AGILE - Issue 1

ISSN 1020-4792

Newsletter shared by WAICENT (World Agricultural Information Centre), AGRIS and CARIS, and the DAVID LUBIN Memorial Library - GIL

Editorial .... progress versus development

The Virtual Library .... an extract from the proposal for the establishment of a virtual library

AGRIN and CARIN .... new arrivals

Harvesting grey literature .... press release from the Kellogg Project

The Field Programme .... still going strong

Agrindex .... a special offer

WAICENT .... (our) brief appreciation

The David Lubin Library .... the busiest agenda ever ...!

CARINPlus .... a beta version for testing : any takers?

A Romanian enterprise .... extending horizons

AGROVOC .... a truly multilingual thesaurus

AGRIS and CARIS .... the (brand) new CD-ROMs

Forestry news .... RIFLAC (Red de Información Forestal.......) - the recommendations

Speakers' Corner

Progress comes in various guises: nowadays the most evident is technological progress. The dictionary defines progress as " a forward or onward movement in space", or an "advance or development to a better state".

Technological progress is a funny thing. It has somehow modified the meaning of words. If we look at those two definitions nowadays, our generation, our era, no longer sees them as two separate concepts, the definition of physical or intellectual progress. We think of computers, of the Internet and we see them as one. We accept this compound description of our century's progress, and perhaps reflect a lot more than the past generation would have on whether progress necessarily entails moving to a better state. We can do more and more, but is it all getting any better?

This newsletter, as promised, is going up on the WorldWideWeb. Detailed information literature on the David Lubin Memorial Library, the AGRIS and CARIS fact sheets, and the list of the national and inter-governmental centres participating in AGRIS and CARIS are there already. Anyone with access to the Internet can read, store and print information of interest.

That's all very fine, but what about those without Internet, those without even the computer, those with a thousand other more pressing problems than clicking from one database to another? AGRIS and CARIS, WAICENT - the services they offer, the information they store, the improvements they seek constantly, are for everyone involved in agricultural development, from the programmer with the latest equipment to hand, to the researcher, and on down to the poorest farmer, who moves forward in space (and time) because he must in order to survive.

We don't want to - we mustn't - forget what these systems were created for, what FAO's mandate is. The more sophisticated we become, the more advanced and innovative, the further our minds travel from the original, all-consuming motive we had for starting along this road. It was survival, nutrition, sustainable agricultural development. We should write that down somewhere, so we don't forget it. On a piece of paper, in a diary, on the Internet itself......... May your own progress be that which advances the development of all your brethren.

AGILE is published in English, French and Spanish by the WAICENT/FAOINFO Dissemination Management Unit of the


for distribution to all AGRIS and CARIS centres, GILS field projects, AGLINET libraries, interested WAICENT participants, FAO Headquarters and field staff, and
other organizations and individuals throughout the world, involved in international agricultural information and documentation activities.

© FAO, Rome

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All published and unpublished information starts today on someone’s computer. Under the WAICENT umbrella the Organization can standardize the way that the data is prepared and formatted. From this uniform format, a variety of output products can be produced; from an electronic publication distributed over the Internet, to a file distributed on diskette, CD-ROM or printed on demand as needed, anywhere in the world. Previously published documents may be scanned or digitised when required and added to the electronic service. Links over the Internet can be made to other institutions who make their documents and other information available electronically. Library services, which are now provided directly by the David Lubin Library branches and in regional offices, will not have to be maintained separately as the Virtual Library service would be available over the network world-wide. The role of GIL is critical to the success of this effort.

The data must be organized, categorized, indexed in such a way that users within the Organization and those outside, can access what they require. An integrated library software package will be selected and installed. The cataloguing module in such a system would be linked to outside library vendor services; the integrated system would include modules for acquisition, document circulation control and serials control. All the records are part of one integrated database structure replacing the multiple databases currently maintained. Library users sitting at their office computer would have immediate access to the Library’s catalogue and would be able to electronically request any document, determine if a document is still on order, being circulated, or is available electronically.

