10 October 2006

USAIN participants discuss planned National Digital Library of Agriculture

Ithaca, 10 October. USAIN members today discussed ideas and proposals for a US National Digital Library of Agriculture (NDLA).

AgNIC Chair Barb Hutchinson opened by tracing the evolution of the idea back to the report of the 'blue ribbon' panel review of the US National Agricultural Library (NAL) in 2001 that called for a much more dynamic national agricultural information system. To follow up these ideas and move the agenda forward, AgNIC established a Leadership Council for Agricultural Information and Outreach - it last met in January 2006 to discuss to discuss a roadmap to move forward.

At the same time, in mid 2005, USAIN set up a task force to write a white paper setting out a 'next generation' agricultural information infrastructure for the United States. According to Hutchinson, this is a "justification for change" and not an actual plan. It is designed to feed into and complement the NDLA 'call to action' developed through AgNIC. According to Susan McCarthy of the US NAL, many elements of the proposed NDLA already exist or are in development - a "blueprint" is needed that can leverage system-wide benefits and deliver a coordinated system.

Looking for this blueprint, agricultural librarians and information specialists in Ithaca for the USAIN meetings brainstormed around the draft goals of the NDLA, being:
  • partnerships - that are inclusive, global, and multi-sectoral
  • preservation - of 'heritage' information resources and assets, in perpetuity
  • accessibility - of information resources, user-focused, inclusive, multi-type and multi-actor, end-user or mediated, and differentiated according to uses and users
  • education and workforce development
  • technology - that facilitates and enable the other goals, providing interoperability and using open standards
  • funding - sustainable, partnership-based, drawing on a 'wow factor'
Deciding concrete next steps and actions was difficult when so many stakeholders were represented - and when so many more potential stakeholders could be listed. By the end of a long day, it seems like AgNIC, NAL and USAIN are tasked to mobilize a group of champions to elaborate a clear and compelling vision for a US based NDLA, together with an inclusive planning process that brings in additional allies, enablers, and funders.

Participants eagerly await the next phase in the evolution of the NDLA as a tool that will both transform agricultural information discovery and delivery in the US and become a critical component of a global agricultural information system.

Story compiled by Peter Ballantyne



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