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Establishing a Digital Library Infrastructure in Afghanistan Atifa Rawan and Yan Han University of Arizona Libraries Living the Future Conference Tucson, Arizona, May 2, 2008. Afghan Academic Library Initiatives.

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Establishing a Digital Library Infrastructure in AfghanistanAtifa Rawan and Yan HanUniversity of Arizona LibrariesLiving the Future ConferenceTucson, Arizona,May 2, 2008

afghan academic library initiatives
Afghan Academic Library Initiatives
  • Since April 2002 - University of Arizona’s involvement in rebuilding Afghanistan academic libraries.
  • 2005 - Invitation to participate in Digital Libraries Alliance (DLA)
  • Digital Libraries Alliance goals in Afghanistan:
    • Build capacity for libraries and librarians.
    • Work with open source digital library platforms.
    • Provide and enhance access to scholarly information resources.
    • Open content that will benefit all Afghanistan higher education institutions.
  • Creating Afghanistan digital libraries and an ILS using open source software for Afghanistan academic libraries.
creation of afghanistan digital libraries
Creation of Afghanistan Digital Libraries
  • Overview
  • Afghanistan Digital Libraries
  • Integrated Library System using open source software for Afghanistan academic libraries
  • Collaboration
  • Digitizing unique resources and setting up digitization infrastructure
overview afghan higher education libraries
Overview: Afghan Higher Education Libraries

Since 1979 the education system has been virtually destroyed:

  • Schools and colleges have been closed, looted, or physically reduced.
  • Student bodies and faculties have been emptied by war, migration, and economic hardship.
  • Libraries were gutted.

Kabul University was

demolished by 1994;

completely closed down

by 1998:

  • Kabul University Library’s collections are mostly damaged or destroyed.
  • Current holdings:
    • 60,000-70,000 English titles
    • 2,000-3,000 Persian titles
    • 2,000 Persian theses

Creation of the First Digital Library:

Remodeling of the College of Agriculture Electronic Library - 2004

afghanistan digital libraries wsu usaid grant project
Afghanistan Digital Libraries – WSU/USAID Grant Project

Website contents:

  • Integrated Union Catalog
  • Databases & Articles
  • News & Events
  • Reference Guides
  • Digital Collections
  • Search
  • Links
  • Services
  • Contact Us
  • Afghan e-Quality Alliances
  • ANGeL-Afghan's Next Generation e-Learning
  • Kabul University
contents continued

Databases & Articles:

  • General, Multidisciplinary
  • Free e-Books
  • Subject Areas:
  • This sections allows users to select full-text articles from a variety of open access and password-protected journals in various disciplines.
Contents (continued)
building an integrated library system ils
Building an Integrated Library System (ILS)
  • Using an open source software
  • Using Koha: open source ILS software chosen for its functionality, maturity, and support
  • Components: acquisitions, cataloging, catalog (search and find), circulation, and member management
  • Primary function is to access library materials
  • Presently implementing ILS for four academic universities in Kabul: Kabul University, Polytechnic University, Kabul Medical University, and Kabul Education University.
  • Further development of ILS will eventually support over 40,000 students and 2,000 faculty in Afghan higher education.
searching the catalog basic search

A basic search

  • Boolean search
  • Truncation
  • can be used to get expanded search results (e.g. econom*).
  • Personal account
Searching the Catalog: Basic Search
searching the catalog advanced search

An advanced search can be performed by: title, author, or subject. Boolean logic operators also can be used to expand a search by using the operator OR, or limit the search by using the operator AND.

Search words can be in English or in Persian/Dari.

