Chapter 6: Appendix

Michael Witt


The Open Archives Initiative Object Reuse and Exchange (ORE) specification defines a set of new standards for the description and exchange of aggregations of Web resources. This presents an exciting opportunity for us to revisit how digital libraries are provisioned. ORE and its concept of aggregation–that a set of digital objects of different types and from different locations on the Web can be described and exposed together as a single, compound entity–may present the next major disruptive technology for librarians who develop and manage collections of digital information.

Currently, the management and presentation of digital library collections revolve mostly around the digital library systems that house them. A librarian decides what digital resources go together and then works within the capabilities of the system to present the resources in an appropriate and orderly context. The result is typically a series of webpages that human beings need to navigate in order to find and click on links to resources that meet their information needs. While the system may expose its metadata for harvesting or its index for federated searching, the digital resources themselves are tucked deeply inside proprietary silos.

ORE presents the possibility of breaking down these silos by exposing the semantics of these resources and providing hooks to retrieve them without the need for a human being to read a webpage and click on a link. Liberating digital library content from these silos for reuse and exchange may very well explode the construct of the “collection” as we know it today because it will no longer be the exclusive domain of librarians to aggregate digital library resources and dictate the context of their presentation for use. Human beings and machines will be able to assemble their own “collections.”

The goal of this issue of
Library Technology Reports
is to present a tutorial on ORE to make it more approachable and understandable to information professionals who are not computer scientists or programmers. The report begins by presenting the general concepts of ORE and then works backwards to explain and fill in some of the supporting technical details. It introduces the basic concepts of ORE and its foundation and follows an example of implementation to illustrate the graphing of the ORE data model, exploring Aggregations and Aggregated Resources and the serialization and provisioning of Resource Maps. A series of ORE tools and implementations are presented to relate the specification to real-world application in libraries.

While the Semantic Web and ORE represent potentially disruptive technologies, the need for librarians to help make sense of interoperable digital information by provisioning resources with care and quality metadata and by connecting users to resources–and resources to resources–is greater than ever. In order to capitalize on these technologies, librarians must first understand them and be able to relate them to the professional practice of librarianship.

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