Librarian Spoken Here?

Elizabeth Beaudin - Yale University Library

Intended Audience: Systems Analysts, Font Designers, Web Administrators, Web Designers
Session Level: Intermediate, Advanced

OACIS, funded by the Department of Education via a TICFIA grant, is an electronic union list of Middle Eastern journals developed in an open source environment. ("Union list" as used by libraries is a unified listing of materials held distinctly or in common by a group of libraries.) Unicode appeared to be the clear-cut solution in a system where: 1) the primary languages are English and Arabic; 2) a common data structure manages bibliographical and holdings information, in this case: MARC (MAchine-Readable Cataloging) as defined by the Library of Congress; and 3) the web display remains browser and font independent. Unicode represents the solution, although not a straightforward one.

First, the Romanized script used by library management systems to display non- Western languages tests the idea of a simple Unicode solution. Data extracted from these systems must be correctly converted, i.e. translated into "Librarian", before being loaded into OACIS. Along with several Western languages, OACIS includes 19 languages from the Middle East: the top 3 are Arabic, Turkish, and Persian.

Then, from a business perspective, the data translation and loading schemes need to accommodate varying data layouts and be administered at one site. The project partners currently include 7 US universities using 3 different library management systems and 1 German university. Six potential Middle Eastern partners are now identified; only some with automated systems.

Finally, data displays must accommodate both LTR and RTL orientation. The user interface to the web application allows for different languages, including Arabic. More importantly, the system must be able to handle the Romanized script in use and to display vernacular text when it becomes available.

Translation and integration are key elements of the project. This presentation will describe how Unicode can resolve these challenges and offer system commonality for use today and growth tomorrow.