Technical Activities Forum

Technical Activities Board (TAB) coordinator: Deborah Scherrer, 3061 Palomares Rd., Castro Valley, CA 94552; voice (510) 881-4489;

Digital Library Task Force

Nabil R. Adam and Richard Holowczak
Rutgers University, CIMIC

Milton Halem and Nand Lal
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Yelena Yesha
UMBC/Center for Excellence in Space Data and Information Sciences

In the past, global networks have usually transported textual information, but there is a growing need for these networks to transport other forms of information such as images, video, and audio. Until recently, electronic information sources served mainly specialized clients, but now these sources will be accessed by a wide range of users, ranging from computer specialists, discipline experts, engineers, and the general public, including novice computer users and students at all levels.

These trends have created an emerging, important discipline: digital libraries. Several US agencies, including NASA, ARPA, and NSF, have made available over the past few years a considerable amount of money to support research in this field. Other countries, including Canada, the UK, France, Italy, and the Netherlands have also invested in digital library development:

National Library of Canada Electronic Collection:
Initiative for Access—British Library Board:
International Institute for Electronic Library Research (involved in several projects):
Elite Project (Italy):

As a result of these activities, a number of recent symposia, workshops, and conferences have been recently devoted to digital library issues, and several journals have published editorial about digital libraries, including Computer and IEEE Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering.

Technical challenges

Digital library development faces challenges in several areas, including the subdisciplines we summarize here.

Task Force on Digital Libraries

In 1995, the IEEE Computer Society established the Task Force on Digital Libraries as a first step leading to a full-fledged Technical Committee. The task force is to promote research in the theory and practice of all aspects of digital libraries.

The task force sponsors activities that benefit its members and profession. Such activities include sponsoring and cosponsoring symposia, sessions in large conferences, tutorials, and a newsletter, edited by Prof. Erich Neuhold, GMD-IPSI. Send newsletter contributions (news, brief articles, conference announcements) to The task force cosponsored the Forum on Research and Technology Advances in Digital Libraries, held last May at the Library of Congress and is cosponsoring the International Journal of Digital Libraries, which Springer Verlag will begin publishing this year.

The executive committee of the task force includes Nabil R. Adam (chair), Rutgers University; David Choy, IBM Almaden Research Center; Milton Halem, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center; Nahum Gershon, Mitre; Erich Neuhold, GMD-IPSI; and Yelena Yesha, UMBC/CESDIS.

Membership in the Task Force on Digital Libraries is free. We invite you to join and contribute ideas, suggestions, comments, and time. For more information, see our home page at or through the IEEE Computer Society's home page at, or send e-mail to

Last Update: August 23, 1996.
Nabil R. Adam