In the first week of October 2005, information and library managers from 13 of 15 international agricultural research centres forming the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research met up for their annual consortium meeting. Top of the agenda: plans for the joint virtual library and progress to date; discussions on joint journal subscriptions and inter-centre document sharing; updates on open access archiving, institutional repositories and emerging information dissemination strategies; discussions with AGNIC, FAO and IAALD on potential partnerships; and general sharing of news, experiences and interesting information management initiatives across the CGIAR.
After 2 years planning and testing, the new CGIAR virtual library services will be launched at the CGIAR annual meetings in December 2005. The new service will allow researchers from the CGIAR and the wider agricultural research community to quickly search for information resources across all the centres - in one easy mouse click - pulling in results from more than 30 bibliographic and full text databases. As well as giving access to the full text publication repositories of the 15 centers and the CGIAR Secretariat, searchers will be pointed to other information resources held by a number of CGIAR partners and major information providers serving agriculture. A customized 'application profile' will allow for precision searching across the different databases (and data types) as well as for easy exchange with other information systems such as AGRIS. Consortium members also reviewed their subscriptions and document delivery guidelines, noting the massive savings to the system as a whole that resulted from their combined buying and negotiating power as well as from efficient inter-library assistance in obtaining hard to get documents. Together, these efforts add up to a 'next generation' CGIAR-wide library platform able to provide a range of joint services that build on the capacities distributed across the network.
The presentations and discussions also exposed much information experimentation and activity in the individual centres - blogs, RSS feeds, targeted strategic dissemination, intense collaboration in training and resource sharing with national and regional networks and partners, document repositories, image libraries, support for knowledge networking and e-discussions, and explorations of inter-centre collaborations in designing and delivering additional types of information services. Despite these individual and joint efforts, there is some concern that the collective visibility of these activities is often poor. Individual libraries are struggling to balance old and new demands (collecting and organising information versus connecting and networking knowledge) and to address pressures to reduce staffing levels. At the same time, they are also seeking to manage change, evolving and adapting to take advantage of emerging scientific communication thinking and tools. Story by Peter Ballantyne.
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