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accesses since January 15, 2001

A Digital Library by any other name....

Hal Berghel

January, 2001

Welcome to the first installment of DL Pearls.

The ACM asked me to create this column for the benefit of all ACM Digital Library subscribers, worldwide. That's a daunting task, for each one of us uses the ACM Digital Library in different ways, has different expectations in terms of how it can help us get our work done, and bring to the experience different skill levels. This one-size-fits-all approach to DL Pearls will be a real challenge for me. But, if it were easy, anyone could do it. Right?

The modus operandi is simple. My goal is to help you take the greatest advantage of the ACM Digital Library. If this column can save you a few minutes on a query here and there, access an otherwise irretrievable DL Pearl, connect you with the single algorithm that solves your problem, or provide you with a more entertaining journey through the world of computing literature, my goal will have been accomplished. But this is a two-way street. My job is to write this column. Yours is to let me know what we can do to help you find what you're looking for in the DL. Toward that end, jot down this email address: - just about as mnemonic as it gets, isn't it? Remember that the ACM Publications Staff and I are here to help you, so send your questions and comments to this email address. If we know the answer, you'll get a lightning-fast response. If we don't know the answer, we'll find out for you, and then you'll get a lightning-fast response. If we can't find the correct answer, we'll just make something up and send it to you via snail-mail - just kidding. Hold this thought: we're here to help you, the ACM Digital Library Subscriber, get the most advantage from your subscription.

Since this is the first installment, I'll ease you into the experience with a bit of history. The first conceptualization of the modern digital library was crafted by J.C.R. Licklider in his 1965 book, Libraries of the Future, published by M.I.T. Press. Mr. Licklider is kind of the "Where's Waldo" of modern computing. He's in the BBN scene when time-sharing is invented for the DEC PDP-1 in 1965. On the next page, he's at DARPA as an advocate/supporter of time-sharing throughout computing. Next he shows up with Vint Cerf, Robert Kahn, Bob Taylor, and the rest of the Arpanet gang. Not that his reputation wasn't already secure, along the way he decided to outline what a digital library might look like while the rest of us were mastering the art of locating a particular card column by measuring the length of sound produced by the DUP key on the keypunch machine.

Armed with Licklider's vision, we flash forward to the late 1980's when the ACM Publications Board comes up with the notion that as the premier society in computing, it ought to be in the business of creating a digital library. By the early 1990's plans are underway. How do I know this? Well, I found it out in the ACM Digital Library (being on the Pubs Board at the time didn't hurt, either). Here's how.

DL Pearl 1.0: the basic search

Step 1. access the ACM DL Website (
Step 2. click on SEARCH (left column)
Step 3. enter "digital libraries" as the search term.
Step 4. to focus on the historical aspects, we'll limit our search to only those articles published prior to 1996, so we enter that date in the textbox labeled Published Before:
Step 5: click on SEARCH

Voila! You have just located 8 relevant articles. Note that articles numbered 1, 4,6,7 and 8 are all part of the special issue of the Communications of the ACM on Digital Libraries in April,1995. Click on any one of them and you'll automatically be led to the citation page complete with ACM's Computing Classification System (CCS) index terms.. Click on the PDF link for the full text of the document. By the way, the Adobe PDF file should be automatically rendered in your browser window. Should that not happen, download your own free copy from the Adobe Acrobat Reader site at

See you next month - and keep those cards and letters coming!


Hal Berghel
Certified ACM DL Pearl Diver