Situation of the Argentine University Libraries of Science and Technology : its possibilities of access to the information.

 

Gómez, Nancy Diana

Academic Under-Secretary of the Library

nancy@gbl.fcen.uba.ar

 

Colombo, María Floriana

Reference Sector Head

flor@gbl.fcen.uba.ar

 

Introduction

The purpose of this work is to introduce the present-day situation of the University Libraries of Science and Technology, dependent on the National Universities, in the Argentine Republic, emphasising on its possibilities of access to information and analysing them regionally.

The present work was carried out, in a first stage, examining the meagre bibliographic material available on Argentine University Libraries. In the specific area of Science and Technology, not material was obtained at all.

The starting point was the work about the Argentine University libraries published by Luis Herrera, who made a diagnosis about the situation of these libraries, proposing strategies for improving it performance.

In a second instance, we consulted the work of Ricardo Rodriguez Pereyra on the University Libraries of this end of century, which describes the information units across country, in private or public Universities.

It necessary to mention the valuable collaboration obtained from the Executive Direction of the FOMEC, that handled us actualised and unpublished documentation about this subject.

In order to make a methodological definition of the disciplines in the area of Science and Technology, we adopted the classification made by the Secretary of University Policies referring to the branches of knowledge Agricultural Sciences, Engineering, Land Surveying and Technology, Exact and Natural Sciences, Pharmacy, Biochemistry and Chemistry.

In a wider context, and setting basis for this work, we briefly describe the national policies on Science and Technology, as well as the Information Policies in this area.

We also point out the Programs or Projects originated in the Ministerio de Cultura y Educación (Ministry of Culture and Education) that directly affect in the analysed subject, like the Red de Interconexión Universitaria - RIU (University Interconnection Network) and the Fondo para el Mejoramiento de la Calidad Universitaria (Fund for the Improving of the University Excellence). Both Projects depend on the Programa de la Reforma de la Educación Superior - PRES (Program for the Reformation of Higher Education)

National University Environment

Since 19th. Century, public universities have achieved a fundamental role in the study, research and development of sciences.

So, with the University Reform of 1918, the Public University stopped being a feud for the elite groups and extended to all social levels, the contests for obtaining professorships were established and a major autonomy over the political power of the moment was gained.

In the University of Buenos Aires, very important research was made in the Schools of Exact Sciences, Engineering, biochemistry and Pharmacy. In this context the UBA produced three Nobel Prizes in Sciences, apart from excellent research that educated many disciples.

Between 1976 and 1983, the resources supplied by the Government for the area of scientific research in the universities notably decreased from 27,9% in 1976 to 6,8% in 1983..

From 1983, and with the starting of the democratic period, the resources supplied for this sector were low in relation with other countries of intermediate development.

By today, the budgetary situation is not different and the National Universities house the 80% of the research in Science and Technology made in the country, gathering a staff of about 20,000 researchers.

The University libraries of Science and Technology do not escape to the reality of the University to which they belong.

In other time these libraries were well-known for being efficient, well-provided and with skilled personnel, but today this have changed.

The situation was transformed as a consequence of the low budget for the Universities.

The prioritisation of expenses in favour of other areas leave the libraries unprotected, and this carries to a deep cut in the acquisition of bibliographic materials on different format and support, lack of training for the persons in charge and for the whole staff, lack of modern technologies, etc.

At any rate, there is not a clear political decision by the authorities of the universities to invest in the area of Information.

National policies in Science and Technology

The national organism responsible for these policies, the Secretaria de Ciencia y Técnica (Secretary of Science and Technology), that until 1996 depended on the Presidency, is now under the sphere of the Ministerio de Cultura y Educación (Ministry of Culture and Education).

With the collaboration of scientist and researchers of all the areas of knowledge made a document entitled "Basis for the discussion of a policy on science and technology."

This document aims to "generate a wide discussion, fruitful and serious, with the purpose of defining a policy on Science and Technology."

