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Workshop on Electronic Texts
Session VII.


General Discussion

In his role as moderator of the concluding session, GIFFORD raised two questions he believed would benefit from discussion: 1) Are there enough commonalities among those of us that have been here for two days so that we can see courses of action that should be taken in the future? And, if so, what are they and who might take them? 2) Partly derivative from that, but obviously very dangerous to LC as host, do you see a role for the Library of Congress in all this? Of course, the Library of Congress holds a rather special status in a number of these matters, because it is not perceived as a player with an economic stake in them, but are there roles that LC can play that can help advance us toward where we are heading?

Describing himself as an uninformed observer of the technicalities of the last two days, GIFFORD detected three different emphases in the Workshop: 1) people who are very deeply committed to text; 2) people who are almost passionate about images; and 3) a few people who are very committed to what happens to the networks. In other words, the new networking dimension, the accessibility of the processability, the portability of all this across the networks. How do we pull those three together?

Adding a question that reflected HOCKEY's comment that this was the fourth workshop she had attended in the previous thirty days, FLEISCHHAUER wondered to what extent this meeting had reinvented the wheel, or if it had contributed anything in the way of bringing together a different group of people from those who normally appear on the workshop circuit.

HOCKEY confessed to being struck at this meeting and the one the Electronic Pierce Consortium organized the previous week that this was a coming together of people working on texts and not images. Attempting to bring the two together is something we ought to be thinking about for the future: How one can think about working with image material to begin with, but structuring it and digitizing it in such a way that at a later stage it can be interpreted into text, and find a common way of building text and images together so that they can be used jointly in the future, with the network support to begin there because that is how people will want to access it.

In planning the long-term development of something, which is what is being done in electronic text, HOCKEY stressed the importance not only of discussing the technical aspects of how one does it but particularly of thinking about what the people who use the stuff will want to do. But conversely, there are numerous things that people start to do with electronic text or material that nobody ever thought of in the beginning.

LESK, in response to the question concerning the role of the Library of Congress, remarked the often suggested desideratum of having electronic deposit: Since everything is now computer-typeset, an entire decade of material that was machine-readable exists, but the publishers frequently did not save it; has LC taken any action to have its copyright deposit operation start collecting these machine-readable versions? In the absence of PETERS, GIFFORD replied that the question was being actively considered but that that was only one dimension of the problem. Another dimension is the whole question of the integrity of the original electronic document. It becomes highly important in science to prove authorship. How will that be done?

ERWAY explained that, under the old policy, to make a claim for a copyright for works that were published in electronic form, including software, one had to submit a paper copy of the first and last twenty pages of code--something that represented the work but did not include the entire work itself and had little value to anyone. As a temporary measure, LC has claimed the right to demand electronic versions of electronic publications. This measure entails a proactive role for the Library to say that it wants a particular electronic version. Publishers then have perhaps a year to submit it. But the real problem for LC is what to do with all this material in all these different formats. Will the Library mount it? How will it give people access to it? How does LC keep track of the appropriate computers, software, and media? The situation is so hard to control, ERWAY said, that it makes sense for each publishing house to maintain its own archive. But LC cannot enforce that either.

GIFFORD acknowledged LESK's suggestion that establishing a priority offered the solution, albeit a fairly complicated one. But who maintains that register?, he asked. GRABER noted that LC does attempt to collect a Macintosh version and the IBM-compatible version of software. It does not collect other versions. But while true for software, BYRUM observed, this reply does not speak to materials, that is, all the materials that were published that were on somebody's microcomputer or driver tapes at a publishing office across the country. LC does well to acquire specific machine-readable products selectively that were intended to be machine-readable. Materials that were in machine-readable form at one time, BYRUM said, would be beyond LC's capability at the moment, insofar as attempting to acquire, organize, and preserve them are concerned--and preservation would be the most important consideration. In this connection, GIFFORD reiterated the need to work out some sense of distributive responsibility for a number of these issues, which inevitably will require significant cooperation and discussion. Nobody can do it all.

