DLA History - About the Scholarly Communications Project and the Digital Library and Archives, University Libraries, Virginia Tech


The Scholarly Communications Project (SCP) expanded its resources and services and merged with Special Collections to become the university's Digital Library and Archives in July 2000. SCP began working with members of the university community in 1989 to help them create online resources such as electronic journals, and to use library services such as electronic reserve with its centralized access to online course materials. In addition, DLA designs and maintains systems including those for electronic theses and dissertations and digital images. Special Collections, including rare books, manuscript collections, and the University Archives, collects and preserves unique historical materials, providing access to them in their original form and online through the Internet. In 2008 DLA and Special Collections returned to being separate departments while continuing to collaborate to enhance online access to the library's unique and rare archival resources.

"The proposed Center for Advanced Communication and Information Technology will be a facility where disciplines and technologies mix. Here's a preview of what will happen when Virginia Tech enters the top echelon of virtual reality and the low-down in online education efforts." (Dec. 1996)

About the Scholarly Communications Project

From a 1988 request by a Virginia Tech faculty member to begin a new scholarly journal and another request to establish a university press, grew the Scholarly Communications Project. It was envisioned that the university could use a rapidly maturing technology base to establish a place where new scholarly works could be published but without the capital outlay that would be required to begin a print-based publishing operation. Since the would-be faculty editors were not necessarily the ones well versed in the technology, an obvious need existed for support services. In addition, there was the need to begin to define or describe these future electronic scholarly works. The SCP would also be a place to experiment with the technology to produce online scholarship in new and developing formats.

Initially placed in Communications Network Services unit, SCP was almost immediately moved into the library. Here strong technical support from the Library Automation Department would combine with user-oriented services. This assistance was initially directed to faculty-editors and then to new online readers. From the beginning the staff associated with the Scholarly Communications Project and the faculty and staff at the university who requested their support, have determined what experiments to conduct, resolved questions arising from the user community, addressed issues raised by the technology, and determined how to meet the needs of the users and clients.

SCP has participated in a variety of partnerships with units and individuals within the university community to produce unique online resources that are well suited to networks and digital libraries. Through partnerships with over a dozen faculty members on and off campus, SCP publishes and archives electronic journals. It designed both an electronic reserve system that hosts online class materials and a unique and growing digital image database. It has collaborated with regional and international producers to provide online access to news reports. In partnership with the Graduate School, SCP developed and implemented procedures for online student submission of theses and dissertations, resulting in permanent archiving and timely public access to approved graduate research.

Through the Scholarly Communications Project, Virginia Tech has demonstrated some of the ways libraries, both independently and through collaboration, improve their services and increase the wealth and the quality of information, creatively using existing staff and evolving technologies. Experiments such as ejournal publishing, online course materials, networked news reporting, and graduate dissertations have all moved into continuing electronic library resources. On-campus and remote members of the Virginia Tech community have access to open and restricted resources either by using campus computing labs and library Internet workstations, or through recognition systems (e.g., IP address and proxy name server).

Staffing at the Scholarly Communications Project

To pioneer in electronic communication of scholarly materials was the primary goal of the Scholarly Communications Project (SCP) when it was established in the fall of 1989 by then-Vice President for Information Systems, Dr. Robert Heterick. Initially housed in Communications Network Services, SCP moved almost immediately into University Libraries (headed by Paul Gherman, followed by interim director, Joanne Eustis, and now by Dean Eileen Hitchingham).

Lon Savage directed SCP from its origin until his retirement in December 1993, when Gail McMillan, a member of the library faculty from the Technical Services serials area, assumed that responsibility. As SCP director, she works with VT faculty to implement their ideas about scholarly communications (such as new electronic journals. She also contributes to the Faculty Development Initiative by instructing the faculty about Electronic Reserve and Electronic Theses and Dissertations. EReserve and ETDs are frequent topics for her presentations. Recently her work in theses areas led to development of the library's copyright Web pages.

Sharing a Programmer/Analyst with the Library Automation Department, James Powell was the technical director of the Project until December 1996. Under his leadership, the SCP began several experiments that have since become expected library services (e.g., EReserve). He left to head the university's Distributed Information Systems, but continues to support SCP- and library-related projects such as ImageBase and VTOnline/EReserve. Valerie Poltavstev was SCP's technical director May 1997-March 1998. Tony Atkins joined SCP in April 1997 as a programmer and was promoted to Technical Director in April 1998.

In 1995 SCP got its first support staff position by sharing a half-time clerk with Technical Services. Debbie Cash was the Serials Holdings Clerk, a job gradually replaced by automated serial check-in. She learned HTML mark-up largely to support Web access to electronic journals and newspapers. Subsequently, Peter Haggerty joined the SCP staff in February 1996, while continuing his undergraduate studies (computer science and philosophy) at Virginia Tech. He moved on to program and administer systems in Library Systems, and now works as a programmer and database developer at Distributed Information Systems.

Persuading the library administration that SCP needed a full time programmer to support timely access to electronic scholarly works, this position was upgraded and a national search culminated in the hiring of Tony Atkins in April 1997.

Hardware at the Scholarly Communications Project

Originally a Gopher server, the NeXt 3.3 called Borg or scholar, began operating as a Web server in February 1993. During the first half of 1995, SCP expanded from one principal server to three servers, splitting the large and rapidly expanding image and newspaper files from the files of scholarly publications and electronic journals. Our October 1994 archive required 479Mb, up from 78Mb of storage we were using in January 1994. In June 1995 4Gb of scholarly electronic publications were available through the Project's servers.

In October 1997, scholar migrated from the NeXt to a Sun Netra Server. It has a 200 Mhz Ultrasparc processor and 128 Mb of RAM, with several gigabytes of disk space allocated for the operating system and related tools. We run the Netscape Enterprise Server on Solaris 2.6 and Perl 5.004_01. To backup our system, we have a Sun 8mm Ultra Wide SCSI tape drive that takes 170m tapes with a compressed storage capacity of 40Gb.

Statistics from Server Logs

Each of the SCP servers logs access statistics and these are summarized in appropriate parts of this web. Use is logged for each access to one of the SCP pages, whether a journal article, a section of a newspaper, an ETD, or any other discrete entity. Use is not logged for graphics displayed within a screen, nor is use by the SCP staff logged.

Statistics for SCP are available from a variety of locations, including

Gopher 1994, Web 1994, 1995

EJournal Use: