Science and technology information and digital library initiatives in Latin America.

Johann van Reenen

University of New Mexico, UNM Libraries, and the Ibero-American Science & Technology Education Consortium, Albuquerque, NM, USA


This chapter will focus on the work of the Ibero-American Science & Technology Education Consortium (ISTEC) and the Organization of American States (OAS) in developing digital library manpower and encouraging cooperative information delivery and sharing initiatives. It also provides brief descriptions of other projects and issues.

Overview of the Ibero-American Science & Technology Education Consortium (ISTEC)

ISTEC is a non-profit organization comprised of educational, research, and industrial institutions throughout the Americas and the Iberian Peninsula. The Consortium was established in September 1990, to foster scientific, engineering, and technology education, joint international research and development efforts among its members, and to provide a cost-effective vehicle for the application of technology.

The idea evolved out of a needs-analysis study conducted by the University of New Mexico Electrical and Computer Engineering Department in Latin America. This study revealed the following obstacles to science and technology information (S&T) sharing and information technology (IT) developments in the region:

This situation has been improving steadily but at the time it was clear that a unifying organization was needed to bring S&T workers together across borders; national, social and economic.

With start-up funding from the State of New Mexico and selected IT companies, the ISTEC board created four initiatives to address the above obstacles:

  1. The ACE Initiative champions continuing engineering and computer sciences education projects. The most important goals is to upgrade of human resources and curriculum development through on-site training, distance learning, and non-traditional exchange programs. The methodology involves on-site training, web-based education, video courses, satellite delivery, and "sandwich" graduate programs. The latter brings graduate students from Ibero-America together with experts from ISTEC member organizations to ensure excellence. Examples of outcomes so far include: 6 satellite courses to 250 institutions with ATEI, short courses for Motorola, and 196 scientists trained in DIP with OAS support. Over 30,000 ftp grabs of the web-based DIP course have been documented. "Sandwich" programs with Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Mexico.

  2. The Research and Development (R&D) Initiative focus on the development and enhancement of laboratory infrastructure at member organizations. The major goal is the design and installation of modular, flexible, and expandable laboratory facilities for education, training, and R&D with links with productive sector. Successful implementations include the deployment of Motorola microprocessors (680XX), microcontrollers (68HC11) and DSPs (56XXX, 96000) as well as equipment, software and expertise from companies such as Nortel Networks, Fluke, and VeriBest. To date 29 Motorola facilities are in place with planned expansion to 58. Approximately 20,000 users have been trained since 1991. There are 9 facilities with laboratory equipment from Nortel Networks, 2 with Fluke and 1 with VeriBest. The latter are planning to expand to 12 facilities.

  3. The Los Libertadores Initiative champions networks of excellence in the region.

    The main goal is to network Centers of Excellence equipped with the latest telecommunications and computer technology to provide real-time access to a world-wide system of expertise and knowledge. This requires partnerships among industries and governments to create an Ibero-American academic and R&D Internet backbone.

    Towards this goal technical assistance in telecommunications and S&T legislation has been provided to Ecuador and Bolivia. Participation in regional policy conferences such as the IADB's Informatics 2000 Conference is a part of ISTEC's strategy. They also assist national, regional and international organizations to develop IT&T strategies for Ibero-America, but in particular for Latin America.

  4. The Library Linkages Initiative (LibLINK) is ISTEC's information sharing and connectivity project. The next section will focus on this initiative and its efforts in developing digital library projects in Latin America.

Overview of the Library Linkages (LibLINK) project of ISTEC

The major goal of LibLINK is to design and implement innovative, international Science and Technology (S&T) information-sharing services. Thus the Internet and connectivity is of primary importance. Seed-funding for LibLINK was provided by Nortel Networks and it is currently supported by membership dues.

