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e-LIBRARY

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2005-04-22 eLIBRARY.LT, a project to encourage development of the knowledge society

In the present-day world, information and knowledge have become the main factor in economic and societal development. The economy is transformed by the use of new knowledge in production activities, and by social institutions, which create a new reality. With the rapid changes of the economy, the society itself is changing. Today the goal of becoming a knowledge (information) society, the members of which can use national and foreign information resources, is talked about more and more often.
Information society and the knowledge economy are two closely interrelated ideals in the direction of which we are heading rapidly.
Information society and knowledge
Information society is an innovative and lifelong-learning society which comprises scientists, researchers, engineers, technicians and organizations that study, produce and provide services to high technologies. The main task of present-day organizations is to ensure a link between the data and information processed by information technologies and the creative and innovative skills of the organizations’ people. In the knowledge economy an important problem is the turning of innovations and knowledge into business solutions whereby innovations are understood not only as high technologies but in a wider sense.
Knowledge-based society forms a national innovation production system that is integrated with the international network in which knowledge is produced, distributed, used and protected. These are communication and information technologies, which provide an easy access to the people’s knowledge. Knowledge is used in order to make people closer to material and spiritual values and in order to create a strong society.
However, in order for the knowledge to raise the quality of life of the society, scientists, politicians, businesses and the society itself should be interrelated by balancing the results of knowledge. And first of all the gap between knowledge and the society has to be reduced.
The most recent scientific knowledge continuously penetrates all spheres of life. The spread of knowledge is as important as knowledge itself. Science has to discover, analyze and understand the complex processes of the environment and the society, and to find solutions to various problems. The evolution of scientific knowledge products initiates not only renovation of disciplines but also re-defines the university limits. In the new context the knowledge products go beyond academic boundaries. Direct cooperation between universities and businesses has grown into new models of interaction such as industrial circles at universities, or studies conducted by independent universities regarding cooperation with industrial companies.
Scientific development and the society’s needs will shatter the frames of theoretical and applied studies, between the academic and innovative sectors. New cooperation models between universities and businesses such as knowledge-producing networks are encouraging. The scientific community has to make others informed about scientific achievements and to support decision-makers.
Personal education, e-education and other forms of education co-exist side by side with traditional forms of education and acquisition of knowledge. Assessment of the quality and scientific value of these forms of education is the most important obligation and responsibility.
Education in the knowledge economy
The knowledge economy has to be supported by an educated and skilled community that can develop, use and share knowledge. Knowledge economy can exist only when its members continue to learn, when they adopt knowledge accumulated in other parts of the world, use such knowledge, develop new knowledge and share it with others.
One of the main tasks of our country is to achieve an educational level which would comply with that of other countries, such that our people can successfully act and live after political and economic factors have changed.
The major educational task of Lithuania is to help to form a modern Lithuanian nation and an open knowledge-based civil society. The democratic life of the nation has to be based on the appropriate skills, abilities, values and ideals of its members. And this directly depends on the educational system provided to citizens; on the compliance of this system with European educational trends, information society requirements and the quality of education. The modern school needs an interconnection of different education sources and new information technologies.
With the rapid development of information technologies, the increasing number of information sources and the diversity of information channels, new opportunities appear to spread new ideas more widely and to implement them. Therefore educational institutions must reorganize the entirety of educational activities in order to make their lives as close as possible to present-day reality and to form conditions close to the information society: the variety and diversity of information sources, and an intensive use of information technologies.
In the information society, instead of learning for the whole life we have learning during the whole life. It is the goal of modern society, which cares about the future and well being of its people.
It is taken into consideration by every state that plans and motivates goals and tasks in connection with the creation of information society, implementation of new technologies, efficient use of information resources, development of the country’s information structures and in any other activities.
The problem of information provision
At the beginning of what may be called the century of information technologies, efficient scientific research, learning and e-studies are impossible without provision of information. In order to reduce as much as possible the gap between society and the newest knowledge that encourages development, it is necessary to create conditions for appropriate provision of information. This creates more opportunities for specialists to be provided with scientific information – first of all with the most influential Lithuanian and foreign scientific journals and databases. This assists in maintaining a high level of creativity among Lithuanian scientists, in getting to know new, world scientific ideas and trends, and in developing mutually beneficial international scientific cooperation.
