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The Digital Divide or Digital Partnership; The technical librarian participation in democracy By William P. Tuchrello

Libraries and Democracy
National Seminars on Libraries and Their Roles in Democratic Societies

The Digital Divide or Digital Partnership; The technical librarian participation in democracy

William P. Tuchrello
Field Director - Attaché
Library of Congress - Southeast Asia Region
American Embassy – Jakarta

The 1998 Indonesian democratic reformation (Reformasi) offered an opportunity for libraries to be participant in bringing education back to the people. Library managers faced two challenges how to motivate their staff to change libraries from warehouses to knowledge centers and how to respond to the digital divide. The digital divide is also an equal challenge for American library management’s abilities to understand and interact. Resolving the digital divide is a challenge Dr. Ilham Habibie coined as the lack of ‘critical communication’ or the dilemma of accessing Southeast Asian information so that research libraries can democratize access to the underserved. As one of the world’s largest countries rich in knowledge and information Indonesia is one of the least well internationally documented societies. Indonesia is intellectually resourced rich but access is chaos rich. Libraries, whether ones of bricks and buildings or virtual ones, have the goal of managing information from being chaos. We are going through a greater revolution than what happened at the time of Guttenberg the moveable press.

There is a long history in the US of linking libraries to fostering democratic principles. Today ICT is bringing librarians back to basics; the librarian must be a trainer of how to access information. Interacting with the end user is as much a function of the cataloger as once was the role of the reference librarian. ICT is making buildings and collection size secondary and often outmoded. Libraries big or small face a common issue. The Library of Congress Jakarta once only the technical side of libraries must change too or become a dinosaur. One way is being getting librarians more active in the development of the Comprehensive Partnership between the world’s 2nd and 3rd largest democracies.

Synopsis of the American experience of library training

Melvil Dewey, founder of the modern American library profession noted “… the librarian is in the highest sense a teacher.”
In the 1880s academic librarians were already lecturing as the idea of course credit for library studies was a new idea. Professors such as Edwin Woodruff at Cornell conveyed the message that no word of a professor was final and that libraries offer a place where students could integrate ideas. By the late 1890s courses were being offered to teach students how to analyze books.

In the 1920s library instruction classes were still unscientific and lacking standards. By the early 1930s articles began to appear about research showing that students lacked skills in effectively using academic library resources. We went through a period were focus was on the technical skills not the client outreach.

In the 1960s the Knapp’ Monteith Library Project for example provided a teaching methodology of fostering library competence.

From the 1970s library use training comprised a rainbow from library tours to structured classroom training. Everything changed with the introduction of the World Wide Web and Internet which fostered the emergence of online distance education over face to face. Acquisitions and technical service librarians in bibliographically organizing information via online tools in real time began to interact with the user who could access libraries without physically entering. “E” books, JSTOR, articles and so on became available too anyone who could access the ‘net.’ However, a new phenomena evolved which Doran (1995) called the “Internot.” Mistakenly some believe that the Web is the equivalent of and the equal to a library” and technical librarians could no longer ignore their role to change an attitude among librarians that no amount of acquiring and processing information will keep librarians in the forefront of fostering democracy we must developed a system of blended librarianship integrating processing and access assistance into one product.
Universities such as UI are playing a vital role as a ‘training laboratories’ for future librarians by teaching and ideally applying the theory.

Library of Congress in Southeast Asia

The primary role is as one of America’s Revolutionary Founding Fathers President Thomas Jefferson proposed an institution to provide the Members and staff of the Congress with any information to make laws. From 1963 until the late 1990s LOC in Southeast Asia acquired, cataloged, preserved, and distributed research materials for Congressional and research institutions use in the U.S and internationally.

LOC- Jakarta is the regional center with additional offices in the embassies of Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Manila and Rangoon. During 4 decades hundreds of thousands of publications were acquired, processed and sent but there was almost no interaction with the primary intended end user the Congressmen and their staff.

The internet changed all of that so that by the beginning of the 21st century daily the staff provide information to various offices in the Library of Congress including the Congressional Research Service (CRS) and the, Law Library (LL) but as a side line not a major objective. In early 2006 the office received a reality check with a visit by Members and staff of the Congress. Simply the message was you do all this processing but we do not know you exist and you need to do a better job to be relevant. With the encouragement of a few Congressional staff that focus on foreign affairs in this region and CRS similar to your DPR P3DI staff our practical mission took on new objectives. We still acquire annually almost 180,000 publications for LOC and more than 30 libraries but we must expand how we communicate directly with the end user as “job one.”

1.) There are about 3,000 US institutions of higher education but only a few hundred American graduate students, professors and government researchers we technical service operations have to reach out directly to this target community.

Another client is the several hundreds of Southeast Asia students and faculty studying in the U.S. Their research often ends up electronically or in paper published in English so that our staff and Members of Congress benefit from the perspective of Southeast Asians not just through American eyes. Today maybe ¼ of the Ministers of Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines and Malaysia have studied in the US, Canada, Singapore and Australia often using our collection such as Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary General of ASEAN.

