Magazine article Information Today

From Elibraries and Digitization to E-Reading Rights

Magazine article Information Today

From Elibraries and Digitization to E-Reading Rights

Article excerpt

An instant library is helping universities in Myanmar connect to the wider world as the country emerges from decades of military dictatorship.

Reconnecting With Elibraries

Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL), with financial backing from the Open Society Foundations (OSF), has implemented elibraries at the University of Mandalay and the University of Yangon. This will give students access to a wealth of digitized materials.

Susanna Lob, EIFL licensing program manager, is responsible for managing the elibrary project. She says students and others at the two universities will be able to access more than 10,000 full-text, peer-reviewed journals and 130,000-plus academic ebooks. She says there will be access to "other valuable materials including the full text of newspapers from around the world, statistical datasets, dictionaries and reference works, and practical guidance on best practice in research methods."

The texts are in English, which, according to Lob, is the principal language of teaching and learning at universities in Myanmar. "The aim is to provide support for all subjects taught at the two universities." lb that end, discussions are being held with publishers to make additional resources available in what Lob says are "priority areas," such as law and international relations. Publishers participating in the project, she says, include Cambridge University Press, IOP (Institute of Physics) Publishing, Nature Publishing Group, and Oxford University Press.

Lob adds that EIFL will provide training throughout 2014 to users of the elibrary--including faculty members--to maximize the benefits it offers. "A key objective is to ensure that the use of e-resources is embedded in teaching and learning," she says.

During the coming months, EIFL will look at rolling out the elibrary project at other universities in Myanmar. A series of meetings with these institutions to discuss the project has been scheduled.

Oleksandr Shtokvych, senior program officer at OSF, says the project's goal is "to leapfrog the Myanmar university libraries into the 21st century." This will require, he says, "librarians and academics to become familiar with the latest developments in technology."

He adds that the elibrary project is integrated with other initiatives backed by OSF. These include faculty development seminars, curriculum revision, visiting professorships, and research and course development fellowships at the University of Mandalay and the University of Yangon. "We hope that this two-pronged approach will bear on the quality of university education ... as these two leading universities of Myanmar reopen to undergraduates after three decades of closure and stagnation," he says.

OSF was founded in 1979 by former hedge fund manager George Soros. As its name implies, it seeks to make societies around the world more open.

Digitizing Rare Treasures

A far older institution, the Vatican Apostolic Library is digitizing about 3,000 manuscripts and plans to make many more available in a digitization project that is due to run until 2018. There are--unsurprisingly--many unique and rare documents that will gradually be available for viewing online, including a manuscript featuring the poems of Virgil dating from the fifth century.

Japanese specialist NTT DATA will provide much of the digitization expertise for the project. Carlo Niederberger, who is handling press inquiries about the project for NTT DATA, says the initial batch of digitized manuscripts and documents should be available to the public in September, with regular uploads thereafter until the project is completed in 2018.

According to Niederberger, the works due to be digitized in the first stage of the project include The Urbinate Bible, made in 15th-century Florence, Italy; illustrations for Dante's The Divine Comedy by Sandro Botticelli; and a 17th-century oath signed by 42 Christians in Japan pledging to defend their missionaries to the death. …

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