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Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information Access Project   printer-friendly-version
Program: Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information Access
Award Number: P337A990015
Grant Period: 10/01/1999 - 09/30/2003
World Area: International
1999:  $100,000
2000:  $135,000
2001:  $170,000
Total:  $405,000
Institution: University of Texas at Austin
Project Director: Harold Billings
PO Box 7726
Austin, Texas 76710
Tel: 5124954350
Description of the project: Repeated surveys and studies have demonstrated that students and scholars in the United States lack effective access to many scholarly journals published in Latin America. Many of these journals are not held in the United States. Even when they are, relatively few titles are indexed so that users can identify the articles they need. The Association of Research Libraries' Latin Americanist Research Resources Project, a consortium begun in 1994 that now encompasses some forty-two major research libraries in the United States with strong Latin American collections, in conjunction with the University of Texas at Austin's General Libraries and Institute of Latin American Studies, proposes to address this gap through a project to enhance and expand a web-based journal table-of-contents database maintained by The University of Texas at Austin-Latin American Network Information Center (LANIC). This searchable database links directly to the participating libraries, enabling users to electronically request copies of the articles that they need. The project will more than triple the coverage of articles from scholarly and academic journals published within all areas of Latin America and the Caribbean. The project will also improve and build new capabilities into the database, including a feature enabling users to download or e-mail bibliographic citations and a current awareness service geared to individual research profiles.

Authorized activities: The project encompasses six of the "authorized activities" delineated in the enabling language for Title VI, Section 606. It will facilitate access to print resources by providing powerful, key word searching of article citations through a database fully accessible on the World Wide Web. Document delivery requests will be electronically submitted and full-text articles then delivered to users through high resolution, electronic transmissions utilizing Ariel document delivery software. Journals held by the forty-two U.S. participant libraries, together with the journal holdings of new Latin American partners, will be joined electronically by means of the project database. This database will continue to be created through the collaborative efforts of project participants, each of which is responsible for subscribing to a predetermined set of Latin American journals, and then inputting the table-of-contents information by means of a web-based template. The participants also provide priority cataloging for their assigned journals.

The Web database will make readily available articles in a broad range of subjects and materials, in all languages of the Latin American region, for classroom instruction and use. While the database now emphasizes journals in Spanish and Portuguese, the project will expand into regions where materials are published in French, English, and indigenous tongues. A special effort will be made to include materials written in the less commonly taught languages of the region, especially Quechua and Aymara from the Andean region; Guaraní from Paraguay and neighboring zones; dialects of Nahuatl and Maya from Mesoamerica, and various creole dialects of the Caribbean basin.

The project, based on its successful collaborative model, will expand beyond our national borders by applying its principles of distributed collection resources, collaborative indexing, and electronic document delivery to new foreign partners. The first such institution will be the "Fundación Biblioteca Inca," a private, non-profit research library located in the Bolivian Andes which has built a collection of over 2,000 journal titles from the six Andean countries. Three additional Latin American partners will follow in order to build electronic and institutional connections with areas not now represented in the project. Central America, the Caribbean basin, and the Southern Cone countries of Uruguay and Paraguay will thereby join the Andean region, ensuring database coverage for all of Latin America.

Need and Significance: Latin America is a major world region whose strong historic connections to the United States, shared Hemispheric identity, evolving trade relationships, and ancestral links to increasing numbers of U.S. residents have spurred broad-based programs of research and teaching in American colleges and universities. However, library collections to support these programs face the ongoing challenges of poor national bibliographies, journal indexes, and bibliographic tools; incomplete holdings; and insufficient funds for acquisitions. Materials budgets have not even kept up with increased book prices, while publishing output continues to grow. Meanwhile, Latin Americanist scholarly inquiry increasingly relies upon research resources that were once dismissed as out-of-scope and inaccessible. A general action plan to address the declining rate of foreign language acquisitions in U.S. libraries was articulated in 1993, under the joint auspices of the Association of American Universities and the Association of Research Libraries. With funding from both participants and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the AAU/ARL Latin Americanist Research Resources Pilot Project soon took shape as the first of three "demonstration projects" to find new solutions. The country's greatest Latin American libraries, along with many others, quickly joined in, since even they were unable to acquire the full range of Latin American publications required by their users.