So, the science and technology system underwent a profound change, implemented by three decrees through which the Gabinete Interministerial (Inter-ministry Cabinet) and the Agencia de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica (Agency for the Promotion of Science and Technology) are created and the CONICET (National Council for Science and Technology Research) functions and attributions are redefined.

In the new institutional structure the functions are assigned in the following manner :

a) the function of defining the national plan of Science and Technology concerns the Inter-ministry Cabinet.

b) the functions of promotion and financing concern to the Agency for the promotion of Science and Technology.

c) the execution of the research is to be made in a series of organisms dependent of different State Secretaries (CNEA, CNAE, INTI, INTA, CONICET, Universities) and by private ones.

Finally, a concrete interest from the Government for the definition of a scientific policy for the country is observed.

Scientific Information Policy in Argentina

Since the decade of ‘70s, Latin American countries believed necessary to impulse and define national policies on information in science and technology, because it was a priority matter to have structures useful for the transference of knowledge in this area between the scientist world-wide.

The information Policy in Argentina has been for a long time a subject that has not been faced with the seriousness and correspondent political decision needed ; an infinity of problems were priority for the politicians in correspondence with this one. The science and technology area has been a little more lucky than other branches of knowledge, but formally it has not achieved yet the formation of an information system.

Since 1952 to 1992, infinity of attempts were made in order to accomplish this objective, with no positive results about it.

In 1992 were elaborated the Lineamientos para el Sistema Nacional de Información Científica y Tecnológica (Guidelines for the National System of Scientific and Technological Information). In this document an historical account on the subject is made, along with a diagnosis of the situation at the moment, the objectives of the System, strategies for it development, etc.

The conclusion was the following : "the overview of the services shows that in Argentina a system of scientific and technological information in functioning, although it is not institutionalised. None the less, this system is suffering problems that affect the transference of information to the scientific and technical community"

Situation of the libraries at a Regional Level

For a better analysis, we divided the Libraries by geographic zones. In each zone we mention the existing universities, taking on account only those in which degrees in the area of science and technology are offered, for later analyse its libraries, arriving at last to a conclusion by region.

The criterion for the division was the following : the Province of Buenos Aires was divided in the Metropolitan Zone and the Buenos Aires Zone, and the rest of the country was divided in the following way : Centro (Centre), Litoral, Noroeste (North-western), Cuyo, Nordeste (North-eastern) and Sur (South). The Universities corresponding to each zone are mentioned below, except for the Universidad Tecnológica Nacional (National Technological University), that will be analysed in a single-standing manner because it has many locations around the country.

 

METROPOLITAN ZONE

Universidad de Buenos Aires

BUENOS AIRES ZONE

Universidad de La Matanza
Universidad del Sur
Universidad de Centro
Universidad de Mar del Plata
Universidad de La Plata
Universidad de Lomas de Zamora
Universidad de Luján
Universidad de Quilmes
Universidad de Gral. San Martín
Universidad de Gral. Sarmiento
Universidad de Lanús
Universidad de Tres de Febrero

 

CENTRE ZONE

Universidad de La Pampa
Universidad de Córdoba
Universidad de Rosario
Universidad de Río Cuarto
Universidad de San Luis
Universidad de Villa María

 

CUYO ZONE

Universidad de Cuyo
Universidad de San Juan

 

LITORAL ZONE

Universidad de Litoral

Universidad de Entre Ríos

Universidad de Misiones

 

NORTH-WEST ZONE

Universidad del Nordeste
Universidad de Formosa
Universidad de Sgo. del Estero

 

NORTH-EAST ZONE

Universidad de Jujuy
Universidad de Salta
Universidad de Tucumán
Universidad de La Rioja
Universidad de Catamarca

 

SOUTH ZONE

Universidad de Patagonia Austral
Universidad de Patagonia San Juan Bosco
Universidad de Comahue

Preliminary Diagnosis by Region

In the METROPOLITAN zone is settled down the country’s biggest university, the Universidad de Buenos Aires, founded in 1821. It includes the Schools of Exact and Natural Sciences, Engineering, Pharmacy and Biochemistry and Agricultural Sciences. Each one have a Main Library, departmental libraries or libraries belonging to the Institutes hosted by them.

