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62nd IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 25-31, 1996

Digitizing and Networking: the Scheme and Practice of Establishing the CASS Electronic Library

Lu Benfu


Zhou Junlan


China Academy of Social Sciences--CASS is located in Beijing. It is granted by the Chinese government. Its researches are mainly conducted on the national social sciences schedule in recent years. Some enterprises, organizations and individuals entrust it with research work. At present, some 5,000 faculties work in over 32 professional research institutes which including economics, law, sociology , trade, religion, philosophy, literature, nationality problem and international relation, etc.

Compared with natural science, the researches of social science are more dependent upon information and documents, so the information and intellectual density is high in CASS, and the home and abroad communication is frequent. Accordingly, the documents on social sciences are in a rich collection, even documents of some disciplines hold a lead in China. The research results are information produc t too, e.g. monograph, thesis, research report. CASS library is responsible for information receiving and literature collection, and information outputs are processed by publishers and distributors .

CASS decides to develop the traditional library into an electronic library, that is, information communication is carried out by electronic network. Some schedules were formulated, part of them have already been implemented. This plan embraces two aspects:

The following is the introduction of experience and envision of the digitizing and networking in CASS.


1. Constitutions and characters of information resources.

As a research organization on national level, CASS processes relatively rich information resources, holding over 5,000 thousand volumes of books and 2,000 kinds of journals. To digitize such a gigantic library collection, its constitutions and characters must be understood:

(1) Discipline distribution of information resources

From the discipline range, CASSí information resources basically relate all discipline of philosophy, social science and human science, which is evident in this table:
      Discipline                 Quantity (10000 vol.)     Percentage
        Total	                       506                    100
        History   	               149                     29

      Literature & Linguistics          97                     19
        Economics	                77                     15

      Sociology & Ethnology             48                    9.5
        Foreign Research                43                    8.5
        Politics & Law	                41                      8

      Philosophy & Religion             36                      7
        Others                          20                      4

Resource: TheDocument and Information Centre of CASS ( 1992)

(2) Media types of information resources.

On the whole, traditional text is the main medium type of CASS information resources, however, information collections on other types are tending to expand, like video-audio documents, microfiches, CD-ROMs, machine-readable databases, etc. Other specific types include maps, pictures, famous drawing, etc.

The composition of media types is demonstrated by the following table:

 Medium Type     Amount(unit: 10,000 vol.)     Proportion
   Total                       506                100
   Ancient Books              62.5              12.27
 Books & Periodicals           425               73.6
 Non-book Materials             22               9.81
   Others                                        4.31

 Source: The Document and Information Center of CASS(1992)

(3) Language distribution of information resources.

As the wide-ranging of CASS's research work, there are many kinds of languages used. According to the internal language types, Chinese and ancient Chinese is undoubtedly the largest type, in addition to it, there are more than ten kinds of languages for the minorities, such as Zang language, Meng language, Thai language and so on. According to external language types, except the large types such as English, Japanese, Russian, German and so on, there are Korean, Serbo, Spanish, Italian, Brahma,Sweden, adding to tens kinds.

2. Digitizing of information resources

According to the above statistical analyses, we can find that: wide academic ranging, variety of language, complicated medium are the characteristics of the information resources in CASS. Digitizing these information resources is undoubtedly a hard work, so it should be done in order of importance and urgency, in light of different media characteristics and information contents. In practice, we have made such rules: at first , we should think over our economics supporting ability. At present we can't make an investment in one time, so the work must been done period by period. The second step is resource sharing . If external institutions have had relevant digitizing information products, then we needn't do the same work. The third is ripe technology rule. We can begin the item first wh ich the digitizing technologies are ripe , otherwise we can leave them later.

(1) The overall plan of digitizing

Our last target is digitizing all kinds of information resources-------texts, audio, videos, maps, pictures, tables and statistical data, finally building electronical library, but at this time CASS library maintains unclear schedules. the overall plan is devided into three periods: The short-term work is developing and building the specialized databases which CASS and other departments are in gr eat need of; the middle term work is digitizing the information resources which are only owned by our library, because the work can just be done by ourselves; the forward period work is purchasing directly digitizing information products home and abroad which will take instead of the present printing products , digitizing the whole library holdings. The order of digitizing work is:

a. The information which our research mostly need, such as the CASS library collection catalogue, library holding periodicals.

b. The information which is used in international communication. The reform in China has been taken for more than ten years, the economy has developed at high speed, and great successes have been achieved, at the same time, works on economics, law and so on in these periods can be surely used for reference for the developing countries .

c. The China ancient books and minority nationality documents in CASS.

