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Thematic Workshop cum Panel discussion on
Applying Standards and Addressing Interoperability
Digital Libraries in a Networked World

28 November 2013 (Thursday)
Time 10.00-12.00 pm
Venue: Stein Auditorium


The emergence of digital libraries (DLs) in the 1990s and their overwhelming growth in recent years have opened up new horizons in terms preserving, archiving and accessing information. The ease of access and information retrieval, and the convenience of storage promoted by DLs are contributing towards the growth of open knowledge societies globally. But the expansion of DLs has also drawn attention to certain challenges related to their design, implementation and development. The selection and application of standards, and the interoperability of DLs, are among the principal challenges faced by library professionals and technologists as they attempt to optimize the utility and potential of DLs.


The problem of ‘standardization’ does not necessarily refer to a lack of formal standards. Indeed, standards such as those designed by the International Standards Organization (ISO), World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) or the Library of Congress are plentiful. What is problematic is the lack of consensus about when and how to apply these formal standards in a DL. There are at least three distinct scenarios in which it becomes necessary to agree on appropriate standards:

DLs that are beginning work in an area in which there is little local expertise require ‘standards’ in the sense of online aids to assist with the construction of local name-resolution services.

DLs that are trying to maximize investments in digital content by leveraging efforts and adding value to other complementary digital content are likely to benchmarks the attributes of ‘good content’ for inclusion in their databases.

Organizations trying to maximize their investments in networked services will try to ensure that they integrate themselves effectively with a larger universe of networked services and information. Organizations building digital archives and online databases are examples of this.


The ISO defines interoperability as ‘the capability to communicate, execute programmes, or transfer data among various functional units in a manner that requires the user to have little or no knowledge of the unique characteristics of those units’. In the context of DLs, interoperability becomes critical when libraries try to include digital content from multiple sources, or when DLs try to integrate themselves with other digital platforms, archives and repositories.

Interoperability scenarios in the DL domain can be resolved by drawing on two classes of solutions:

Agreement-based approaches (ABAs): ABAs are the traditional way to achieve interoperability, i.e., by agreeing on a set of principles that achieve a limited amount of homogeneity among heterogeneous entities. Standards belong to this category and the value of standards is clearly demonstrable.

Mediator-based approaches (MBAs): MBAs are used to resolve scenarios where it is necessary to guarantee a high level of autonomy among the sharing entities. With respect to standards, mediators strongly support the criterion of autonomy. But the efficacy of standards depends on the dynamicity of the parties they are going to mediate between.

In practice, the issues relating to interoperability in the context of DLs are highly complex and require multiple resolutions. The present workshop and panel discussion will explore the architectures, metadata formats and underlying technologies that interact through the application of a range of common protocols and standards. The event will be attended by librarians, publishers, academics, researchers, developers of technological solutions, and Government representatives.

Structure of the Workshop

Beginning with a keynote address by a leading expert on digital libraries, the UNESCO–TERI workshop will be structured into two panel discussions and an ‘open house’ discussion that will focus chiefly on policy-related issues with respect to DL. The first panel will assess the different contexts in the DL domain where the application of and adherence to standards is essential. The presentations will be designed to educate (a) library professionals to identify and select appropriate standards; and (b) software developers and systems architects to understand the technological requirements of DLs during the different stages of their evolution. The second panel will focus principally on mediator-based approaches to the resolution of interoperability issues, and will present strategies for the integration of DLs with a networked environment. The open house discussion will focus, among other issues, on creating of an enabling policy environment to (a) address the conflicts of interest between DLs, publishers and copyright holders; (b) encourage DLs to upscale their preservation initiatives; (c) encourage the inclusion of more varied (multimedia and interactive) documents; (d) provide wider access to DL materials; and (e) promote access for the differently abled.

Tentative Agenda

Inaugural Session
10:00-10:10 am Inaugural Adress: Ms Iskra Panevska, Adviser, Communication and Information for South Asia, UNESCO New Delhi
10:10-10:25 am Keynote address: Dr Sanjaya Mishra, Regional Director, Commonwealth Educational Media Centre For Asia (CEMCA), New Delhi
Panel 1: Identifying and Applying Standards
10.25-10.30 am Moderator’s remarks: Ms Iskra Panevska, Adviser, Communication and Information for South Asia, UNESCO New Delhi
10.30-10.40 am Prof. Anna Maria Di Sciullo, Head, Department of Linguistics; Director, Interface Asymmetry Lab, University of Quebec in Montreal, Canada
10.40-10.50 am Dr Frédéric Blin, Head, Preservation and Heritage Collections, National Library, University of Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France
10.50-11.00 am Dr José Borbinha, Professor, Technical University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal
Panel 2: Addressing Issues of  Interoperability
11.00-11.05 am Moderator’s remarks:  Ms Dilara Begum*, Librarian, East West University, Dhaka, Bangladesh
11.05-11.15 am Dr Ratna Sanyal, Coordinator, University Digital Library Project, Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad, India
11.15-11.25 am Ms Francesca Schulze, German National Library, Germany
Open House Discussion
11.25–11.55 am The open house discussion will be chaired by Dr P Balasubramanian, Deputy Director General, National Informatics Centre (NIC) and Head Open Technology Centre, Chennai
Closing Session
11.55-12 noon Closing remarks: Ms Iskra Panevska, Adviser, Communication and Information for South Asia, UNESCO New Delhi