The RIDDLE Project


Provision of the information on journal articles in On-line Library Catalogues (OLCs) significantly enhances the value of the library service to users by providing information on all relevant library holdings in one single place. However, such catalogues are currently likely to contain a reference only to the journal itself.

The Rapid Information Display and Dissemination in a Library Environment (RIDDLE) project studies the feasibility of scanning the contents pages of scientific and technical journals with a view of extracting bibliographic information on the individual articles in each issue, for inclusion in the library OLC. The project has been set up under the Libraries Programme of the European Commission's Telematics Research and Technological Development Programme.

Graphical overview of RIDDLE

Partners: RAL (Library and Informatics Department) (UK), Longman Cartermill (UK) and CWI (Centrum voor Wiskunde en Informatica) (NL).

RAL staff: CM Cooper, Catherine Grose, Elizabeth Hutchinson, Ian Jenkins, Kevin Lewis and R Eric Thomas.


The project studies the feasibility of scanning the contents pages of scientific and technical journals to provide information on the individual items in each issue, and how far this process can be automated. The benefits of the service and the best way to provide it to libraries have been assessed. A pilot system is being constructed to test the viability of such a service. The results of the project are not specific to any one library or group of libraries, but are be applicable to any library with an OLC, however simple.

This work will directly meet the EC Programme's objectives of stimulating demand for new services within libraries, demonstrating benefits of such services and fostering change through spin-offs.

Technical approach

Following consultation within the European library community, a set of user requirements has been produced. The project has investigated the current state of the art in the areas of scanning technology, Optical Character Recognition (OCR), and automatic markup/translation. Information from a wide variety of different scientific journals has been analysed and a system design produced which can be applied to any target OLC. International, industry and formal standards such as the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML, ISO 8879) have been examined. The catalogue at CWI forms the basis for the pilot, which demonstrates the success of the concept.


Longman Cartermill is a member of the publishing arm of the Pearson media conglomerate. Its main line of business is the creation of information products for electronic publication and provision of consultancy.

CWI is the main research institute in the Netherlands in the areas of mathematics and computing, and houses the central library for mathematics and computer science for the Netherlands. CWI, like RAL, is a member of ERCIM.

The RAL Library provides information for staff and visitors, covering a wide range of scientific subjects.


For further information please contact Eric Thomas

Additional information, including public versions of the deliverables, can be found at CWI

EC/Telematics Libraries Programme Project 1038
0.9 out of 2.4 staff years
February 1993 - December 1994