At present the level of provision of information to science and education systems in Lithuania is considerably lower than in the developed countries. Due to financial difficulties the selection of Lithuanian and foreign technical periodical publications even at the well-known libraries and information centers has decreased significantly. It is obvious that due to insufficient financing it will not be possible to change the situation in the near future by applying usual methods. In order to raise the level of provision of information to scientists and specialists, new non-traditional methods are required.
Modern technologies make it possible to put the information accumulated by people in electronic format and to create absolutely new types of information resources. Organizing access to these resources has become the main task of information and library services, and of culture and education generally. Today it is obvious that this task is best performed by creating new electronic libraries, which offer a qualitatively new level of production, storage, organization and distribution of information.
In order to solve the problem of provision of information in Lithuania VšĮ “Baltijos visuomeninis informacinių technologijų ir švietimo centras” started to cooperate with the Russian Fundamental Research Fund, the creators of eLibrary.ru, one of the largest electronic libraries in the world. Thanks to this partnership, several months ago a similar scientific library and Lithuanian information resources network began to be created in Lithuania.
The creation of the scientific electronic library makes the problem of providing Lithuanian scientific organizations with foreign periodical publications, the ordering of which has been stopped, somewhat less acute. eLibrary.lt has become a creative stimulus in the sphere of provision of information for scientific activities.
Scientific electronic library eLIBRARY.LT
The scientific electronic library eLibrary.ru (as well as eLibrary.lt) is a project the primary goal of which was ordering foreign journals needed by scientists. We believe that implementation of this program in our country will allow us to considerably improve the level of provision of information to Lithuanian specialists.
The project was developed and started implementation in 1996 in Russia. The project implementation group developed a specialized library server with large memory volume and the possibility to expand it. Access to the server and indexes of the ordered electronic journals and databases were organized, and access to the library resources for Russian scientists was ensured.
The advantages of such a solution are obvious: while each printed journal is ordered in only one copy and stored at one library, electronic journals can be accessed by all visitors of the library who are program participants as well as by most scientific organizations and universities.
In the rather short period of its existence this library has become one of the largest scientific electronic libraries in the world. eLibrary.ru’s (as well as eLibrary.lt’s) developmental potential, the constantly growing technical, technological and organizational opportunities and the set procedure for the library collections formation allows us to consider this successful project as the nucleus of future information provision to science and education.
In 2002-2004 in the library server appeared, together with foreign scientific journals published by Elsevier, Kluwer and Springer, journals published by publishing houses such as Blackwell, Institute of Physics, Emerald, Royal Society of Chemistry of Great Britain, Ebsco company, Russian Academy of Science social sciences scientific information institute, and others. The total number of accessible electronic journals exceeds 6,100 and over 650 publishing houses are represented. The library contains over 280,000 journal editions, and the total number of full-text articles exceeds 8 million.
Compared to the Top500 list known in the West which covers the 500 most influential and most cited journals, we can see that most of them are included in our list. The list does not contain journals which are popular in the West but which discuss very practical problems or, e.g. practical medicine issues.
Our task of providing Lithuanian scientists and academic community with the most important publications in the field of fundamental science is being implemented successfully.
The total library resources volume exceeds 950 gigabytes. And this is not just an information storehouse. Thanks to the unified search engine, any of the articles from any of the journals can be found in this ocean of information in just a few seconds, copied to the user’s computer or printed out. Furthermore, the article’s view, text layout and illustrations are exact copies of the articles contained in the journals.
Famous databases are accessible as well – the American Institute for Scientific Information; mathematics, medicine and biology databases; US and Canadian theses database ProQuest; and a database of short reports about completed and implemented scientific projects supported by FRTF.
The aim is to turn the supported electronic library into an all-Lithuania information scientific and educational resource on the way to innovative development. The obstacles on the way to this goal are related to the fact that at present the library eLibrary.lt has almost no Lithuanian electronic resources.
Therefore huge organizational and technical work is awaiting – placing in the site Lithuanian scientific periodicals and integrating them with the present scientific electronic resources.
Furthermore, it should be emphasized that this is the task of the state and of the whole society. If the state policy provides for the country’s transition to the innovative development road and for increasing the country’s competitiveness in the world economy, it is the state’s energy that has to be put into accumulating these information resources, on which the implementation of this policy is directly dependant.
Electronic scientific and technical information libraries are one of the most important resources of this kind.