LESK suggested that some publishers may look with favor on LC beginning to serve as a depository of tapes in an electronic manuscript standard. Publishers may view this as a service that they did not have to perform and they might send in tapes. However, SPERBERG-McQUEEN countered, although publishers have had equivalent services available to them for a long time, the electronic text archive has never turned away or been flooded with tapes and is forever sending feedback to the depositor. Some publishers do send in tapes.

ANDRE viewed this discussion as an allusion to the issue of standards. She recommended that the AAP standard and the TEI, which has already been somewhat harmonized internationally and which also shares several compatibilities with the AAP, be harmonized to ensure sufficient compatibility in the software. She drew the line at saying LC ought to be the locus or forum for such harmonization.

Taking the group in a slightly different direction, but one where at least in the near term LC might play a helpful role, LYNCH remarked the plans of a number of projects to carry out preservation by creating digital images that will end up in on-line or near-line storage at some institution. Presumably, LC will link this material somehow to its on-line catalog in most cases. Thus, it is in a digital form. LYNCH had the impression that many of these institutions would be willing to make those files accessible to other people outside the institution, provided that there is no copyright problem. This desideratum will require propagating the knowledge that those digitized files exist, so that they can end up in other on-line catalogs. Although uncertain about the mechanism for achieving this result, LYNCH said that it warranted scrutiny because it seemed to be connected to some of the basic issues of cataloging and distribution of records. It would be foolish, given the amount of work that all of us have to do and our meager resources, to discover multiple institutions digitizing the same work. Re microforms, LYNCH said, we are in pretty good shape.

BATTIN called this a big problem and noted that the Cornell people (who had already departed) were working on it. At issue from the beginning was to learn how to catalog that information into RLIN and then into OCLC, so that it would be accessible. That issue remains to be resolved. LYNCH rejoined that putting it into OCLC or RLIN was helpful insofar as somebody who is thinking of performing preservation activity on that work could learn about it. It is not necessarily helpful for institutions to make that available. BATTIN opined that the idea was that it not only be for preservation purposes but for the convenience of people looking for this material. She endorsed LYNCH's dictum that duplication of this effort was to be avoided by every means.

HOCKEY informed the Workshop about one major current activity of CETH, namely a catalogue of machine-readable texts in the humanities. Held on RLIN at present, the catalogue has been concentrated on ASCII as opposed to digitized images of text. She is exploring ways to improve the catalogue and make it more widely available, and welcomed suggestions about these concerns. CETH owns the records, which are not just restricted to RLIN, and can distribute them however it wishes.

Taking up LESK's earlier question, BATTIN inquired whether LC, since it is accepting electronic files and designing a mechanism for dealing with that rather than putting books on shelves, would become responsible for the National Copyright Depository of Electronic Materials. Of course that could not be accomplished overnight, but it would be something LC could plan for. GIFFORD acknowledged that much thought was being devoted to that set of problems and returned the discussion to the issue raised by LYNCH--whether or not putting the kind of records that both BATTIN and HOCKEY have been talking about in RLIN is not a satisfactory solution. It seemed to him that RLIN answered LYNCH's original point concerning some kind of directory for these kinds of materials. In a situation where somebody is attempting to decide whether or not to scan this or film that or to learn whether or not someone has already done so, LYNCH suggested, RLIN is helpful, but it is not helpful in the case of a local, on-line catalogue. Further, one would like to have her or his system be aware that that exists in digital form, so that one can present it to a patron, even though one did not digitize it, if it is out of copyright. The only way to make those linkages would be to perform a tremendous amount of real-time look-up, which would be awkward at best, or periodically to yank the whole file from RLIN and match it against one's own stuff, which is a nuisance.

But where, ERWAY inquired, does one stop including things that are available with Internet, for instance, in one's local catalogue? It almost seems that that is LC's means to acquire access to them. That represents LC's new form of library loan. Perhaps LC's new on-line catalogue is an amalgamation of all these catalogues on line. LYNCH conceded that perhaps that was true in the very long term, but was not applicable to scanning in the short term. In his view, the totals cited by Yale, 10,000 books over perhaps a four-year period, and 1,000-1,500 books from Cornell, were not big numbers, while searching all over creation for relatively rare occurrences will prove to be less efficient. As GIFFORD wondered if this would not be a separable file on RLIN and could be requested from them, BATTIN interjected that it was easily accessible to an institution. SEVERTSON pointed out that that file, cum enhancements, was available with reference information on CD-ROM, which makes it a little more available.