These libraries acquire their bibliographic material through the SISBI (Libraries and Information System), that since 1993 is administratively in charge of the acquisition of periodicals and databases on CD-ROM for all the Libraries of the system.

It mission is to co-ordinate the library services of the Universidad de Buenos Aires; the acquisition of the mentioned material is among its tasks. By doing this, the individual efforts are saved, the possibility of duplicated purchases are eliminated and the availability of the access to electronic editions of some periodicals are assured, destining for this purpose about $750,000 from the total budget of the science and technology area.

The SISBI also co-ordinates REDUBA, the Information Units network of the Universidad de Buenos Aires and is responsible for the Catálogo Colectivo Nacional Universitario de Revistas - CCNUR (National University Collective Catalogue of Periodicals) and the Catálogo Colectivo Nacional Universitario de Libros - CCNUL (National University Collective Catalogue of Books), with information about the co-operating National Universities.

All the libraries of this schools have InterNet access, ranging from e-mail usage in some cases to the providing of their service through the Web in others.

The information units have a primary document recovery service.

In a different scale they are digitalising their catalogues and generating their own databases. Regarding the possibility to access to remote databases, agreements with providing companies such as Knight-Ridder and Scientific and Technical Network (STN) have been established.

In the BUENOS AIRES region there are 13 Universities of which 11 have Schools or degrees in the science and technology area.

Among these 13 Universities should be exalted the importance of the Universidad de La Plata. Along with the Universidad Nacional del Sur, settled in Bahía Blanca and the Universidad del Centro located in Tandil and with campuses in various cities of the province of Buenos Aires, are educational centres with a well-known efficiency in the scientific and technological area.

All these universities offer degrees in the area of Science and Technology and the libraries offer, in all the cases, the basic services: take-home and in-situ material lending, interlibrary loans, etc. All of the have access to the InterNet.

In the case of the Universidad de La Plata, through it Documentation Centre, has centralised the interlibrary loans of all the information units of the system.

The rest of the Universities were recently created, such as the Universities of La Matanza, Quilmes, Lanus, General San Martín, General Sarmiento and Tres de Febrero; these institutions are starting to organise their information units, so they provide the basic services, creating slowly the new features.

In the CENTRE region, arises the University of Cordoba, the first University created in Argentina, founded in 1613 and reorganised in the 19th. century.

This University, that has a recognised efficiency in the academic-scientific field, hosts many Main Libraries of the Schools of Exact, Natural and Physical Sciences, Chemistry, Mathematics, Astronomy and Physics and the School of Agricultural Sciences.

The National University of Cordoba also carries out the centralised purchase of its bibliographic materials, as the Universidad of Buenos Aires does, destining for the area of science and technology about $220,000.

In these libraries, the basic services are covered and there exists a irregular development in relation with the services of reference and information provided to the users, including the access to on-line or CD-ROM databases as well as the possibility of primary documents recovery.

In the province of Cordoba, we must also call the attention over the Library of the University of Rio Cuarto. It is a model library in several ways. This library has open shelves, is highly informatised, it has access to local and remote databases and counts with a modern building conceived to be a Library.

About the CUYO zone, we can say that the Libraries of both Universities have a similar level of development. The library in the area science and technology of the Universidad de Cuyo, as well as that of the University of San Juan, cover partially the needs of the users. Diferent campuses have advanced in the automatisation of their catalogues. They hold several databases on CD-ROM. Some Schools have access to InterNet, but it is not widely spread.

