Gonzalo Luján Villarreal
Marisa R. De Giusti
The Universidad Nacional de La Plata (UNLP) Intellectual Creativity Diffusion Service (SeDiCI) was formed primarily to publicise knowledge acquired within the different academic areas of UNLP, with the goal of restoring to the community the efforts expended by this public university.
This main objective is comprised of other specific and similarly important goals, such as:
Additional objectives of the project include the following:
In order to carry out this kind of project, it was necessary first to make sure UNLP would be fully engaged with the project. The steps following this institutional commitment were as follows:
The SeDiCI project benefited from knowledge gained by an earlier effort by the Iberoamerican Science and Technology Education Consortium (ISTEC) and its Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD) project. The ISTEC project enabled UNLP to appreciate the importance of developing a project of similar nature. At the ISTEC meetings, institutions such as UNESCO (whose guidance is essential for any ETD project) and universities, particularly from Brazil, were present working on similar innovations.
2. Project Results Achieved
2.1 First stage
Once we made the decision to carry out an ETD project, we focused on investigating and choosing the technological platform to be used for the organization and diffusion of the information to be held by SeDiCI. Over a four-month period, we studied several ETD platforms, including, among others: CyberThèses (France and Chile), UNESP y UNICAMP (Brazil), Virginia Tech (USA), University of Montreal (Canada), and Universidad de Valencia (Spain).
Once that research was carried out, we did a detailed analysis about the kind of material to be processed. We then formulated the project proposal to be directed to UNLP authorities, and we formed a multidisciplinary team to run the project. This team was also in charge of defining the legal aspects that were approved by the UNLP Superior Council. The methodological frame for the project was the one specified in the UNESCO ETD Guide.
The team created a schedule for processing the material to be included in SeDiCI, deciding that first they would work on current digital format material and then they would work on the digitisation of retrospective materials (those in out-of-date digital formats and in paper format).
Tasks also completed at this stage included determining requirements for the software platform, purchase and evaluation of equipment, and evaluation of available open software applications for the creation of Digital Libraries of ETDs.
2.2. Enlargement of project objectives
Although initially SeDiCI was conceived solely as a project for processing dissertations and theses, almost immediately from collaborators in various academic areas within UNLP there arose the need to enlarge the project so as to include other kinds of contributions such as Bellas Artes: musical documents, paintings, etc.
The decision to enlarge the project to include these additional materials consequently created the need to acquire or adapt tools to handle multimedia contributions.
The project team decided to establish a workflow for authorised contributions. This workflow would need to be flexible enough to deal with the requirements of different academic areas without imposing a difficult implementation process for those areas. Therefore, it was determined that pre-cataloguing, verification and adaptation services would be provided by a SeDiCI Information Unit. This has allowed authors as well as the Information Units (which gather authors' documentation), post-graduate departments, etc., to be able to contribute to SeDiCI in line with the conditions established by various regulations and the law with regard to authors' rights. Nonetheless, the additional services provided to authors do not obstruct them from making direct contribution to SeDiCI.
The factors indicated as essential for software platform selection were those specified in the UNESCO ETD Guide, plus those needed to create a user-friendly platform for ordinary users and the ability for users to "open and go through" the information held in SeDiCI.
At the stage where requirements were set, the kind of work to be done by the librarian with regard to each contributed document was also established. The division of a document into its conceptual parts, each of which may have its own attributes as well as attributes "inherited" from the document as a whole, was chosen as the most appropriate methodology.
Since publications may have heterogeneous components (e.g., texts, sounds, software, Power Point presentations), it was important to take into account the need for a software platform that could process "complex" documents. We therefore included a "vigilance" area to provide for the execution of potential multimedia documents.
As previously mentioned, authorized contributions might come from different academic areas with different needs. To address this challenge, the SeDiCI project team established a workflow for documents, one that is flexible and that does not impose a difficult implementation process upon the various contributors. The workflow includes pre-cataloguing, verification and adaptation of the contributed documents (with special attention to descriptors used for them). This process allows authors, Information Units, or academic and post-graduate departments to contribute directly to SeDiCI.
Each and every contributor to SeDiCI must comply with legal regulations regarding authors' rights. Because of this, SeDiCI works with the UNLP Intellectual Property Department to ensure such compliance. The Intellectual Property Department and SeDiCI are in charge of the appropriate formalities so as to make it easier for those who contribute their works.
After a detailed analysis of different platforms worldwide, SeDiCI's project team decided to design its own software platform. It is called Celsius-DL, and it serves as the information source for the SeDiCI website (http://sedici.unlp.edu.ar).
2.3.1. Software platform and information architecture
Celsius-DL supports a free scheme and is configurable to handle many kinds of material, such as newspaper articles, degree essays and post-graduate theses, electronic books, and multimedia productions (which are complex documents; one of the recently incorporated productions consists of a book to teach music with sound performances included). Each kind of material has its own metadata set. Because metadata are highly structured data that describe information and describe the content, quality and other characteristics of data, they reflect the information diversity located at SeDiCI website.
