The "Science & technology digital library" project, which is the subject of an agreement signed between the Ministry of Education, University and Scientific Research and the National Research Council (CNR), is one of the "Italian Digital Agenda" initiatives that aim to exploit information and communication technologies to foster innovation, growth and competitiveness, in line with the "Digital Agenda for Europe" (EU 2020 strategy).
On the Internet, digital libraries are open spaces, both real and virtual, for the exchange of information and knowledge, regardless of the physical location of data and users. Compared to the international scenario of information and scientific communication, in Italy publications, data and documents are less accessible and poorly integrated, due to insufficient strategies, for which consensus is sometimes lacking, and cooperation projects. This new CNR project was thus set up with the aim to help fill this gap by promoting the widest dissemination possible of knowledge generated from science and technology, and the enhancement of the services currently available to the scientific community, to national and businesses institutions, and to citizens.
This can be done through infrastructure, such as, for example, the creation of a portal to access the CNR digital library system - allowing a full view of the content and services provided by the different organization's structures - the use of new user friendly technological solutions and a better calibration of library and document services (for this purpose, a specific work package called "Virtual Library Reference" has been set up, which involves setting up an online service that can replicate and improve the functions of traditional reference library services).
The main objective of the service is to ensure speed and accuracy in information search processes, with the aid of specialists, regardless of users' location and resources. In perspective, the development of a cooperative network may be envisaged, which will consist of libraries operating in the R&D sector, for the provision of this service on a large scale. The selected technology based on open source standards, together with a cooperative organization, will suitably support this development. That this initiative is both relevant and topical is confirmed by the fact that other countries are moving in the same direction: the U.S., for example, have set themselves a target of one year to create the Digital Public Library of America.
The "Science & technology digital library" builds on several initiatives launched as part of the CNR library system, which have as their objective the harmonization of librarianship and library activities, and the strengthening of local and remote services offered to CNR internal and external users. The CNR system consists of many library facilities widely spread across Italy and is characterized by a multi-disciplinary approach, and by the ability to deliver specialized services in close connection with various local entities. In order to facilitate the exchange of data and information with leading national and international information systems - as well as enhancing and qualifying the digital services offered to users - the project aims to develop new technological and organizational solutions. In keeping with its open approach, the project will encourage cooperation initiatives with other institutions and organizations for the open and certified access to scientific publications, research papers, scientific, technical and statistical data, research activities and programs, expertise. The CNR resources, in fact, are currently available through the libraries' opacs (Online public access catalogue) while the implementation of a Metaopac - through computer systems based on open platforms and technologies - will facilitate the participation in the initiative of other stakeholders (especially libraries and academic and research institutions).
All the catalogued data relating to publications held by the CNR library system will be made available: the Central Library by itself has a collection of over one million volumes (approximately 100,000 of which are scientific antique); approximately 12,000 periodicals (6,000 of which online) and more than 100 databases on CD and online. Having access to a management database of the products of research funded (or co-financed) by the CNR itself for more than 160,000 documents, the CNR is also working to create an open database of research products. In line with open access and digital preservation initiatives, policies and programs defined and proposed by the European Union and the major national and international academic and scientific organizations (such as EUROHORCs, ERC, NSF, EUA, etc..), this line of activity intends to launch a technology platform for storing and sharing research products, in order to increase their impact and visibility and to encourage their use in research management and evaluation processes.
The "Science & technology digital library" activities will not be limited exclusively to the management and dissemination of publications, documents and data, and the provision of advance library and document services; e-learning services will also be provided to promote the growth of new professional experts in the field of scientific information and library science. An interactive multi-functional and multimedia space will be set up inside the CNR Central Library; this library is currently the main Italian science and technology library; it is the repository of scientific and technological publications nationwide, has multidisciplinary functions and is responsible for coordinating the CNR library system, which consists of about 100 libraries.
The project will be implemented through gradual functionality releases, which will be made available to users from time to time.