Last update at : Wed May 3 18:20:58 1995

Paper Inet5

Empowering Information Professionals and end Users with new Cultural Values

May 3, 1995

Soledad Ferreiro (


The University of Chile is undergoing changes in the management of its information services as the result of four key decisions: an ATM inter-campus network, INTERNET connections in every faculty, a new central unit (SISIB) to manage both the corporate information resources and facilitate global library processes, and the strategic alliance of SISIB with the Department of Informatics. Thus, the prevailing self-reliant faculty information culture has in a twelve month period been permeated by the incorporation of new "resource sharing" information values: i.e, a comprehensive corporate web site, a permanent INTERNET training program, an on line union catalog plus the constant training of librarians and users for the new information age, among others.

Permanent demonstrations on INTERNET to the national community are creating a demand on this unit for consulting purposes. A demo on one of the highlights of our web ( is linked to this paper, making it a dynamic item as the web nformation is constantly updated.


1 A starting point for Latin America

2 A profile of the University

3 Towards a new information culture: the creation of the unit Information Services and Library System, SISIB

4 Major achievements

5 Overall results in an 12 month-period:

Author Information

1 A starting point for Latin America

As more countries comply with the new economic order where telecommunications are privatized, telephone companies deregulate in the long distance and local calls, as well as the evolution of universities technological competencies and the decreasing costs for users, opportunities for emerging countries to leapfrog into the information and knowledge society in spite of their historical information deficits increase.

Today in Chile, as a result of an effective governmental telecommunications policy, nine multicarriers are competing for the market and three backbone networks run down this 4.500 kms long and narrow country covering a long stretch of it. This far-reaching technological infrastructure together with the remarkably well qualified multi-disciplinary human resources involved constitute a main asset towards an information and knowledge society.

Chile holds today the highest per capita percentage in Internet connections of all Latin America and a large amount of microcomputers. Two university consortia are the main data transmission networks to INTERNET. All of Chile's twenty five traditional universities, as well as a large amount of the 46 private ones, have connections.

By 1995, as part of a special project headed by the Ministry of Education (MECE), 325 public high schools will be linked to INTERNET of a total universe of 1,215 which ultimately, will be all connected by the year 2000. One hundred elementary school of a total of 8,500 aprox. (half rural) are already connected through the Enlaces project. ( Growth plans for the elementary schools will be susbstantially slower due to the difficulties involved in the empowerment of school teachers which are widely dispersed. Fourteen Regional Public Headquarters Libraries and some private schools are in the process of connecting to the network.

In spite of this progress though, a National Information Infrastructure understood as a public policy and strategic vision for both the carriers and the contents as a whole, is not still in the political agenda.

Nevertheless, the increasing use of INTERNET is rapidly provoking among its users an urge for obtaining national public information as opportune as it happens with other countries, specially the United States. It can be foreseen that having access to such a powerful tool, the global information infrastructure (GII) would probably quickly change the present situation.

The understanding of its benefits should boost an awareness of the advantages of assigning resources to promote the creation of Public Access Nodes for citizens' empowerment as well as supplying the necessary incentives to public and private organizations in order for them to organize their public information and knowledge and become permanent network content providers.

2 A profile of the University

The University of Chile, 152 years old, is the oldest national university, conformed by 16 Faculties, 3 Institutes and 3 interdisciplinary centers. The teaching activities are focused in Santiago, the capital, with 5.783.703 millions inhabitants . It has a total community of 30,948 members of which 16,775 are undergraduate students, 1,420 graduates, 1,903 diplomates and 900 foreign students, 4,787 faculty (2,923 full time equivalent) and 5,163 administration. Official indicators show that our university has the leadership within the country in research and creation of new knowledge (39% of the total research grants). Various other aspects mainly concerned with academic, cultural and extension activities can be seen through its permanently updated web. (

2.1 Technological leadership

2.2 University culture

2.3 Weak library infrastructure

2.1 Technological leadership

It is the best technologically equipped in the country, having the first ATM network in Latin America that connects eight of its campuses. Through AccesNova, an agreement between NTT, Japan, and the new Science and Technology Information Center, ICT, the University will become an experimental ground for new technological developments for multimedia applications which will be tested simultaneously in both countries.

As of today, the University utilizes 30% of the total traffic of the national university consortium REUNA, a transmission network that provides connectivity to INTERNET. Miscellaneous activities to promote an effective use of this resource are an ongoing process carried out by the different Faculties, the Informatics Division and the newly created unit for information management, SISIB.

