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Population Librarianship--the Next Generation: 
Promoting Interregional Exchange & Interaction
Susan Pasquariella, DLS, Coordinator, Population Information Network (POPIN) UN
By Diane Rubino

Susan Pasquariella, through her spirited speech and the subsequent audience discussion, encouraged the APLIC-I community to reach beyond their immediate professional spheres to create a cohesive source of population information on the World Wide Web. Susan reminded us that the very essence of our organization is to create a forum for intellectual exchange. The Internet, she stressed, provides the means to realize APLICís primary institutional goal. The Web is an opportunity to surmount the limits of geographical distance and lack of financial and human resources that plague our collection and information dissemination efforts.

Approximately 300 population organizations have websites. By pooling already existing resources, we have the foundation of a virtual public library of population information. While the sites that exist are a rich and valuable collection, there is a lack of cohesion that is needed to create a truly useful and unified source. Our clients, actual and potential, have the most to lose in this scenario. In particular, users seeking developing nation materials are getting short shrift, because most posting of developing country information is done by developed country institutions and does not necessarily contain the data sought or have the appropriate focus.

Susan encouraged us to bolster interagency relationships to create a truly functional Internet-based population knowledge base. To adequately serve our constituency, this collection must contain developed and developing country materials on population, reproductive health, and family planning topics. It must also have reference works, data, working papers, journal articles, full-text documents, bibliographic databases, and other resourcesóall available without cost. Additionally, to be truly accessible, the database should be in several languages and in a CD-ROM format for those without Internet access.

But can we build bridges between our disparate groups? Susan believes this is possible and presented her own program, the United Nations Population Information Network (POPIN) as an organization that has been providing fertile environment in which these nexus can take place. One example of POPINís efforts is the 170 websites they sponsored during the past 2 1/2 years. These sites were designed for dissemination and are meant to enable developing countries to share information and data about their activities, local population/reproductive health programs and policies, statistics, publications, and other local information on related topics.

If the 300 population websites form the core of a virtual library, these 170 new additions enhance the developing country content of the cyberspace collection. POPIN also establishes a collaborative environment to promote developing country participation in the expansion of the Information Superhighway and encourage interregional exchange and interaction. As two examples of the latter, Susan pointed to POPINís interagency effort to create the Worldwide Directory of Population Institutions ( http://www.popin.org/~unpopdir/, containing addresses of thousands of institutions around the globe. Susan also referred to the multilingual Dictionary of Demographic and Reproductive Health Terminology created with Hopkins http://www.popin.org/~unpopterms/). Other organizations are updating the Spanish and French sections, but Susan called upon the APLIC-I community to modernize the English vocabulary.

The session closed with an impromptu forum to exchange ideas about preservation plans for electronic or digital information, whether Internet-based information is ephemeral, and if it is, is it worth saving? Susan also evoked such hot button issues as websites standardization and indexing. Finally, she called upon us to think about what can be done to facilitate the creation of the Internet-based population knowledge base as individuals and what we need to do collectively. To this end, Susan called upon APLIC-I to create a subcommittee as a forum to consider issues related to interregional information exchange.

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Last updated 04/25/01