Applying semantic technology to a digital library: a case study

Publication Date01 May 2005
Date01 May 2005
AuthorPaul Warren,David Alsmeyer
SubjectLibrary & information science
Applying semantic technology to
a digital library: a case study
Paul Warren
BT Next Generation Web Research Team, Ipswich, UK, and
David Alsmeyer
BT Library, Ipswich, UK
Purpose – To describe how semantic knowledge technology can be used to enhance a digital library.
Design – The paper examines the main research challenges in the field of digital libraries and
identifies the extent to which semantic knowledge technology can be used to respond to these
challenges. Functionality developed within the SEKT project ( is used to
enhance an existing digital library. The development of a good ontology is central to such an
application, and the paper describes the particular ontology engineering approach adopted.
Findings – Four broad challenges were identified: achieving interoperability; describing objects and
repositories; managing multimedia collections; and improving user interfaces and human-computer
interaction. The SEKT digital library case study is using semantic knowledge technology to respond
to the first two and the last of these. The paper describes how this is being done and the kind of
enhanced functionality being developed.
Originality/value – The paper is of value in understanding how semantic knowledge technology
can enhance information management in general and a digital library in particular.
Keywords Digital libraries,Internet, Knowledge management
Paper type General review
This paper describes how semantic knowledge technology has the capability to
enhance a digital library, and how this capability is being realised in one particular
digital library. This is being done as part of the SEKT project[1], which is developing
such technology for a range of applications. The paper starts by describing the
research challenges facing digital libraries; and goes on to discuss semantic technology
and what it can offer digital libraries in general in general, and our case study in
Digital libraries – a research agenda
Over the last decade and a half there has been considerable research activity in the field
of digital libraries. Much of this has been focussed on specific goals, e.g. the
preservation of cultural heritage and the implementation of multilinguality. However,
in a workshop held in 1995, the US National Science Foundation sought to identify the
key research challenges for digital libraries (Lynch and Garcia-Molina, 1995):
The Emerald Research Register for this journal is available at The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
The SEKT project is funded by the European Commission under the 6th Framework Programme
(IST-2003-506826). The authors would like to thank their colleagues who have contributed to this
work, in particular Ian Thurlow and Nick Kings for developing the domain ontology, and
Allyson Cheung for her work on the state of the art survey.
Library Management
Vol. 26 No. 4/5, 2005
pp. 196-205
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/01435120510596053

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