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APLIC-I Conference 2000
Knowledge in the Digital Age: Preservation, Dissemination and Training

A Specialized Argentine Public Library: CENEP

By Silvia Texidor

Institutional Framework

The Centro de Estudios de Población - CENEP is a non-profit institution founded in 1974 which gathers specialists in various fields of the social sciences and related disciplines. Their activities include research, technical assistance, information and communication, training of human resources and dissemination on population issues and its interrelations with sustainable human development.

CENEP is an academic environment which fosters the work of its permanent research staff (senior and junior), visiting researchers, fellowship holders, technicians and support personnel in order to produce, accumulate and transfer knowledge to society. Research, the main activity of the Center, is not only aimed at broadening the limits of scientific knowledge - both basic and applied - but also at offering reliable grounds for the design, implementation and evaluation of population-oriented social policies and action programs. The research is predominantly interdisciplinary and frequently approaches projects in collaboration with international organizations and/or with private or governmental institutions from Argentina or abroad.

The Library

The Library was created in the same year the Centro de Estudios de Población-CENEP was founded and, at first, it only served the researchers and assistants of the Center. It gradually extended its services -with a highly collaborative, community-oriented spirit- to a large number of users from both official and private institutions. The Library has incorporated and maintains a very important, updated collection of outstanding quality, originally focused on the Social Sciences and increasingly covering other related subjects. It contains bibliographic material on several socio-demographic topics: fertility, mortality and migration. It also covers adjoining fields such as education and work, reproductive health, employment, social policies, poverty, childhood, third age, environment, etc.

The management of the Library is based on modern concepts for the dissemination of information. It insures the constant development of the collection, responding to the needs and interests of the new research lines, and creates the necessary conditions for the integration with other libraries. It furnishes the users with precise, adequate and accessible information, and fosters the demands and use of the documents. The Library increases the bibliographic material through a diversified strategy of purchase, acceptance of donations and, specially, exchange of publications with over two hundred institutions worldwide. Additionally, it has access to external data and disseminates own information through national and international networks.


The main objectives are: in the medium term, to progress in the retrospective incorporation of databases material - partially automatizing the 35% of the bibliographic material not yet incorporated. In the long term, increase the quantity of hours open to the public and complete automatization. The possibility of offering photocopies service and of renewing the computer equipment is also being pondered.

Books and Booklets

The Library possesses approximately 13.000 pieces of books, booklets, research reports, reference materials and unpublished materials.

It is a member of the CORE Depositary Library Program and receives copy of the CIID/IDRC publications.

The bibliographic material incorporates from 90 to 110 monthly pieces, the higher percentage being the result of inter-library exchange.


It has about 400 titles of periodic publications: academic publications, information bulletins, journals on specific subjects, annuals, etc.

Statistical publications

It possesses all the Argentine National Censuses as well as some of the Argentine provinces and municipalities, foreign and special. Among other statistical publications, it has the complete collection of the United Nations Demographic Yearbook. It also has the "Anuarios Estadísticos Provinciales", the "Anuario Estadístico de América Latina (CEPAL), the "Anuario Estadístico de Educación’’(UNESCO) and other "Anuarios Estadísticos" such as Brazil, Paraguay, Cuba, etc.

Type of Users

The Library receives a variety of users from researchers and teachers to students, journalists, businessmen and general public from approximately 160 institutions such as private universities, national universities, foreign universities, secondary and tertiary schools both public and private, official institutions, hospitals, international organizations, media and NGOs. (please see list attached).

During 1999 about 70 monthly enquiries were received - each enquiry with about an average of six pieces per user - resulting in a movement of about 5.000 pieces of bibliographic material per year.


Services include:

  • Consultation of books in the reading room
  • Delivery of requested material (fee charged)
  • Telephone and email consultation
  • Specialized reference
  • Inter-library loans
  • Reference to other libraries
  • Bibliographic search (fee charged)

The Library has free Internet access through CLACSO (Latin American Council of Social Sciences) only for the Library staff (not accessible for users) because the cost of telephone communication is not cheap.

In Argentina the average Internet access price is around u$s 40, taxes included. Telephone service is also highly expensive; it amounts to approximately u$s 80 monthly per family. The restrictions due to both these high costs and the transmission slowness are related to government regulations.

Inter-library Cooperation

The Library is a member of the following networks of national and international cooperation: UNIRED, IPALCA, APLIC, etc. and, through the RED DE EDUCACION Y TRABAJO it had agreements with CINTERFOR and REDUC.

Infrastructure and Equipment

The Library occupies 70 square meters including: reading room, technical processing and modern depots with mobile shelves.

Hardware and Software

The Library possesses two personal computers with CD-ROM and Windows 98 for technical processing and a terminal in the reading room. It utilizes the WINISIS version 1.3 and the CEPAL bibliographic system for the following bases: POBLAR, SIDEMA, EYT, AMBI, REVIS, LOGICAT 4.10 with the MARC format for the CENE base, and ACCESS for inter-library exchange, users, purchases and requests, etc.