2.2 University culture

To understand the University culture, it is important to know that for a period of 17 years (1973-1990), the University underwent a profound rupture in its regular academic activity when military and civilians Rectors were designated without any university participation. This important fact strongly marked the faculty, administrative, personnel and students' behavior and their relations. The relationship among Faculties and Institutes was also deteriorated, and many uneconomical management decisions were carried out in each unit as a survival measure.

When in 1990 a civilian Rector (President) is elected, the new administration is confronted with a strong prevailing university culture characterized, among others, by great autonomy of its academic units, a profound mistrust towards activities invigorated by the central administration, a very weak geographically dispersed university information infrastructure, and a large bureaucracy forged by the steady growth of personnel under each new Rector, which backed by a special law, could not be removed, thus conforming a non motivated negative power group.

2.3 Weak library infrastructure

The library infrastructure that the university has lived with for the last 20 years can be characterized by a substantially dated collection of about 600,000 unique bibliographic titles, by a meager yearly acquisition rate and a modest current periodicals collection housed in an array of small, medium, large, central or, departmental libraries or mere deposits dispersed in different campus totaling 59 isolated units with generally not enough support from the top management.

This fragmented reality, with no common technical standards, with small databases for local use, in which each unit acquires and processes separately, concurrently with a general policy for early retirement without replacement has, in many cases, meant the reduction of the best personnel and an overload of the remaining staff who, to cope with the day to day demands, can only solve urgent matters in detriment of the possibility of transforming their activities from a library management orientation to the management of information using the technology available in the country.

It can be said, as an overall viewpoint, that the situation has been for many years chaotic where librarians are roughly bearing their burdensome circumstances, in a global morale of despair. For the library clients, specially the student community, libraries have not responded to their basic needs.

The lack of a university wide Library System was pointed out in 1992 by the University Commission for Informatics, as a main institutional weakness. Actions were taken by the new administration to seek for the political and financial support to overcome the unsatisfactory situation described above.

But it was not only until February 1994 that the University obtained from FONDEF, the seed money for a three year project which permitted the creation of the new organizational unit and the development of the projects which are described in the next section.

3 Towards a new information culture: the creation of the unit Information Services and Library System, SISIB

When University authorities agreed upon the creation of a central organization to deal with the information resources at a university wide level, the administration looked for external funding, knowing that any project would by far exceed the regular budget. Two projects were developed and presented to a government fund (FONDEF) whose main objective is the favoring of the national key productive sectors. The project had to be reformulated to match the grant's specifications. According to the referees point of view, the project needed to show a clear impact in those areas, and secondly it had to be housed in a high hierarchical University level. As the new presentation covered both aspects, in March 1994, funds were granted for a three-year period, covering a 30% of the total cost of the project, being the University the counterpart for the remaining amount.

The first measure was to hire the Director, the librarian who had been in charge of re-writing the project, the latter, a process which was done in close contact with the head of the Computer Services Department at the time. In that way, a consistent approach was maintained from the beginning and the strategic alliance with this Department became a crucial factor for the new management of the project.

It has to be pointed out that between the first and last project, many new opportunities had appeared in the university scenario. The correct assessment on how to use them for the project's benefit together with the analysis of their impact on the university information and management culture was an ongoing process between its Director and the Head of the Computer Services Department which at length was shared with the Planning Department.

A very profound analysis, together with many conversations and deliberations with University key people were maintained for a two month period. Some very clear concepts emerged from this process:

a) The University could not look back and try to fill all of the gaps of its very weak information structure.

b) The only reasonable possibility to leapfrog into the new information society was to use the University technology, understood as its inter-campus ATM network, campus networks and the resources available through INTERNET.

c) A permanent campaign should be implemented towards Faculties so as to turn Libraries into public access points to INTERNET and the national networks.

d) Libraries would voluntarily be invited to join the different institutional projects carried out by the newly created SISIB.

e) The human resources to run the project had to be highly qualified and achievement oriented.

f) Funds would be invested as a first measure in reconverting the one hundred librarians, and later the end users.

g) External financial support for overall library automation, would be seeked by the new unit.

The project, then, was focalized on those activities that could rapidly be executed through the use of the locally available technology. A new vision emerged which took as it main matrix: the ATM network, the full utilization of the capabilities offered by INTERNET, the preparation of the existent librarians, the comprehensive use of the MultiLIS software for library automation and database creation, and a permanent attitude to scrutinize the changing scenario as well as the investment in contacting people both from within and from the outward community to show them the new information world.

The new unit was established in March 1994 and named as Sistema de Servicios de Información y Bibliotecas, SISIB, depending from the Pro-Rector, (Vice-President), second position in the University chart.

