Pacific Islands

Open Access in the Pacific Islands

Background

Open Access (OA) is a fairly new concept to libraries and educational institutions in the Pacific islands. Advocacy and promotion of OA research is in its beginning stages with librarians, local library associations, and the regional association of the Pacific Islands Association of Libraries, Archives, and Museums (PIALA).

Our understanding of OA is that articles and journals from these types of databases are of scholarly material and provide resources for research purposes at minimal or no cost to the researcher, which is a tremendous benefit to researchers in the islands and for libraries. Limited budgets are a common occurrence for libraries and educational institutions everywhere, even more so in the islands where technology plays a major role in information access and the environment is not very conducive for maintenance of equipment.

Rising costs for accessing scholarly articles and research prevented many libraries in the region from accessing these valuable resources. The only libraries that were able to provide access were the academic libraries, however their focus was on the student and faculty population they serve, limiting other types of users from being able to access these resources.

Awareness of OA journals and articles opened up a pathway for all types of users to be able to access these scholarly materials without limitation.

Process

Realizing the need for OA research for the local population and those abroad, especially in areas of interest that pertain to the Pacific, the PIALA in partnership with PREL collaborated on a project to provide training to 16 participants. The project was funded by the Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS) office, based in Washington D.C. and the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine through the Pacific Resources for Educational Learning (PREL) and was part of a series of intensive training workshops for Pacific librarians, called Leaders for Pacific Libraries (LPL).

Through a screening process, 16 participants were selected and flown in from the islands of American Samoa, Republic of Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands, the U.S. Territory of Guam, and from the FSM States of Chuuk, Pohnpei, Yap, and Kosrae. Training was conducted by a firm from New Zealand in collaboration with Jane Barnwell and Mathew Belhouse-King of PREL office, based in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The training took place for three weeks on the island of Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia at the College of Micronesia-FSM's (COM-FSM) Media Instructional Technology Center (MITC). Equipment, software, and hardware were all funded by IMLS, with each participant given a laptop, scanner, and software for training and eventual ownership. The participants were trained on the identification of materials that were not copyrighted and of interest to the Pacific region, scanning, OCRing (optical character recognition), revision of the materials, and uploading to the server for public access using the Greenstone Digital Library software.

After the three week training, participants were tasked to return to their island entities and promote the project through actively seeking for locally published materials for possible scanning and uploading.

Challenges

  • Sharing of locally published materials from island entities
  • Finding time to dedicate to the project became a challenge when participants returned to their families and work in their home islands
  • Technology and software challenges made it difficult for materials to be scanned, ocr –ed and sent to Technical Director for uploading onto server
  • Vast distances from each other delayed troubleshooting problems from being addressed by Technical Director and other experts
  • Communications are sometimes unanswered from participants thereby delaying newer titles from being added to the project's website
  • There was a need for timely acquisitions of storage devices for the large number of files that were being sent for uploading
  • No stable funding for uploading and updating collection and PDL site
  • Need of desktop computer with bigger space for building purpose and backup
  • Skills in Greenstone software is limited

Outcomes

  • The Pacific Digital Library was launched in 2009 and continues to be updated with newer titles.
  • Technical Director and participants continue to collaborate on the project with identification and selection of materials for addition to the project's site.
  • PDL is accessible worldwide with highest usage statistics coming from the United States region.

Since its inception, PDL has been accessed worldwide, spanning across several countries which include Japan, Brazil, Greece, Belgium, Russia, Australia, Philippines and New Zealand in addition to the United States and Micronesian regions. Lowest usage was in the first few months of its initial launch, specifically in December 2010, with 1,856 hits compared to its highest usage in October 2013 with a total of 16,129 hits.

Atarino A. Helieisar

Last update: 1 August 2014


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