Indian Ocean Rim Region Virtual Library Project

Susan Lutley describes a prototype virtual library, built as part of a co-operative venture focusing on broad issues in Social Development within the Indian Ocean Rim Region.

The Indian Ocean Rim Web Site [1] advances the scope of development studies researchers by providing access to material which has been difficult to obtain, and by offering a forum for researchers around the world, especially in the region, to network.

The Virtual Library is fully searchable, containing documents (free from copyright) in full text, research abstracts, subscription details for journals and reports from countries within the region.

The Indian Ocean Rim Region Site also provides researchers and students with a directory of Researchers and includes the opportunity to register their work, thus promoting the vast body of research currently within the region.

It has been jointly developed by Edith Cowan and Murdoch University Libraries; the Centre for Development Studies at Edith Cowan University and the Inter-University Consortium for Development Studies Western Australia (comprising Edith Cowan University, Murdoch University, Curtin University of Technology and the University of Western Australia.

Funding for the project, was received from the National Priority (Reserve) Fund Allocation from the improved Library Infrastructure which is administered by the Australian Vice-Chancellors Standing Committee on Information Resources.

Background and Content

In Western Australia, each University has either a major research focus or postgraduate studies in the discipline Development Studies, with interests in countries including Sri Lanka, Maldives, Seyc elles, Africa, Mauritius and Indonesia.

Links had already been established with external agencies including One World Centre, AIDAB, World Vision, Marga Institute and CENWOR (Sri Lanka).

The project identified an area of increasing interest, not well covered elsewhere, with a regional focus (hence the Indian Ocean Region), and the subject area of Social Development. The team were motivated by the need to harness fugitive or grey literature not readily available electronically.

The need for a systematic, accessible infrastructure to facilitate the storage, retrieval and dissemination of relevant information and documentation being the basis for this project. The funding provided an opportunity to pursue collaboratively to address the needs and network and share information, within and about this region.


The overall object is to provide a prototype virtual library containing information related to global social development in the Indian Ocean Rim Region.

The project features:-

  1. Web site for international access.
  2. References to data sources, integrated with full text (mostly of the "fugitive" kind).
  3. Register of research/research in progress.
  4. Register of researchers.
Specifically, the aims have been:-
  • to contribute to a network for the dissemination of information and to foster and support exchange of information;
  • to identify, select and acquire documents suitable for electronic scanning;
  • to set up and manage a home web page on the WWW;
  • to provide links to other information sources and existing collections in University
  • Libraries, Institutes or Agencies (local, national and international);
  • connect researchers and development organisations and centres within the region;
  • improve access to information by making it available in an electronic format;

The target audience included:-

(a) Australian

  • Academics and researchers in Australian universities
  • Development Studies centres
  • Students
  • Government departments
  • Commercial interests in the Rim
  • NGO's
  • Education (general public)
  • Schools (teachers and students)
(b) Overseas
  • Development centres and research students
  • Academics
  • NGO's

Standard Practises adopted in this project

1: Standards for Document Delivery

Documents have been provided in two formats;

  • PDF (portable downloadable format) - Adobe Acrobat standard
  • HTML format
These were chosen as the most likely to suit the majority of visitors. Anyone accessing the Internet can obtain a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader and HTML format, providing easy access to documents which are linked to the main page which lists all thr documents available to download.

Standard for documents in PDF format
All full text documents were split into a number of smaller documents for speedier retrieval. Documents which have been split have a front page which lists all the documents available to download. Tables or graphs are provided as separate PDF files.

Standard for documents in HTML format
Where appropriate documents were scanned, edited and marked up in HTML format. In some instances, where documents were large, they have been split at a suitable point in the document and linked by way of a chapter or section link. Visitors can access any section of the document from the section they are currently viewing by way of a link backwards or forwards.

2: Standards for HTML Production

The site conforms to HTML2 and HTML standards. Generally, visitors can view the information without the need for a graphic display. Except for documents which contain full text of publications, pages have been kept short for easy viewing. Search pages have a standard "help for navigation purposes" and a link to the IORR's copyright statement, as well as the University's copyright statement.

Although all material can be searched through the search pages, an index has been provided for each directory section; eg. Articles available, Researchers directory, Theses directory, Conferences Note: searches by country or region are available through a clickable map, or a listing of the regions.

Criteria for Document Selection

The following formed the basis to assist in the selection of documents:-

  1. Must be copyright free or able to be waived.
  2. Available locally from Western Australia, or from within the region. Materials will be sought from both individuals and institutions.
  3. In general unpublished and/or difficult to obtain materials such as:-
    • brochures/pamphlets
    • discussion papers, working papers
    • conference proceedings
    • newsletters
    • policy documents, position papers
    • press releases
    • government publications which are difficult to obtain
    • ephemera
    • ngo publications
  4. Length of document - some may require annotations (ie. only scan components).
  5. Ease of conversion to htm.
  6. Topic areas to include:-
    1. Social, economic, political, social movements (ie. the broader view of changes in the region).
    2. Health, education, gender, human rights, welfare, environment (ie. the specific areas of concern which are related to social development).
  7. Value judgement will be required only in areas where large amounts of material are collected.
  8. Life of a document. Generally exclude items likely to be redundant in less than 1 year.
  9. All documents in English


Social Development researchers studying the Indian Ocean Rim Region are now able to electronically source (including full text) a range of research and information documents from the WWW, in particular items which are difficult to trace and obtain.

The project provides an opportunity for researchers studying the region to register their research interests, projects and theses.

  • The prototype draft web pages have been constructed and are under continued review by the Project Team. Over 200 pages have been constructed.
  • More than 250 full text documents in HTML format, searchable and retrievable.
  • A collection of pamphlets (over 2,000 pages), research reports, over 50 theses abstracts and other "fugitive" material has been scanned. This collection is available for searching and retrieval.
  • 37 country files (HTML format) have been developed (includes statistical and background information). Countries searchable by search or clickable map.
  • Links to other useful sites have been established, including other University Development Studies units, relevant Government sites, important sites related to social development and relevant electronic journals.
  • Data pertaining to Researchers and Research in Progress has been added (approximately 130 researchers from all parts of the Region).
  • Facility to self-register research interests and projects is in place.
  • Six graphs (GIF format) have been developed, representing health expenditure and education expenditure figures and GNP per capita.

Recommendations arising from the project

  • need for a scanning policy: many documents in their hard copy format are not of a sufficiently high standard to be scanned;
  • the need for strong and clear copyright clearance and ownership statements;
  • formats as well as size of documents re document delivery need to be considered;
  • data collection - the need for input from a wide range of people: librarians, researchers and academics (requires co-ordination);
  • collaboration has proven a key issue, and the fact that many overseas bodies from the region are keen to continue collaborating with the IORR project is indicative of the importance of providing a centralised (network) source of information;
  • hardware and software issues (testing required);
  • the need for dedicated IORR web server;
  • the need for redesigning the information so that it is accessible through a database with a web interface for easier access to all material;
  • prototype be used for other similar projects;
  • co-operative links to be further explored.


  1. Indian Ocean Rim Project Web Site,

Author Details

Susan Lutley,
Faculty Librarian, Health & Human Sciences Manager
Tel: (09) 2738704
Address: Edith Cowan University Library, Churchlands Campus, Churchlands, W.A.6018. Australia
Date published: 
Monday, 19 May 1997
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