Marlino explains that PAGE's mission always included the concept of a collection of electronic materials that would be useful to geoscience educators from grade school to grad school to lifelong learning. "When the PAGE community got together in fall '98, we didn't use the term 'digital library' because we didn't know the term, but that's what we wanted. I think the community exercised a lot of foresight," she says.
DLESE arose from a workshop last August called Portal to the Future. At this meeting, 59 educators from undergraduate, K-12, and informal earth science education programs developed an action plan for building DLESE and formed a steering committee. Like UCAR's Unidata program, DLESE will be community governed and community owned, and the community will be involved in constructing the resource. "We have a community that's engaged and a governing mechanism," says Marlino. With the work PAGE had done on its existing digital- library grant, she adds, "We have a technology prototype."
Like any library, DLESE will have both a collection and a structure. Its collection offers a feature that a simple Web site doesn't have: the materials will be evaluated by the community for such criteria as scientific accuracy, audience level, and effectiveness in the classroom. The community itself will develop the assessment methods. Eventually, the complete collection will include three levels of materials: a small "gold standard" collection, which NSF has asked DLESE to hold centrally; the peer-reviewed material; and material that has been contributed but not yet assessed. The acquisition process has already begun: some organizations, including North Carolina State University and NASA, have already agreed that their relevant collections may be accessed through DLESE. NASA is also supporting DLESE financially.
The library structurethe metadata and user interfaces, for examplewill be crafted at UCAR, with the help of collaborators. Marlino cites the Alexandria Digital Library at the University of California, Santa Barbara; the San Diego Supercomputing Center, which has experience in providing a server for a digital library; and Stanford University, which is developing an interoperability protocol (allowing existing collections to talk to each other).
The digital library initiative has prompted a close working relationship between the DLESE Program Center and UOP's Unidata Program. "Unidata has a wealth of experience and expertise that are critical to this effort, and we are delighted that the Unidata community has expressed such strong support for the digital library movement," says Marlino. Unidata director David Fulker has just been awarded $500,000 from NSF through its NSDL initiative. This funding will be administered through the DLESE Program Center, providing support for work on digital library issues such as interoperability, metadata, and system architecture.
Creating a new, world-class library won't happen overnight. "We see this as a long-term, building process," says Marlino. "It's a life's work." She welcomes community input. Please contact her at 303-497-8350 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, see http://www.dlese.org and http://www.page.ucar.edu.