Sharing The Knowledge: The fifth CERN-UNESCO School on Digital libraries

by Esra Ozcesmeci


"Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity,
and is the torch which illuminates the world."
Louis Pasteur


This beautiful quote from the famous French chemist seems to have inspired some key missions of CERN: the dedication to training and international collaboration besides physics research. One recent example is the CERN-UNESCO School on Digital Libraries that took place in Nairobi, Kenya from 8th to 12th October 2018. Aiming at enabling better information access for African researchers and making African research more visible to the rest of the world, the School represents an important opportunity for CERN in terms of contributing to the global exchange of knowledge, skills, and culture.

After Rwanda, Morocco, Senegal and Ghana, Kenya was the fifth host country of the Digital Library School. It was organized by CERN in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). About 35 librarians and library system managers from Kenya, Cameroon, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe convened at the University of Nairobi to acquire new skills for running digital library systems and a better insight into the technologies helping the circulation of academic production within libraries. The training was a mixed programme of theory, practical exercises and active participation with contributors coming from CERN - Scientific Information Services (A. Holtkamp & J. Vigen) & Information Technology department (JY Le Meur) - the National Library of Uganda (S. Kaddu), Tind Technologies (G. Lastacoueres), Elsevier (I. van Stadt) and EIFL (S.K. Too).


The 5-day training covered diverse topics. It focused on the principles related to open access and open knowledge, with the clear goal to facilitate access by libraries to a more comprehensive literature and also to get the African repositories well-filled with all the local academic production. Practical solutions for setting up and running digital libraries have also been shared among all attendees. Participants were exposed to different approaches to run the open source digital repository platform Invenio, born at CERN. Complementary hands-on sessions were proposed, one using the service Zenodo, and the other using the service Open Access Africa (OAA). OAA has been deployed and launched for this workshop by the CERN spin-off TIND, where the platform will be offered for free for a two years duration. Multiple other good practices and useful tools were presented and tried-out, like the ORCID & DOI attributions, the OpenRefine holding pen software (Google), the GROBID extraction tool and more.


In addition to putting what they learnt during the workshop into practice in their home institutions, the participants have shown a keen interest in sharing their expertise with others. “We shall share the knowledge about CERN to other colleagues in our country and those of the Central African sub-region so that in future they can also benefit from this enriching program,” said Cameroon participants Atabeh Uta-Rein and Tangmo Norbert.


Networking possibilities are also obviously one of the key benefits of the school. To complete the long days of hard work, the Nairobi University had organized very lively social events, providing new opportunities for the participants to enrich their international networks whereby they can share their research or gather information about the tools and practices. “We really have had good memories there in the University of Nairobi. [...]. I think it is us who benefited most of the school as we were let on the map since we have been off for more than two decades,” Hawa Mohamud Siad, the chief librarian of Mogadishu University in Somalia, remarked.


As an international collaboration, the CERN-UNESCO School on Digital Libraries has proven to be a good example of how CERN is spreading and sharing the knowledge and innovation it creates. To further enhance participants’ ability, six of the attendees will be invited to CERN in June 2019 to meet new experts and get more in-depth training on digital library systems.

The CERN-UNESCO School for Digital Libraries is an Education & Outreach project supported by the CERN & Society Foundation, established to enhance CERN’s beneficial footprint on society. The 2018 school in Kenya was made possible thanks to a generous donation received from Ms. Margarita Louis-Dreyfus.