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On March 27-28, 2008, I attended NISO‘s 2-day forum on Next Generation Discovery: New Tools, Aging Standards in Chapel Hill. Todd Carpenter, NISO’s Managing Director, began the conference by referencing discovery as being one of the primary reasons people visit libraries either in person or virtually and, that the standards and systems that are currently in use at many libraries are beginning to fray. Libraries are not keeping up with advancing technologies. Out of this meeting, he hopes ideas will come to the forefront in areas of standards and development that NISO needs to address.

I took notes fast and furious so as not to miss anything. Here are some of my interpretations of highlights from Day 1 talks. I hope that they are accurate reflections of what was said. Any misinterpretation is this writer’s fault.

The keynote speaker, Richard Akerman, Technology Architect and Information Systems Security Officer of NRC CISTI, began his speech with the example of SkyNet, a term from science fiction used in the Terminator movies. Terminator fans will remember that the machine (i.e. Terminator) was cold and heartless and employed a hostile user interface. Akerman went on to say that exploring ways of getting machines to function in manners that users want is vital. Machines are not meeting all users’ expectations, and that Google crawlers have shaped all discovery expectations of users today.

How can we as humans better serve the machines our users utilize? Because machines don’t speak our language or have a deep contextual knowledge, humans need to be knowledge translators for the machines so as to enable machines to bring greater discovery to users. Some suggestions he offered included:

  1. Produce information in formats that machines can easily understand, and in parallel formats that are human readable.
  2. For every web resource and its machine reader,the number of formats should be kept simple so as to enable interchange easily.
  3. Bibliographic metadata should be a first class citizen by using OpenURL and COinS. Embedding metadata in webpages can provide bibliographic services around that metadata. Functionality to users can be added by using embedded knowledge.

Humans are seeking rich information experiences, and the general OPAC is not a discovery interface. A discovery layer needs to be built over the catalog’s metadata using APIs, and the catalog should work in ways that the Google generation understands. It should go to wherever your user is (example: a Wake Forest student user is searching Amazon for a book while drinking coffee at Starbucks, a box pops up and alerts the user that the book is available at the library) and able to work at web speed. Embedded knowledge can be enriched by using XML, RDF, RSS, GeoRSS, microformats, aggregators, and recommender APIs. An interesting example of a discovery tool developed by MIT’s SIMILE project is its Timeline component. Timeline is described by MIT’s SIMILE website as a “widget for visualizing time-based events.”

Akerman stated that instead of having too much information, he feels there is too much information poverty. We need to continuously search for and find ways to provide information to users everywhere. There is much information that is not getting indexed and is therefore inaccessible to people. We must tap the knowledge of people all over the world and provide information access to all.

In another talk, Mike Teets, VP of OCLC Global Product Architecture, demonstrated new discovery tools that OCLC is currently providing and those that are in development for users. Three tools that I found most interesting were xISBN, xISSN and Identities. xISBN is a service that consolidates ISBNs of a specific title into a list. It is driven off of FRBR algorithms. OCLC is still testing its xISSN service, which will bring together a graphical representation of the history and relationships of specific serial titles’ ISSNs. Identities provides information about authors and utilizes publication timelines (books by and about an author), audience level indicators (this number is computed by what institutions hold a specific author’s work(s)), and relationships to other authors and/or organizations. You can try Identities by searching for a title in WorldCat, click on the details tab and then click on the author’s name or you can go directly to

Other interesting discovery tools presented were 2collab and 2collab is an Elsevier produced free collaboration tool for researchers and scientists. Information can be shared with peers by creating groups. Users can add tags, bookmarks, ratings, comments, as well as, display one’s current research activity and interests and groups in which one is a member, and highlight one’s scientific record of publications. Privacy is of utmost importance to scientific researchers. Only members within a private group can share and access each other’s information. Group owners can accept or decline membership into a group. ScienceDirect has an “add to 2collab” button that allows users to transfer metadata about pertinent articles to their profiles and they are able to share this information with their groups. IEEE has developed a web service,, which is a free federated search service of 18 not-for-profit science and technical libraries. It is open to the general public, but is designed primarily for researchers. Partners pay a contribution fee to help fund the service. Subscribers to the partner libraries and members of partner societies are able to view full text included in their subscriptions or memberships; other users have a pay-per-view option.

All conference talks were recorded and the presentation slides are to be posted shortly to the NISO website on the Discovery Tools agenda webpage. For more in depth information, check out NISO’s website. Day two reflections will appear later this week.