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Thriving, not just surviving: how the library consortium transformed services in Azerbaijan
With access to up-to-date material, scholars and researchers in Azerbaijan can produce top quality results. Using resources licensed through the consortium, Fariz Ahmedov, Assistant to the Dean, Khazar University School of Economics and Management, was able to prepare a presentation for the high level international conference on Azerbaijan's WTO membership “International Trade, Standards and World Trade Organization (WTO): current situation, problems and prospects”, Baku, April 2007
In 2001, more than ten years after gaining its independence from the former Soviet Union, libraries in Azerbaijan still did not have access to the wealth of electronic information and databases that it knew was available to libraries in other countries.
A short experiment with an international hosting gateway for electronic journals served only to reveal the obstacles facing librarians wishing to introduce modern information services to Azerbaijan, a new republic nestled in the Caucasus, at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. The vision of instant access to thousands of journals was soon tempered by the reality of technical, financial and legal issues, too complex to be resolved by the lone Library Information Centre of the fledgling Khazar University.
Yet within a few more years, students and staff at Khazar University (which means Caspian University), now have access to over 10,000 full-text journals, databases, online indexing, inter-library and digitised abstracting services which have revolutionised information provision at the University.
How was this achieved? In two simple ways. eIFL.net support for the creation of library consortia in member countries provided an impetus for forward thinkers in the library community in Azerbaijan, who decided that they would not let the opportunities provided by new technologies pass by.
In December 2003, Khazar University, together with Baku State University and Azerbaijan Medical University founded the Azerbaijan Library and Information Consortium, known as AzLIC. Today, the consortium has grown to thirteen members, including major libraries, academic institutions and international NGOs. In addition to electronic resources, AzLIC provides training and consultation, has become a national leader advocating for new information models, such as Open Access, and has built regional and international partnerships.
“Library services have been transformed in a very short time. Without working together as a consortium, none of this would have been possible”, said Lala Hajibayova, eIFL country coordinator. “Ten years ago, libraries in Azerbaijan relied on print material to meet the requirements of our researchers”, agreed Tatyana Zaytceva from Khazar University. “When we placed an order for a journal, it could take up to three months for the first issue to arrive. Nowadays, this would be unacceptable. This shows how much our expectations have been raised”.
Support from eIFL.net
Throughout this time, eIFL.net has been on hand to lend a hand. eIFL-negotiated licences with highly discounted prices and the fairest licence terms available on the market enable AzLIC to take charge of the business of selecting, managing and funding its own resources. eIFL.net training in consortium building has provided AzLIC with the knowledge and skills to make their consortium a success. “AzLIC is a support entity for librarians”, said Lala Hajibayova. “We can share concerns and solve problems together. We have gained a reputation as experts and are consulted on negotiations with vendors and legal contractual issues”.
In fact, the consortium meets nearly every second week to discuss its ongoing programme to members. Through the US funded American Centers and the Regional Library Development Program, AzLIC serves 15 regional public libraries in Ganja, Lankaran, Ali Bayramli and other cities. By the end of 2007, it will cover 20 regional libraries across the country.
eIFL.net encourages cooperation amongst its members for strength and sustainability. AzLIC has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Georgian Integrated Library Consortium and has visited the Lithuanian Research Library Consortium. There are international partnerships too, for example, with the American Library Association and the European funded CALIMERA project. Two AzLIC members have participated in Project Gutenberg to digitise Latin-script Azerbaijan public domain literature. Clearly, AzLIC is thriving in its role as a leader of electronic information services in Azerbaijan.