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The Digital South Asia Library: Electronic Access to Seminal South Asian Resources   printer-friendly-version
Program: Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information Access
Award Number: P337A990022
Grant Period: 10/01/1999 - 09/30/2003
World Area: South Asia
1999:  $190,000
2000:  $190,000
2001:  $215,000
Total:  $595,000
Institution: Center for Research Libraries
Project Director: Bernard Reilly
6050 South Kenwood Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60637
Tel: 7739954545
Email: reilly@crimail.uchicago.edu
Overview of the Project: The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) proposes a three-year collaborative project to maintain and improve access to vital resources for the study of South Asia. The project will provide the following digital research materials to users both in the United States and throughout the world via the Internet: 1) full-text documents such as select journals, pedagogical resources, statistical data and government documents; 2) electronic images such as maps and photographs; and 3) indexes to select journals in the regional languages of South Asia. Through this project academic researchers, business leaders, public officials and citizens in general will be able to find and receive from overseas by the Internet essential materials concerning South Asia not now accessible in the U.S.
It has become increasingly evident that in an era of static or decreasing budgets, research libraries need to develop innovative and collaborative strategies in order to acquire and maintain the resources necessary for research. In no area of study is this necessity more apparent than in the case of South Asia. Given the size and diversity of interest, both inside and outside of academia, it is clear that cooperative acquisition alone can not provide readers with the increasingly vital materials in South Asian regional languages or certain highly sought after resources in an effective or timely fashion. The proposed project addresses these issues by building upon a successful two-year pilot project, the Digital South Asia Library (DSAL), funded by the Association of Research Libraries’ Global Resources Program and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The Center for Research Libraries is a not-for-profit corporation established and operated by scholarly and research institutions to strengthen the library and information resources for research and to enhance the accessibility of those resources. Founded in 1949, the Center functions as a cooperative, membership based research library dedicated to acquiring, storing, preserving, providing bibliographic access to and lending/delivery from a collection that complements and supplements the local collections of the major research libraries of North America. Through its programs, the Center supports individual member libraries in meeting their local users' needs for research materials.

Authorized Activities: The DSAL includes all seven of the “authorized activities” outlined in the legislation providing for this grant. The DSAL will facilitate access to resources for the study of South Asia from both the subcontinent and elsewhere by producing an electronic index of select journals in South Asian languages, a bibliographic database of official government publications, an index of the Oriental and India Office Collection’s approximately 250,000 historical photographs, and a searchable database of the cartographic holdings concerning South Asia in the British Library. These access tools will be produced with the collaboration of institutions and consortia in the U.S., South Asia, and the U.K.
The DSAL will also directly deliver documents in South Asia identified from the aforementioned access tools through the Internet to readers in the U.S. and elsewhere. For a select number of South Asian journals the DSAL proposes to provide full-text versions accessible over the Web. Similarly, the DSAL will develop a site for full-text versions of parliamentary debates from South Asia. In addition, key statistical data, selected maps, and selected photographic images will also be available for immediate downloading to readers through the DSAL. In order to assist teachers of less commonly taught South Asian languages the DSAL proposes to digitize a number of text-books, grammars and readers previously created with government support as well as number of dictionaries and paleographic guides. For still other material identified by the use of the access tools of the DSAL, microfilm or paper copies will be scanned with the cooperation of institutions in South Asia and elsewhere to create electronic files for transmission to patrons. At the same time, the DSAL will identify documents in need of preservation microfilming to be carried out by collaborating consortia such as the South Asian Microforms Project.
In order to accomplish these goals the DSAL proposes to use not only existing software and technology, such as Ariel for windows and the Mekel Microfilm Scanner system, that comport to existing international standards but also to create new software. In collaboration with ARTFL (American and French Research on the Treasury of the French Language), a leader in developing digital technologies for library initiatives, the DSAL proposes to create software that allows the linking of statistical data with cartographic images to create innovative visual representations. Furthermore, the DSAL will use the experience of ARTFL to continue implementation of the Unicode encoding standard as means of displaying texts in the numerous scripts of the regional languages in South Asia. For all of its proposals, the DSAL will build upon a network of established collaborative relationships with institutions in the U.S., the sub-continent, and Europe.

