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Number: 71
Year: 2002
Author: Johann Van Reenen, Editor
Title: Digital Libraries and Virtual Workplaces. Important Initiatives for Latin America in the Information Age

Overview of the Library Linkages (LibLINK) project of ISTEC

The major goal of LibLINK is to design and implement innovative, international Science and Technology (S&T) information-sharing services. Thus the Internet and connectivity is of primary importance. Seed-funding for LibLINK was provided by Nortel Networks and it is currently supported by membership dues.

The annual compound growth rate of the Rapid Document Delivery (RDD) project has been hovering around 200% since 1995. Over 27 libraries in 19 countries are connected in real-time and documents are provided using the Ariel® software from the Research Libraries Group. The Centennial Science & Engineering Library (CSEL) at the University of New Mexico, USA, is the headquarters for this initiative and provide document delivery resources free from local collections. Expanded services are also provided at cost from the Canada Institute for Science and Technology Information (CISTI). The RDD project, although the most popular service, is a foundation for the more important digital library initiatives which were started in 1998. The projects within LibLINK can be categorized as follows:
  • Connecting libraries for Information Transfer. This is accomplished through opening Science and Technology library collections, — especially Latin American collections, — for scholars through regional networks created to compliment the LiBLINK document delivery services. Currently these include LigDoc in Brazil, PrEBi in Argentina, REBIDIMEX in Mexico, and most recently, a cooperative group of libraries in Colombia.
  • Training librarians and researchers in the efficient and cost-effective search and retrieval of information, document delivery software and processes, and digital library concepts. LibLINK volunteers plan and carry out workshops and mini-conferences to facilitate the above. Funding generally come from successful grants from organizations such as the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and other national science councils such as CONACyT in Mexico, and regional organizations such as the OAS and UNESCO.
  • Continually expanding services to more S&T libraries, especially in Latin American countries. The intention is to also expand to other library types (especially Health Sciences) and services.
  • Developing software for information sharing. One of our member organizations, the University of Vigo in Spain, is developing a document sharing and collaborative workspace technology, called RANDEX. All such developments are tested by members and provided free to members once proven useful.
  • Developing “push and search” engines for information delivery in conjunction with the ISTEC Portal.
  • Working with the Networked Dissertation/Thesis Library (NDTL) initiative at Virginia Tech described in Chapter 5 to expand the concept in Ibero-America.
  • Providing the main interaction method for the ACE and R&D initiatives and participation in the development of a database on S&T people, projects, policies, interests, publications, and opportunities in Latin America.
  • Advancing and piloting new types of scholarly communication. An electronic journal in computer engineering was established at the Universidad National de la Plata (Argentina) to develop experience in this area. We are actively supporting new publishing efforts such as the NDTL mentioned above and the Open Archives initiative discussed in the chapter on scholarly publishing (Chapter 3).
  • Writing grants to further our goals. Grants have been written to IDB, UNESCO, World Bank, NSF, CONACyT, OAS, UNESCO, and to other national organizations and industrial partners.
Some of the LibLINK accomplishments include a training seminar for Latin American librarians from seven countries at the UNM Science & Engineering Library in 1998 and regular training sessions at the General Assembly (GA) meeting of ISTEC. At the GA of 1999 in Porto Allegre, Brazil, we trained librarians and distance educators in the role of libraries in S&T distance education.

The tremendous increase in the use of the LibLINK document delivery service and the increase in membership, are other indicators of success. In 1997 UNM/CSEL supplied 86.5% of the S&T articles requested internationally for LigDoc, an association of Brazilian S&T libraries mentioned above and modeled after LibLINK. During the same period the British Lending Library supplied only 13.5%, when only two years earlier, it was the largest external supplier. In 1998-99 UNM/CSEL supplied 4,660 documents electronically to LibLINK members. If standard document delivery charges were applied, the cost would have been US$ 116,500 to those libraries.