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American Overseas Digital Library   printer-friendly-version
Program: Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information Access
Award Number: P337A990007
Grant Period: 10/01/1999 - 09/30/2003
World Area: International
1999:  $185,000
2000:  $185,000
2001:  $210,918
Total:  $580,918
Institution: American Institute for Yemeni Studies
Project Director: Maria Ellis
P.O, Box 331
Ardmore, Pennsylvania 19003
Tel: 6108965412
Email: mellis@sas.upenn.edu
Web: www.aiys.org
The Project
In pursuit of its longstanding commitment to area studies and to the dissemination of information resources indispensable for American understanding of the world's regions, the American Institute for Yemeni Studies (AIYS), acting for and with the cooperation of ten other American overseas research centers (AORCs) and their libraries, and in concert with the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC), has obtained grant support from USED for the newly formed American Overseas Digital Library, maintained by the University of Utah's Marriott Library. AIYS is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 consortium of U.S. institutions of higher education and is a member of the CAORC federation, as are the other AORCs cooperating in this project. The University of Utah is a member of most of these consortia.
American Overseas Research Centers have home bases in the United States and operate research facilities, libraries, and offices in Europe, the Near and Middle East, South Asia, and West Africa. An explicit element of their mission is a long term commitment to the maintenance, improvement and expansion of each institution's overseas libraries and collections of research data in all formats to support the study of these regions of the world by American scholars. Eleven American overseas research centers, and their fifteen libraries, led by AIYS and CAORC, propose to build on this existing infrastructure of center libraries to create an efficient, centralized, internet based mechanism for the standardization and electronic delivery of important bibliographic and full text primary and secondary source foreign information originating in these countries. The targeted resources in this project are vital to American research and teaching needs in area studies, but are currently largely inaccessible to Americans or are only available for use by scholars physically present in the center libraries. The individual AORCs have developed and catalogued research collections in their own libraries and have established collaborative links with important host country educational and research institutions and archives. Coordinated by CAORC, the overseas centers have surveyed their technological needs, evaluated the procedures needed to improve access to their libraries and research collections, and have developed a master plan that will maximize the potential of the valuable foreign information resources they control. The current proposal supports Phase II of this plan, wherein the centers begin to leverage the research value of these far flung and diverse collections and connections to other foreign library resources by converting unique bibliographic and full text data to standardized electronic form and creating a centralized infrastructure to disseminate it via an on-line digital library to be maintained by the University of Utah's Marriott Library. The project utilizes new electronic technologies in innovative ways to maximize the value of the unique strengths and local access of each of the participating centers.
AIYS and the other participating AORCs, all constituent centers of CAORC, utilize local resources, foundation and government grants, and other third party contributions to support the needs of Americans carrying out research in each of the host countries and regions where they operate: Italy; Jordan; Tunisia, Morocco, and the rest of the Maghreb; India; Egypt; Turkey; Greece; Cyprus; Israel, Yemen, and Senegal and Francophone and Anglophone West Africa. By collaborating on this project, the AORCs take advantage of the complementary strengths and unique local expertise of their overseas libraries; attain a standardized sustainable level of technological infrastructure necessary for them to contribute continuing digital content to the newly formed, centralized American Overseas Digital Library (AODL); support, in dramatic new ways, the needs of the U.S. educational establishment in area studies research and international education; take advantage of the overlapping spheres of influence, contacts, and activities of these libraries; and focus on unique regional and interregional resources whose accessibility and value can only be fully exploited through this collaborative technological approach. The University of Utah, itself a member of many of the AORC consortia, will house the consolidated overseas bibliographic full text and multimedia data, as a distinct on-line resource using the existing web based library catalog database operations and staff of its own library.
This project capitalizes on the interdisciplinary and multi regional nature of the aggregate of the American Overseas Research Centers and their libraries. The value of the project derives from the strength of the collections and the new resources to be made available and is leveraged by building upon an existing base of libraries with a proven record of use by American research fellows, affiliates, visitors, and research teams. The collection in each center reflects the particular character, history, and tradition of research done there, in some cases for more than a century. The range of resources and benefits that each center can immediately bring to the digital library project will vary due to their differing needs for networked infrastructural development: the project will address these local needs to create a centralized and interlinked electronic infrastructure that will present material that was previously completely inaccessible or hard to find in any consistent or standardized way. The internet based dissemination of the digital library will ensure that the benefits of the local resources are made available to a wide constituency that greatly surpasses the current users of the collections in situ. Effective electronic access to this wide variety of foreign information resources and research materials will benefit U.S. area studies scholars at home and abroad by allowing efficient preparation, planning, and implementation of research projects and teaching initiatives, thus allowing them to maximize their research time abroad and to engage in international research and teaching even where foreign research travel is not possible. This extension of access is particularly significant for area studies students and faculty located at small colleges and universities beyond the traditional constituencies of the larger federally-funded National Resource Centers (Appendix A of the application).
The proposed project is cost effective because it works with existing U.S. overseas libraries that have a long history of and mechanism for international cooperation, are well placed with strong connections in local governmental and academic spheres of activity to enable unfettered collaboration, and have accumulated or have access to unique collections of area studies resources in their world regions. The project achieves further cost effectiveness by strategic application of selective one time investments in infrastructure development and data conversion, after which it will attain self sustainability through established long term institutional support and recovery of costs from nominal fees for system related services such as full text delivery. Administration will be streamlined through CAORC, which already functions as the subgranting agency charged with program coordination and supervision of USIA and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation programs operated by its member centers, and has a proven record of efficient program and financial administration.
The selection of content, and the mechanics and implementation of the digital library will be carried out in stages according to priorities established by a broadly representative panel of regional studies scholars and librarians already involved in Title VI-supported scholarship.
Discipline: Subjects:
Technology management