Technical Processing

The technical processing programs utilized follow the international recommendations of the PGI - Programa General de Información de la Unesco y la IFLA - International Federation Library Association. The automatization of the material reaches all the pieces related to Argentina as well as all those related to the rest of the world received after 1990. At the same time the retrospective incorporation of the bibliographic material gradually advanced having reached 70%.

The bibliographic description as well as the headings of both personal and international authors are done in line with the Reglas de Catalogación Angloamericanas AACR2 revision 1988,1997.

Key words are obtained from the thesauri POPIN (3rd. ed. 1993) and the databases SIDEMA, POBLAR and CENE. The ILO Thesaurus (1991 ed.) is utilized for the EYT database and the OCDE Macrothesauro (5th. ed. 1998) for AMBI and REVIS.

Preservation, conservation restoration and dissemination of information in the CENEP Library

In Argentina, historically, it doesn't exist a preservation-conservation culture neither in libraries and archives nor in scientific-educational and cultural environments.

Argentina has a lack of cultural and information policies; the few restoration and conservation efforts are isolated and, in most cases, are individual attempts or small groups initiatives.

Policies tending to foster preventive -rather than restoration- measures should be implemented given that preventing deterioration is the most effective way to preserve documents and, at the same time, cheaper than restoration.

Restoration works require a lot of time and they should be trusted to competent specialists which makes it a very expensive activity.

Our library

The CENEP premises are located in a seventh floor -it occupies three adjoining apartments- built for family housing purposes but adapted for office operations. The library depot is located in a sector originally used as bathrooms, kitchens and corridors.

Soon after a fire broke in the Center in mid-1994 in which, fortunately, no loss of bibliographical material was suffered, it was decided to move the depots and to put into practice some security measures that had previously been omitted by lack of funding.

Thanks to the financial support of IDRC and The Ford Foundation different measures were adopted regarding the depot infrastructure and, later on, the bibliographic materials themselves.

Those related to infrastructure took into account the appropriate temperature (from 16 to 20 degrees), and the appropriate percentage of humidity (around 55%). Illumination and ventilation were also improved in the following way:

  • Permanent closing of all blinds to avoid sunlight
  • The upper glasses of all the windows were replaced by metal fabric so as to allow ventilation and to avoid rodents and insects.
  • The original ceiling was isolated with metal cover to avoid possible leakage given that in the upper floors bathrooms and kitchens are located in the same area.
  • The illumination system was renewed and fluorescent lights were placed with special switches that don't produce sparks. An external light was also installed in order to check that the depot is never closed with the lights on.
  • Finally the existent metallic bookcases were adapted to the new space available and many of them were transformed into sliding shelves.

Regarding the bibliographic material, a team was hired -advised by a restoration specialist- who, during three months, were in charge of cleaning and re-location. The tasks carried out were:

  • Each piece was cleaned with a dry cloth and brushed with special brushes.
  • The smoke stains were minimized by treating them with erasing elements - although some traces were impossible to eliminate.
  • The erasing remains and other waste substances were vacuum cleaned.
  • Finally, the treated pieces were placed in plastic boxes in a temporary location and then taken to the new rebuilt depot.

Printed support

Our priority is the preservation of the contents given that CENEP Library is not a "treasure library" with the exception of some special collections such as the Censuses of Argentina 1869, 1895 and 1914 and of the City of Buenos Aires 1881, 1887, 1910 and 1936. We do not possess many pieces which value forces us to keep the original support.

When the material has deteriorated we replace the original for a good photocopy since photocopy paper is alkaline and acid-free.

It is well-known that binding is a good resource for conservation purposes and in view that the Library has a high quantity of "grey literature", we permanently proceed to bind such material with plastic covers -avoiding hard covers and, thus, extra weight, given that we are located in a seventh floor.

Electronic support

Transfer of damaged documents to new supports is a good conservation measure. However, contrary to what is currently believed, electronic supports are not a permanent protection device and, moreover, compatibility of the support with newer reading equipment is not guaranteed. In our library we are gradually transferring the files to more modern supports.

In this way we avoid the natural attrition of all computer support and, also, assure the availability of the contents by continuously adapting to new, more advanced technologies.


  1. CENEP. 1997. Información y comunicación. IN: Reseña de actividades CENEP 1993-1995. pp, 45-47.
  2. Chen, C. 1997. Las tecnologías multimedia. IN: Informe mundial sobre la información 1997/1998. pp. 217-238.
  3. Kobel, Anne. 1999. www.ar ? : World Wide Web Argentina. IN: Contribuciones, nº 2 (1999)
  4. Texidor, Silvia. 1997. Políticas de información y manejo de la colección EYT. 3ª. Reunión del Comité Técnico de la Red Latinoamericana de Educación y Trabajo 25-27 de junio de 1997.
  5. Texidor, Silvia. 1995. Unidad de información. IN: GREBYD/Noticias, vol.6, nº 9 (sept. 1995). pp. 2-4.
  6. Weber, Hartmuth. 1997. Técnicas de preservación de archivos y de libros. IN: Informe mundial sobre la información 1997/1998. pp. 358-370.

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Last updated 04/25/01