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Digital Assets Repository Ver3.0

Ever since the Library of Alexandria has started building up its digital collection around 2004, DAR has been built to act as an eco-system of components which manage the creation, preservation and publishing of the Library’s digital assets. The system is open source and has been created such that it handles different types of digital objects such as books, images, and more. DAR has been built mainly to support the creation, use and preservation of a variety of digital resources. It provides management tools which facilitate the process of creating, managing and sharing of the Library’s digital assets. The system easily integrates with other systems, owing to the fact that it is based on evolving standards.

The ICT Sector has ever been upgrading DAR, deploying innovative tools which add to the latest emerging technologies in digital libraries. As an extension to that, the BA has recently announced the launching of DAR Ver3.0- which is a total revamp of the system. DAR Ver3.0 provides a new version of the digital book portal , which currently holds more than 300,000 books, around 60% of which are Arabic, thus representing the largest Arabic Digital Library on the Internet.

What is different about the new digital book portal?

DAR ver3.0 comes with a variety of interactive and customizing functionalities for end users. It provides book readers with different viewing options to explore this vast collection. For example, a user may decide to browse books as “Most Viewed”, “Top Rated” or “Most Commented on”. Moreover, a new technique-Faceted Search- has been deployed allowing users to narrow down their browsing to specific choices of their interest. For example, they may create a query specifying the desired category of books, the language, a specific collection or the contributor, which would yield a narrowed down list of books in accordance to the users choices. This is in addition to the search facility applicable across the whole collection using simple or advanced search, providing morphological search and highlighting the occurrences of the searched term throughout the book metadata and content.

One might prefer physical books over digital ones due to the simple fact that digital books are one-way, read-only copies. However, the new release of DAR has provided the books with annotation tools needed by users to customize and to freely interact with the content of books. The annotation tools give users the opportunity to select certain spans of text, highlight them, underline them or even add sticky notes with their personal comments. Even more, registered users are given the privilege of arranging the books of their interest in folders thus creating their own “Bookshelves” online. On another front, the newly implemented system provides the tools for book sharing, tagging, rating, embedding in other social networks and allows users to also submit comments. The new release of DAR offers a new experience of digital book browsing, which is considered an important milestone in the Digital Libraries arena.

International Participation

DAR has been demonstrated at the Digital Libraries Federation in November 2010 and was received with significant interest among other conference participants.

Technical Aspects

DAR consists of several modules which have been updated:

The Digital Assets Factory (DAF) which provides flexible management for the digitization workflow, and a unified means of ingestion into the system. It supports both physical and born digital materials with different media types. It integrated easily with automated and human phases, checking integrity at each step of the workflow.

DAF is available for download at:

DAM (Digital Assets Metadata) manages the metadata of the objects within the repository. It consists of a metadata store for METS, in addition to using Fedora for metadata management. The system provides flexible metadata editing through the use of XML templates and dynamic forms. It also allows for synchronization with different ILS systems or other data sources (e.g. application backend) which is also based on XML templates.

The Digital Assets Keeper (DAK) is a storage layer for digital objects responsible for caching, versioning and load balancing.

A RESTful API for building applications on top of the Repository. Applications can query for new or updated metadata and files, and can also access a slice of the data in the Repository based on their access rights. This constitutes the Digital Assets Publishing layer (DAP) A Discovery Layer provides full text search across the whole collection and is based on the access rights granted to the user. Full text search is built on Solr with support for 5 languages: Arabic, English, French, Spanish and Italian.

DAFv2 manages the entire process of digitization, including its various phases, system users, files movement, archiving, and integration with the ILS and the Library digital repository. This version also supports workflow dynamic evolutions and deviation to allow for exception handling, and provides history tracking of actions and flexibility to simultaneously manage multiple projects with a diversity of materials. It also has the advantage of supporting the ingestion of a job in the middle of the workflow, and it allows easy integration of the tools used to perform functions of the workflow.

Optical Character Recognition

A digital Book Viewer displays the books based on the image-on-text technology. Research was carried out in co-operation with Arabic OCR producers in order to achieve efficient, high quality recognition for mass OCR production for Arabic content, reaching an accuracy ranging from 90% to 97%. Although the accuracy is not high enough to allow users to read the output of the OCR, it is good enough for searching. Therefore, the BA has concentrated its efforts into publishing books using the text layer behind the image, to allow for searching the text while exposing the image to the user. The full text content-based search is performed on the whole collection of available books.

The Book Viewer

The book viewer provides several features for the user’s convenience, such as:

  • Full text (morphological) search within the book's title, subject, keywords, and content;
  • Search results are highlighted within the book;
  • Single page or two page view;
  • Annotation tools: Highlighting , underlining and sticky notes;
  • Streaming; by displaying one page at a time to facilitate displaying the book over a slow Internet connection;
  • Multilingual interface.

The Digital Lab

DAR is also concerned with the digitization of materials already available in the Library or acquired from other institutions. A digitization laboratory was built for this purpose at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. The lab is equipped with the state-of-the-art technologies for digitizing different types of material, including slides in multi formats, negatives, books, manuscripts, pictures and maps, audio and video. The complete cycle of the workflow to produce digital objects has been automated and integrated with the BA Library Information System.

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Last updated on 27 Jun 2013