Today work with information resources becomes one of the most important activities of VšĮ “Baltijos visuomeninis informacinių technologijų ir švietimo centras.” We are now talking not only about a separate electronic library, although it is as large as eLibrary.lt, but about the country’s scientific and technical information system that meets the requirements of the 21st century and that was developed thanks to the modern information communications technologies.
We are talking about changes in the state scientific and technical information system which in the years of reforms was damaged considerably, and which is now formed taking into consideration the new conditions. It is difficult to say whether the country will be able to implement it. However, society does not have any other solution when looking for this answer because scientific and technical information is not just a national asset but also the most important source of development and the basis for the knowledge of future generations.
It was proposed to create a unified national (non-commercial and non-governmental) institution, which would work with information resources. Such a trend in the organization of scientific and technical information is common in most developed countries of the world.
A modern scientific and technical information system can and has to become the basis for the formation of the knowledge economy.
Opportunities
The scientific electronic library is a part of the scientific research complex, it enriches scientific and educational spheres, and therefore it has a positive impact on both these and on the practical implementation of science.
The activities of the scientific electronic library have been widely described in scientific and general publications, its achievements were discussed during international conferences and seminars, and it was greatly supported by the scientific community.
The usefulness of eLibrary.lt was especially emphasized in the e-studies system. This form of studies itself requires the resources accumulated in the library to be accessible from the work and study place or from home.
One of the nearest future tasks of the scientific electronic library is to include new resources, including Lithuanian scientific journals, in the library collections. It is obvious that this project cannot cover tens of thousands of scientific journals published all over the world. And no such goal is set. There were and will be certain journals which are not included in the electronic library but which are interesting to Lithuanian scientists. There are numerous interesting information resources in the world; furthermore, the quantity and quality of such resources increases continuously (unfortunately their price increases as well). The publishers and owners of these resources are surely interested in the expansion of orders for their journals, books, databases and other publications, and among others in orders from Lithuania. And there are many organizations that want to have permission to use these resources. These organizations include libraries, scientific organizations, universities and other higher education institutions, medical institutions and others. The most important issue is how to help both of these to find each other and satisfy their needs.
The scientific electronic library, which began its activities as a project supported by the Russian Fundamental Studies Funds, at present covers more and more countries around the world and becomes a strong electronic scientific information center in these countries. It has become a truly necessary project for the entire scientific community, and it emphasizes the advantages of modern information technologies. Already many scientists across the country have the opportunity to view most recent publications without leaving their work place, to search the whole scientific periodicals archives, and to copy and print the articles without delay. Today this does not sound unreal, but not long ago one had to spend entire days in the library and search for the required information in a mountain of journals. We should also mention that good scientific libraries are not available in all parts of our country, and that even the most widely known libraries offer a rather poor selection of foreign periodicals.
Throughout the whole history of humankind, libraries played the most important role in the process of collection, storage and spread of information and of the heritage of human thought. Future libraries will solve this problem in a more efficient manner because they will become electronic libraries. They will make it possible (as they are already doing) to remove the time and distance barriers characteristic of traditional libraries, whereby only some of the visitors can study the collected materials during the library working hours. The relationship between people and information becomes qualitatively new. Electronic libraries raise considerably the quality of scientific research, the level of education and of the teaching process itself, the level of medical research and medicine practices, the efficiency of work of legislative and executive bodies; and they make the development and implementation of new technologies faster. On the whole, electronic libraries improve the understanding of the world we live in. Such libraries are bound to become one of the most important innovations of our historical and cultural heritage and collective mind.
Furthermore, the development of well being of the society by creating knowledge has become a global trend. And creation of well being of the society in the conditions of the market economy is only possible if the society and businesses present their requirements to the state and are able to control its implementation. When creating the knowledge society it is necessary to encourage closer cooperation between businesses, state and scientific structures, to strengthen civil society and to develop the educational system.
Electronic libraries can and must become the most important resource in Lithuania’s revival through a dynamically developing, highly technological, educated, intellectual information society. The scientific electronic library is an important step in this direction.
The success of the scientific electronic library eLibrary.lt as a project of strategic importance for the whole of Lithuania will depend on the extent to which this program will be interesting for the country’s scientific and business community, and its authorities and funds supporting the creation of the knowledge society in Lithuania.
Algirdas Aušra
Director of Baltic Public Centre of Information Technologies and Education
2005 04 22 Ivpk.lt