Our Chinese unit works with Ohio University in identifying new electronic and printed works on the overseas Chinese community. We need to get researchers of East Asia aware and to use Chinese publications from ASEAN countries as this region has the largest Chinese population outside of PRC & ROC. With the increased importance of China this unique materials gives us some insights on how China relates to democratic countries.

Indonesia is the 3rd largest democratic country. The U.S. is increasingly looking to Indonesia as a democratic partner yet Indonesian is perhaps the least known of the 5 largest counties in the world. It faces an acquisitions environment that continues to be a disorganized as the majority of the publications are outside of the established commercial sector, especially serials and digital products. In 1998 there were about 200 newspaper and commercial serials, now over 1,000 and no institution collect comprehensively and how do we address accessing digital data, how do we share the challenge?
In the area of ICT documentation Indonesia ranks 83rd of 134 countries surveyed in the rankings of the World Economic Forum’s The Global Information Technology Report 2008-2009 that places a particular focus on the high levels of good educational relationship and interrelationships of technological readiness and innovation as essential engines of growth. Yet of the hundreds of journals the DirGEn of Higher Education considers only 116 as accredited scientific journals, few of the journals nationally are internationally refereed, meet international standards and or are available consistently online. Many larger libraries (PNL) and (PDII) do scan documentation but with limited attention to ISO standards, bibliographic control and often limit access beyond their own immediate academic or research community. There are also long term concerns about planning for storage of digital data that could lead to massive data loss perhaps worse than if Indonesia continues to create printed documents. This hampers democratic scholarship sharing of ideas between Indonesian and foreign researchers including participating in joint research.

Few librarians and information staff are trained to provide reference assistance and have little knowledge of e-journal search strategies. There are almost 3,000 institutes of higher education almost all having journals most which are only available by direct contact and there is no JSTOR counter part. Indonesia and adjacent countries are a world’s wealth in flora and fauna. Documentation on how to conserve, protect and economically husband these natural resources will help the U.S. At the same time lack of a systematic way to exchange documentation on a region which is destroying its seas and forests, Indonesia for example is the 3rd largest emitter of CO2 which will result in harm to the U.S democracy. There are thousands of CDs, PDFs and paper publications produced by academic and research institutions and we as librarians need to insure that managing the information resources is part of our growing comprehensive partnership.

In 2008 the world was fixated on the election of Anak Menteng. But three important elections are taking place that needs librarians to pay more attention to, how they worked and what they mean; The Iranian election and the Indian elections were well covered by the media but the third and longest almost a ½ year rarely gets world in-depth media billing. Who leads democratic Indonesia will impact not only Indonesia but also the US. To insure our Congress and scholars have detailed direct access to this democratic process the LOC Jakarta working with LOC Washington is capturing, most likely for the first for LOC ever a foreign election web sites , party documents, and TV advertisements. The end product will reflect from the eyes and views of Indonesia how you perceive democracy.
Because of the internet technology the office now provides real time assistance to CRS and Congress. With Congressional Washington staff in a partnership we provide technical support to the training parliament librarians of the Timor and the Indonesian parliaments.

Our Bangkok and Rangoon offices that once were acquisitions support offices jointly are almost self-sufficient operations responsible for the collection of materials, both in paper and electronic resources from Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, Vietnam and Burma. Because of ICT communication and accounting technology materials are cataloged and shipped to LOC-Washington and directly to participant institutions instead of sending all via LOC Jakarta or LOC New Delhi. What once took 6 months to get to the end user takes less than ten days? ICT permits creating a level playing field so now we can provide in real time scanned documents in a few seconds and paper text in a few days different views from the Govt. of Burma to the opposition so the end user can decide on issues such as the problem of Diaspora Burmese trafficking of persons of keen interest to the US Senate.
Our Kuala Lumpur office is doing similar work providing quick information on FTA economic agreement in process from the Malaysian standpoint as well as first hand news from both the govt’s UMNO and the opposition parties concerning one of the most hotly contested political differences since the founding of Malaysia; democracy at work..

Manila Office changing its role beyond acquiring from 3 major islands of the Philippines to serving the information needs of the U.S. Congress and the Asian-American communities and scholars from major universities. It is in the planning stages of changing from managing the paper based official US-Philippine exchange of documents to an "e" exchange and also the same with the depository set of the Asian Development Bank. The office is taking the lead role in developing PDF acquisitions for the region, PDFs are a wealth of documentation but are posing huge challenges, how to retrieve them in some orderly fashion for the wider research community to use them is an awesome task and we can not do this alone.

What can be done? By libraries activity joining in developing Indonesian and American comprehensive partnership can provide valuable access of information opportunities. A “Blended Partnership" cooperation between traditional and online learning would augment the comprehensive partnership such as Indonesia becoming an active participant in the World Digital Library.

1) June 17, 2009


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