Need and Significance: As a site of major civilization for more than four thousand years, South Asia continues to comprise an enormous geographical and intellectual domain representing more than twenty-percent of world's population. More than forty years of sustained government support for language training and acquisitions has produced a sizeable body of informed scholars whose contributions to the study of South Asia have been unmatched outside the subcontinent itself. The Association of Asian Studies lists more than 760 members with South Asia as a major focus of academic interest. The number of American citizens tracing their heritage to the subcontinent is increasing so that in 1990 one in every two hundred Americans identified themselves as having ancestors from the sub-continent. With government funding for acquisitions through the Library of Congress ending this year, a consortium of U.S. research libraries is collaborating to ensure that the aggregate national collection of South Asian resources remains strong. However, with interest increasing and the number of publications proliferating rapidly the inherent dependence of cooperative acquisition upon inter-library loan can not adequately meet the needs for certain core materials or the less widely collected material in regional languages. The DSAL proposes to meet the challenge outlined above as well as achieve improved levels of coverage by providing electronic access to seminal resources from the subcontinent for the study of South Asia over the Internet.

Project Design: The DSAL will continue to use the models of collaboration and sustained growth established by the pilot project to increase participation in the project with the eventual aim of making it a self-sustaining institution. In the U.S. the project will rely upon the experience of the founding institutions of the DSAL pilot project, the University of Chicago and Columbia University, together with the Center for Research Libraries and ARTFL to ensure that the commitment to uniform international standards are maintained. The considerable resources and expertise of the British Library will also be invaluable to this project. In the subcontinent two founding members of the DSAL, the Roja Muthiah Library and the Sundarayya Vignana Kendram, will continue to foster cooperation among other South Asian institutions that have pledged their support. Together with its present and future collaborators the DSAL will enlist the aid and advice of prominent scholars in the various disciplines involved in the study of South Asia in order to select materials for inclusion in the project and to evaluate its performance. The DSAL hopes to share its experience and the expertise developed by ARTFL not only with other projects receiving grants under this rubric but also with other research libraries in the hopes of building a “new library movement” in South Asia responsive to local needs and ready to join in international collaborations. The collaborative nature of the project together with its established quality has contributed to its success in garnering offers of support not only from participating research institutions but also charitable foundations.

Resources, Management, and Evaluation: The support requested for the DSAL is modest relative to its benefits. Contributions of staff time and support from the participating institutions have reduced the labor costs. The DSAL will benefit from the expertise of motivated project assistants recruited from the University of Chicago’s South Asia Language and Area Center. In addition computing facilities and material infrastructure are already in place in the U.S. Travel expenses will be modest and scheduled to coincide with national South Asia meetings. In the subcontinent, the DSAL has already benefited from the capable administration and technically proficient staff of its partner institutions as well as considerably lower costs for labor and materials. The DSAL will purchase a limited amount of special equipment needed by collaborators in South Asia. A grant from the Department of Education will enhance the likelihood that sister institutions in the subcontinent will also receive support from governments and foundations in the region. Along with the present grant, the DSAL can expect to benefit from future subscriptions and contributions in kind from collaborating institutions, charitable matching funds and the proven-track record of its proposed directors in obtaining and managing grants.
Management and evaluation of the DSAL will be the responsibility of the principal investigator, two co-directors, a project manager, advisory board and selection panel selected under procedures outlined in the main body of this proposal. They will assess the progress and success of the program not only by soliciting evaluations from users but also by an empirical consideration of the costs per transaction as well as a highly specific computer record of resources actually used by patrons.

Conclusion: Building upon an established project of technical collaboration with institutions in the U.S. and elsewhere the DSAL will maintain and augment the resources available for the study of South Asia to the mutual benefit of all concerned. The DSAL will particularly benefit readers with significant and expeditious material with which to continue and expand the body of knowledge on South Asia.
Discipline: Subjects:
Technology management