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Wouldn’t it be great, if people who have questions, encounter problems and request services from the virtual library could chat with real people in real time around the clock? That’s the great benefit of working in a network of institutions that are spread around the globe: No matter what time of the day it is in your home location, it’s always working hours in at least one of the many CGIAR libraries around the world.

Now, while we have agreed that this would be a great idea in theory, we are working on the practicalities of it and a major question, especially in our developing country offices, is the reliability of internet access and whether or not library staff can use the common chat application such as skype and office communicator. However, the results of our first internal survey on this issue look encouraging and we are more than hopeful to be able to launch this tool for around-the-clock-service soon.

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Harvesting two A’s

In the past months the Virtual Library team has been exploring the options for harvesting of document repositories. The purpose of these efforts is to turn availability of publications into accessibility.

Institutes and system-wide programs have been maintaining publication lists or databases, provide links to documents that are available electronically, and they have often made efforts to make the repositories (“OAI-PMH”) harvestable. We felt that now is the time to be more proactive, and take action to make the publications more accessible by bringing this information to where the potential users are. The first step is to
bring the information from these different databases together, and then create value-added services.

As a first step we have experimented with methods of harvesting the different publication databases into a central one, and we have successfully used two different systems (PKP Harvester and DLESE). An
experimental preview of the PKP system is available at http://cgiar.perpustakaan.net/ (but be aware that this is a test environment where things may appear and disappear). We have also investigated methods to make the different repositories harvestable; some databases are using software that comes with native OAI-PMH harvestability (Dspace, NewGenLib), and we have looked at (and found two) methods to make use of the Inmagic databases that many institutes use. For two other database engines (SQL Server, Aigaion) we still have to find solutions.

As we said this is only a first step. To improve accessibility, we have to think about the value-added services that we can create (and which would be much more difficult to create for the individual publication
databases). We are thinking of methods to get the information in important search engines, for example by providing Google sitemap files, or by promoting harvesting by important scientific databases, like
Scirus / Scopus, CABI etc. We are also thinking of providing topical (RSS) news feeds, canned searches etc. The system may also be able to serve reporting needs within the CG system.  Some services will require
further data harmonization across the different source databases (e.g. a common scheme for document types. Unique author identification might be quite a challenge. The information managers are
working at a document to take stock of where we are now, and where we want to go.

The IRRI Library arranged for a month long free trial access to CAB electronic books. From July 28 up to August 30, 2008, all CGIAR Center staff can read from their desktop the full text of 140 e-books in all subject suites of CAB’s e-book collection.  The subject collections included are:

Animal and Veterinary Sciences

Human, Food and Nutrition Sciences

Plant Sciences

Leisure and Tourism

Environmental Sciences

The ebooks may be read via the CGVlibrary or directly at   www.cabi.org/cabebooks or thru CAB Abstracts, to which the centers have a joint subscription.

 

A Flash Video tutorial is available at www.cabi.org/cabebooks/demo

 

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has recently compiled a web-base bibliography of peer-reviewed applied economics literature to assess the impact of genetically engineered (GE) crops in developing economies. All 190 articles currently in this database have been organized under four major themes that address the different areas of impact: advantages to farmers, consumer preferences and willingness to pay, size and distribution of benefits, and international benefits of trade. The literature is searchable by author, year, and keywords. If permission has been granted by publishers, the references include abstracts or links to full text. Whenever available, permanent links to each article’s website is provided, as well as links to full text. As this literature is maintained on a regular basis and feed on outside contributions it will provide a valuable up-to -date tool for all researchers in the area, particularly for those in developing countries.

bEcon is updated every three months, and a CD-ROM is produced on an annual basis for those with limited or no internet access.

For more information on bEcon, visit http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/becon/becon.asp.

The CGIAR Virtual Library project recently was featured in a special issue of the International Association of Agricultural Information Specialists (IAALD) Quarterly Bulletin on “Sharing agricultural information in a virtual world.” Luz Marina Alvaré and the project team were asked to contribute a case study on the CGVlibrary, which they did in late 2007. Currently, the peer-reviewed publication is available in-print format only. Citation information is as follows:

Alvaré, L.M., P. Shelton, M.M. Ramos, C. Ferreyra, and N. Walczak. 2007. Enhancing access to global agricultural research information: the CGIAR Virtual Library Project. IAALD Quarterly Bulletin 52(3/4): 83-90.

Not only does the library of congress have a blog they also started a flickr partnerships to share “more than 3,000 photos from two of our most popular collections […] on our new Flickr page, to include only images for which no copyright restrictions are known to exist.”

If you want to read more about this you can read a blog post by David Weinberger or go directly to the original post.

Peter Suber reports that OECD improved access to their statistical databases:

“The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has overhauled its statistical service, making it easier to locate relevant statistics in the OECD’s databases.

OECD.Stat, now available in beta, enables users to search all 50 of the OECD’s statistical databases at the same time.”

The original announcement can be accessed here.