Direct electronic linkages between the references in the databases to the actual documents will be established. The enquirer then has direct access to the full text of the document for browsing, downloading or off-line delivery. Links could also be made to electronic documentation at other institutions around the world, via the Internet. New scanning and storage devices will be installed in the Library to replace the old filming and microfiche equipment. Documents not available electronically will be quickly digitised when requested, and delivered to users.

Once the project is approved it could be accomplished within 18 months. Several GIL databases will soon be loaded for testing on a new text retrieval software package, BASIS Plus, for evaluation as part of FAOINFO under WAICENT. The objective of this proposal is to broaden the current concept of WAICENT (World Agricultural Information Centre) to encompass the Virtual Library ideal by incorporating the skills, experience, and resource collections of GIL for the service of information-seekers everywhere and at all levels."

So much for the technicalities. But what exactly is a Virtual Library, and why does FAO need one? The Virtual Library is a concept that encompasses a multitude of ideas about how information will be stored, accessed and disseminated in the near future. The essential idea for FAO is that this electronic information service would provide on-line access to the Organization's institutional memory, i.e. the overall system for retaining, mapping, navigating and retrieving the Organization's technical knowledge and information resources to the technical literature. This is the system which will replace the traditional delivery of library services, since: (a) FAO staff, no matter where they are located, will have full desktop computer access to the Virtual Library, and (b) users from outside FAO will be able to access our information services via WAICENT/FAOINFO. The Virtual Library is a library without walls, providing access to the world of information resources from other institutions, publishers and governmental sources.

World society is going through a significant change and, driven by technology, is moving from an industry-based to an information-based economy. Not to put too fine a point on it, only those organizations who know how to manage and exploit their own information resources, and how to access those from other sources, can hope to survive into the next milennium. To become a centre of excellence in its normative, development and operational activities FAO must provide the staff at headquarters, in the regional offices and in the field, with immediate desktop access to the latest and most complete information resources available. FAO itself has a huge store of valuable information resources built up over the past fifty years and the production of information continues to be its major output.

A critical ingredient towards becoming a true centre of excellence lies in how the Organization prepares, processes, organizes and makes available this information. In the future, only those organizations who succeed in efficiently managing and exploiting information resources, from within and outside the Organization, will be successful in this future environment called the Information Age. Information is an integral part of FAO's mandate and is its most precious resource.

With the birth of the Virtual Library, agricultural information in its widest possible concept, will be centralized, homogenized, and speedily accessible. Those centres and institutions on the electronic network will serve the ones who are not so that no institute, group or individual will be without the possibility to acquire information just because they lack the funds to buy a publication or purchase the equipment.

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Diskettes with AGRIN version 2.22 and AGCHK and an updated CACHK have been distributed to AGRIS/CARIS participating centres. The AGCHK and CACHK diskettes contain the file that matches the new AGROVOC thesaurus.

Please let us know at the AGRIS/CARIS Coordinating Group (Room A-107, GIL-FAO, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy ( ). If you haven't received either of these products or have problems or questions concerning the installation of either the new version or of the data files.

We hope that by now everyone has received the AGRIS CD-ROM acknowledgement forms numbers 26 and 27. Number 26, sent out on March 1, refers to the Current (Jan-Nov 1995) - Archival (1993-1994) and Current FHN (1975 to December 1995) disks, while Number 27, sent out on April 15, accompanied the Current (1995-February 1996) disk. Let us know immediately if you are missing any of these disks. Don't forget it is your responsibility to destroy the current disk, once you are in possession of the subsequent one!

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Several countries of tropical Latin America have committed themselves to the task of recovering "justify" so-called “grey literature” and spreading the information it contains on natural resource management of the region.