From the SeDiCI Platform Administration component, it is possible to map the metadata scheme used for the contributed material to other widely used metadata schemes such as Dublin-Core or MARC21. In this way, through Celsius-DL SeDiCI is able to establish communications with similar websites all over the world.
The basic metadata types used by SeDiCI are Date, Free-Text, Person, Thesaurus and Hierarchies. For a document it is possible to add, for instance, the metadata "Presentation Date" as an instance of the metadata "Date". When entering the "Presentation Date", a calendar will appear to validate and guarantee the uniformity of the date entered.
The other metadata types such as Thesaurus, allow a contributor to establish new metadata based on controlled terms. SeDiCI's librarian team uses nine (9) offline thesauri but creates terms within a unique online multilingual thesaurus. This facilitates the metadata pre-loading, offering the ordinary user greater simplicity. Celsius-DL software also makes it possible to work with many different thesauri online.
Hierarchy metadata types have been used to incorporate the different grades for which the contributed material is most appropriate: doctorate, mastery, etc.
The Celsius-DL metadata architecture is completely configurable, allowing instances to be added or extracted. To the best of our knowledge, this functionality has not been available in other software developments created for similar purposes. A metadata scheme of this kind has made it possible to create multiple tools for the exploration of information whether by theme, publication type, author, academic unit, etc.
The current Celsius-DL architecture makes it possible to conduct a search over twenty-five (25) different fields, but it is also possible to add a larger number if needed. Every search option is visible through the "Virtual Trip" presented at the site.
2.4. Contents processing
As regards documents processing, SeDiCI administers the granularity of the digital documents. This advantage is of great importance, since it makes it possible to divide a document into its own conceptual or physical parts. For instance, given a certain thesis, it is possible to create a different part for each of its chapters.
It should be noted that SeDiCI allows access to the document as a whole, but it also offers users the choice of having access to each part individually. From the website user's point of view, this obviously provides many advantages, because the user is able to make a careful selection of the material he or she wants to obtain, which saves the user time. In case the user does not have a good Internet connection, this facility becomes an important ally. We planned for this feature during the design phase for SeDiCI.
The SeDiCI website makes it possible to know how often each document part has been downloaded. With this facility we were able to corroborate that making it possible for users to access each part of a document as needed has been useful for our users.
As regards the organisation of information in SeDiCI, each different part of a document inherits the metadata of the whole document, but, at the same time, it is possible to find specific metadata for each different part.
2.4.1. Additional facilities
SeDiCI works both as a final repository and as a virtual repository for documents. This means that if any Academic Unit possesses and administers certain digital contents, the Technical Processes unit at SeDiCI is able to receive a catalogue application of that material, to generate the proper references, and to give it a broader diffusion space and uniformity. These tasks add value to the contents by classifying the information, and it also changes the traditional concept of a link in the sense that it becomes clear to the user whether a document is located at SeDiCI or if the user's search has been redirected to an external repository.
2.5. Users' services
One of SeDiCI's main objectives has been to provide different users with as many services as possible. In this way, every person referred to within a contributed document is automatically registered as a new website user. This has allowed many foreign investigators to become interested in SeDiCI, and they have also offered new documents for publication.
One of the services offered to the user consists of the ability to create folders for the various documents selected from a particular search and the ability to administer the folders autonomously.
Users can subscribe to certain conducted searches, and they can choose to receive information via a Selected Dissemination Information scheme through which the user will receive the digital library news related to the areas he has selected as relevant; this dissemination can be scheduled, for example, every fortnight, once a month, etc.).
Another highly useful service has been the ability of each registered user to individually specify the contact e-mail through which he or she will receive SeDiCI's newsletters, and the user can choose whether to make this information public, so he or she can receive feedback from other users about a published digital document.
2.6. Participation in the Open Archives Initiative (OAI)
SeDiCI wants to give its users relevant contents related to multiple fields. To achieve this goal a "Service Provider" profile has been created based on the Open Archives Initiative (OAI) for more than 15 experimental repositories reaching the sum of 700,000 references that have been classified by each repository and group within it.
A SeDiCI user is able to explore these repositories, and once the user has entered one of them, he or she may carry out a specialised search according to the repository type. Special attention has been paid on specific interpretation of characters, and one of our current goals is to encourage users to bring their suggestions regarding destinations, groups and most relevant dates so as to periodically harvest specific repositories.
In addition, as an OAI "Data Provider" SeDiCI's own contents are available by means of an automatic "script" that translates according to the mapping realised by SeDiCI's Technical Processes unit to Dublin Core format (YAR (Yet Another Repository) is currently being implemented). It is also possible to use other descriptive schemes.
2.7. Special services, contribution scheme, and distributed catalogue
SeDiCI makes it possible to have certain institutional users as document contributors. To be able to contribute a document to SeDiCI, the user must first become a "Contributor". The person in charge of SeDiCI's Technical Processes unit evaluates each potential Contributor, consults the directors and verifies that the user has the proper data to enable him or her to enter documents. This interface has been designed keeping in mind that Contributors of electronic content may or may not be the contributed document's author.
