Electronic Libraries in Partnership: Beep for Africa

Article excerpt

Introduction

Between September 2008 and September 2009, ERD (Research Institute for Development)1 established a programme of scanning workshops within the SIST project (System for Scientific and Technical Information)2 of MAEE (French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs)3. This initiative involved documentation centers and libraries of public institutions (Universities, Research Institutes) in several French-speaking African countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Niger, Senegal, Tunisia).

The programme enabled the purchase of scanning equipment (fast A4 scanners, PCs, dedicated software) and training teams to digitise documents (theses, articles, books) produced by the staff (researchers, engineers, students) of participating institutions. The Greenstone software4 was chosen to provide access, over the Internet, to the collections of digital materials. All teams were trained in the installation, administration and use of this tool.

The collections made by the project participants consist of documents in pdf format. Metadata is made available either by incorporating existing bibliographic databases (usually in the CDS /ISIS5 format) or by direct input into the metadata fields of digital files. In the latter case, the metadata entries include document title, authors, publication date and subject.

The project scope was to digitise, enhance and make accessible on the Internet the scientific works of a wide range of institutions from developing countries. Concretely, this initiative organised 30 digitisation workshops in six countries. About 100 people were trained in the methodologies of scanning and creating digital libraries using the Greenstone software. The overall cost of this project (equipment, missions, training, expertise) was 145,000 euros.

Electronic libraries and internet servers: BEEP for Africa

The SIST project also funded the establishment of Internet servers (one server for each country) for sharing scientific information and hosting electronic libraries created with the Greenstone software. These computers were funded by another component of the SIST project. The operability of these countries' SIST servers often met with structural problems that limited their connectivity: low bandwidth, server downtime, frequent power outages, a complex implementation of IT projects.

In an attempt to provide concrete answers to these difficulties, the ERD installed the BEEP (Bibliothèques électroniques en partenariat) server. This server is located in France, on Bondy ERD site. Its uri is www.beep.ird.fr.

BEEP offers several SIST partner institutions temporary hosting of their electronic document collections. This offer is maintained until permanent solutions can be found locally.

This is a cooperative approach that brings together the ERD and partners in developing countries. These institutions desire to share their publications, making them quickly accessible to the scientific communities of the internet world.

Collections can be built by each partner with Greenstone on a desktop computer, by a local administrator trained by the project. The file system generated by Greenstone is then transferred, without any modification, to the administrator of BEEP. In other cases, the ERD is involved in the application design: pdf file collections and logos are transferred to the administrator of BEEP and the collection is built in Bondy. The server uses a Linux version of Greenstone, but collections are created on Windows computers. Greenstone collections can be built in a specific environment but operate and be made available on all systems for which a version of the software exists.

BEEP currently hosts the following collections:

Reports of the National land management project (PNGT2), Burkina Faso (37 documents).

* Dissertations and theses of the Polytechnic University, Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso (455 documents).

* Reports of the Ministry of Agriculture, Burkina Faso (26 documents). …