The project is coordinated by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) - based in Cali, Colombia - through its Information and Documentation Unit (IDU), and receives financial support from the Kellogg Foundation. Its purpose is to establish a regional information network for researchers, students, research institutes, and communities.

“Grey literature” is information that has never been published, or that has been published in a non-conventional form or for limited distribution. Examples include theses, annual reports, surveys, policy documents, statistics and maps. This kind of literature can contain invaluable information which, however, reaches only a limited audience because it doesn’t appear in widely distributed sources or collections. The network should [help to] integrate national research systems and offer wide access to information, thus improving the quality and efficiency of research, education, and decision-making. “The project is based on the principle of participation with a basic premise of sharing resources,” says Elizabeth Goldberg, IDIJ head. "The original participants to the project are the national programs and universities of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Venezuela. These countries sent representatives to a 2-week training course held at CIAT from February 5 -16, 1996.

The techniques we have acquired will help us to gather and process the information we need, and to make it accessible to the users,” says Orfylla Pine, a representative of the National Autonomous University of Honduras. The three-year program consists of several stages, each with concrete activities. It will begin with an analysis of existing information to identify gaps. Then local partners will begin to search for documents. All the information will be maintained in regional and international databases, to be published on compact disc and as alert bulletins. Copies of source documents will be available on request.

“Our countries need to consolidate their information systems. To do this we must cooperate with local institutions, neighbouring countries, and the world,” says Nancy Andara, librarian at Venezuela’s Central University, one of the participating institutions. “The project lets us make the most of [both] efforts and resources, and its documentation will help to develop research and projects in each region.” says Martha Elena Mufloz of Colombia’s National University.

Not only Latin America will benefit from the network. The information will also be disseminated worldwide through the AGRIS database of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. The AGRIS/CARIS Coordinating Group supplied a trainer for the course in February. “It will be very interesting to see our work acquire relevance as it gains a place in the world of electronic communications,” says Belangela Tarazona of the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research. The information to be documented will cover resource management in three important agro-ecoregions of tropical America: savannas, hillsides, and forest margins.

The network is made up of a general coordinating centre, CIAT, a regional centre for Central America, which will be the Centre for Research and Teaching in Tropical Agriculture (CATIE) in Costa Rica, and several collaborating centres. “Now we’re entering into the analytical phase of the project, which is very important. Gathering the information and processing it will be the most difficult part, but we’re sure we'll contribute a lot to those activities,” says Marta Abarca, CATIE delegate. “We have a lot of work in front of us, but we’ll do it enthusiastically. We have committed ourselves to a very important project,” says Ana Lucia de Faria, representative of the Brazilian Enterprise for Agricultural Research (EMBRAPA). All the participants of the training course, the coordinators and the donors share this enthusiasm because they all dream of ensuring a greener world for future generations. Curiously, one of the paths that lead to this goal is covered with “grey literature.” CIAT, whose mandate includes applying science to agriculture to increase food production, while sustaining the natural resource base, is one of 16 international centres sponsored by the Consultation Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

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With all that's going on at FAO Headquarters, you might be wondering if GIL has given up assisting member countries to strengthen their national and regional documentation/information centres and systems. Far from it! Upon requests from the governments, documentation projects are currently being executed in Cambodia, Estonia, Nepal, Sudan, Swaziland and Yemen.

In the next issue of Agile more about these ongoing field activities........

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FAO Distribution and Sales Section has a special offer for former subscribers with paid subscriptions to Agrindex. For this year only, they are offering one year's subscription to AGRIS on CD-ROM (produced by SilverPlatter), for the special price of $500. Four CD-ROMs will be issued, with quarterly updates. They also have a limited number of back issues of the printed Agrindex that are available on request. If you would like more information about this offer, please contact the Distribution and Sales Section, FAO: fax (+39-6 52255152 or 52255155);

The current FAO Publications Catalogue is on Internet at http: // or the gopher at gopher://

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The WAICENT corporate database is a good deal more than this bare description would have us believe. WAICENT is a functional example of what the concept of "sharing knowledge" really means. Its knowledge bank belongs to everyone - the specialist, the data-fiend, and the merely curious.

