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eIFL Direct Moldova is a consortium of sixteen major libraries spanning the Republic of Moldova. Independent since 1991, Moldova is one of fifteen countries of the former Soviet Union, and is now part of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). With positive economic growth rates in the early 1990s, Moldova was hit hard by the regional financial crisis of 1998 and now struggles as one of the poorest countries in Europe.
The library community recognises its role in contributing to the social and economic development of the new state, assisted by the proud achievement of 99% literacy rates amongst its adult population. “Libraries have a part to play in improving education, teaching and research in Moldova”, says Silvia Ghinculov, Coordinator for eIFL Direct Moldova. “The new electronic resources, in particular, can dramatically improve inputs for our students and faculty staff, raising the quality and standard of outputs”.
There have been challenges along the way. Not unlike other countries, it took time for libraries to embrace the idea of pooling resources and sharing databases. Today, as even vendors insist on working with library cooperatives, the consortium model has taken off. eIFL Direct Moldova provides access to thousands of full-text journals in hundreds of subjects, satisfying the research needs of even the most prolific scientist.
Statistics showed that despite the increase in available resources, database usage in some university libraries was decreasing. Closer examination revealed one of the prime factors: the great influence of academic staff on the choice of resources used by students, for example, through subject reading lists. It was decided to address the “generation gap” and to encourage greater use of e-resources amongst a group whose tradition in searching lay largely in print materials and for whom English is a barrier.
The focus on faculty had a three pronged approach: to launch a promotion drive to support academic research and writing using e-resources, to add new resources in response to user needs and to convince the university administration of the importance of electronic resources for modern teaching and research.
Subject-based training sessions were attended by more than 800 academics from the Academy of Economic Studies, the Academy of Science and Moldova State University, across a wide range of disciplines from business administration to the physical sciences. Library staff provided journal lists for each subject area and taught basic search techniques, wrote about the databases in academic reviews and analysed citations used by professors and doctoral students. Lecturers soon realised that there was a wealth of current information to help with everyday teaching, such as case studies, statistics and company data, as well as quality research articles.
The close contact with faculty also revealed some lessons for libraries. Leaflets and other promotional material were improved in response to feedback. A dedicated computer room was established in most consortium libraries. “We listened to faculty and took some small, practical steps to improve the experience of staff and students working with e-resources. We will continue to monitor take-up and usage and will adapt to meet the needs as they change”, said Silvia Ghinculov.
Advocacy for e-resources to senior university administration is on-going. One of the first hurdles is to explain the difference between printed books and journals and the intangible resources contained in databases, where the “product” is not visible. This can have beneficial effects, however. A library, instructed to slash its print journal subscriptions due to cost, discovered that many of the titles were available electronically through the consortium. The result: one happy vice-chancellor and a new champion of e-resources!
The next step is to advocate to government for better support for e-resources and the development of library consortia, a proven model for success and sustainability, as an important component in building the information society, encouraging effective economic development and contributing to reform in the economy, education and in the field of science.