The Project from the first sought to combine cooperative action with technological innovation to improve access to Latin American journals, a category selected in light of its significance to Latin Americanist scholarly communication. The project thus focused on creating an innovative, electronically searchable, Web-based table-of-contents database. Since its 1995 start, the project has grown to encompass forty-two libraries that have divided responsibilities to subscribe to and contribute information from more than four hundred journals published in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. The resultant database, hosted at LANIC, now includes some 4,300 table-of-contents, representing about 65,000 articles. Seventy-two percent of the journals currently covered by the database are not indexed in any other source.

We propose to expand this database to cover journals published throughout the region, and to add records for journal issues published prior to the project's start-up date of 1995. Journals from the Andean countries, Guatemala, and the other areas we will emphasize tend to be particularly obscure. Even for the Argentine, Brazilian, and Mexican journals already represented in the database, an additional 2,900 tables of contents, or about 44,000 articles, must be added to provide complete coverage back to 1990.

The table-of-contents index is available on the World Wide Web without restriction to users wherever they may be. The project's electronic, user-initiated request module links each article to the project-designated holding library. Users can then easily obtain the articles they need to consult. Additional programming, requested in this proposal, will ensure that the database interface conforms fully to contemporary interlibrary loan and document delivery standards. The installation of work stations with scanners, printers, and ARIEL software in each of the Latin American partner institutions will ensure high quality electronic transmissions over the Internet, guaranteeing the availability of materials not held anywhere in the United States.

The Latin American Research Resources Project represents the overwhelming majority of Latin American studies programs in the United States, and has taken shape with the guidance and support of organizations representing the widest possible scholarly and research constituency. The project's audience is the national community of Latin Americanist scholars and students. In the broadest sense, however, anyone with curiosity about the region is a potential user.

Quality of the Project Design, Personnel and Services: The Latin Americanist Research Resources Project was a pioneer in utilizing electronic technology to link a distributed, cooperative collection model with the added value of a Web-based table-of-contents database. The project will now expand to Latin American partners, in the process testing on an international scale both an improved and updated electronic document delivery module and the web template for data entry.

The personnel who will carry out these activities include Latin American area specialist librarians, library administrators, and scholars of major Latin American studies institutions. The project's Advisory Committee, which consists of seven senior scholars, library directors, and specialist librarians, offers guidance with regard to policy and strategy. The forty-two project bibliographers are directly involved in day-to-day operations. Latin Americanist bibliographers, who enjoy a long history of successful cooperative efforts, bring both experience and confidence to their collaborative work. LANIC staff designed the Oracle table-of-contents database and will supervise the contract programmers who implement the database enhancements. LANIC has received numerous awards from major Internet monitors, and was selected by the National Endowment for the Humanities as one of the twenty best sites for education in the humanities.

Adequacy of Resources, Quality of Management Plan and Evaluation: Project resources will be utilized to enhance the structure and features of the database per se, and also to expand its coverage by means of Latin American partnerships and additional contributions from U.S. participants. The participant matching share for grant funds will increase during the life of the grant, as the project builds toward self-sufficiency at an expanded level. The senior LANIC staff responsible for database design will provide technical support, and also recruit and then supervise programming consultants. These consultants will therefore be hired at a mid-range salary. Travel costs comprise the bulk of proposed expenses to develop Latin American partnerships, which in all cases will require on-site consultations. Payments for new tables-of-contents are based on actual costs at The University of Texas at Austin.

The project's management plan ensures full consultation between librarians and programmers in reassessing and refining the roster of database enhancements proposed for the second and third years. The trips to develop Latin American partnerships will be spaced so that the librarian coordinator can learn from previous experience. Questionnaires and other surveys will continue to be periodically prepared in order to assess project progress and solicit participant feedback. Statistical reports on both database use and table-of-contents record creation will be generated at LANIC to accurately document contracted activities. The Advisory Committee will monitor all of these materials and suggest changes as appropriate. Effective, flexible, cost-effective project management will thereby be assured.

Conclusion: The Title VI, Section 606 call for applications has arrived at a very opportune time. The Latin Americanist Research Resources Project is poised to accept the new challenge of international partnerships. With the cooperation of Latin American participants and the resources requested in the grant, we believe we can build in three-years a unique research tool that will cover the entire region.