provided the following list of functions that a DL should provide (original order of functions changed, right column contains comments). This is taken as a basis for identifying the functions of a DL.

Supporting the preservation and archival roles of libraries OK
Supporting libraries and the higher education community not just as users but also as creators and owners of copyright-protected content OK
Enabling the documentation and declaration of rights and permissions for both analog and digital resources This is equivalent to today's situation where there are different permissions for different works (I do not know about rights)
Supporting rights and permissions throughout the life cycle of a resource This seems to request that permissions and rights should not be considered as fixed and that their changes with time be supported
Supporting fair use, and other library and education exemptions, and not applying ex ante enforcements that disable use This is difficult as it is hard to design "fair use" into a technology, unless the cases that are considered fair use are codified. the meaning of ex ante enforcement should be explained.
Accommodating the interactive and dynamic nature of much eLearning and digital content This is fuzzy, but it indicates that what people do with content in a library is more than what they do with linear content. But this needs specifc examples
Supporting the heterogeneous applications and uses of digital content in higher education - eLearning, digital libraries, online collaboration, and institutional repositories, for example. Do.

3.2 Value chain players

They are likely the same as for traditional libraries with the possible addition of technology (particularly DRM) providers that had a more marginal role with traditional libraries.

3.3 Technologies

A key technology is rights (permission?) expression language. Rights management technologies are needed to offer users access to content for which a third party has rights. As DLs are expected to serve all citizens of a country (and, possibly, more than just that country), DRM interoperability looks like a must.

3.4 Cost/benefits for value chain players

Value chain player Cost Benefits
PAs   Original social goal highly enhanced
Publishers Need to make sure that content offered to DLs does not eat into other distribution outlets Easy promotion of their content
Libraries   Enhanced ability to store, index and provision of access to works
Users   Certainty to find what they are looking for


3.5 Difficulties of current deployments

 There are no current large-scale deployments.

4. Hurdles

The following can be considered as hurdles of primary importance:

  1. Ubiquitous broadband access (including mobility)
  2. Codification as technical requirements of "Fair use" and similar basic usage rights defined in the analogue world in different countries
  3. Automatic management of local/regional differences in encoding rights expressions
  4. Library network interoperation
  5. Interoperable DRM technologies
  6. Rich metadata
  7. Redefinition of library business model(s).

5. References