The annual compound growth rate of the Rapid Document Delivery (RDD) project has been hovering around 200% since 1995. Over 27 libraries in 19 countries are connected in real-time and documents are provided using the Ariel® software from the Research Libraries Group. The Centennial Science & Engineering Library (CSEL) at the University of New Mexico, USA, is the headquarters for this initiative and provide document delivery resources free from local collections. Expanded services are also provided at cost from the Canada Institute for Science and Technology Information (CISTI). The RDD project, although the most popular service, is a foundation for the more important digital library initiatives which were started in 1998. The projects within LibLINK can be categorized as follows:

Some of the LibLINK accomplishments include a training seminar for Latin American librarians from seven countries at the UNM Science & Engineering Library in 1998 and regular training sessions at the General Assembly (GA) meeting of ISTEC. At the GA of 1999 in Porto Allegre, Brazil, we trained librarians and distance educators in the role of libraries in S&T distance education.

The tremendous increase in the use of the LibLINK document delivery service and the increase in membership, are other indicators of success. In 1997 UNM/CSEL supplied 86.5% of the S&T articles requested internationally for LigDoc, an association of Brazilian S&T libraries mentioned above and modeled after LibLINK. During the same period the British Lending Library supplied only 13.5%, when only two years earlier, it was the largest external supplier. In 1998-99 UNM/CSEL supplied 4,660 documents electronically to LibLINK members. If standard document delivery charges were applied, the cost would have been US$ 116,500 to those libraries.

Case Study: The LibLINK initiative in Mexico.

The process of developing a strong ISTEC presence in Mexico will serve to illustrate the principles on which ISTEC and LibLINK base their outreach efforts.

Since its founding in 1990, ISTEC had hoped for active participation from Mexican S&T organizations. However, this was not so and the most active countries initially were in South America. In 1998 it was decided to launch a concerted effort to involve Mexican Universities with strong S&T departments. The following chronology track our efforts since then:

Central America:

At the Primer Seminario-Taller Subregional sobre Bibliotecas Digitales, sponsored by the OAS at the Universidad de Costa Rica, San Jose, Costa Rica, mentioned above, the aim was to include many of the initial steps that led to the successes in Mexico in a single meeting. Thus, each participating country was asked to identify universities with sufficient technological infrastructure to support a digital library project. Then each organization was funded to send a representative from each of their systems and library groups. The agenda focussed on providing one whole day of basic training by Ed Fox (author of Chapters 4 & 5) in digital library concepts followed by leadership training and a planning session. During this portion the groups identified a project that all could participate in. They chose the digitization of their organization's theses and dissertations and making it available through the Open Archives system using the process developed by Virginia Tech (see The most important outcomes, however, were the creation of a network of librarians and computer scientists that understand the issues and that now have contacts for joint projects in the region.

What next?

The model of creating synergism and connections between librarians and computer scientists and focussing their energies on basic digital library projects will be replicated in other parts of Latin America. In September 2000 a group of librarians from Colombia, Bolivia and Peru met in conjunction with the VII Journadas Iberoamericanan de Informatica in Cartagena de Indias (Colombia). They received a whole day workshop on digital theses and dissertations by Ana Pavani (author of Chapter 7) and were exposed to the broader aspects of information science in society and made important contacts for future joint initiatives. Funding were provided by ISTEC, UNESCO, the Agencia Espanola de Cooperacion International and CYTED (Programa Iberoamericano de Ciencia y Technologia para el Desarrollo), Subprograma VII: Electronica e Informatica Aplicadas. This type of joint funding takes a lot of time and effort to organize but is critical for creating opportunities in under-served countries.

The OAS and ISTEC are planning regional digital library workshops in other parts of Latin America and are assisting governments to draft suitable policies to improve access to information, especially in electronic format. Chapter 11 will explore the future role of the OAS in the development of digital libraries in greater detail.