In HOCKEY's view, the real question facing the Workshop is what to put in this catalogue, because that raises the question of what constitutes a publication in the electronic world. (WEIBEL interjected that Eric Joule in OCLC's Office of Research is also wrestling with this particular problem, while GIFFORD thought it sounded fairly generic.) HOCKEY contended that a majority of texts in the humanities are in the hands of either a small number of large research institutions or individuals and are not generally available for anyone else to access at all. She wondered if these texts ought to be catalogued.

After argument proceeded back and forth for several minutes over why cataloguing might be a necessary service, LEBRON suggested that this issue involved the responsibility of a publisher. The fact that someone has created something electronically and keeps it under his or her control does not constitute publication. Publication implies dissemination. While it would be important for a scholar to let other people know that this creation exists, in many respects this is no different from an unpublished manuscript. That is what is being accessed in there, except that now one is not looking at it in the hard-copy but in the electronic environment.

LEBRON expressed puzzlement at the variety of ways electronic publishing has been viewed. Much of what has been discussed throughout these two days has concerned CD-ROM publishing, whereas in the on-line environment that she confronts, the constraints and challenges are very different. Sooner or later LC will have to deal with the concept of on-line publishing. Taking up the comment ERWAY made earlier about storing copies, LEBRON gave her own journal as an example. How would she deposit OJCCT for copyright?, she asked, because the journal will exist in the mainframe at OCLC and people will be able to access it. Here the situation is different, ownership versus access, and is something that arises with publication in the on-line environment, faster than is sometimes realized. Lacking clear answers to all of these questions herself, LEBRON did not anticipate that LC would be able to take a role in helping to define some of them for quite a while.

GREENFIELD observed that LC's Network Development Office is attempting, among other things, to explore the limits of MARC as a standard in terms of handling electronic information. GREENFIELD also noted that Rebecca GUENTHER from that office gave a paper to the American Society for Information Science (ASIS) summarizing several of the discussion papers that were coming out of the Network Development Office. GREENFIELD said he understood that that office had a list-server soliciting just the kind of feedback received today concerning the difficulties of identifying and cataloguing electronic information. GREENFIELD hoped that everybody would be aware of that and somehow contribute to that conversation.

Noting two of LC's roles, first, to act as a repository of record for material that is copyrighted in this country, and second, to make materials it holds available in some limited form to a clientele that goes beyond Congress, BESSER suggested that it was incumbent on LC to extend those responsibilities to all the things being published in electronic form. This would mean eventually accepting electronic formats. LC could require that at some point they be in a certain limited set of formats, and then develop mechanisms for allowing people to access those in the same way that other things are accessed. This does not imply that they are on the network and available to everyone. LC does that with most of its bibliographic records, BESSER said, which end up migrating to the utility (e.g., OCLC) or somewhere else. But just as most of LC's books are available in some form through interlibrary loan or some other mechanism, so in the same way electronic formats ought to be available to others in some format, though with some copyright considerations. BESSER was not suggesting that these mechanisms be established tomorrow, only that they seemed to fall within LC's purview, and that there should be long-range plans to establish them.

Acknowledging that those from LC in the room agreed with BESSER concerning the need to confront difficult questions, GIFFORD underscored the magnitude of the problem of what to keep and what to select. GIFFORD noted that LC currently receives some 31,000 items per day, not counting electronic materials, and argued for much more distributed responsibility in order to maintain and store electronic information.

BESSER responded that the assembled group could be viewed as a starting point, whose initial operating premise could be helping to move in this direction and defining how LC could do so, for example, in areas of standardization or distribution of responsibility.

FLEISCHHAUER added that AM was fully engaged, wrestling with some of the questions that pertain to the conversion of older historical materials, which would be one thing that the Library of Congress might do. Several points mentioned by BESSER and several others on this question have a much greater impact on those who are concerned with cataloguing and the networking of bibliographic information, as well as preservation itself.

