Local Libraries and Archives Project


American Institute of Yemeni Studies
P.O. Box 311
Ardmore PA 19003-0311
Phone: (610) 896-5412

Principal Investigator:
Dr. Maria deJ. Ellis

Technical consultant:
Dr. David Magier

Project coordinator:
Ms. Diane M. Ryan

Dollar Allocation Year 1: $189,000

Project Overview:

This project was developed on behalf of member centers of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC) and proposed to TICFIA for funding by the American Institute for Yemeni Studies (AIYS), acting as lead institution on behalf of itself, the other participating centers, and CAORC. The Project Director is Dr. Maria deJ. Ellis, the AIYS Executive Director; the technical advisor is Dr. David Magier; CAORC staff members provide project coordination and facilitative services.

A significant category of unmet critical need for successful international research is access to local library and archival resources in foreign countries. To face this global need directly, we will conduct full- fledged, on-the-ground surveys in world areas important to American scholars and students, using teams of knowledgeable scholars and librarians, following formalized protocols and standardized methodologies whose value have been proven elsewhere.

Obtaining access to foreign collections entails substantial work, and requires extensive knowledge of local cultural and political conditions, experience in working with local institutions and research resources, ready access to research clearance, and very broad networks and connections among academic institutions, libraries, museums, research institutes, education ministries, non-governmental organizations, and the local scholarly communities. In many countries of the world this kind of powerful local entrée is already available through American Overseas Research Centers (AORCs).

The primary mission of all AORCs and of their umbrella organization, the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC), is a long-term commitment to the maintenance, improvement, and expansion of overseas research collections in all formats and media, and the augmentation of their capabilities to serve area studies. To implement this mission and to respond to the needs of American students and scholars for research materials and information, a coalition of overseas research centers, led by the American Institute for Yemeni Studies (AIYS) and coordinated and supported by CAORC initiated the American Overseas Digital Library (AODL) in 1999. The first phase of this project, supported by a TICFIA grant completed in 2003, created and made available the centralized, web-based, on- line union catalog of bibliographic records for the 400,000 books, journals, newspapers, photo archives, maps, sound recordings, and dissertations held by the participating overseas centers' research libraries, as well as pilot projects of other AODL components. Other grants have supported additional work on that aspect of AODL.

The aim of the scholars who designed AODL was always to reach beyond the collections of the overseas research centers themselves and to make diverse local materials from the host countries available for international use through collaboration with local agencies. In our successful 1999 proposal to the TICFIA program, we stated: "The project will create an infrastructure which can both attract new collaborative partners with unique content to provide for mainstream international access, and also serve as a model for other interregional efforts at digital library development." This prediction proved true, since as AODL developed a number of organizations located in countries hosting AORCs indicated an interest to be included in the project. But while participation by such organizations adds to the immediately-accessible database and has internationalized the project, it does not answer the problem of ensuring wider access to unknown and uncataloged local research resources.

Two actions have been taken to address this problem. In November 2004 AODL was renamed Digital Library for International Research (DLIR), to reflect the larger international interest and need. And AIYS, again acting for itself and with CAORC and other research centers, as well as with collaborating organizations in the various countries hosting those centers, proposed to TICFIA a 4-year project to improve access to the most important of the critical and endangered local archival and special collections through a systematic program of surveys of local libraries and archives, a scaled and prioritized approach to item- level cataloging of unique materials, selective preservation, and, where the scholarly need for the newly discovered resources is found to be greatest, selective digitization and dissemination via the infrastructure of the Digital Library for International Research (DLIR). We are very pleased that this project has been funded as of October 1, 2005 and look forward to implementing it.

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