Internet Sites of Libraries and Information Centers with English Language Interfaces: Current State and Development Prospects
Mikhail Goncharov, Executive Secretary, ILIAC; Department Head, Russian National Public Library for Science and Technology, Moscow, Russia
Ksenia Volkova, Information Manager, ILIAC: Section Head, Russian National Public Library for Science and Technology, Moscow, Russia
According to the Ministry of Communications of the Russian Federation the RUNET core at present (RUNET - Russian part of the Internet) embraces 4.3 millions active users, and the total number of users, according to different estimations, reaches 10-15 mln. These indicators are relatively low respective total Russian population, however they seem extremely important to Russia as they show the exponential growth of Internet users in Russia in the last 3 years. It also allows for a conclusion that the Russian Internet-population is far from reaching its saturation point – which is already the case in the US.
Statistical estimations of various Internet servers in the RUNET show from 60 to 80 percent of their users live and work in the Russian Federation and around 10 percent reside in 10 former SU countries. Hence the increased attention of content providers to Russian language resources and relatively cold attitude to English-language ones. There is also another important factor to consider, and that is higher efforts to maintain the English-language resource on a Russian web server implying high skilled and therefore highly paid workforce.
That's why it is not uncommon to see such a picture even on most popular RUNET servers:
However, there are a number of content providers supporting English-language sections on their Web sites.
Let us name the common features of those servers:
1. Most commonly the systems duplicate only the most important sections of the main server. For instance, Russian Business Consulting (RBC) offers only 60 percent of its content in English, Oreanda gives only every 10th news. The RNPLS&T provides access via the ILIAC Web server to some of its most important databases, that is, to Grey Literature, Russian Union Catalogue and several others, which in total constitute about 40 percent of the whole number of Library's databases.
2. Most commonly the servers providing English-language content are based in .com domain unlike their main servers (based in .ru domain) and are remotely hosted in the US. Typical examples are RBC (Russian Business Consulting), ILIAC, Interfax.
3. A larger part of sections at English-language mirror Internet servers are charged which, in general, is not characteristic for RUNET (for Russian –language servers) (in general, it is free).
Yet we must note that an increasingly big attention has been given lately to the development of English-language resources in Russia, which is apparently related to the realization of the fact that a major part of future users would be English speaking (and reading).
Let us proceed with considering specific examples of English-language servers in different areas of RUNET.
If we consider three the most popular and developed RUNET search engines, that is, Yandex, Aport and Rambler, we must note that only Yandex has a fully capable English version. Its URL iswww.yandex.ru
Yet you must keep in mind that in spite of the existence of an English-language interface the larger part of information indexed by Yandex is in Russian.
It means that to make a fully relevant and pertinent search you must formulate a Russian-language request. But for our aim of getting info on sites with English content Yandex provides the necessary service level.
Information portals are most developed complexes from the viewpoint of constructing bilingual Internet systems.
The most popular and trustworthy information portals in RUNET as well as in the whole world are Interfax and RBC.
A bit different from the Web servers already described is a semi-official site created at some point by Gleb Pavlovsky and named strana.ru, and the most important (from the viewpoint of the content owners) information is duplicated onto a formally independent online resource entitled Observer.com. However, even the general design indicates their information identity.http://www.russianobserver.com/
English-language resources in science, culture and education
Library servers, unfortunately, seldom have English-language sections yet lately and mainly due to projects and contests supported by foundations and international institutions, for instance, European Council commissions, there is an increasing interest to providing such resources.
As I have already mentioned, RNPLS&T employs the strategy of outsourcing its resources onto the server of the independent non-commercial corporation, which is ILIAC. ILIAC server hosts the library's main bibliographic databases as well as many resources of ILIAC and RNPLS&T partners.
Most interesting resources on this server are bulletins of new books and periodicals, which you may buy or subscribe to or order the delivery of the fragment in electronic or printed form.
An indisputable leader among traditional library servers supporting English-language interface is the Russian State Library. To a large extent it is due to the fact that the Russian State Library has participated in a number of major joint projects with the European Commission and national libraries of a number of countries stipulating the need to support such resources. However we must mention that the advanced level of English-language sections is impaired by insufficient representation of electronic catalogs and also some problems with the Library Internet server related to the difficulty of transition to a new library automation system.
The electronic library supported by the ADAMANT company, URL is www.elebron.com is closely connected to the Russian State library. Besides currently popular e-books it contains scanned copies of most interesting books of past centuries from the Library collection.
The most important English-language starting point to access online resources on Russian museums is the museum.ru server containing a catalog of 3,000 museums with their own Internet complexes. Of course this doesn't mean that all of those museums have English-language sections on their Web-servers but you can get a general overview of museums collections.
It would be interesting to note that the number of fully functional English-language museum servers exceeds the number of library servers, which of course is due to the specific nature of museum collections.
An undisputable leader of museum Internet servers is of course the Hermitage museum. It is explained, firstly, by its unique world-wide value and, secondly, by the implementation of multi-million projects (for instance a joint project with IBM Corporation) aimed to increase availability of Hermitage collections.
Currently we witness the active development of Internet servers of academic institutions and organizations, universities and higher schools. We can see emerging English-language sections on Internet servers and mirror servers. This situation is due to a large number of projects implemented within the framework of different foundations programs. It is also explained by these institutions need to find partners and therefore to give the world community an idea of their research and educational potential.
Practically all leading research and educational institutions have started such activities on representing their information on the Web in English and most likely this process will go forward at an increasing pace.
As an example let us give you the Web page of the Moscow State University.
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