The mission of this strategic unit is to provide new information and library services both for the university and the external community, with a strong commitment on the reconversion of information professionals, the use of the latest technology, a permanent attitude to analyze the internal and external environment as well as being responsive to the information needs of students, faculty, the administration and university personnel (university community) and focused to serve, according to the university strengths, the information needs of key sectors of the country.

This strategy required a very loose organizational structure with the flexibility to adapt to the emerging opportunities. An informal structure gave birth to Task Forces headed by a Coordinator.

The new work team was carefully selected and was merged with a group of ten people that were part of a former Library Coordination Unit, that had a Bookmobile that periodically visited each campus. Ample possibilities were given for continuing education for each of the inherited members according to their needs.

The main tasks to accomplish in the three year period are the following:

- Creation of a new organizational unit within the university structure for university wide information and library management.

- Formation of a university wide information resources inventory.

- Conversion of information professionals and end users to the new information and technological cultural values.

- Generation of an Online Union Public Catalog with 40.000 records.

- Automation of the library processes of three libraries.

- Establishment of a Strategic Information Center for Agribusiness.

To fulfill these objectives personnel was hired from various backgrounds conforming a multidisciplinary team of librarians, graphic designers, communication specialists, translator, journalist, computer and agricultural engineers, business administrators and clerical workers. Four librarians and 6 clerks merged into the new group.

4 Major achievements

After a twelve month period of a very motivated and hard working group, the Information Services and Library System can show the following achievements:

4.1 New unit

4.2 People's empowerment

4.3 University of Chile's web

4.4 Training Program on the use of INTERNET

4.5 On-line Union Public Catalog

4.6 Automation of Library processes

4.7 Strategic Information Center for Agribusiness

4.1 New unit

The establishment and acceptance within the University of a tactic and strategic unit in the terms explained above. Though the unit has not been formalized yet in the organizational chart, the administration has strongly backed up its multiple activities and given ample facilities to solve many of the restrictions that are part of the regulatory system of a public University. It can be said that the positive perceptions among the Faculties, Institutes and Centers and their libraries have by far outnumbered the few negative power struggles provoked by isolated groups which tend not to believe in the benefits to be obtained from activities generated from a centralized organization.

4.2 People's empowerment

Innovation and change do only occur in grounds specially prepared to allow for the blooming of personnel. Explicit and non explicit strategies from the direction favoured achievement, strategic mind analysis, comprehension of the delicate balance between autonomy and control, adaptability to changing decisions, fast problem solving response, total quality, imaginative approaches and consumer and business orientation.

Factors such as leadership and a new type of administration; empowerment and training; and positive short-term results have shown a working model and opened a broad scope for each person's full participation and progress at the highest level in relation with their previous information and technological state. In this way the new team merged with the pre-existent working group which has gradually acquired the new values.

A sequence of strategic decisions has been taken towards that direction and has proven to be instrumental in the overall results of the group which are the the following:

a) Hiring of new personnel with the specific qualifications for each job and a competitive salary.

b) Setting a new style of wired administration. Every staff member was connected to an internal local network, to the inter-campus network and to INTERNET. Each person was assigned an e-mail address and was trained in the use of basic office software. To lessen training problems, Macintosh was selected, though it was not the general university choice.

A new management resulted as goal-geared staff got immediately immersed in the basics of the project, as information flowed from List Serves, from professionals, and any other reliable source and not exclusively from the heads of the Task Forces or from the director of the unit. Today, the unit resembles a beehive, or a high tech factory, being characterized by a strong synergy and a common vision.

c) Creation of a new job description including the study and use of the INTERNET.

d) Offering training to the Faculty Librarians in every process involved in automated cataloguing.

e) Opening opportunities for attending specialized courses in management as separate courses or in the forma of a diploma.

As the result of these policies, 209 training opportunities were given to librarians both from the central unit and the Faculty Libraries. A 45% of the training was dedicated to technical processing, 20% to INTERNET, 5% to management and the rest to assorted subjects.

Different strategies have been derived for a different empowerment, which fundamentally can be described as permanent action with key national people from the private, public and the University sectors to show the benefits that can be obtained, at a very marginal cost, by joining INTERNET. These include special invitations to the Director's office for two hour demonstration with ample time for deliberations; and other activities such as conversations and the pressence of the staff as lecturers in most of the events related to the information and knowledge society in the country and in some selected meetings abroad.

