The New Zealand Digital Library is a phenomenon to watch even if the collections it houses don't excite you. The site is managed by the University of Waikato Department of Computer Science and combines access to eight electronic collections with information related to digital libraries in general and to the NZDL project. After revisisting other digital libraries (Berkeley's Sun Site, etc.) for context, NZDL stands out as an accesssible working library scaled down to allow for study of the use of the site. The homepage is a clean, simple search engine interface which is the only point of entry to the collections. The "no browsing" approach is related to the purpose of the project: to build an electronic collection, develop an "automatic" access tool, and study the searching behavior of users.
As for the collections themselves, they are as a group quite appealing to the library and information science field: Computer Science Techinical Reports, Computer Science German Technical Reports (MeDoc), Computists' Communique, FAQ Archive, HCI Bibliography, Indigenous Peoples, Oxford Text Archive, and the Project Gutenberg collection. Information about each collection is available and is sufficient to introduce the contenet without overwhelming. The library also boasts a music library comprised of a melody index (indexed by the melody pattern rather than author or title) and a soon to be available Optical Music Recognitions Service which allows the user to scan a piece of printed music and manipulate the electronic product.
The search engine is farly simple with the capability of customizing a search (ranked or Boolean, proximity levels, etc.) to suit the user's needs. Keyword is the only option available, so hits are of varying relevance even with a specific term. The returned hits will open a new browser window when chosen for view. Search terms are in bold print in the documents, making scanning of the text for pertinent data easy. The NZDL server can be very slow at times, periodically to the point of frustration. There is as yet no multiple-collection searching which would be helpful given the closely related content of most.
The goals as outlined by the managers of this project relate to producing a collection for the purpose of studying the function of the library rather than purely for dissemination of the information contained therein. What is important here is the potential of digital libraries, and as such the presentation is fairly spartan, providing few bells and whistles. Nevertheless the operation of the site remains functional. (Functionality somewhat dependent on the FAQ link on the homepage which provides tips on searching strategies that are nearly necessary in order to perform a successful search.)
Links to other digital libraries and data about NZDL itself (bug reports, press release, FAQs, etc.) provide information to those interested in digital libraries in a general sense. Links to search engines and miscellaneous digital library resources (follow the ETC link) such as D-LIB Magazine are also included, making the site as a whole a great resource for those who want to experience a digital library as well as find related material for further study.
This being a work in progress, as is the Internet in general, the NZDL will be interesting to watch over a long period of time as new approaches and innovations are implemented. You may be able to find the information elsewhere, but the library itself is something we will want to visit and to watch as it matures.
Central Washington University Library
April 4, 1997