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ISSN 0971-7102
Vol 21 No 2 June 2002

The 4th International Conference on Asian Digital Libraries - ICADL 2001: A Report


Prof Hsinchun Chen of the University of Arizona conceived the idea of International Conference of Asian Digital Libraries (ICADL) on the lines of the Joint Digital Library Conference (JCDL) series in the US and the European Conference on Digital Libraries (ECDL) in Europe. It did not take long for his idea to take concrete shape when the first Asian Digital Libraries (ADL) conference was organized at Hong Kong in 1998. Since then the conference is being held every year. The 2nd Conference was held at National Taiwan University, Taipei in 1999, and the 3rd at Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology at Seoul in 2000. At the closing ceremony of the 3rd International Conference of Asian Digital Libraries (ICADL 2000) held at Seoul , it was announced that Bangalore will be the venue for ICADL 2001.

ICADL 2001 devoted to the theme Digital libraries: dynamic landscapes for knowledge creation, access and management, was held during 10-12 December 2001 at Hotel Le Meridien, Bangalore, India. <URL:>. It was organised by the University of Mysore in collaboration with Indian Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore; NISSAT, Government of India; Department of IT, Government of Karnataka; UNESCO; and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, India. Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Sciences, Bangalore; National Centre for Science Information (NCSI), Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; Information and Library Network (INFLIBNET), Ahmedabad; Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, Bangalore, Deccan Herald, Bangalore; ISI Thomson Scientific, USA; Sun Microsystems, USA; The Hindu, Chennai; Universal Print Systems, Bangalore; and Informatics India, Bangalore also extended their valuable cooperation by way of financial help, sponsorship, etc. to organise the Conference in a grand way.

The Conference with 558 delegates hailing from 18 countries turned out to be a truly memorable event as the delegates comprised among others some of the top brasses of the profession such as Prof Hsinchun Chen of the University of Arizona, Prof Edward Fox (JCDL 2001 Chair), Prof Gary Marchionini (JCDL 2002 Chair), Prof Hsueh-hua Chen (ICADL 1999 Chair), and Prof Choi (ICADL 2000 Chair). The delegates encompassing the LIS professionals, technology group, content and knowledge managers, e-publishing and aggregator group, archivists, and the service providers represented almost all sectors of the digital library community.


To prepare the new entrants and eager enthusiasts to the exciting possibilities and potential of digital libraries, the programme began on 10 December 2001 with two sets of tutorials. Ed Fox, Ian Witten and Gary Marchionini gave tutorials in one set and Hsinchun Chen, Mike Shepherd, and Rajashekar gave the tutorials in the other.

Ed Fox, one of the leading digital library experts and editor, three special issues of Communications of ACM on digital libraries; and Information Processing and Management, gave an overview of the practical applications of digital libraries.

Hsinchun Chen, another authority on digital libraries and editor, special issue of the Journal of the American Society for Information Science on digital libraries, dwelt on knowledge management systems.

Ian Witten, the developer of the Greenstone open source digital library software and author of the famous book Managing Gigabytes talked on the building of a digital library using open source software.

Marchionini and Fox, both special editors for the special issues of Communications of ACM and Information Processing and Management dwelt on user interfaces and information seeking.

Mike Shepherd of Dalhousie University, Canada, a long-time researcher on personalization and customization tutored the participants on personalization and filtering on the Web.

Rajashekar of Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, a leading digital library practitioner and researcher from India, set forth the design framework and strategies of digital information services in enterprises.

The conference programme was rich, stimulating and engaging and provided a judicious blend of tutorials, plenary sessions, invited talks, contributed papers, poster sessions, product presentations, panel discussions and exhibits.


ICADL 2001 was formally inaugurated at the Coronet Hall of Hotel Le Meridien, with the lighting of the traditional lamp (an Indian custom). Prof B K Chandrashekar, the Minister for Information Technology, Government of Karnataka was the chief guest and Dr Hari Gautam, Chairman, University Grants Commission, was the Guest of Honour. Prof Shalini Urs, Chair, ICADL 2001 Programme Organising Committee in her welcome address traced the history of ICADL movement since its inception. A multimedia presentation projected the highlights of the ICADL 2001. Prof Chandrashekar in his inaugural address emphasized the relevance and role of IT (especially in the developing countries) in reaching the disadvantaged groups. Prof Chen, Chair, International Programme Committee, ICADL 2001, in his keynote address highlighted NSF's role in the development of digital libraries. He also touched upon major issues and challenges facing the digital library community. Prof S N Hegde in his presidential address projected some of the efforts that the University of Mysore have initiated. Dr Gautam, released the conference volume. Prof S Sadagopan, Director, Indian Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore proposed the vote of thanks.

Business Sessions

The business sessions comprised plenary sessions and invited talks on contemporary issues relating to digital library research; contributed papers by digital library researchers and practitioners; posters by authors; and product presentations by leaders in digital library technologies, products and solutions.

The plenary sessions marked the beginning of the business sessions on 11 December 2001. Six invited papers were presented in two pre-lunch plenary sessions. While Prof Witten painted a vision of digital library, Prof Fox presented an overview of digital library technologies and strategies that need to be adopted. Prof Sugimoto dwelt on the multilingual problem, an issue of particular relevance to the Asian region. Prof Sadagopan identified the major challenges confronting digital libraries in India, most of which are equally applicable to other countries in the region. Dr Lahiri examined the Indian digital library scenario while Ms Baba portrayed the digital library initiatives of the National Library of Malaysia indicating the timeframe set for realizing some of the objectives.