Aptly described as an umbrella, WAICENT has standardized data collection and simplified user downloading procedures in order to promote the widest possible access to its wealth of data. The following is a description of the work, objectives and merits of WAICENT. Some of the text is part of the intrduction to WAICENT found on the WWW; some of it represents our own impression of WAICENT's work and potential.


Knowledge is a vital tool for development. Scientific and technological advances have brought unprecedented changes to every field of human endeavour - including agriculture and food production.

In addition to encouraging the direct transfer of skills and technology through field projects, FAO provides a variety of information and support services. Computer databases are maintained on topics ranging from fish marketing information to trade and production statistics; from current agricultural research to any and all aspects of world agricultural literature. The Organization's Geographic Information System provides data on soils, vegetation cover and other aspects of land use. Satellite imagery is among the many tools used by the Global Information and Early Warning System to monitor conditions affecting food production and to alert governments and donors to any potential threats.

The information gathered and consolidated by the Organization is made available in diverse media: publications, videos, filmstrips and computer disks. All publications are accessible at the David Lubin Memorial Library, and through the regularly updated bibliography, FAODOC. Without the means to "analyse, interpret and disseminate information relating to nutrition, food and agriculture", FAO would not have been able to fulfil its commitment towards the developed and developing world as stated in Article 1 of its constitution. WAICENT, the World Agricultural Information Centre, is a corporate effort to consolidate the information received and handled throughout FAO and release it in a structured, organized manner. FAO's information activities also include grassroots communications programmes that reach rural people directly, encouraging community awareness and action on agricultural environmental issues. Public information campaigns address major issues at a broader level.

It is in the work of WAICENT,in the sharing of information and disseminating it world-wide across platforms which accommodate the widest range of equipment, that FAO's mandate to assist the developing world through cooperation is seen in its most productive light.

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And suddenly it's summer! With all the activity at the David Lubin Library the past six months have sped by. It has been an exciting year so far: we have been very busy building the David Lubin site on the Internet. Our Web site is an integral part of the construction of FAO’s Virtual Library, under the umbrella of the World Agricultural Information Centre (WAICENT).

These are timely developments because at the present moment the United Nations and agency libraries are developing their partnerships and collaborating intensively with each other.

Not only is FAO’s David Lubin Memorial Library fully participating in this activity but we were pleased to host the third United Nations Task Force on Interlibrary Cooperation (TF/LIB) Meeting in Rome, in April 1996. FAO profited doubly from this activity since some of the Task Force members remained in Rome after the meeting to participate in a Virtual Library (brainstorming) forum: exciting times indeed! This is a time of restructuring, re-engineering, of new ways of doing business. It is a time for finding new methods for delivering information; forging new partnerships; and resource sharing as never before.

But it is not only the novelties that keep us busy. We must continue to build our long established networks - particularly AGLINET - for the delivery of documents to support the electronic data files. Although the AGLINET network is over twenty years old we continue to receive requests for information and for membership. Many AGRIS Centres have opted for the dual AGLINET/AGRIS membership and we hope this is advantageous to them. For present and potential members we welcome your suggestions as to how we can strengthen and build upon the network. It is particularly important to establish and maintain contacts, either individually or as a group. Although the AGLINET Meeting and the AGRIS/CARIS Technical Consultation have been moved to 1997, we have been able to keep in touch by electronic mail and in person. It was a special pleasure to see Ms. Janeti Bombini de Moura from the Escola Superior de Agricultura “Luiz de Queiroz” Sao Paulo, Brazil, who took time off from a personal visit to Italy to meet us.

In February we welcomed Mr. Mahindapala and Mr. Wettasignhe representing one of our AGLINET members from Sri Lanka, SRCRI, the Sri Lanka Council for Agricultural Research Policy. We thoroughly appreciated the opportunity to communicate and to share ideas.