(2) Specific plan of digitizing

. On base of above rules , a whole set of specific plans has been made by our academy, and has been taken into practice. These are:

a. Building machine readable catalogue databases of the whole books in CASS.
This is the focal point of our digitizing work, which will make all the catalogues into standard machine-readable MARC form. Totally the books are about 500 million volumes ( not including ancient books), including different disciplines, in different languages. At present there are 20 thousand MARC data , we are going to finish recalling the whole data in our academy in five years.

b. Building machine-readable catalogue databases of the whole periodicals in CASS .
This is similar to the first one , the difference is that the databases include not only periodicals catalogues, but also periodical paper subjects. In order to save library storage space, all the obsolete periodicals will be made to microfilms, this will also be done in five years.

c. Building databases of specialized documents.
This is mainly used for international communication. At present, our academy has built specialized economic document databases. The databases has collected the papers which were published in the chief economical periodicals in China in recent five years, The contents including resources, subjects, abstracts and etc.. Another plan is to build full-text database of law which was issued in recent years, the database is mainly the laws concerning foreign affairs or foreign nationals, it can server for foreign businessmen, and foreign scholars.

d. Building multi-medium databases of China ancient books.
The contents include: the rare books in our academy, the original handwritings of historical famous persons , archaeological pictures and so on. At present the database of rare reliable text books has been started, the multi-medium databases such as original handwritings are being planned.

e. Building factual databases.
The research in social science has the tendency of developing from qualitative analysis to quantitative analysis. Therefore, we are preparing to digitize the factual tool books in our academy, in order to meet varying needs.

(3) The relative technology problem of digitizing

In line with our practice, we will face the following difficulties when we digitize information resources:

a. The problems which the MARC has been existing.
Machine-readable catalogues all comes from LC-MARC, including CN-MARC made in China . Since at that time the formulating is based on the computer technology of that time , now to some extent the MARC form is backward , the typical show is: cumbersome field-setting, duplicated contents. Although in theory different kinds of MARC records can be interchanged, it is difficult in practice.

b. The difficulty for choosing multi-language software platform.
There hasn't been a good multi-language software platform which is compatible for Chinese, western languages, Japanese , Russian and so on. So it is easy to make mistakes. Though the international standard about large character group has been officially issued , the relevant operating system has not been set out, these is a problem for us to solve . In another hand, the Chinese minority languages have not relevant computer processing software.

c. The difficulty in building multi-medium databases.
At present the multi-medium technology can not settle the digitizing problem of Chinese calligraphy and painting. Even if it had been settled , the retrieval would be difficult.

3. Information communication models of

Information communication models of findings are spreaded in the form of document. Direct information exchange means that research fellows obtain information directly in ways of engaging in advanced studies, attending academic discussions, and so on, and information spreaded by lectures, academic discussions, etc.

(1) The size of document flow and the subject distribution

According to the latest statistics in 1994, more than 20,000 Chinese books, 4,000 books in foreign languages, 4,000 Chinese journals and 2,000 journals in foreign languages are added to the collection of the Academy every year. The information of all these documents can occupy 500M computer storage space. There are two forms of documents inputting: one is purchasing, this is the main way to incre ase information resource; the other is exchange or contribution. The Academy keeps exchanging relations with about 400 books and document agencies in abroad, and exchanges about 1,000 kinds of books and journals every year, the number of volume is more than 10,000.

Abundant information resources present plentiful reference materials for the research fellows,create a good environment, and so the research findings of the Academy are rich. The research findings are mainly outputted in the following forms :treatises, academic dissertations, research reports, learned materials, translations, translation texts, reference books and softwares, etc. Accounting in wo rd, the proportions of the findings in every forms can be found in the following table:

Type of Research Findings   Number of  Word (10,000)  Percent Distribution
Total                                55071.1                   100
Learned Material                      9464.5                 26.79
Treatise                                8497                 24.05
Reference book                          7351                 20.08
Academic Dissertation                   3708                 10.21
Teaching Material and Popular Reading   2999                  8.49
Translation                           1211.6                  3.43
Research Report                          674                  1.91
General Article                          376                  1.06

Source: Statistical year report of CASS(1992)

The information listed above can occupy 200M computer storage space.