Searching the Catalog: Advanced Search
searching the catalog search results
Searching the Catalog: Search Results

There are 10 search results for keyword botany. Results are displayed in a short bibliographic format, indicating such fields as: title, author, call number, date, and publisher.

sample bibliographic record
Sample Bibliographic Record
  • Title
  • Author
  • Abstract
  • Descriptors (subjects)
why an open source ils

Koha – open source ILS software chosen for its functionality, maturity, and support:

    • Software architecture – open source LAMP software bundle, which is popular, stable, and predominant.
    • Staff skills and competencies in open source software.
    • Full-featured open source ILS components, such as multiple branch support and users management, critical for union catalog.
    • Current use: two public libraries in New Zealand with 30,000-patron base and some public libraries in the United States.
    • Software stable and most bugs have been fixed.
    • Koha support – mailing list by Koha developers and users as a communication tool to ask and answer questions.
Why an Open Source ILS?
overview of ils options
Overview of ILS Options
  • Current market dominated by commercial ILS vendors.
  • Open source systems offer a viable solution. Open source characteristics: undeveloped, few products available, full features not provided.
  • Decision to build ILS with “OPEN” concept: open access, open source, and open standards.
    • Decision influenced by: globalization and users’ behavior and expectations.
  • Current open source ILS software:
      • Koha – full-featured ILS developed in New Zealand in 2000.
    • Underlying architecture – Linux, Apache, MySQL, and Perl (LAMP) stack.
  • OpenBiblio – short history; still in beta 0.1.0 version since 2002.
    • Underlying architecture – LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP).
  • WEBLIS – based on UNESCO’s CDS/ISIS database; developed by Institute for Computer and Information Engineering in Poland; ILS features include cataloging, catalog (search and find), loan, and report modules.
    • Underlying architecture – requires Windows/Windows-based servers (Xitami/Microsoft IIS and ISIS database).
  • Gnuteca – developed in Brazil; some ILS features such as cataloging, catalog, and loan; software interface written in Portuguese.
major challenges

Arabic/Persian language support

    • Koha version 2.2 cannot correctly handle East Asian language records, including Arabic/Persian records.
    • Language support crucial for Afghan universities.
    • Persian/Dari is one of the official languages of the
    • Koha generates Web-based GUI via Perl templates, which use HTML “meta” tag with Western character set (ISO-8559-1) to encode characters.
    • IE and Firefox use “meta” tag to decode characters with predefined character set.
    • We identified and updated Koha software
      • Templates modified to allow characters to be encoded in Unicode to solve problem.
      • Most of Editors (e.g. Notepad, TextPad) do not support editing right-to-left (purchased a new editor (UEDIT) for this purpose)
    • In ILS, Persian/Dari characters can be entered into the cataloging module and displayed correctly in GUI.
Major Challenges
major challenges continued
Major Challenges (continued)

Hardware support:

  • Considerations:
    • Afghanistan still developing its infrastructure: electricity, transportation, and communication.
    • IT companies such as Dell, HP, and IBM have very limited services and support in Afghanistan; hardware procurement is difficult.
    • Viruses in Windows platform (lack of current anti-virus updates).
  • Temporary solution: extra parts and redundant servers.
  • Linux: Debian.


  • Koha interface in bilingual: English and Persian/Dari.
  • Supporting new ISBN-13 (effective on January 1, 2007) and ISBN-10.
  • Some bugs fixed.


E-Quality Alliance

Other Universities and Institutions

Other Organizations

short term training
Short-Term Training
  • Staff and faculty training started from April 2002.
  • Training included library staff and faculty (including Medical University faculty and staff).
  • Provided individual training sessions as well as group sessions.
  • The last two training workshops (2006-2007) included use of IT classroom and Included specialized ILS and databases training for Kabul University Library and IT staff.
  • At Kabul University, participants were from several provinces –represented academic institutions such as Herat, Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, Bulkh, Khost, Nangarhar, Kandahar at the workshop. The participants included library coordinators, library staff, technical staff, and faculty members from the following institutions in Kabul:
      • Kabul University
      • Kabul Medical University
      • American University of Afghanistan
      • Kabul Polytechnic University
      • Kabul University of Education

