The University Record, October 17, 1994

Digital library project will receive $8.5 million

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

A $4 million federal grant, along with an additional $4.5 million from the U-M and other sponsors, will enable the University to play a major role in the national effort to develop new technologies and patterns of use for digital libraries—storehouses of information available through the Internet.

Funding comes from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Advanced Project Research Agency of the Department of Defense, and the National Aeronautics and Space Agency, which also awarded similar grants to five other universities in a joint initiative for digital library research.

“The project, NSF/UMDL (U-M Digital Library), will conduct coordinated research and development to create, operate, use and evaluate a testbed of a large-scale continually evolving multimedia digital library, focusing on Earth and space sciences,” says project director Daniel E. Atkins, professor and dean of the School of Information and Library Studies and professor of electrical engineering and computer scienct.

The U-M and other sponsors—including IBM Elsevier Science, Apple Computer, Bellcore, UMI International, McGraw Hill, Encyclopaedia Britannica Educational Corp., and Kodak—have committed an additional $4.5 million in funding, technology and information content.

“The overall goal of the system,” Atkins says, “is to assist people, in an easy and personalized environment, harvest information from the information wilderness of cyberspace—the large and growing web of information available through the Internet.

“Currently, learners—be they high school students or library patrons—have very limited access to timely scientific information.

“The NSF/UMDL effort should provide a model to enable learners to make ‘interesting use’ of timely, primary source, scientific information. That is, learners of all types can access and

manipulate scientific information to answer questions they have, and carry on informed discussions and arguments using these data.”

Initial use and evaluation of the digital library will take place in science classes in Ann Arbor, Michigan high schools and the Stuyvesant High School in New York City, as well as instruction and research at U-M. Access also will be available through Ann Arbor and New York City public libraries. Eventually, it will be accessible from various locations throughout the Internet.

The project is a multidisciplinary collaboration involving more than 30 U-M faculty and staff from the School of Information and Library Studies; the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; the University Libraries; the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences; the Information Technology Division; the School of Business Administration; the School of Education; the University Press; and the Department of Economics.