Building an Information Infrastructure with Ibero-America:


Building an Information Infrastructure with Ibero-America: The ISTEC Library Linkages Initiative

Harry Llull, Antonio Fortes,Meg Glasston,Ramiro Jordan
University of New Mexico

The Ibero-American Science and Technology Education Consortium (ISTEC) was formed in 1990 and is comprised of progressive educational institutions, industries and foundations which are collectively committed to fostering hemispheric development through the dissemination of information, joint scientific and technological research and innovative science education. Lead by Professor Ramiro Jordan of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department of the College of Engineering at the University of New Mexico, ISTEC has over thirty members with its USA Secretariat functioning as a program of UNM’s Latin American Institute.There are also branch Secretariats in Brazil and Spain. At the same time that ISTEC was emerging, UNM had a new President, Dr. Richard Peck, who choose as one of his goals to make UNM a gateway to Latin America and become the University for the Americas. Today ISTEC focuses on four primary initiatives:

Research and Development Laboratory Design and Installation: designing and installing modular and expandable laboratory facilities for education, Research and Development and for the provision of these services to the productive sectors.

Advanced Continuing Education: addressing current movements in curricula reform programs to upgrade human resources through on-site training, distance learning and non-traditional exchange programs.

Los Libertadores: creating a compatible network of communications services, high-performance computers and teaching stations, known as “Centers of Excellence.” The network will allow researchers, educators, public policy makers and scientific administrators access to worldwide system of expertise as well as the computing power required for maximum problem solving.

Library Linkages: promoting the use of innovative ways to promote the sharing of information and library services on a hemispheric scale. Projects under this initiative aim to modernize document delivery, upgrade the information skills of library staff and users, emphasize the role of the librarian as key to decentralized electronic library loan, and broaden access to international electronic research databases.

The birth of a program

During the summer of 1993, members of the UNM ISTEC Secretariat in consultation with the Director of UNM’s Centennial Science and Engineering Library, outlined an initiative to develop an information infrastructure to be based in ISTEC member university libraries. A number of factors were identified that seem to indicate that the time was right to start such a program. Although university libraries have had a long tradition of sharing materials from their respective collections within the United States and even with other countries, that did not as readily exist with Ibero-America due to the weak infrastructure in terms of both fax delivery on telephone lines and postal delivery in some countries. In addition to this, the cost of international postage prohibited an active, ongoing relationship between interlibrary loan departments of libraries in the United States with those in Ibero-America and Spain. However through the Internet and using the Ariel software developed by the Research Library Group, materials could be easily scanned in and delivered to university libraries in Ibero-America. Because ISTEC was composed of universities with strong science and technology programs, some members already had excellent connections to the Internet while others anticipated installing connections and/or receiving upgrades in their installations.

The UNM General Library already had in place an active program of making databases available over the Internet to anyone who wished to access them. Libros, the online catalog for the General Library, also provides access to UNM’s Health Sciences Library online catalog, access to a large interdisciplinary database called Expanded Academic Index, access to the Uncover database through CARL which includes the contents to over 14,000 journals since 1988, and access to the education database ERIC through the CARL system. With all of this in place, ISTEC members in Ibero-America and Spain needed only to telnet to the UNM General Library databases, identify what was needed, and if it were in the UNM collections, send an e-mail identifying the material. The requested material would then be scanned using the Ariel software and delivered to the requesting ISTEC institution.

From the beginning, training was seen as the key to making the project work. Whether professor, researcher or student, it was seen as critical to provide the patron with the searching skills to identify what he needed. The success of the project was based on making interlibrary services less bureaucratic, decentralized, and customer based and oriented. The more the user could do on their own, the faster the library could respond to fill the request. Although the training initially would focus on the use of the UNM General Library online catalog, Libros, the training would also attempt to develop the information seeking skills of users in the electronic database and access environment.

Although the project was initially based on accessing and receiving materials from the UNM General Libraries, once the infrastructure was in place the expectation was that materials would be transferred and shared among all ISTEC member universities and libraries participating in the program. It was well known that many countries in Ibero-America had developed research databases on CD-ROM. Those could now be mounted on the Internet and searched from a distance. As use of the Internet grew, ISTEC member universities would probably be placing their online catalogs on the Internet for distant access.

Another very important but long term goal was to integrate the science and technology research being carried out in Ibero-America into the worldwide indexing and abstracting cycle as had the research from the United States, western Europe, and Pacific rim has so clearly been. Until articles published in Ibero-American journals are more easily obtained by researchers outside of Ibero-America, the research being done in Ibero-America will not be known worldwide. The ISTEC Library Linkages Initiative plans to develop a union list of serials held in ISTEC member libraries. That would be a first step toward developing a current contents database based on those holdings. The Internet and Ariel software will be the foundation for delivering the actual articles to anywhere in the world. Although the initial focus of ISTEC is to access science and technology information developed in Ibero-America, it is quickly acknowledged that materials from Ibero-America in the areas of the humanities, social sciences, business and education are of intense interest to researchers in the United States and other countries outside of Ibero-America.