After the plenary sessions, the conference continued in three concurrent tracks. In all, there were 21 invited papers (including the six that were presented in the plenary sessions on the first day), 27 contributed papers, 21 posters and 9 product presentations. An important and interesting feature of the business sessions was that most of the papers discussed issues based on practical experience in the design and development of digital libraries. Almost all of them had something to offer in terms of practical hints suggesting do's and don'ts for the digital library community. Both the invited talks and contributed papers encompassed wide spectrum of digital libraries - from new genre of e-documents to new types of media to new forms of e-publishing. The critical issue of resource discovery, searching and retrieval was one of themes covered by many speakers. The papers also included case studies and experiences gathered in developing digital content and collections.



The Exhibition harbouring a nice assortment of exhibits of digital library-related products and solutions from eighteen companies was inaugurated on 11 December 2001 by Mr Vivek Kulkarni, Secretary, Department of Information Technology and Biotechnology, Government of Karnataka with the clicking on a multimedia presentation of the exhibits. In his inaugural speech Mr Kulkarni highlighted the opportunities existing for IT-related activities in Karnataka and also achievements of his Department in this sphere. Prof Sadagopan welcomed the guests and participants. A new product: J-Gate Custom Content (JCC) from Informatics India was launched by Dr S Chandrashekara Shetty, Vice-Chancellor, Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences. Mr Subba Rao, CEO of Silverline, introduced the new product and immediately delivered the same to its first customer, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore. Dr M Gourie Devi, Director and Vice-Chancellor, received the product from Mr N V Satyanarayana, Chairman and Managing Director, Informatics India and addressed the gathering. Special India Exhibit section demonstrated Indian initiatives (N=12), digitization efforts, and products. Ms Shalini Urs proposed the vote of thanks.

Three overall themes emerged in the business sessions. The first theme focused on the technical issues associated with digital library development. The speakers discussed the issues associated with creating digital libraries and introducing emerging technologies in the areas of information retrieval, architecture for interoperability, and user-centred systems. Additionally, nine vendors showcased new products in extended demonstrations. The second theme revolved around the role of digital libraries in addressing social issues. Several sessions focused on specific themes such as medical applications of digital libraries, e-governance and the promise of electronic theses and dissertations in promoting Asian scholarship worldwide. Other key areas identified were multilingual access and utilisation of multimedia capabilities to address the special needs of illiterate people, particularly to capture the oral traditions of indigenous cultures. The third theme centred on the Asian digital library experience. These sessions directly addressed issues of particular interest to countries in the region and those having developing economies. Participants showed how digital library initiatives have begun to find answers to these special needs and how their role may be extended through the utilisation of other technologies. These challenges include creating content, improving infrastructure, increasing connectivity, protecting intellectual property rights, developing pricing models and encouraging an environment for a knowledge sharing culture.

Panel Discussion

The panel discussion was organized on the third day (12 December 2001) with Profs. Balakrishnan, Foo, Sugimoto and Harsha Parekh as the panelists and Prof S Sadagopan the moderator. The panelists discussed the all-important issue: Should digital libraries be open? . They answered a number of questions raised by the delegates. As expected, a good deal of heat was generated by the contentious topic. The moderator deftly maintained the balance and allowed it to spew the benefits and dangers of freeing knowledge from the economic control of the IPR.

Valedictory Session

The curtain came down on the third day with the closing ceremony in the late afternoon. Prof Sadagopan welcomed the audience and guests. Dr N Seshagiri, former Director General, National Informatics Centre, Government of India was the chief guest. In the valedictory address he declared that after IT and BT it was the turn of LT (Library Technology) to emerge as a sunrise area for new business. He felt that India was in an advantageous position in developing the digital content creation industry in view of its vast skilled manpower. Dr A Lahiri, Advisor, NISSAT, served the ICADL dessert with a pragmatic look at the digital library situation in his reflections - `proof of the pudding is in eating'. He emphasised the need for a clear understanding of what is meant by a `digital library' before embarking on projects. He especially highlighted the importance of adopting relevant standards in digital library projects and called for an Indian Digital Library Initiatives (IDLI) _ a nice acronym that takes the name of a famous South Indian bland cuisine. Prof Shalini Urs as usual proposed the vote of thanks.

To introduce novelty to ICADL- a silver plaque has been designed as a rolling shield for the ICADL series. At the closing ceremony, the Indian team handed over the rolling plaque to the team from Singapore, where the next ICADL will be held in 2002 at Nanyang Technological University.



To entice the participants to fill in and return the feedback form, a `lucky dip' was organized and prizes for the lucky three were announced. The effort did bear fruit, as 212 delegates returned the duly filled forms. An overwhelming number of respondents (> 97%) rated the conference as excellent/good. The major attractions of ICADL 2001 were the speakers, tutorials, invited talks and the conference city. A fairly good majority (around 70%) found the tutorials and invited talks to be balanced with adequate coverage and were of practical value. One of the most common suggestions was to provide the tutorials and conference materials on CD, proper accommodation and transport.


ICADL 2001 can be construed as a very successful conference not only in terms of the number of delegates, variety of events, luxurious setting, but also in successfully unfolding before the professionals of the country the opportunities and challenges that digital libraries offer, and also bringing together digital library professionals to pave the way for the formation of a versatile and vibrant ADL community.

Information Today & Tomorrow, Vol. 21, No. 2, June 2002, p.3-p.5