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Arabic and Middle Eastern Electronic Library (AMEEL)   printer-friendly-version
Program: Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information Access
Award Number: P337A050010
Grant Period: 10/01/2005 - 09/30/2010
World Area: Middle East
2005:  $188,000
2006:  $188,000
2007:  $188,000
2008:  $188,000
Total:  $752,000
Institution: Yale University
Project Director: Ann Okerson
155 Whitney Avenue, Room 224
P.O. Box 208337
New Haven, Connecticut 06511-8904
Tel: 2034321764
Fax: 2034328491
Email: ann.okerson@yale.edu
Web: www.library.yale.edu/ameel
Middle Eastern library content, particularly Arabic and other non-Roman language materials, poses special challenges to the creation of digital libraries. AMEEL seeks to lay the foundations for future progress and to build a working library by a twofold strategy:
1. To create a prototype Web-based portal for study of the Middle East, including its history, culture, development, and contemporary face, and to integrate existing scholarly digital content with this portal to make such material easier to find and use efficiently and freely.
2. To develop an environment for creating new digital resources, as well as integrating existing resources into a common structure. We will also tackle in particular the challenges of digitization and the opportunities for technologically assisted interlibrary borrowing and lending.

The first stage of AMEEL will establish an 'integration infrastructure', both to create a useful resource rapidly and to put in place architecture for future development. AMEEL will then work with partners to develop international standards for digitization of Arabic-language materials and to support would-be providers of digital information in Arabic. Finally, AMEEL will conduct a pilot Interlibrary Loan project with a small number of libraries in the United States, Europe, and particularly the Middle East (ME) to prove the viability of the physical exchange of materials or technically facilitated representations of those materials (faxes, photocopies, photographs) where digitization has not yet occurred.

In Project AMEEL, Yale University Library, leading a partnership of committed international collaborators, will design and construct a digital library that focuses on the ME. We will begin this online library by creating a front end or "portal," into which we will integrate a significant portion of currently available ME electronic resources, including bibliographic records, selected abstracts, full text, and other formats in the Roman and particularly non-Roman, vernacular scripts. This project builds upon and will make frequent reference to OACIS (Online Access to Consolidated Information about Serials) that created an online union list of serials held in U.S., European, and ME libraries and covering ME subjects. That project was also led out of the Yale University Library and funded by TICFIA.

Integration: First, because content valuable to the planned digital library may have been published, recorded, or otherwise produced in Arabic and other non-Roman scripts, as well as in Western languages, we will explore improved application of technology to standards of representation and methods of acquisition (especially digital scanning). Second, integrating diverse electronic resources will give rise to considerable analysis and thorough planning to construct a common environment that is both scalable and, wherever possible, freely accessible to readers. While an initial prototype portal will emerge quickly, the larger integration challenge will be to make the fused content searchable in both English and Arabic, and deliverable, if possible, without a costly subscription or license. In addition, the portal to the digital library (an evolving electronic space consisting of Internet links, electronic materials in separate systems or catalogs, and newly digitized materials) will also possess overarching mechanisms that permit the user to perform cross-collection searches while still able to view, read, or listen to the specific items identified in the search results.

Digitization: Scholars value information about resources available in traditional libraries but what they increasingly prefer, for reasons of utility and productivity, is access to online full-text content. Catalog information about materials no longer satisfies today's scholarly users. But publishers and vendors will never digitize many older full text items such as books and journals from the ME. The business case is not strong enough: there is not a large enough paying market for such materials and the costs of digitization are significant. These materials, however, particularly many journals, are vitally important for education and research. AMEEL will digitize a significant sampling of such materials. In addition, the AMEEL team in conjunction with the staff at the Digital Lab at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA), will develop, organize, and facilitate digitization training sessions to be held at the BA.

Interlibrary Loan (ILL): Scholarly information in libraries in the ME has to date been either extremely difficult or altogether impossible to identify and obtain from ME libraries. ME libraries have important and unique collections not available in the United States, and they do not have a tradition of sharing resources through ILL, which means that not only is sharing among their libraries limited, but also that U.S. libraries cannot borrow materials from those libraries except in rare circumstances using personal connections. The ILL experience of the OACIS group has persuaded us to develop a component of AMEEL concentrating at the outset on the development of an ILL framework for ME libraries. ILL is not simply a set of tasks or a technical transmission of a request and its fulfilling document. Rather, ILL involves policy at an institutional level, development of procedures that fit institutional workflows, an understanding of copyright law both nationally and internationally, and the potential to expand a circle of participating libraries both within a country and beyond its borders. AMEEL will lay the further technology foundations for such ILL and will promote a culture of ILL-based resource sharing among libraries in the region.
Languages: Countries:
Gaza Strip
Saudi Arabia
United Arab Emirates
West Bank
Discipline: Subjects:
Area studies
Area Studies