The promise of digital libraries implies the possibility of disseminatingmaterials and information far beyond what has ever been imagined. Early digitallibrary efforts, such as the Library of Congress' National Digital LibraryProgram and the projects sponsored by the digital library I and II initiativesin the United States, showcase digital facsimiles of unique documents andartifacts previously available only to curators and scholars. In Japan, theNational Diet Library, Kyoto University Library, the University of Tsukuba, andthe University of Library and Information Science are actively planning topublish digital content on the World Wide Web (see site reports, Appendix C).One could view "digital information organization" as having two facets:

  1. The creation of cataloging information to enable searching, discovery, andretrieval of information in digital format.
  2. Accomplishing this task with methods that scale to effectively handlequantities of data exponentially larger than libraries have ever done. A keyissue impacting the wide dissemination of digital information is thescalability of providing information (metadata) to structure and enablesearching, navigation, and presentation of online documents. This paper willaddress some of the issues involved in creating cataloging and metadata, anddiscuss attributes of print documents and other analog formats that must bereplicated in the electronic environment.

This author's participation in the WTEC study tour stemmed from experiencein cataloging and classification and as manager of a team that digitizeshistorical legal materials for the Law Library of Congress and the NationalDigital Library Program. As the only "librarian" on the study tour, the authorpaid special attention to problems and issues concerning metadata creation andscalability of cataloging systems. These issues are just being articulated inboth Japan and the United States, and call for thought and discussion. The goalof this chapter is to provide an introduction to factors that impact the growthof digital library technology and content from a practitioner'sperspective.

On the surface, provision of metadata to accompany digital objects does notseem difficult. Roughly speaking, many people think that all that must be doneis to take existing cataloging information, convert it to the appropriateformat, and link it to the digital images. The process is not that simple dueto several factors. First of all, the conversion of a physical artifact impliesnot just putting information into a new format but the concomitant goal todisplay the information in a logical way. To do that, information in additionto the content must be produced or extracted to enable the structure anddisplay of the data. If existing schemes for classification and indexing areused, human intellectual capital is necessary at some point in the process toapply thesaurus terms and enable other access points (catalog).

Published: February 1999; WTECHyper-Librarian