The original raison d’être for AGLINET is still very important. Technology assists us through the e-mail, fax and - particularly as far as document transmission methods are concerned - ARIEL, as more and more AGLINET Centres acquire the ARIEL software package. We have noted below the new ARIEL numbers specifically for our AGLINET members, but we invite all recipients of this newsletter to use it as a medium for exchange of additional ARIEL identifiers:


Agriculture Canada

Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Colombia

Centro Interamericano de Documentación e Información Agrícola (IIICA-CIDIA), Costa Rica

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, Mexico

Wageningen Agricultural University, The Netherlands

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations AGLINET International Co-ordinating Centre

U.S. Department of Agriculture (NAL), U.S.A.

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We are just in the process of wrapping up work on a new Micro CDS/ISIS application called CARINPlus. This will be the future replacement for the current CARIN software that is being used by many of the CARIS centres to input their data for their own national - and for the global - database.

CARINPlus has a number of new features that will make data input much easier and will be especially useful in minimizing repetitive data input tasks, while at the same time reducing the possibility of errors. It includes such new features as the capability to select and add AGROVOC and local index terms, and AGRIS/CARIS subject category codes, to project records, from linked authority files. Other new features include separate authority records for institutional names and researchers.

These authority records are created once and then selected and linked to project records as they are input. CARINPlus will also include a record-locking feature. This allows subcentres and national and regional centres to have better control on any changes that might be made to project records during the time that they are being forwarded from one centre on up through the AGRIS/CARIS Coordinating Group, where they are added to the global database and then returned once more to the centres.

We are looking for CARIS centres willing to test this new software and to provide us with any comments and suggestions regarding ease of use, operational features, or the documentation and help messages. This beta version, along with a new manual, has been developed and is being tested in English first. After the initial trials we will have the French and Spanish versions prepared.

Please contact the AGRIS/CARIS Coordinating Group if your CARIS centre is willing to test this new software. Looking forward to hearing from someone soon!

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The computing centre at the Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences in Bucharest has been forwarding national data for AGRIS since 1994. Until that year, the centre used its own computer software for retrieving and sending AGRIS data.

Staff at the centre are now using FAO's AGRIN software for AGRIS data input, the e-mail for sending the data to the APU at Vienna, and SPIRS and HEURISKO to retrieve data from the AGRIS CD-ROM. Over the last year they have elaborated a system of extracting and managing selections of data from the AGRIS CD-ROM. The program converts selected data from the CD-ROM (SPIRS) format to the CDS/ISIS import format, and an additional application enables different people - using their own personal computers - to manage the selected data at the research unit site. Information is then transmitted to requesting specialized research organizations around the country.

Joseph Judy, Head, AGRIS/CARIS Coordinating Group, wrote in reply: "...The approach of downloading selections from the AGRIS CD-ROMs for redistribution to specialized centres in your country is a very good one, ensuring that the data is made as widely available as possible."

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AGROVOC is proving a (truly) multilingual thesaurus. The Czech AGRIS/CARIS Centre represented by the Institute of Agricultural and Food Information in Prague has launched the translation of AGROVOC into Czech.

The project has been supported and financed by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Czech Republic. Translation started in the middle of 1995; it should be completed by the end of 1996. The main purpose of the translation is to acquire a standard indexing tool that will be used not only for the processing of AGRIS and CARIS inputs but also for the creation of library catalogues and of the national database Czech Agricultural Bibliography in the Institute of Agricultural and Food Information.

The third edition of AGROVOC, which contains more than 15,700 descriptors, was distributed to all the AGRIS/CARIS participating centres in February 1996. Please contact the AGRIS/CARIS Coordinating Group if your centre did not receive a copy. We have tried to reserve extra copies for those centres operating on a decentralized basis, or which require them for multiple indexers.