All this, with the idea of putting into he public agenda the need for talking of a National Information Infrastructure, the necessity of organizations to become content providers and the urgency of having public access nodes to INTERNET, with a special emphasis on Public Libraries and Schools.

4.3 University of Chile's web

The original project included an information resources inventory. In June 1994, the Computer Services Department pointed out the convenience of developing a University World Wide Web server that could be launched together with the ATM network in early August, 94.

An interdisciplinary group - a full time web coordinator and a part time librarian - focused on the analysis and structuring of the information produced by the central administration., with a 10 week period to put up the website. Taking into account the special conditions of the geographically dispersed university and the lack of formal channels to distribute official information, the web was thought of as a means for internal/external communication, a productivity tool that saves time in information searching and as a very powerful public corporate image.

Information gathered was the existent information in magnetic form resulting from the regular activities of units willing to cooperate within the central administration, information which was analyzed both in its contents and possible searching possibilites. This information was organized and structured in paper layers, creating menus, indexes and links between the information and the indexes.

When a consensus was accomplished in the way of treating the information, the group incorporated an architect-graphic designer with extensive practice in the development of multimedia applications and a third year student from the Faculty of Physical Sciences and Mathematics with HTML knowledge. The head of the Department of Computer Services who introduced the unit into this challenge, performed as an analytical counterpart when needed.

Influenced by the concept behind the word Mosaic, the designer proposed to maintain a consistency throughout the entire web that would show a permanent "under construction Mosaic" of information. This coherence of visual images was designed for two central reasons: to offer a corporate image and to aid users to retrieve information in a homogenous friendly way.

The central visual layout was set up as a main image on the left side; square buttons are used to the right of this image for the menu or index for each subject. Some of these buttons have information and other have not, to allow for future needs. At the bottom of the image, three buttons, reproduced in each screen correspond to links to the web master, free text retrieval (not implemented yet) and users' opinions forms.

The total layout of the screen is formatted with a square grid both on top of the images and forming the menu buttons with filled or unfilled information. In this way a regular pattern was created for every screen. When the user presses one of these buttons, it is presented with an allusive image of the subject chosen plus an array of square buttons with pertinent information. Menus are displayed up to three screens depending on the subject before arriving to the full information. As the web started to grow a full time journalist was hired to deal with contents and keep up with the permanent updating.

An evaluation of the graphic layout is currently in process. An extra screen is being added at the beginning of the web to allow for a more affective approach and to offer new entries such as Highlights, News, English version, Shortcuts, etc. The English version is conformed by English indexes and selected general interest material translated into English.

The Task Force on Electronic and Multimedia Services, in charge, among other duties, of the administration and updating of the website and server, has, in a 7 month-period, been transformed into a consulting and business unit which provides services such as: creation of WWW and Gopher sites, manipulation of graphics, creation of multimedia kiosks, hard-disk space rental, INTERNET training and navigation, etc.

Specifically for this proceedings, a demo on one of our most reknown poets has been prepared. On our URL, please start by clicking the button "English version", continue with "Highlights" and you will learn, listen and see about the Nobel Literature Prize, the Chilean Poet Pablo Neruda.

4.4 Training Program on the use of INTERNET

The Task Forces on Human Resources is in charge of seeking training opportunities for the librarian community as well as for Faculty Libraries and their users. Also of providing training opportunities to private and government institutions. Monitors are hired from the corresponding Task Forces or externally as needed.

A consolidated regular training program on the use of INTERNET has been possible as a result of having a group of six people highly trained in its use by reading the latest available literature on the subject and navigating the net on a hands-on basis. The program offers three types of courses geared to Macintosh or Windows users:

a) A twenty hour course of practical and theoretical concepts, where each student works with its own computer. The tutor is aided by the display of the information in a big screen and by two aids that give personalized help.

b) A modular 8 hour program tailored to specific needs of groups in a mode where each person works in a computer.

c) A four hour introductory course geared to executives without practical work. The program consists of an introduction to the INTERNET services and a navigation tour to different webs, displayed in a large screen with a data show. The courses include an in-house Spanish manual updated twice a year.

4.5 On-line Union Public Catalog

This Catalog was the first tangible product to benefit the university community as a whole. First it meant the empowering of the librarian community into the theoretical and hands on experience on international standards for bibliographic description and on-line cataloguing using the USMARC format and the second edition of the Anglo American Cataloguing Rules. Librarians were trained in two integrated systems, the NOTIS, a US software used by RENIB, the National Bibliographic Cataloguing Network, our main spanish source for copy cataloguing, followed by the tutoring on the use of MultiLIS, a Canadian make software acquired by the University for the automation of all of its libraries and the creation of the automated Library System.