Other Latin American Projects

The Latin American Network Information Center (LANIC) at the University of Texas at Austin is the most comprehensive resource for information on Latin America ( The project regularly attracts funding for more and more additions. The most recent is the Association of Research Libraries' Latin Americanist Research Resources Project which aims to expand the project beyond the original focus on Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico into the Andean countries, Central America, and the Caribbean and to augment the project's retrospective coverage. The cooperatively managed project was originally established with funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and matched by one-time contributions from each of over 40 participating libraries. It offers digital access to government publications and user-initiated document delivery requests for articles via a table-of-contents database. LAPTOC, the project that provides the table-of-contents database, contains (as of October 2000):

*597 periodical titles published in 15 Latin American countries.

*6,615 tables of contents.

*100,316 articles.

Eudora Loh (20001), Chair of the Project Advisory Committee, reports that this represents a growth of 54% in the number of tables of contents added to the database over the last two years. The Latin American partners, the Biblioteca Inca and CIRMA, are contributing 18% of all the titles in the database (77 Andean titles, 29 Central American), and they expect this number to grow in the coming years.

The Latin American and Caribbean Government Documents Project at Cornell University, organizes and describes the many Latin American and Caribbean official documents appearing on the Internet.

The project at consists of a series of tables that groups similar kinds of information, briefly summarizes their contents and provides links to the appropriate level of the source server. An important part of the service logs lost pages to a subsidiary table labeled "Inactive" located beneath each of the five document categories, thus a continuous "history" develops. Government sites are determined to be URLs dedicated solely to the display of information produced by an official state, department or agency. Such government sites may appear as ministries, secretaries, bureaus and under several Internet domains such as gov, org, edu and dot com. They all focus on information produced by Latin American government agencies. One of the most useful services is the Latin American Statistical Sources from various National Statistical Bureaus at

One of the most comprehensive sources for information of all kinds on Latin America is the Internet Resources for Latin America site at New Mexico State University compiled by Molly Molloy (19982) of the NMSU Library, see

The links in this guide provide access to many information resources for Latin American studies. Included are some of the best places to find unique and useful information, including academic, government and non-governmental organizations that provide information via the web. The site also points to Latin American directories, subscription databases, public domain databases, library catalogs, organizations, regional and national news, and list of Internet Lists & Newsgroups.

Virtual Museum services in Latin America

The Virtual Library of Museums web page (VLmp) provides access to electronic information about Latin American Museums at The VLmp is supported by the International Council of Museums (ICOM).

Although all these projects will be useful for science and technology information seekers none of them has S&T information as their single focus. This is where ISTEC hopes to focus its energies.

Bandwidth and Infrastructure issues

The first high-performance Internet link between North and South America for research and education was inaugurated in Santiago, Chile on September 12, 2000. Chili and the USA connected their respective high performance networks, REUNA and Internet2, enabling collaboration among researchers and educators at universities in the two countries. This includes access to Gemini South, a new advanced telescope now being built in Chile through an international collaboration. The Gemini project consists of twin telescopes in both hemispheres that together will provide unprecedented coverage of the Northern and Southern skies.

Such high-performance network links are critical to ensure the bandwidth required for future projects. ISTEC and the OAS are strongly committed to advance this cause.



Reuna, a collaboration between the National Universities of Chili, introduced the Internet in Chile in 1992. Reuna´s high-speed network, REUNA2, is an ATM network of 155 Mbps. across the country. The National University Network is a non-profit consortium of 19 leading Chilean universities plus the National Commission for Science and Technology. Its mission is the creation and development of networks and services in IT aimed at supporting participation in the Information Society. For more information see:


Internet2® is a consortium of leading US universities working in partnership with industry and government to accelerate the creation of tomorrow's Internet. Internet2 is recreating the partnership among academia, industry and government that fostered today/s Internet in its infancy. For more information, see:


The Transborder Library Forum/FORO Transfronterizo de Bibliotecas share many of the aims of ISTEC's Library Linkages initiative. Their meetings have been held annually since 1991, when a group of librarians from Arizona and Sonora gathered to work on ways to improve communications relating to border issues and to foster professional networking among librarians from Mexico and the United States. Since those beginnings, FORO attendance has grown to over 300 professionals and, recently, Canadians also interested in NAFTA and border issues, began to have a presence. At the 10th Transborder Library FORO held in Albuquerque, New Mexico in March 23-25, 2000, several representatives from Latin American libraries attended.

