Research news and notes from the National Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Education
Digital Library (NSDL) Program [Back Issues]

The Whiteboard Report
December 2004, Issue #64



The National Science Digital Library's 2004 Annual Meeting, Part 1
December 2004 -- Several themes were echoed in formal sessions and informal conversations at NSDL's Annual Meeting held in Chicago, November 14-17, 2004. The Meeting spanned three and a half days and featured topics tailored for newly-funded NSF-NSDL projects, community governance discussions, as well as sessions focused on common community needs and interests.

NSDL Director Kaye Howe observed, "We are at that moment when real convergence begins to take place in so many different ways."

Number of attendees: 284
NSDL projects and other organizations represented: 214
Unique workshop, panel, crit lab, and special interest group sessions: 41
Number of posters: 101
Percentage of all poster lead presenters who indicated "Sustainability" as an area of expertise: 45
Percentage of all poster lead presenters who indicated "Evaluation" as an area of expertise: 49
Percentage of all poster lead presenters who indicated "Outreach/Community Building" as an area of expertise: 61
Hours required for three people to assemble 325 registration packets: > 8
Lines of haiku written in honor of the meeting: 15

Opening remarks delivered by Dan Greenstein, University of California Digital Library, presented an overview of NSDL's role in raising benchmarks for digital library development and set the tone for the meeting.

Greenstein sees multiple areas where NSDL's unique applied digital library research environment has advanced the discipline within information science. The "layered service model" which was novel when NSDL's architecture document was written three years ago is innovative and far-seeing even now. Use of the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting Protocol (OAIPMH) to facilitate collection-aggregation within NSDL has proved to be a ground breaking application. He credits NSDL with an expanding set of collections that add value to life-long learning activities as well as the application and implementation of a rich set of collections and metadata policies developed by the NSDL community.

"NSDL has taken the lead in the digital library industry as a whole by advancing more good and focused work on metadata than anywhere else," observed Greenstein. This evolving methodology is coupled with user needs.

Supporting NSDL into the future was a key take-away not only from Greenstein's address but also in sustainability sessions and informal discussions throughout the meeting. Establishing sustainability models where revenues needed are high in a tight economic environment is key to NSDL's ongoing success. Getting concrete about deliverables that link economic viability to demonstrations of student improvement was cited as a critical to project sustainability.

Current library production needs as well as overall improvements must be accomplished with reduced National Science Foundation funding over several years. Greenstein raised provocative questions tied to subsequent meeting sessions:

* If we were investing to sustain the NSDL would we be investing in the same things that the National Science Foundation is investing in?
* Is it possible to engineer culture change in learning and make money?
* Success of any part of the NSDL is highly interdependent on the success of other parts. How do we leverage individual collections' visibility to add value to all the others?
* Is the total investment too broad?
* How can we focus assumptions by looking more closely at "value?"
* What does the NSDL do that someone might pay for?
* How do we establish a nimble organization for the benefit of the Library that can make timely business decisions, invest freely, be both trusted and independent, motivate and create incentives, provide stewardship for stakeholders and investors, and adopt and implement a business plan?

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The NSDL 2004 Annual Report Now Available
December 2004 -- The 2004 NSDL Annual Report Highlighting Successful Strategies for Growth was released at the Annual Meeting with stories of how NSDL is impacting educational practice by leveraging strategies for content reuse and thoughtful online inquiry. Additional 2004 Annual Meeting themes and topics are reflected in the emerging NSDL narrative that comprises this year's annual report available here. Please contact Donna Cummings at if you would like printed copies to redistribute.
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Learn NSDL Magazine
December 2004 -- Learn NSDL magazine was introduced at this year's NSDL Annual Meeting to find out what you, the NSDL community, think about this effort. The magazine was produced to test the proposition that the NSDL community has reached the moment when its energies, activities, and ideas demand a voice.

Learn NSDL is about innovations in the use of educational technology. Its mission is to explore and publicize those combinations of content, imagination, and hard work that produce great digital learning environments. In addition, Learn NSDL will publish opinion articles, humor, and constructive criticism to encourage positive transitions to online learning. NSDL and its component collections will be a primary focus of the magazine. The magazine will also cover educational software and hardware more broadly.

Please visit Learn NSDL and submit the short Reader Survey.
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Printing Teaching Objects from A Digital Library
Printing Teaching Objects from A Digital Library December 2004 -- Many of Cornell's collection of 266 19th-century mechanical teaching models, designed by the German engineering professor Franz Reuleaux to teach the underlying mathematical principles by which machines work, are visible on the Internet to students and teachers. Through collaborative efforts of the Cornell University Library and Cornell engineering and mathematics faculty, visitors to Cornell's Kinematic Models for Design Digital Library (KMODDL) can see photographs of the machines, watch movies of them in action and play with computer simulations of their movement.

But wouldn't it be better to have the actual machine in the classroom? That soon will be possible when Cornell puts a library of "stereolithographic" files online from which special printers can construct full-size, three-dimensional, fully working plastic models of the Reuleaux machines and similar machines in a collection at the Museum of Science in Boston. The 18-month project, funded by a $499,710 grant to Cornell Library from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, will make machines in the collections available to other universities and museums around the world. Read the story at
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Sharing Personal Media
The Ourmedia project was started jointly by members of the creative and technology communities in the summer of 2004 as a way of advancing the spread of personal media. The project has the backing of Brewster Kahle, founder of the prestigious Internet Archive.

Unlike other initiatives that are pure-play stand-alone websites, ourmedia's vision is to bring personal media to millions of desktops through playlists, video jukeboxes, visual albums, and built-in media libraries. The repositories will contain material that ranges from Creative Commons-licensed works to public domain works to fully copyrighted works.
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NSDL Haiku
NSDL's NSF Program Officer, Lee Zia, captures the essence of Annual Meeting events in minimal keystrokes each year. The NSDL 2004 Annual Meeting Haiku:

Searching the deep Web:
If it's there, can you find it?
And, can you get it?

Recruit, engage your colleagues
Share your expertise!

Evaluate it.
Improve based on what we learn.
Emphasize service.

If it has value,
It can be sustainable.
Embrace the "S" word!

Yes, think locally.
But, let us act globally!
Bound by common cause.

Community forms
Around shared tasks and interests.
Do, be, do, be, do!

Views are author's own.
Not official policy
Of the NSF.

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Published from 2000 to September 2009, NSDL Whiteboard Report Archives provide access to prior issues of the bi-weekly newsletter published by NSDL. To subscribe to current news and information about NSDL, go to the NSDL Community Network site, register as a user, subscribe to and participate in selected features found there. For more information contact Eileen McIlvain