ArticleWolfram Horstmann on the many ways to interoperability

Wolfram Horstmann

Digital libraries are complex systems, intrinsically interdisciplinary and heterogeneous. They involve collaboration support, digital preservation, digital rights management, distributed data management, hypertext, information retrieval, human-computer interaction, library automation, publishing.
Autonomy challenge — degrees of freedom in DLs needed for representing heterogeneous requirements; standards for interoperation.

By open access, we mean its immediate, free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, [export], search or link to the [materials], crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software or use them for any other lawful purpose.
The Budapest Declaration (squared brackets indicate changes of the original wording)

European Initiatives

DRIVER: Digital Repository Vision for European Research

  • Construction plans for a distributed DL backbone.
  • Generic infrastructure development & production.

OpenAIRE: Open Access Infrastructure for Research in Europe

  • Support for European Open Access Policy (pilot phase)
  • Multi-faceted application of DRIVER-results
  • Ultimate goal: Multi-sited Open Access-Digital Library system

Perfect example for OA interoperability challenges with complete walkthrough coverage of all levels, e.g. semantic interoperability. Dublin Core Metadata Element Set (DCMES) as content agreements. Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) standard as implementation. Addressing technical (transfer) as well as semantic (content) interoperability – with known problems.


  • Interoperability is multi-leveled but a network rather than a layer-model is required
  • Simplicity is the clue for uptake of standards
  • Semantics are core DL interoperability challenge
  • Content (semantic) and functionality (technical) to be decoupled as far as possible – Look deeper into the
  • Focus on semantic interoperability allow DLs/repositories the autonomy they need to meet heterogeneous requirements

Tentative Outlook
Semantic interoperability can be enhanced.(not immediately by semantic web; probably still too powerful and versatile for DLs to encode content) through rigid terminology standards applied on the local site (DL/repository), e.g. authority files for Journal Titles, Names, Institutions,  through adaptive algorithms (unsupervised, dynamic, fault-tolerant…) that tame semantic variability on the central site (specialised service providers)
Separation of semanticists & technologists?

The talk is available on the dedicated web page.

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