AGROVOC can be purchased directly from the Distribution and Sales Section - FAO - Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy. (Fax: +39-6 52255152 or 52255155 - Price: US$100.00 with a 50% discount on orders from developing countries. Don't forget to specify the language required: English, French or Spanish.

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Work is currently underway on the production of a new CARIS CD-ROM that will be current through June of this year. This updated CD, which uses a new, improved version of the HEURISKO software will replace the prototype made in 1994.

There will be two CARIS databases on this new CD: the first containing all the current research projects and the second consisting of a historical database that will include completed research projects from earlier years.

We are also working with SPAAR (Special Programme for African Agricultural Research) to include their database of agricultural research projects on the same disc. We expect this new CD to be available in early Autumn; it will be sent free of charge to all AGRIS and CARIS centres, as well as any other interested institutions requesting it. Expected to be published end-June 1996, this CD-ROM contains 171,116 bibliographical reference on forestry and primary forest products, entered in AGRIS between 1986 and 1995. The user search interface employs new HEURISKO search functionality improvement features, viz. thesaurus search interface, a search capacity in groups of fields and new predefined sort/print parameters. It is available in English French and Spanish.

The CD-ROM will be sent in due course to all AGRIS centres. Ad hoc requests may be addressed to the AGRIS/CARIS Coordinating Group .

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The 3rd meeting of the RIFALC (Red de Información Forestal para América Latina y el Caribe) was held in Cartagena from March 18 to 20 of this year. Among the principal recommendations made at the meeting was that of creating sub-regional nodes for RIFLAC in Chile, Colombia, and Peru, and at CATIE for Central America. It was also recommended to adopt the AGRIS/CARIS methodology for the documental and referral information activities to be developed in the framework of the RIFLAC........

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A letter from Virgil Vlad, director, ICPA Computing Centre, Bucharest.........

We were very glad to learn about the development of the FAO information systems and would like to take advantage of the new information resources that will be made available by the AGRIS and CARIS network and WAICENT. Because our networking facilities are not powerful enough (communication link of only 1200/2400 bps), in practical terms we cannot access Internet's WorldWideWeb server so we would naturally like to get additional information on WAICENT services.

We were happy to receive FAOSTAT-PC data and software. We can display and convert data that is very useful for specialists in our Academy and elsewhere around the country.

........................ and another from Hayati Küçukçakar, acting director of the Publications Department at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs in Ankara.

We are revitalizing our activities and services as the Turkish National AGRIS/CARIS Input Centre, [and] from now on Turkey will be resuming its participation in AGRIS. ........ at present we are searching the AGRIS database on CD-ROM to meet information users' needs. Within a few months we will be using Internet, and I will give you my E-mail address as well.

Please write a short statement for the first issue of the newsletter that the Turkish AGRIS/CARIS centre is in operation again and ready for cooperation with other participating centres. Thank you for sending the FAOSTAT-PC software and the set of data diskettes; we are getting benefits from them. I will write brief news for the newsletter as we progress with our activities.

{Ndr. Mr Hayati is person to contact for the AGRIS/CARIS Centre in Ankara}

We have received numerous letters from institutions, libraries and students all over the world, asking to be included in the mailing list for the newsletter. These, together with the news received periodically from our AGRIS and CARIS centres, convinced us of the usefulness of the newsletter itself.

Don't let AGILE become just a bulletin board - something to leaf through passively when there's less pressure of work ....... the newsletter is your channel of communication - whatever you want us to know, and however you want to say it, get the message over to everyone!

Requests to be added to the mailing list for the bulletin, and letters or short contributions to be considered for publication should be sent to :

Monique Bonnichon, Senior Officer - FAOINFO, GIL Division, Room A-105, FAO, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy
(Telephone : +39 6 522-54392) (Facsimile : +39 6 522 54049)

[Library & Documentation Services Division, GIL - July 1996]

Documentation Services (Editor-in-chief)