Making information available for the acquisition and transmission of human knowledge is the focal point of this paper, which describes the creation of a consortium for the university and research institute libraries in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Through sharing and cooperation, the project will facilitate information access and minimize acquisition costs of international scientific periodicals, consequently increasing user satisfaction. To underscore the advantages of this procedure, the objectives, management, and implementation stages of the project are detailed, as submitted to the Research Support Foundation of the State of Sao Paulo (FAPESP).
Production, Organization, and Acquisition of Knowledge
In 1851, predicting the imminent growth in information, which in fact exploded in volume one hundred years later, Joseph Henri of the Smithsonian Institute voiced his opinion that the progress of mankind is based on research, study, and investigation, which generate wisdom, knowledge or, simply, information. He stated that for practically every item of interest there is some record of knowledge pertinent to it, "and unless this mass of information be properly arranged, and the means furnished by which its content may be ascertained, literature as well as science will be overwhelmed by their own unwieldy bulk. The pile will begin to totter under its own weight, and all the additions we may heap upon it will tend to add to the extension of the base, without increasing the elevation and dignity of the edifice."
At the threshold of the twenty-first century, these words become more self-evident by the day. There are enormous archives of knowledge from which people extract parts, allowing them to advance and progress in science, technology, and the humanities. Until some decades back, recovery from these archives was essentially a manual task consisting of written work and organization. Today's technologies provide auxiliary tools to transmit this knowledge.
Although information is a cultural and social asset, it now is purchased at high prices. Making these enormous archives available in a clear and organized manner by using the proper technology is currently the greatest challenge for all those involved in knowledge management--the production, organization, and transmission of information.
The Advent and Implications of Electronic Publications
Among the major contributions of the industrial era, outstanding are the evolution and growth of information publishing and printing facilities that use tools to record, store, and distribute information. In the last ten years, the first steps were taken toward the storage and reproduction of sounds and images in new multimedia formats.
Technological advances also have brought new possibilities in accessing and disseminating information. Electronic publishing has been particularly effective in accelerating access and contributing to the generation of additional knowledge; consequently, an exponential increase in data has taken place, most notably in the second half of the twentieth century. Current journals numbered about 10,000 at the beginning of the century; by the year 2000 the number had reached an estimated 1 million.
As a result, specialized literature has been warning about a possible crisis in the traditional system of scientific publications on paper. In addition to the difficulty of financing the publication of these works, the prices of subscriptions to scientific periodicals on paper have been rising every year. At times, this makes it impracticable to update collections in all libraries, which interferes substantially in development.
On the other hand, access to electronic scientific publications via Internet is proving to be an alternative for maintaining these collections at lower cost. It also provides greater agility in publishing and distributing the periodical, and in the final user's accessing of the information. …