In the LITORAL zone, the NORTH-EAST zone, the NORTH-WEST zone and the SOUTH zone, the information units show a similar panorama: limited bibliographic resources, most of the materials are out-of-date and the subscriptions to the periodical publications are not permanent. In some cases they count with not too modern equipment, but it is useful for the generation of their own databases. In all the cases, the human resources areas are not properly trained. In some cases they have access to InterNet, but not from the Library. In the SOUTH zone, the geographic area is much more extent, making difficult the communication between campuses established in different cities.

A separate paragraph is deserved by The Universidad Tecnológica Nacional (National Technological University), that comprises campuses distributed all around the country. In Buenos Aires, a new building was recently opened and they are starting an automation process. Due the little information available and taking on account the number of locations (30) it is impossible to perform a diagnosis about the information units of this University.

Preliminary Conclusions

As Herrera says: "The identified problems have basically institutional roots. The lack of generalised progress in the University Libraries reveal signs of indifference and forlorness by those person who are in decision-making positions."

In the other hand, in the CENTRE, METROPOLITAN and BUENOS AIRES zones are concentrated some of the most important libraries of this area. In Buenos Aires, in example the Library of the Campomar Foundation, the Library of The National Atomic Energy Authority, in its both locations, Bariloche and Buenos Aires, the Library of the National Institute of Industrial Technology, the Library of the Institute of Theoretical and Applied Research in Physical Chemistry and the ones of the Chemical Engineering Pilot Plant in Bahía Blanca and the National Research Centre in Santa Fe.

All these centres help to palliate some deficiencies of the University Libraries. These organisms belong to Universities, to the Government or directly to the National Council of Science and Technology Research).

 

Programs and/or Projects generated by the Ministry of Culture and Education

This Ministry, through some of their Secretaries, is looking forward to solve some of the problems that are affecting higher education.

Project of University Interconnection Network (RIU)

In 1994 the Secretary of University Policies of the Ministry of Education impelled the creation of an information network, in order to facilitate the interconnectivity of libraries, public universities and research centres.

The National Universities, in a total number of 36, along with Consejo Interuniversitario Nacional (Inter-University National Council) and the Secretary of University Policies, are interconnected through their respective nodes.

This liaisons (located in Buenos Aires, La Plata, Córdoba and Mendoza) and the equipment used by them are what is denominated the "backbone" of the RIU.

The RIU will be responsible for the network until the gateway of the nodes, but will have no influence on what may happen "indoor" the node. Each node will be responsible for it content and will distribute information according with their policies and own priorities.

The purpose of the RIU is to reach the highest possible number of final users, including professors, researchers and pupils.

Regarding final users, the challenges are two: to inform to the potential user about the utility of the network and to train them for it use. The Universities will be responsible for the training of the final users.

This is a invaluable tool for the communication between the different information units of the Sistema Universitario Nacional (National University System).

Fund for the Improvement of University Quality - FOMEC

El Fondo de Mejoramiento de la Calidad Universitaria (Fund for the Improvement of University Quality) is the key instrument of the Programa de Reforma de la Educación Superior - PRES (Program for the Reformation of Higher Education).

"Shortly after the constitution of the Secretary of University Policies, in 1993, there were established the basis for the later "Programa de Reforma de Educación Superior" (Program for the Reformation of Higher Education), of which the FOMEC is a key instrument. The elaborated strategy worked out for the development of the University system can be synthesised in the following triad : (i) the evaluation of the University quality, (ii) the elaboration of plans, programs and projects for the it improvement, and (iii) the specific financing for the concretion of these projects."

The FOMEC is a project contestable fund, to be evaluated and by this way is possible to obtain the necessary economical funding for the concretion of changes tended towards the improvement of the Quality in the Higher Education. The Secretary of University Policies establishes a link with the University and this allows the presentation, approval and evaluation of the projects, in both the financial and academic aspects.

The economical resources destined for this program and financed by the World Bank and the National Treasury.

In the context of the improvement of the higher education, the FOMEC became in one of the financing sources for the development of the university libraries.