The document-loading interface is a subgroup of SeDiCI's interface, and it has been designed so that it is possible to maintain a Specific Authorities directory such that the personal data of these authorities only needs to be entered one time.
Contributed documents are held in a temporary space until the person in charge of SeDiCI's Technical Processes unit has completed any needed technical revision. The Contributor must then obtain the written authorisation of the document author(s) before publishing the document in the SeDiCI digital library. (This authorisation is automatically generated from the site and indicates that the author has agreed to the document being published. It also acts as an author's sworn statement.)
Once the authorisation has been obtained and the document has been catalogued according to SeDiCI's norms, it is finally published, resulting in an automatic communication between the Contributor and the document authors. This pre-cataloguing process results in faster and more qualified publication of documents in SeDiCI.
2.8. Special services, Library Web services
A function recently added to SeDiCI is the ability for Contributors to access their documents from the search interfaces they commonly use. This is especially useful for libraries as it makes it possible to see from their OPACS which are local materials they have contributed to SeDiCI.
This functionality was initiated with the Biblioteca de Física de la UNLP (UNLP Physics Library). From this library's OPAC it is possible to see contributed post-graduate theses, and it possible to have access to the full texts of the theses from SeDiCI's website. This makes it possible for users to consult the theses according to specific parameters. (It is even possible to select which metadata are or are not to be used.)
This service to other websites has been achieved through technology referred to as "web services", and it provides a clear interface to the digital library for electronic access to contents. The interface is expressed according to the standard web services description language WSDL.
3. Benefits and Beneficiaries
SeDiCI's website, through Celsius-DL, currently provides a virtual environment that allows free access to UNLP works from different fields as well as to a large number of external document collections.
Although SeDiCI's website has only been operational for a little over a year, it already has 17 UNLP document series (periodic publications) representing 1266 full text articles. The site has also made available 8 electronic books, and currently is completing a new electronic book on teaching music that is comprised of multimedia documents including texts, images related to the texts (staves), and the musical representation of the proposed exercises. The site also makes available 526 full text theses , 8 dissertations, 61 artistic productions, 2 pictorial series, 1 research project and 189 documentary articles.
SeDiCI provides access to the information held at 18 open archives repositories (OAI), which means that site users may consult 700,000 information records, including: more than 100,000 full text theses, complete Library of Congress photographic collections, more than 20,000 articles on biology and medicine, manuscripts, paintings, music, etc. Through a "Virtual Trip" users may enter a particular repository, get a brief summary of its contents, meet other users with similar interests and ultimately gain access to the repository's content that is of interest to them.
The website is available for registered users as well as for visitors. Visitors can:
In addition to the functions available to visitors, registered users may also:
SeDiCI's website has been visited by more than 30,000 users who conducted 42,000 successful material searches and who obtained approximately 60,000 documents.
SeDiCI was introduced to the UNLP academic community as a Digital Theses platform at the Digital Theses First Workshop sponsored by UNESCO in the Oriental Republic of Uruguay, and it is the only website in Argentina that currently offers online theses for downloading.
The website and its platform have been presented at various national and international forums. Information about some of these presentations is available at the SeDiCI website, in the "Diffusion" section.
The SeDiCI service is producing a cultural change within different UNLP academic areas, and because of this, the number and different kinds of document contributions is increasing almost daily.
National Library and Documentation Congresses refer to SeDiCI as an advanced tool for e-publishing and information retrieval (IR).
SeDiCI's content is continuously indexed by meta-searchers, because users gain access to the site by searching indexed materials.
The SeDiCI project has had an impact on two important levels: 1) as a presentation platform where academic units can make known their outstanding Intellectual output, and 2) as a link connecting users to document authors. This fulfills the aims of the project, which are to diffuse intellectual works and to provide the opportunity for the creation of new works based on those whose authors have generously allowed their works to be published on the SeDiCI website.
5. Website Descriptive Chart
6. Final Reflections and Hopes of the SeDiCI Project Team
When we first presented the SeDiCI project proposal to UNLP authorities, we finished the presentation with a motto from the famous French May of 1968: "Be realistic, ask for the impossible". The members of SeDiCI's team are encouraged by the Utopian idea that it is possible to create a different reality that is fairer, more generous and open to all.In this sense, technologies like SeDiCI serve as social integrators and gain special prominence, because they are the basis for even more significant goals and achievements that serve humanity.
To Emiliano Marmonti, who worked in PrEBi and SeDiCI until 2006, and whose hard work has made Celsius and Celsius DL software possible. To Sabrina L. Cauhepé (firstname.lastname@example.org) for helping to translate the article into English.
To the rest of PrEBi staff. Without them, PrEBi and SeDiCi projects would be just a dream.
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Copyright © 2008 Gonzalo Luján Villarreal, Marisa R. De Giusti, Ariel Sobrado, Ariel Jorge Lira, and María Marta Vila