Small Group Training – 2002-2003

University of Education and Kabul University Library Staff and Faculty

long term training
Long-Term Training
  • Plan to offer online library and information science course – 2-year certificate program at Kabul University’s Department of Computer Science.
  • All library and information sciences modules are in both English and Dari languages and available via ANGeL (e-learning system).
  • Discussion to create a library organization group in Afghanistan.
creation of library and information program at kabul university
Creation of Library and Information Program at Kabul University
  • Afghans’ Next Generation e-Learning (ANGeL)
library and information science program
Library and Information Science Program
  • Offer, monitor, and support the delivery of modules and facilitate the certificate program for Library and Information Science courses using the Afghans’ Next Generation e-Learning (ANGeL) in support of the Library Science certificate program at Kabul University.
  • To further facilitate delivery of these modules apply advanced technology methods developed at the University of Arizona for online courses known as the SLIC technology (Semantically Linked Instructional Content). SLIC technologypresents lectures using video and slide presentations in Dari language and English.
  • Complete final assessment of the Library and Information Science program.
  • Course offerings to be taught and monitored, including 14 modules per course:
    • Introduction to Library and Information Services – (3 credit hours)
    • Reference Resources & Services – (3 credit hours)
    • Collection Development – (3 credit hours)
    • Cataloging/Classification & Metadata Management – (3 credit hours)

Digitization Efforts

  • Digital Collection - Full-text access to Da Afghanistan Kalanay(Afghanistan’s Yearbook) volumes,1933-1990
  • Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage Digitization – NEH Grant- Digitizing unique resources and setting up digitization infrastructure - challenges, problems, and barriers with language and lack of technological infrastructure - including virtual training efforts in the absence of training on the ground due to security issues in the country
digital collections
Digital Collections
  • Digital Collections

Offers full-text access to Da Afghanistan Kalanayvolumes,1933-1990

afghanistan s cultural heritage digitization neh grant
Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage Digitization – NEH Grant

The University of Arizona Libraries with the Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University (ACKU), is collaborating on Preserving and Creating Access to Afghanistan Literature from the Jihad Period to catalog, digitize, and create metadata for a unique collection of documents related to Afghanistan history, culture, and its development during the Jihad period, 1989 to 2006.

ACKU’s permanent collection is the most extensive in the region covering a

time of war and social upheaval in the country. The project will:

  • Train staff in standardized cataloging, metadata creation, and digitization processing.
  • Identify and provide international standardized cataloging and classification (metadata) for 6,000 titles or 15,000 physical unique items.
  • Scan, digitize, and preserve these 3,000 titles (approximately 300,000 pages).
  • Facilitate digital access and delivery.
  • Build a preservation infrastructure at Kabul University that can be a resource for all 19 universities in Afghanistan.
digitization standards and quality control
Digitization Standards and Quality Control

Digitization standards

    • National Archives technical guidelines for digitizing archival materials.
    • File naming: ISO-9660 to avoid OS platform and other issues.

Quality control

  • Use quality scanners.
  • Quality control is currently carried out in UAL by us
  • Wrote programs and used Photoshop to fix imaging problems
total number of titles and pages digitized

As of 4/24/2008

  • Afghanistan Kalanay: 1933 - 1990Pages: 30,950
  • Afghan Jihad collection: Titles: 235Pages: 33,000
Total Number of Titles and pages Digitized
acku digitization challenges
ACKU Digitization Challenges
  • Distance training
  • Logging
  • Metadata
  • Staff (including IT)
  • Equipment
    • Limited hardware/software services in Kabul
    • Bought hardware (server, scanners) from Dubai, UAE
    • Dealing with viruses
  • Communication
    • Email (primary)
    • Skype
    • YouTube
    • FedEx (not really working well)
  • Digitization management
    • Digitization tracking system
    • Benefits
  • Records
    • Cataloged data is saved in Excel
    • A program will be used to map data into MARC
    • A program in Koha can load MARC records into the ILS