This far, three calls for the presentation of projects involving the improvement of higher education have been done. We must emphasise on the deadline (August 1st., 1997) for the presentation of projects for the Third Call, that have pointed out it interest to the area of Training of Human Resources for Libraries.

Actually are under execution the projects approved in the two first calls. These projects must be concluded in five years (first call) and four years (second call).

The sixty percent out of 236 presented projects are under the Science and Technology Area influence.

Apart from these, sixteen projects involving Libraries of Universities with degrees in Science and Technology have been approved.

TABLE 1: Projects in the Library Area approved in the First and Second Call

Region University Conv. Type*
METROPOLITAN Universidad de Buenos Aires 1 AU. - ML
BUENOS AIRES Universidad de la Matanza 2 ML
  Universidad del Centro 2 ML
  Universidad de Quilmes 1 ML
  Universidad de General Sarmiento 2 ML
CENTRE Universidad de La Pampa 2 RED
  Universidad de Río Cuarto 1 ML
CUYO Universidad de Cuyo 2 RED
  Universidad de San Juan 1 RED
LITORAL Universidad de Entre Ríos 2 RED
NORTH-EAST Universidad de Santiago del Estero 2 ML
NORTH-WEST Universidad de Jujuy 2 RED
  Universidad de Catamarca 2 RED
SOUTH Universidad de La Patagonia Austral 2 RED
  Universidad de la Patagonia San Juan Bosco 2 RED
COUNTRY Universidad Tecnológica Nacional 1 RED

 

* AU. Academic Unit (School) ; ML: Main Library

Actual situation and investment made in the Library of Science and Technology Area

After sketching the actual situation of the Libraries, we must point out that due to the presentation of different FOMEC projects in diverse disciplines in our area of competence, it have been a substantial change in the resources available for the use by the information units.

Here we present a table in which we account the investment made in the areas of Equipment (computers, printers, modems, etc.) and Bibliography (on any media).

Regarding the Equipment Area, we present the requested amounts for the 16 library projects.

As far as the Bibliography Area concerns, this amounts are the addition of those requested by the Library Area plus those approved in the Science and Technology Area that requested bibliographic materials. The given figures in the Bibliography Section correspond to the 75% of the total funding assigned to that area in the case of the projects in the Library area. We considered this percentage because in every case, in the purchases made by the National Universities, was demonstrated that the cost of the material of the areas of science and technology was higher than that of the other areas, spending up to a 70%-80% of the budget.

The result showed by this table is the level of investment made in both FOMEC calls.

TABLE 2 : Total investment made in the two FOMEC calls

Geographic

Zone

Library Equipment Bibliogra-phy Totals by zone for Equipment and Bibliography
Metropolitan

198,130

1,636,933

1,835,063

Buenos Aires

368,630

3,320,483

3,689,113

Centre

225,900

3,491,760

3,717,660

Cuyo

355,330

155,000

510,330

Litoral

614,264

365,417

979,681

North-east

126,101

276,042

402,143

North-west

538,400

974,755

1,513,155

South

446,490

513,080

959,570

UTN

1,564,250

483,100

2,047,350

TOTAL

4,437,495

11,216,570

15,654,065

In the METROPOLITAN zone only one out of four libraries in the area of the University of Buenos Aires received FOMEC financing - the School of Exact and Natural Sciences.

Anyway, the acquisition of bibliography (databases and periodicals) is an area that is covered up by the centralised purchases made by the SISBI. The financing needed by the three information units is related with the lack of equipment and training of the staff. Regarding this last item, the University of Buenos Aires presented a project to the third call with a extensive plan for the training of all the libraries of the REDUBA. We can say that the UBA has in this area a cover-up of the 25% from the FOMEC financing.

The metropolitan zone has a 4% of equipment and a 15% of bibliography, in the context of the total investment made by the FOMEC.

