LALORC project description
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 Project
Coordinator is Ms. Diane Ryan, the program coordinator for CAORC's Digital Library for
International Research; the technical advisor is Dr. David Magier, Director of Area Studies,
Columbia University Libraries; CAORC staff members provide project coordination and facilitative
services (for contact information for project staff see the project staff list).
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 a 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 were 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 was funded as of October 1, 2005. Please explore this
site through the links at left to the array of project components and our progress.
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The LALORC project is part of the on-line Digital Library for International Research
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