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Evolution of the CDL Directory of Collections and Services

The CDL has received a number of questions over the past few weeks about the process used in developing the CDL Directory of Collections and Services.  We hope that this note helps to answer at least some of your questions.  If you have had a chance to try out the Directory on the pre-release CDL web site (, you know that it can be used to locate and access the wide variety of digital resources available through the CDL.  These resources are in many forms, including electronic journals, databases, and archival finding aids.  The Directory supports both browse and search as methods for locating CDL resources.

In addition to the description below about the construction of the vocabulary to date, we want to emphasize that the Directory and its vocabulary will continue to be collaboratively built and that suggestions for improvement will be sought and welcomed.

To support the discovery of CDL resources by topic browsing, it was necessary to develop a broad topic vocabulary.  In developing the CDL vocabulary, we reviewed many of the vocabularies currently in use on the campus libraries’ web sites and OPACs and tried to incorporate most of their terminologies.  We also consulted standard classification schemes, such as DDC, UDC, and the LC classification.  We decided on a hierarchical approach for the CDL vocabulary so that users would be able to pull together lists of resources from many levels of specificity.  For example, the Project Muse journal “Theater Topics” would appear to a user browsing under any of these three topics: Arts and Humanities (1st level); Performing Arts (2nd level); and Theater (3rd level).  Users are not required to select the most specific topic to view a list of resources.  It is important to keep in mind that the main purpose of the CDL vocabulary is to facilitate browsing within the CDL Directory by broad topic categories.  The vocabulary is not designed to promote precise subject searching.  It is actually more akin to a classification scheme, such as the LC or Dewey Decimal classifications, than to a true thesaurus, such as LCSH.  We are not attempting to replicate functionality that perhaps exists in other systems (e.g., library catalogs), but to create new functionality — namely, browsing by broad topic — that does not currently exist in most library systems.

Ideally, the CDL would have liked much more time to discuss plans for the CDL Directory with campus library staff.  However, numerous factors were responsible for compressing the development period to less than five months: Recruitment of the CDL staff was still underway as late as June 1998.  The various consultative and advisory structures were still being created.  And the January 1999 release of CDL web site with a pre-release to UC library staff in November 1998 had been set.  The CDL had to move very quickly.  In August, the CDL asked for some directed feedback and advice on various aspects of the proposed Directory specifications from a large and diverse group of campus library staff involved in web development.  The University Librarians and SOPAG also contributed names to this group.  To provide some background information, a “prospectus” was written (see that provided more detail on the development plans for the CDL Directory.   The members of this informal group represented many library functions, including public service, cataloging, and systems.  Many members provided invaluable advice on many facets of the Directory specification, including the classification vocabulary, navigational schemes, and the graphic design.

Since the pre-release of the CDL web site in November, we have received a number of comments and suggestions from the UC library community.  For example, the OAC Metadata Standards Working Group provided substantial assistance in improving the CDL vocabulary in the Arts and Humanities.  Science librarians helped us tighten the vocabulary in the sciences.  After the public release in January, as we gain more experience and learn from user testing, and, more importantly, as new CDL collections are developed, we will no doubt need to refine the vocabulary.  Early in 1999 the CDL will be working to build a process for the long-term maintenance of the Directory and its underlying vocabulary.  This process will need to involve a wide range of UC library expertise, including public services librarians, catalogers, bibliographers, and systems staff.  It is very important to keep in mind that nothing is set in stone.  As we all know too well, “change” is a constant in this environment.

We are very glad to receive comments and suggestions about the Directory and underlying vocabulary (available at:  However, with the holidays here and the inevitable post-holiday push to release the CDL web site in January, we probably will not be able to incorporate many changes between now and the January 20 release date.  As mentioned above, the CDL will definitely begin work on building a structured approach, with plenty of campus input, for maintaining and refining the Directory and vocabulary into the future.