The pilot project–the UNM-UNICAMP experience

At the Third ISTEC General Assembly meeting held at the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana in Mexico City in November 1993, the ISTEC Library Linkages Initiative was introduced to the ISTEC membership with a presentation titled “Research via Internet.” The ISTEC General Assembly endorsed and supported the proposal and recommended a pilot project to be carried out during 1994. Member institutions that participated in some way in the pilot project included: Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana, Mexico City, Mexico; Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Brazil; Universidade de Campinas (UNICAMP) Campinas, Brazil; Universidad Simon Bolivar, Caracas, Venezuela; and Universidad de Vigo, Vigo, Spain. The UNICAMP-UNM experience during this pilot project was the most successful and has become the model for implementation with other ISTEC members.

All of the factors needed for the success in the ISTEC Library Linkages Initiative were present at UNICAMP. First, the Internet connection at UNICAMP was able to provide excellent access through telnet to the UNM online catalog Libros and also of a level to receive documents from UNM scanned through the Ariel software. The project had the full support of the UNICAMP ISTEC representative who was also the Dean of the Electrical Engineering Department. Also through his efforts, the Vice-President and President of UNICAMP became aware of the project and supported it. The project at UNICAMP was based in the Engineering Library and had the full and enthusiastic support of the head of that library, Bel Santoro, and her staff as well as the full support of the head of the Central Library. The Ariel workstation was very visibly placed at the reference desk and the project at UNICAMP was given the name LIGDOC. A very nice brochure was produced advertising the program to faculty and students. The Director of the ISTEC Library Linkages Project was invited to UNICAMP to carry out several workshops.

General workshops were held for faculty and students while more indepth and detailed workshops were held for librarians and library staff. The project was so successful that the Director of the project was invited down a second time to participate in the 8th National Seminar of University Libraries of Brazil held at UNICAMP in November 1994. In April 1995, Bel Santoro and a colleague from the UNICAMP, visited the University of New Mexico General Libraries to plan for the future growth of the program.

The analysis of the data from the pilot project between UNICAMP and UNM was very impressive. All requests made from UNICAMP to UNM were delivered to UNICAMP. The categories of users were as follows: 2% of the requests came from Undergraduates; 71% of the requests came from Graduate Students; 20% of the requests came from Professors; and 7% of the requests came from researchers. The materials requested fell into the following categories: 30.4% were articles from periodicals and research journals; 54.9% were articles from conferences, workshops, symposia and congresses; 9.7% were from parts of books; .4% from thesis; and 4.6% from technical reports. The date of the material requested and delivered were as follows: 61.4% of the material fell in the time period of 1990-1994; 21.4% of the material fell in the time period of 1985-1989; 8.2% of the material was from the time period of 1980-1984; 5.1% of the material came from the time period of 1970-1979; 3.5% of the material came from the time period of 1960-1969; and the oldest material requested was from 1959. All this data is extremely interesting. However the impact of the ISTEC Library Linkages Program can be seen in the speed in which material can be delivered: 10% of the requests were delivered the same day it was requested; 60% of the material was requested within two days of being requested; and the longest it took a request to be delivered was nine days.

Future directions

In November 1995 at the Fifth ISTEC General Assembly held at the Universidad Tecnologica Equinoccial, Quito, Ecuador, ISTEC librarians held their first workshop as part of the ISTEC General Assembly. The following ISTEC institutions were represented by their librarians: Universidad de Los Andes, Colombia; Universidad Nacional de la Plata, Argentina; Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Brazil; Universidad Tecnologica Equinoccial, Ecuador; UNICAMP, Brazil; Escuela Politecnica Nacional, Ecuador; and the University of New Mexico, USA. The librarians met for two days outlining future goals:

1) implementing the basic project in more ISTEC member libraries.

2) start sharing information among all members that have implemented the project.

3) identify how to expand the project to other disciplines such as the humanities, social sciences, medicine, law, business, and education.

4) identify how an ISTEC member institution might expand the project within their own country.

5) participating members must always address international copyright laws and restrictions.

6) training within participating member institutions is a high priority.

7) the goal is to keep the service free among participating ISTEC members.

The cumulative statistics from the beginning of the project in May of 1994 to February of 1996 continue to be very impressive. A total of 706 requests have been filled accounting for 6,250 pages. The overall average is 9 pages per request. At this point, only three ISTEC members account for this use: UNICAMP in Brazil, Universidad de Los Andes in Colombia, and the Universidad de Vigo in Spain. By the end of 1996, we expect to have the project starting up at the Universidad de Granda in Spain, and at member institutions in Peru, Ecuador, Uruguay, and Argentina.

Very soon we will be opening up access to our home page called Jerome, after Saint Jerome the patron saint of libraries and librarians: Through this home page, we will give access to the online catalog of not only UNICAMP but USP and UNESP all located in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil. At the University of New Mexico, we have access to a CD-ROM produced by UNAM, Mexico City, which indexes eighteen years of articles from Latin American science and technology journals. Jerome will provide an easy way to not only request articles among ISTEC member libraries, but also provide a global and international reference desk with ISTEC member librarians from the Americas and Spain.

The ISTEC Library Linkages Initiative has been highly successful so far and we expect it to continue to grow. I believe the project has been successful for two primary reasons. First, the project has been supported enthusiastically by the ISTEC General Assembly and ISTEC Executive Committee. Secondly, it is a project that has a very direct and positive impact on students, faculty and researchers at ISTEC member universities. It shows how international collaboration can benefit everyone. The ISTEC Library Linkages Programs has broken down barriers and shown how researchers, students, and librarians from many different countries can work together for a common good for all.


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