The BUENOS AIRES zone has been benefited with four FOMEC financed approved projects, that at a regional level is up to the 33% in the context of the total for the universities. Three of this projects corresponds to recently created Universities. So, we observe that in this zone, the effort is aimed to develop new libraries.

In the majority of the cases the percentage for Equipment is 8% lower and this is due to the fact that in this area only the Main Libraries were financed, in despite of the constitution of internal networks. Regarding the Bibliography Area, this percentage raises to a 30% because here are included an elevated number of science and technology projects with a important amount for bibliography (UNS, UNL)

It can be deduced that this region is covered in the Bibliographic level, but is pretty devoid in the area of equipment as well in the area of staff training.

Summarising, in the METROPOLITAN, CENTRE and BUENOS AIRES zone, the area of Bibliography presents the 76% of the total funds available. If we consider that in this zones are concentrated the 53% ofthe National Universities and the 3 most important Universities of the country, and taking on account that they have a total of 7 FOMEC projects approved. So, its logic that they requested the major amount of resources in this area.

This three zones present similar characteristics in the level of development of their library services.

If we look at the equipment, they take a 17% of the total. The libraries in this zones are median-equipped with the appropriated technology and are connected to the InterNet.

In the Cuyo zone, in which both Universities have project for a Library Network, is the only zone of the country that has covered FOMEC in a hundred percent. The major percentage of this investment is destined to equipment (8%) because they have priorised the development of resources aiming to the construction of internal networks that inter-connect the libraries, placing the collective catalogues on-line. And by means of this, the also solve the problem of the geographical dispersion of their locations. Regarding the bibliography, we can say that the request was meagre (1%).

The NORTH-EAST zone, as well as the LITORAL zone, have been the less benefited regions. Both regions have 3 Universities each. In the North-east, the Universidad de Santiago del Estero has an approved project of Main Library, with the lowest equipment (3%) and Bibliography (2%) percentages. This is fundamented in the type of project presented. We can deduce that the North-east region is the less benefited of the whole country.

In the Litoral, the Universidad of Entre Ríos presented a network project. In comparison this region is benefited because they priorised the generation of a network for the inter-connection of the Information Units, the basement for the request of 14% in equipment and 3% in Bibliography.

The SOUTH zone, as well as the NORTH-WEST have both projects for library networks approved. They were presented by the Universidad Austral de La Patagonia and the Universidad nacional de La Patagonia San Juan Bosco, respectively. In the NORTH-WEST region these were presented by the Universidad de Jujuy and the Uiversidad de Catamarca. In this two regions, as well as in the CUYO region, the constitution of networks was of primary interest, that is reflected in the request of equipment.

The Universidad Tecnológica Nacional covers up the 36% in the area of equipment and the 4% in bibliography. This high percentage in the equipment area is due to the execution of a project of reconversion of the traditional libraries through the creation of an interactive multimedial centre for consulting and learning. The UTN-regional Santa Fé is the head of the pilot project, and later the other 30 campuses will be equipped to emulate it.

FIGURE 1 : Regional distribution of the equipment

 

FIGURE 2 : Regional distribution of bibliography

Final Conclusions

From the previously exposed, it can be deduced that the University Libraries in the area of Science and Technology are in undergoing a process of substantive change. The investments made and the utilisation of the RIU will help the Libraries to increase their possibilities of access to the information.

It can be inferred that the libraries with a major library development are the ones that better canalised the economical funds that the Ministry of Culture and Education has offered. They managed this opportunities in an efficient manner because they have skilled personnel or because the authorities of the corresponding Schools have taken the decision of supporting the development of this libraries.

An impact analysis of the investments made on different regions can not be made, because there is no accurate information about the resources assigned to the science and technology area by the Libraries, so a comparison can not be done.

Anyway, it can be deduced that according to the general state of the concerned libraries, the above mentioned investments have no been enough.

To conclude, we hope that the libraries could make profits of the assistance received and can transform it in a sustained development supported by the necessary political back-up.