Initial Publication Date: November 29, 2012

Scaling Digital Library Technology
from Research to Production


The NSDL technology charge was to move out of the research realm into production mode. In doing so, it faced four main challenges:

  • Balance the timescale disparity between technological and educational changes. Technology changes rapidly, while shifts in education policy and practice evolve at a much different and often slower rate.
  • Provide one functioning product (the web portal) for library builders and users while simultaneously integrating new technologies or products being developed by projects supported by the NSDL program.
  • Incorporate standardized metadata schema and vocabularies at a time when the purpose of metadata and philosophies about its use were in constant flux because the field itself had not come to agreement.
  • Plan for the sustainability of projects that were created with short-term funding.

Despite such challenges, NSDL made progress in the areas of metadata creation, automatic extraction, and the alignment between educational standards and curriculum resources.

Lessons Learned

  • Technology development processes and solutions do not scale easily, especially within the context of a distributed project.
  • Assumptions about the ease of integrating new technology (i.e., that plug-and-play code was a solution for all projects) were not substantiated.
  • Each NSDL project had different requirements, which made communication and technology integration difficult, time consuming, and resource intensive.