In order to facilitate communications and ensure that all attendees have the opportunity to participate in the sessions, simultaneous Spanish/English and English/Spanish interpretation has been provided over the years. The theme chosen for the 2000 meeting was "Beyond our borders: Interconnections". It reflects a broadly defined direction that emphasizes the importance of overcoming traditional barriers and work on collaborative programs and exchanges to benefit all citizens in an electronic environment that is quickly becoming "borderless" (see

FORO objectives include:

Primary National and Regional Information Resources and Repositories

Below are a list of repositories of primary sources for Latin America and the Caribbean from the University of Idaho website at All of these collections are fertile ground for digitization projects such as the projects described in Chapters 6 & 8.


Archivo General de la Nación

Biblioteca Nacional de la República Argentina

Biblioteca Nacional de Maestros

Cámara de Diputados de la Nación Argentina

Fundación Cinemateca Argentina

Universidad de Buenos Aires. Archivo Gráfico

Universidad de Buenos Aires. Archivo Oral

Universidad Torcuato Di Tella


Biblioteca Nacional de Bolivia y el Archivo Nacional de Bolivia

Fundación Cinemateca Boliviana


Arquivo Nacional do Brasil

Arquivo Público do Distrito Federal

Arquivo Público do Estado da Bahia

Arquivo Público do Estado do Rio de Janeiro

Arquivo Público do Estado do Rio Grande do Norte

Biblioteca Pública do Paraná

Centro de Documentação e Memória/UNESP

Centro de Pesquisa e Documentação de História Contemporânea do Brasil

Departamento Estadual de Arquivo Público do Paraná

Fundação Biblioteca Nacional. Divisão de Música e Arquivo Sonoro

Fundação Gregório de Mattos. Salvador

Museu da República

Museu Imperial

National Musem of History, Brazil

Universidade de Brasília

Universidade Estadual de Campinas. Arquivo Edgard Leuenroth

Universidade Estadual de Campinas. Arquivos Históricos

Universidade Estadual de Campinas. Biblioteca Central. Coleções Especiais

Universidade Estadual Paulista. Archivio del Movimento Operaio Brasiliano

Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora

Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina

Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul

Universidade Federal Fluminense


Archivo Nacional, Chile

Biblioteca Nacional de Chile

Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

Universidad de Chile. Archivo Central Andrés Bello

Universidad de Chile. Fotografía, Archivo y Medios Audiovisulaes

Universidad de Concepción


Archivo General de la Nación de Colombia

Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango

Universidad del Rosario

Universidad del Valle

Costa Rica

Archivo Nacional de Costa Rica

Dominican Republic

Archivo Historico de Santiago


Archivo Nacional del Ecuador


National Library of Jamaica

University of the West Indies


Archivo General, Mexico

Biblioteca de México

Biblioteca Nacional de Antropología e Historia

Colegio de México

Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia

Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez. Colecciones especiales

Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez. Fondo José y Emma Fuentes Mares

Universidad de las Américas, Puebla

Universidad Iberoamericana. Acervos Historicos

Universidad Iberoamericana. Colecciones Especiales

Universidad Iberoamericana. Libros Antiguos y Raros

Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Universidad Veracruzana


Biblioteca Nacional del Peru


Biblioteca Nacional de Venezuela. Archivo Audiovisual

Biblioteca Nacional de Venezuela. Libros Raros y Manuscritos

Universidad Central de Venezuela


Loh, E. I. Subject: LAPTOC Growth and Statistics Date: E-mail message. Wednesday, November 08, 2000, 9:54 AM -0800 From: "Eudora I. Loh" To: Multiple recipients of list

Molloy, M. (1998, January). Internet resources for Latin America, Version 4.0. [Online at]: