David Rose, librarian at UNFPA, reported on his current project -- the
creation of a full-text database of UNFPA's project and technical
publications on CD-ROM. As libraries are increasingly pressured to
de-emphasize printed materials in favor of electronic documents, the
CD-ROM project will be moving a step toward that end. In addition to
preserving institutional memory, the CD-ROM will allow user-friendly
electronic access to the many UNFPA project publications, even the most
obscure ones such as the UNFPA-funded post-genocidal demographic survey in
Rwanda. It will also serve to promulgate and thereby generate investments
in UNFPA's projects.
There is a great need for both preservation and promotion of UNFPA
project outputs and better access to them. Over two thousand programs
worldwide have been funded by UNFPA, yet much of the project and
evaluation information is fading into obscurity because it is not widely
disseminated. It has been difficult to answer questions about which
reports are on what project, what the projects were about, and so
on. It has also been difficult to get printed copies of reports. The
CD-ROM project, created for "enduring historical significance"
and for a world audience, will provide the full reports in PDF format.
The CD-ROM will be easily replicated and widely disseminated, thus
enhancing UNFPA's programming and evaluation activities.
The prototype of this Project and Technical Publications (PTP) CD-ROM
offers easy to use point-and-click navigation. It is designed for a broad
user spectrum -- the assumption being that the user population would not
be accustomed to working with electronic information and document systems,
and that the concepts of searching, retrieving, and viewing results would
be unfamiliar to them. In other words, the design makes it very easy to
use. Unlike classic CD-ROM databases that can be difficult to learn
and do not necessarily produce results, the PTP CD-ROM is easy to use and
doesn’t permit zero hits. Installation will be simple, and because of
its construction with the freely distributed Adobe Acrobat Reader,
licensing fees will not be an issue.
There are some limitations to this CD-ROM that are unavoidable. Where a
CD-ROM database that has imbedded, multiple indexing offers more powerful
searching and retrieval, such as POPLINE on disk, a point-and-click Adobe
Acrobat design allows retrieval from only one level at a time. The
document collection cannot be too large either. It has also been hard to
implement the disk construction within Adobe where there are many
individual links that have to be built in. The complex structure
must be built with great care. At this testing stage, David Rose is
looking for feedback and input to see how useful the project will become,
and therefore cannot predict where it is going. But it certainly is an
idea whose time has come!