Columbia University Libraries

Area Studies

African Language Materials Archive (ALMA) Project and
the American Overseas Digital Library (AODL)

Library Internship Report, Winter 2001

Columbia University Libraries, New York, New York, USA
West African Research Center, Dakar, Senegal
Council for American Overseas Research Centers, Washington, DC

Abdoulaye Niang, West African Research Center

Internship Supervisor:
Dr. Joseph Caruso, African Studies Librarian
Columbia University Libraries
[email protected]

Mr. Abdoulaye Niang of the West African Research Center spent a total of 27 days in New York in early 2001. He began his internship with a general orientation to the project and the libraries at Columbia University on January 29 and 30. He returned from Michigan State University on February 11th and continued his internship at Columbia University until March 8th. There were four main purposes of the internship: to develop library collection development and management skills; to acquire training on web site design; to acquire training and experience in digital scanning; and, to create a preliminary archive of digital Wolof language texts, to be incorporated, ultimately, in the ALMA project of the American Overseas Digital Library.

1. General Tour of the Libraries

On January 29 and 30, Mr. Niang was given detailed tours of the Lehman Social Sciences Library and the Butler History & Humanities Library, with a special focus on the reference departments. The basic principles of reference collection development were reviewed by Dr. Caruso, using the Lehman Social Sciences Library and with a focus on indexes and bibliographies. In addition, Mr. Niang was given an introduction to the online library catalog and other electronic resources on the web.

2. Introduction to Collection Development and Management

Dr. Caruso reviewed with Mr. Niang various approaches to library collection development and management, with a special emphasis on assessing user needs and integrating electronic and print resources. Mr. Niang is expected to produce a "draft" collection development policy statement (in French) by May 2001 and to develop a strategy for utilizing web resources. In addition, Columbia University Libraries will be assisting WARC in building its reference library holdings through a library exchange agreement and follow-up consultation visits by Dr. Caruso in May 2001 and sometime in 2002.

3. Research Assignment--Compiling An Annotated Bibliography

Mr. Niang began a research assignment using the online library catalog, African studies and general social science indexes--online and print, and subject bibliographies available in Lehman and Butler Libraries. After several days of preliminary research, Mr. Niang settled on the topic: "Environmental Studies in West Africa--Desertification and Deforestation."

By the end of the internship, Mr. Niang produced a "draft" bibliography of 28 monograph entries--with annotations in French. By May or June 2001, Mr. Niang will complete the revisions and will prepare the bibliography for publication (June or July 2001) in Columbia's African Studies WWW Virtual Library.

4. Introduction to Searching the Web

Dr. Caruso reviewed with Mr. Niang the variety of Africa-related resources available on the global Internet, as well as several subscription-based reference tools and full-text services. Mr. Niang also received instruction on how to search the global Internet for Africa-related resources using general search engines and major Africa-related web sites. Dr. David Magier, Director of Area Studies at Columbia Libraries, instructed Mr. Niang on more advanced Internet searching techniques.

5. Cataloging the WARC Library

Dr. Caruso reviewed with Mr. Niang the functions of an online library catalog and the basics of a MARC cataloging record. Mr. Niang also received a briefing from Dr. Magier about the AODL project, including the proposed integration of the WARC Library holdings into the AODL online catalog and the tasks to be carried out to accomplish it.

6. Introduction to Web Site Design

Craig Bolotin of Columbia's Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL) initially reviewed with Mr. Niang the basics of web site design.

Over a three week period, Mr. Niang received training in web page design, using Claris HomePage and DreamWeaver tutorials. Mr. Niang was able to obtain needed advice and extra help from Mr. Bolotin and other CCNMTL staff members. Mr. Niang is expected to revise the WARC web site by August 2001. This revision will include a preliminary online archive of Wolof texts.

7. ALMA Project: Scanning Wolof as Digital Text and Image

Mr. Niang received instruction from Robert Scott of Columbia's Electronic Text Service on digital scanning of selected Wolof language texts. Over a three and 1/2 week period, Mr. Niang test scanned and acquired experience in digital scanning--using OmniPage Pro and Adobe Acrobat applications, and a Hewlett Packard scanner (ScanJet 6300C). Scott and Niang also spent several hours test scanning sample texts using a UMAX scanner (Astra 2400S) and issues of a Wolof language newspaper on microfilm using a microfilm scanner.

The Wolof language is printed in most cases using a Roman script. However, Wolof does contain a few characters which are non-Roman and are not recognized by current OCR technology. Mr. Scott met with Mr. Niang and Dr. Caruso three times (about 2 hours each) to review procedures and to address problems associated with scanning the Wolof print originals.

By the end of the internship, Mr. Niang produced two sample sets of files: image files (PCX, similar to JPEG) and raw scan files (TIFF) of three short books (a total of 150 pages, some with illustrations); plus one newspaper issue from the microfilm. The image files were converted into PDF files, organized into page sequences, and can be viewed with Adobe Acrobat Reader.

These files will be organized by Mr. Niang and Dr. Caruso and by August 2001 (or earlier) will be posted on two web sites: Columbia's African Studies WWW Virtual Library and the West African Research Center web site. The files will also be copied onto a CD-ROM disc. The TIFF files will be archived at Columbia and subsequently at WARC, as well. These archive files will later serve as the raw material for fully searchable digital texts.

Dr. Joseph Caruso, African Studies Librarian, Columbia University, conducting the internship training
for Abdoulaye Niang of the West African Research Center.