The Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations is an interconnected system of digital archives. After NDLTD became a reality, the logical next step was to give users the means to search and browse the entire collection of theses and dissertations. Much research went in to deciding how best to do this, and a couple of proto-solutions were examined. In the end, by adopting the Metadata Harvesting Protocol of the Open Archives Initiative to gather metadata in the ETDMS format, NDLTD was able to make the collection of ETDs accessible via a central portal. VTLS Inc., using their Virtua—Integrated Library System (Virtua ILS), is hosting this portal, providing a Web interface to the ETD Union Catalog. This portal gives users a simple and intuitive way to search and browse through the merged collection of theses and dissertations. Once relevant items are discovered via a browse, keyword, or Boolean search, users can follow links that go directly to the source archives or to an alphabetical index that allows for further searching.
VTLS’ flagship product, Virtua ILS, is especially suited to the needs of NDLTD. For starters, it is inherently a distributed system and adheres to emerging standards, such as the Unicode® standard, for encoding metadata. Secondly, VTLS’ Web portal, called Chameleon Gateway to emphasize its changeability, is not only straightforward and easy to use, but highly customizable and translatable, giving global users the ability to retrieve information and enter searches in a multitude of languages. Currently, versions of the NDLTD portal interface exist in 14 languages, including Arabic, Korean, and Russian, and plans call for support of all languages used by NDLTD members.
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