University wide cataloguers, whose preparation was geared to the utilization of CDS/ISIS for microcomputers, a UNESCO free software, and to the use of local cataloguing rules built with weak international standards, were invited to be active participants in the creation of the Union OPAC. In spite of having to be exposed to different systems, computers, terminals and key boards, their performance has been outstanding, mainly due to two factors: their previous computer literacy through CDS/ISIS and the strategy set up by the Library Automation Task Force where cataloguers are trained both in groups and on a personal basis in a 10 computer lab in SISIB premises.

Thirty eight libraries are regularly coming with up to date shelflists to input records and item information into the Catalog. This mode permits for expert permanent supervisions. When librarians reach the required expertise and have the needed connections to the National network RENIB and to the university ATM network, they start working and inputting information from their own libraries.

As of March, 1995, the Union Catalog has 29,987 records of which 20,705 (69%) have been duplicated from the network, 9,282 (31%) have been input as short original entries. This has been done by many different people which account for six full time cataloguers during a 9 month-period.

4.6 Automation of Library processes

The Task Force on Library Automation is in the process of setting a pilot project to start with the automated circulation process. For the first time, an institutional, unique colored plastic identification card with photograph is being provided to students and will serve three different purposes: library use, entry restriction to buildings and access to computer private students' files. It includes a barcode for the national identity number, one for library use and a magnetic bar for restricted areas. The process of automating the circulation is dependent on the success of the database creation of each Library. Six global Library automation projects have been presented to Faculties, which are looking for the needed funds.

4.7 Strategic Information Center for Agribusiness

This project is a result of the requirements of the grantee, which needed to favor the productive sectors, specially on one area of great interest to Chile, which is the fruit export sector. The project is focused to fruit producers considered to be the heart of the agricultural and business chain.

The methodology was geared to three main actions: an analysis of the information needs of the producers; the conaissance of what was offered in the agricultural and business information market and the design of information products or services according to the findings. As the result of the application of every of these stages an information product was designed in three differentiated alternatives considering the technological backgrounds of this target group:

a) A short three pages bulletin with condensed, precise information on nine of the subjects selected by the producers surveyed.

b) An Agro Fax Top that contains the information briefed in the bulletin but in its total extension, plus extra information that can be daily updated such as market prices among others. Subscribers receive the Bulletin where the Agro Fax number for each article is indicated, together with the possibility of full use of the Fax that contains a permanently updated index of its full contents.

c) A third alternative for a lesser price is the combination of both, where subscribers has limited access to the Agro FaxTop.

When conditions change in the target public, these information products may be transformed into a website. The experience of this group formed mainly by agricultural engineers and the methodology followed can be transferred to other information services of different subject matters.

5 Overall results in an 12 month-period:

Introduction of a new information culture within the university, where the new way of managing information has been perceived both locally and nationally as very effective one.

Establishment of a virtual strategic unit able to create and provide information products without being neither physically nor functionally related to a library.

Quick upgrading of its information offer by deciding to form a strategic alliance with the University's Informaticss Department which has meant providing information services with a global and unified approach.

Creation of an information management unit which at the same time is an up to date training environment for each of its member.

A strong consulting asset, experience gained by the development of the above mentioned products which eventually could be transformed into a business unit capable of obtaining funds that could be reinvested in equipment, salary incentives and information and library projects.

The role of universities and the private sector, and specifically accomplishments such as those achieved by the University of Chile, are a powerful catalyst that will enable the addition of new information values into a national non-existent information culture.

Author Information

Soledad Ferreiro is a librarian from the University of Chile in charge of the Information Services and Library System, a unit in the Vice Presidency of the University of Chile. With a long and varied experience ranging from a public librarian in California to a University Librarian in Chile, she has focused her last fifteen years into the transition between a library management orientation into an information management strategy. She actively participated in the creation of the National Library Network, the automation of libraries, the design of new information services with hypertext and now she is strongly committed to the full transfer of the advantages offered by INTERNET to the University as well as to the national community.

Office: Alameda 1058, Santiago Chile.
Phone: (562) 678-1080
Fax: (562) 678-1081
Home: Punta del Este 427, Las Condes, Santiago, Chile.
Phone:(562) 229-3797

Pop. 14. 237.280 million (50% under 25 years old), high literacy (98%), surface 750.000km, open market (since mid 70's), 10 years of sustained growth (6% per year); US$3.050 income per capita; annual inflation 9%, unemployment 5%.

Estimated projection for June 30, 1995. Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas.