Access to knowledge in Myanmar has taken a big leap forward as a result of an important new project, eLibrary Myanmar, which started in December 2013 and which is being implemented by EIFL.
“For the first time, academics and students have online access to a comprehensive and multi-disciplinary collection of scholarly resources.
Extensive training is also being provided to ensure that benefits to teaching, learning and research are maximized,” says Rima Kupryte, Director of EIFL. “There have already been a number of exciting recent developments in higher education, and EIFL is delighted to have the opportunity to support the efforts of university librarians and academic staff in improving education and research in the years to come.”
The eLibrary Myanmar project is funded by the Open Society Foundations’ Higher Education Support Program and has the support of the Ministry of Education in Myanmar.
New opportunities for education and research
High quality education and research – and thereby social and economic development – requires that academics and students have timely access to the best international scholarship in their field. It is also essential for users to be aware of what’s available, and to be equipped with the skills necessary to make the best use of the content.
Through the eLibrary Myanmar project, academics and students at the University of Mandalay and the University of Yangon will gain access to a comprehensive range of high quality e-resources (including journals, books, and reference information) from leading international publishers.
An intensive training programme will ensure that awareness and usage is maximized, and that e-resources are embedded in teaching and learning, in order to improve research excellence, output and dissemination in the longer term.
“The Myanmar government has set forth an ambitious plan for revitalizing the country's higher education,” says Oleksandr Shtokvych, Senior Manager at the Open Society Foundations’ Higher Education Support Program.
“Bringing iconic universities, such as the University of Yangon and the University of Mandalay, to life, will not only mean helping their communities gain access to the most current thinking, inspiring scholarship and novel resources,” he continues.
“It will also mean including their students and scholars as active participants in the production of new knowledge and critical thinking, and bringing the unique and rich legacy and current developments in Myanmar into the limelight of international scholarship.”
“These are the connected goals we hope our eLibrary Myanmar project can achieve with EIFL's able leadership and resources.”
“Access to e-resources is essential to scholars and students at the University of Yangon,” says Professor Dr Tin Tun, Former Rector of the University of Yangon. “For fulfilling this need, we would like to extend our deepest appreciation to the Open Society Foundations and EIFL.”
A phased approach
During the initial 18-month project term which started in December 2014, EIFL is focusing on helping librarians and academic staff at the University of Yangon and the University of Mandalay to provide effective support for education and research across programmes and departments.
“Through the support of the Open Society Foundations, our library system will be more efficient. Students and researchers from the University of Mandalay will have fast access to the information they need from around the world, and this will have major benefits for research, learning and teaching,” says Dr Saw Pyone Naing, Former Acting Rector at the University of Mandalay.
Opportunities to roll out the project and to improve access to knowledge more widely across universities in Myanmar will also be explored as part of the first phase.
For example, the EIFL-IP programme will follow legal developments so that the copyright law supports education and research, and maximizes access to knowledge through libraries. In addition, the EIFL-OA programme will explore ways of making local research visible online.
The timing for the project could not be better. Education is one of Myanmar’s main development priorities, and the pace of change and opportunities ahead are very exciting. Major educational reforms are already underway, important new international partnerships have been formed, and technology and internet bandwidth are improving.
Access to e-resources is just the start
Through the EIFL-Licensing Programme, we will negotiate access to a wide range of high quality e-resources on behalf of the University of Mandalay and the University of Yangon. But this is just the start. Building awareness and skills will be essential to the success of the eLibrary Myanmar project.
Librarians, academics and students will be trained in many areas (including information literacy and research skills) through on-site presentations and demonstrations plus overseas study tours and curriculum development programmes as appropriate, and one of our key objectives is to ensure that e-resources are embedded in teaching and learning.
“For our research and teaching, we need to read many references, journals and articles which are only available online by subscription. As we haven’t had any subscriptions, it has been impossible for us to get access to such e-resources,” says Dr Aye Thandar Htay, Assistant Lecturer in the Physics Department at the University of Mandalay.
“The eLibrary Myanmar project is therefore vital to researchers, teaching staff and students at our university.”
Technology is improving
To facilitate usage of e-resources, universities need to provide appropriate technological infrastructure and bandwidth.
Although technology is outside the direct scope of the eLibrary Myanmar project, it has already provided impetus for change.
For example, for the first time, the University of Yangon and the University of Mandalay have secured unique and static IP addresses which are required for access to commercial e-resources. Fibre optic lines have also been installed, and available bandwidth has increased.
Planning for growth and sustainability
During the first phase of the eLibrary Myanmar project, we will also assess opportunities to share knowledge and expertise such that access to information is improved more generally in Myanmar – initially across the 48 universities that are under the control of the Ministry of Education, and subsequently across all universities in the country.
In addition, we will encourage librarians to work together in a library consortium in order to secure affordable and sustainable access to e-resources in the longer term.
EIFL is an international not-for-profit organization based in Europe with a global network of partners. We work with libraries around the world to enable sustainable access to high quality digital information for people in developing and transition countries.
Established in 1999, EIFL began by advocating for affordable access to commercial e-journals for academic and research libraries in Central and Eastern Europe.
Today, EIFL partners with libraries and library consortia in more than 45 developing and transition countries in Africa, Asia and Europe. Our work has also expanded to include other programmes designed to enable access to knowledge for education, learning, research and sustainable community development.
ABOUT THE EIFL-LICENSING PROGRAMME
Through the EIFL Licensing programme, we have negotiated affordable access to over 65 commercial e-resources from more than 30 vendors. Resources include e-journals, e-books, reference works and aggregated databases covering a broad range of subject areas.
In 2013, we achieved estimated savings of more than US$183 million for libraries in our network – an average discount of over 98%.
We also work with libraries to promote awareness and usage of e-resources and, in 2013, there were more than 3.7 million full text downloads from EIFL-licensed resources.