Speaking directly to AM, which he considered was a largely uncopyrighted database, LYNCH urged development of a network version of AM, or consideration of making the data in it available to people interested in doing network multimedia. On account of the current great shortage of digital data that is both appealing and unencumbered by complex rights problems, this course of action could have a significant effect on making network multimedia a reality.

In this connection, FLEISCHHAUER reported on a fragmentary prototype in LC's Office of Information Technology Services that attempts to associate digital images of photographs with cataloguing information in ways that work within a local area network--a step, so to say, toward AM's construction of some sort of apparatus for access. Further, AM has attempted to use standard data forms in order to help make that distinction between the access tools and the underlying data, and thus believes that the database is networkable.

A delicate and agonizing policy question for LC, however, which comes back to resources and unfortunately has an impact on this, is to find some appropriate, honorable, and legal cost-recovery possibilities. A certain skittishness concerning cost-recovery has made people unsure exactly what to do. AM would be highly receptive to discussing further LYNCH's offer to test or demonstrate its database in a network environment, FLEISCHHAUER said.

Returning the discussion to what she viewed as the vital issue of electronic deposit, BATTIN recommended that LC initiate a catalytic process in terms of distributed responsibility, that is, bring together the distributed organizations and set up a study group to look at all these issues and see where we as a nation should move. The broader issues of how we deal with the management of electronic information will not disappear, but only grow worse.

LESK took up this theme and suggested that LC attempt to persuade one major library in each state to deal with its state equivalent publisher, which might produce a cooperative project that would be equitably distributed around the country, and one in which LC would be dealing with a minimal number of publishers and minimal copyright problems.

GRABER remarked the recent development in the scientific community of a willingness to use SGML and either deposit or interchange on a fairly standardized format. He wondered if a similar movement was taking place in the humanities. Although the National Library of Medicine found only a few publishers to cooperate in a like venture two or three years ago, a new effort might generate a much larger number willing to cooperate.

KIMBALL recounted his unit's (Machine-Readable Collections Reading Room) troubles with the commercial publishers of electronic media in acquiring materials for LC's collections, in particular the publishers' fear that they would not be able to cover their costs and would lose control of their products, that LC would give them away or sell them and make profits from them. He doubted that the publishing industry was prepared to move into this area at the moment, given its resistance to allowing LC to use its machine-readable materials as the Library would like.

The copyright law now addresses compact disk as a medium, and LC can request one copy of that, or two copies if it is the only version, and can request copies of software, but that fails to address magazines or books or anything like that which is in machine-readable form.

GIFFORD acknowledged the thorny nature of this issue, which he illustrated with the example of the cumbersome process involved in putting a copy of a scientific database on a LAN in LC's science reading room. He also acknowledged that LC needs help and could enlist the energies and talents of Workshop participants in thinking through a number of these problems.

GIFFORD returned the discussion to getting the image and text people to think through together where they want to go in the long term. MYLONAS conceded that her experience at the Pierce Symposium the previous week at Georgetown University and this week at LC had forced her to reevaluate her perspective on the usefulness of text as images. MYLONAS framed the issues in a series of questions: How do we acquire machine-readable text? Do we take pictures of it and perform OCR on it later? Is it important to obtain very high-quality images and text, etc.? FLEISCHHAUER agreed with MYLONAS's framing of strategic questions, adding that a large institution such as LC probably has to do all of those things at different times. Thus, the trick is to exercise judgment. The Workshop had added to his and AM's considerations in making those judgments. Concerning future meetings or discussions, MYLONAS suggested that screening priorities would be helpful.

WEIBEL opined that the diversity reflected in this group was a sign both of the health and of the immaturity of the field, and more time would have to pass before we convince one another concerning standards.

An exchange between MYLONAS and BATTIN clarified the point that the driving force behind both the Perseus and the Cornell Xerox projects was the preservation of knowledge for the future, not simply for particular research use. In the case of Perseus, MYLONAS said, the assumption was that the texts would not be entered again into electronically readable form. SPERBERG-McQUEEN added that a scanned image would not serve as an archival copy for purposes of preservation in the case of, say, the Bill of Rights, in the sense that the scanned images are effectively the archival copies for the Cornell mathematics books.

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Timestamp: Thursday, 04-Nov-2010 14:30:41 PDT
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