The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) announces the launch of the Scholars Portal Project, a collaboration between several ARL member libraries and Fretwell-Downing Inc. (FD). The initial libraries participating in the project are the University of Southern California, University of California - San Diego, Dartmouth College, University of Arizona, Arizona State University, Iowa State University, and the University of Utah. Plans call for expanding the number of participating libraries over the course of the three-year project.
The goal of the Scholars Portal Project is to provide software tools for an academic community to have a single point of access on the Web to find high-quality information resources and, to the greatest extent possible, to deliver the information and related services directly to the user's desktop.
The initial focus of the Scholars Portal Project will use FD's ZPORTAL and several related FD products as a base. The initial focus will be on deploying ZPORTAL to deliver cross-domain searching of licensed and openly available content in a range of subject fields and from multiple institutions. The portal will aggregate and integrate the results of the search, and support delivery of the content to the user.
Future phases will add other services to the portal that improve user access to and use of information resources. For example, enhancements include integration of the searching tool within the local online learning environment for a course and linkage to a 24/7 digital reference service to consult with a reference librarian.
The initial participants in the Project and FD will collaborate to develop additional functionality they identify as critical and will evaluate those new capabilities in teaching and library production environments. It is anticipated that in most academic environments, the tools developed through the Scholars Portal Project will function as a library channel within a university-wide portal.
ARL established a Scholars Portal Working Group in 2000 to explore how best to establish a collaborative research library presence on the Web. The project now being launched will demonstrate the viability of that vision with one vendor's products. The initiative is also intended to encourage other vendors to enter the marketplace with competitive tools to advance portal functionality. ARL will continue to monitor available software tools that can meet the needs of the 21st century academic Web user.
The ARL Scholars Portal Working Group selected FD to participate in this three-year project after making an assessment of portal software tools available in the marketplace, how close the tools come to fulfilling and sustaining the Scholars Portal vision, and the readiness and experience of the companies to collaborate on advancing priority enhancements.
FD brings extensive expertise and experience to the project. The company develops open, standards-based solutions that are designed to integrate with each other, and with other components from third parties. This allows a library the freedom to “mix and match” from the FD portfolio. As a company, FD has been active in international standards committees and has led a number of successful R&D projects particularly in the United Kingdom.
“Fretwell-Downing Inc. is not the only portal game in town. We selected them to work with us in this project for two reasons,” said Jerry Campbell, Chief Information Officer and Dean of University Libraries, University of Southern California. Dr. Campbell chairs the ARL Scholars Portal Working Group. “The first reason,” he elaborated, “is that we believe FD's existing ZPORTAL product suite will work together to take us significantly down the road toward achieving our initial project goals. And, secondly, the leadership of the company shares our vision of a portal and has committed to bearing some of the costs of developmental work that will lead to enhancements that both we and FD see as important.”
Robin Murray, President of FD, confirms his support for this initiative. "I believe that the FD/ARL library partnership is a landmark initiative that will deliver measurable improvements to information provision within universities in the US and Canada, and beyond. FD are delighted that the ARL Scholars Portal Working Group selected ZPORTAL to power the Scholars Portal and we welcome the opportunity to work with ARL libraries. This partnership will enable ZPORTAL to deliver more services to assist academics and scholars along the path from information discovery to content delivery."
In spring and summer of 2002, a small number of ARL libraries will implement the current version of FD's ZPORTAL product suite, with the option to also take on the VDX resource sharing solution. The initial phase will focus on incorporating the Scholars Portal tools and services into selected undergraduate courses. Over the next three years these libraries and FD, working with input from the teaching faculty, will refine, develop, and evaluate the capabilities provided by the portal and set priorities for future development.
The participating libraries are financing the project; FD is contributing some of the costs of the developmental work for enhancements. ARL's Senior Program Officer for Access Services, Mary E. Jackson, is serving as part-time Project Manager to facilitate communication between and among the libraries working on the project and FD. In addition, ARL will report on the experience to the research library community.
Background on the ARL Scholars Portal initiative and related activities is available on the ARL website
Contacts at Participating Libraries:
- University of Southern California: Deb Holmes-Wong
- University of California-San Diego: Geri Ingram
- Dartmouth College: John James
- University of Arizona: Kris Maloney
- Arizona State University: Sherrie Schmidt
- Iowa State University: Maureen Hyland-Carver
- University of Utah: Gary Rasmussen
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a not-for-profit membership organization comprising 123 libraries of North American research institutions. Its mission is to shape and influence forces affecting the future of research libraries in the process of scholarly communication. ARL programs and services promote equitable access to and effective use of recorded knowledge in support of teaching, research, scholarship, and community service. The Association articulates the concerns of research libraries and their institutions, forges coalitions, influences information policy development, and supports innovation and improvement in research library operations. ARL operates as a forum for the exchange of ideas and as an agent for collective action.
Association of Research Libraries
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Fretwell-Downing Inc (FD) has for more than ten years, been a global leader in the evolution of digital libraries. Delivering unmatched service and flexibility, FD Inc. offers libraries a seamless choice of standards-based solutions. Building toward a solid vision of a "library without walls," FD Inc. boasts the unique ability to integrate with disparate electronic library systems, as well as creating and managing entirely new digital systems.
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