5 September 2013

Africa: American University Distributes Free Social Sciences Library Across Africa

Photo: Anders Kelto/PRI's The World

Washington, DC — A leading American university is distributing free electronic library resources in the social and environmental sciences to universities across Africa.

With the help of partner organizations, the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University is working to distribute the Social Science Library (SSL) to universities and similar organizations in 138 countries, 53 of them in Africa.

However, distribution partners are still needed in 45 African nations.

The library contains articles, book chapters, reports and working papers on a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, economics, history, philosophy and political science. The materials are all in English.

The electronic collection is given out on CD-ROMs and USB drives so that it is easily sharable and accessible without Internet. The library represents the university's contribution to the UN Decade of Sustainable Development.

Nena Goodwin, co-director of the project, said one of the goals of the electronic library was to further the development of the social and environmental sciences in less-wealthy countries. The initiative targets nations and institutions with little or no Internet access, a lower gross national income, and those most in need of library resources.

The distributed version contains 3,400 full-text articles plus full bibliographic references and abstracts to 6,000 additional articles, as well as DVDs on global health topics.

The directors hope to make these social sciences writings available to as many people as possible, especially in remote and rural areas.

"We would love for whoever, in each country, wants to have their own 'library in your pocket' to bring a blank CD-ROM or flash drive to a recipient library and make a copy," Goodwin said. "The only restriction is that the materials should not leave these countries. That is what we have promised to the copyright holders who allowed us to reproduce their materials."

For those with Internet access, there is an online version of the library that contains an extensive bibliography, but doesn't have the full-text articles due to copyright restrictions.

Goodwin said she hopes the initiative will help strengthen the ability for people all around the world to influence their local politics, and for them to take part in global debates on "the future of the human species".

Those who would like to receive the materials should locate their country on the GDAE website. If the country name appears in red, they should contact any university and ask to see the SSL materials. If the country name appears in black or green on the list, that means that a partner is being sought.

For further questions or to become a partner with the project, email Nena Goodwin or Josh Uchitelle-Pierce at SSL@Tufts.edu

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