There’s no question that the internet has made lives easier. It has allowed people to communicate between vast distances, fostered creativity, activated a new way of doing commerce, and democratized access to information.
The DOST-PCAARRD (Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development) saw the internet as an opportunity to make its continuously growing library of research and resource materials available online to the Philippine public via an electronic library, and it has come in handy to many Filipinos during the pandemic.
The eLibrary is one of DOST-PCAARRD’s knowledge sharing platforms under Scientific Literature Services. It is the online extension of PCAARRD’s physical library, which has been housing “reading and information materials on agriculture, aquatic, and natural resources research” since the Department was established.
The eLibrary was conceptualized in 2017. “In 2018, we formally started a project with the DOST-STII, who helped us customize the system, the Science Information Library System, it was customized for PCAARRD for the agriculture sector,” says Marita A. Carlos, Director of DOST-PCAARD’s Applied Communication Division.
Information for all
The eLibrary, which uses the Science Library Management Information System (SLIMS) was launched in April 2020, just after the global COVID-19 pandemic began. It is used by “Researchers, policy makers, and of course, …farmers, fisherfolk, students, and others.”
It currently contains “more than 8000 publications composed of books, reports, journals, serials, vertical files, thesis and dissertations, and non-print (materials) like videos.”
Access to the eLibrary is free. All one needs to do is create an account.
“The public can now access our resources,” Carlos says, adding that the pandemic-induced boom in ornamental plants meant more private citizens perusing the eLibrary’s vast resources in learning to care for their new plant babies. “They trust PCAARRD because they are now selective in getting their information.”
Partners in dissemination
The eLibrary doesn’t just exist on its own. From the start of its implementation, PCAARRD has been liaising with other departments and institutions to widen its reach. At the beginning of the pandemic, they partnered with the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), providing information material to accompany the free seeds that BPI distributed to encourage home gardening. “ We authorized them to print (the information) because while we are present in the digital world, we know (that not all farmers can appreciate this).”
The agency also partnered with a consortium of peers, including agricultural universities and DOST and DA regional offices, from all regions to make SLIMS available to all their member organizations. “We are willing to provide the hardware if they need (it),” Carlos says.
No project is without its own set of challenges, and the eLibrary is no different. As with any new operating system, there are bugs to fix and improvements to make. And of course, everyone is aware that internet connection in the Philippines is mostly intermittent or nonexistent. Still reception to the eLibrary has been positive. Carlos says that many farmers have digital presences, especially those with children who can help guide them on internet usage. “We’re still enhancing the project because we want it to be more user-friendly,” she says in Tagalog. “But we can’t do anything about the user’s internet connectivity.”
The project is exciting because it means being able to connect resources across different government agencies. “We all want to be connected. It’s basically knowledge sharing,” Carlos says. “If they are looking for something, the information will be at their fingertips.”
Right now, the information available in the system is limited to PCARRD’s publications, but there is potential for other government knowledge-sharing agencies to adopt the system as well. “So when they want to share (the results of) their agency-funded projects… the information will be more accessible.”
Not everyone in the Philippines may have an internet connection yet, but it doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t prepare for its inevitable ubiquity.
Access DOST-PCAARRD’s eLibrary at https://elibrary.pcaarrd.dost.gov.ph/slims/