(2) The forms of direct information communication

In CASS, direct information exchange still is active, and the forms are varied, mainly including scholars' reciprocal visiting, holding workshops, engaging in advanced studies, giving lectures, and so on. Much of lately information can be obtained by setting up relations with relative institutes home and abroad, and scholarsí researching, discussing academic problems with general character.

The following table reflects the state of the scholars' international interchange:

Forms                   Number of Go Abroad       Number of Visitor	
                        1991           1992       1991         1992

Total	                 578            710        978          783
Academic Visit           235            241        365          297
Co-research               73             63         34           52
Lecturing                 12             11         21           15
Advanced Studies	  70             70         35            7
Bilateral Workshops       31             63         53          187
International Meeting    107            140        352           93
Working Visit             29             24         91          101
Other                     21             98         20           31

Source: Statistical year report of CASS(1992)

The direct information exchange is effective, but it is greatly limited by much of objective conditions.

(3).Table of academical network

CASS mainly keeps academical relations with the following institutes:
Interna-  Research Ins-  Embassy    Societies &    The Press 	
tional    titutes of UN             Associations   Offices

National  Government    Ministries  Societies &    Universities The Press
          Offices      &Commissions Associations                Editorial

Local     Local Gover-   Local       Local  		
          nment          Academies   Universities
          Sciences       of Social 

4. The objective and the plan of setting up electronic network

From the information exchange models we have discussed above, we know that both information input and output are frequent in CASS. The electronic network is just the imitation of these models to satisfy the needs of information input and output.

(1).Objective & structural drawing

The objective of the electronic networks: transparent information sharing in CASS; domestic information acquisition and retrieval through electronic network; direct connection with international or domestic scholars of the same occupation; international; and domestic users' direct using of CASS's information resources and information products. In practical working, we draw up a plan to set up the electronic network in stages.

Logical structure drawing:

  unit in the Academy     PSTN ------->Homes of Research Fellows
    |____________|      |_____|
           |              |
       Trunk of the network
           |              |
       China DDN     CHINAPAC---->Internet

(2).Plan & moves

First, to set up CASS Scientific research information management network. There are three parts of business on the networks: a. Scientific research business

It's mainly to manage research projects, scientific search programs and research findings, the most important of all is the research findings manage system, which gathering the findings of every year step by step;

b. Information business

It means to storage all the information resources(books, periodicals) in the CASS library and in every unit into computer network and to present retrieval service to internal users at any time.

c. Management business

It mainly indicates the office automation to storage all kinds of administration information into the network in order to improve the management level of all the Academy.

Network technology design: according to information traffic, information geographical distribution and the frequency of using, CASS DDN uses circle arboraceous topological structure. The trunk of the network uses optical fibre, and the information transmission ratio is 100M bps.

Working state: The CASS DDN has been carried out for one year, the computer network of the Academy library is established, office automation DDN isalso completed, the trunk of the network is estimated to get through in 1996.

Second, to extend the network into research fellows' homes . Now many research fellows of CASS begin to write with another kind of pen--computer. Itís estimated that the percentage of the families that having computers can reach 20%--30%. Otherwise, most of families have installed telephone, so that the terminal users have the basic conditions to connect with the network. Using the public telep hone network and modem, we plan to connect most families 'computers with network in the next 3 or 5 years, andachieve three goals: terminal users' retrieving information of library at any time; Direct connect with international and domestic scholars of the same occupation; Adding their research findings to the network. Now, the library network has had the ability to take in a few terminal use rs.

Third, to connect the network with universial Internet. At the end of 1994, Chinese Ministry of Posts & Telecommunications started CHINADDN & CHINAPAC, and reached an agreement with Sprint Comp. of America that CHINAPAC & CHINADDN can directly connect with universal Internet by using the route offered by the company. Within the next few years, we also plan to apply for a special DDN route from Be ijing Telegraph Office--the institute managing Internet in Beijing, to start our Scientific Research Information Network, to connect with internet, and at last to realize information sharing.