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Telematics for Libraries - Projects


Updated: 08 JUL 98

Project Number and Title
4022 - Large Scale Demonstrators for Global, Open Distributed Library Services
Programme/ Action line Call Topic(s) Start End Project Duration
in Months
FP 4/ B 4 and 5 October 1996
Distributed library services; Interlibrary loan; SR/ Z39.50; Union catalogues

blue bullet Additional information is available from the UNIVERSE website . (

Action Line B: Telematics Applications for interconnected library services.
Call Topic(s)
Call topic 4: Creating and testing interconnected library services, integrating applications for at least two different library service functions;
Call topic 5: End-user access to inter-library network resources.
Project description
One requirement of the distributed library model will be the provision of a 'single point of contact for information', including an interface that hides the physical distribution of information, its inevitable duplication, heterogeneity of storage and access methods and even language. It should present global information resources as a single logical database.
Project UNIVERSE aims to deliver and utilise a 'logical union catalogue' that is capable of providing this 'single point of contact' for specific subject domains. UNIVERSE will use this logical union catalogue to deliver a number of advanced library services for both the end-user and the librarian:
  • Search and Retrieve - very large scale, transparent multi-database searching.
  • Multi-Media document delivery - integrated to the search and retrieve process.
  • Inter-Library Loans - integrated to the search and retrieve process.
  • Collaborative cataloguing / record supply - an efficiency gain for the librarian.
Technical approach
UNIVERSE will exploit the outcomes of previous Library projects and utilises developments in key standards:
  • Z39.50 / SR - to provide heterogeneous database searching.
  • UNICODE & UNIMARC - canonical internal character and record representation.
  • ILL - as a part of the document delivery process.
Large scale logical union catalogues will be developed in two subject areas. UNIVERSE will aim to deliver advanced services around a Pan-European technical catalogue and a Pan-European environmental catalogue. This will involve collaboration with the G7 pilot project on 'Environment and Natural Resource Management' .
The logical catalogues will be established by co-ordinating large numbers of relevant libraries through subject based 'user groups'. The user groups, chaired by a co-ordinating library from the project, will stimulate cross-border co-operation and resource sharing between libraries. The national libraries in UNIVERSE have the role of providing rich, high volume data sets. They will consolidate the activity within the subject areas, and broaden the scope of the demonstrators across further subject areas, geographical areas and library types.
Key issues
The project will address the following key issues:
  • The ability to search in parallel, multiple physical databases which are heterogeneous in terms of access methods, record
  • syntax, character set and even language, presenting results as if a single logical database were being searched.
  • The multiplicity of data sources is hidden from the user and a high quality of service is achieved both in terms of performance and
  • data quality through record de-duplication and merging.
  • Through the use of Open Distributed Processing (ODP) techniques the architecture has potentially unlimited scalability. UNIVERSE
  • should be capable of transparent, simultaneous searching of massive sets of physical databases, whilst maintaining high performance.
Impact and expected results
The project will provide:
  • A large scale implementation of distributed library services, and the experience so gained
  • An implementation of an open software architecture and that makes a significant step toward the Global Information Infrastructure.
  • Contribution to the standards process.

The work undertaken to produce the design specifications has identified two key areas where UNIverse will potentially contribute to the development of international standards:

  • Z39.50 profile for multi-lingual thesaurus
  • Implementors Agreement for interim search results responses to enable the system to act more like a single database.
Major deliverables completed so far are:
  • Technical State of the Art
  • User Services State of the Art
  • Technical specifications

Additional information is available from the contact below and from the project web site: .


Name of Institution/Organisation Postal Code / City Country
Fretwell-Downing Data Systems Ltd. UK - SHEFFIELD S11 7AE UK
Title, First Name, Name Mr Neil Smith Address: 861, Ecclesall Road
Brincliff House
Tel: +44-114-281 61 11 Fax: +44-114-281 59 81
E-mail 1: E-mail 2:

Other Partners

Name of Institution/Organisation Country Role
Danish Technical Knowledge Centre DK P
British Library UK P
Irish Library Council IE P
National Library of Greece GR P
Freshwater Biological Association UK P
Southampton Oceanographic Centre UK A
Harper Adams College UK A
Kyros GR A
University College Dublin IE A
Q-Ray NL A
Ex-Libris LU A
University of Sheffield Library UK A
Index Data DK A
Forbairt IE A
Delft University of Technology Library NL A
Technical University Library of Norway NO A

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