February 2, 2012

Cornell Expands TEEAL Database

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The Essential Electronic Agricultural Library, a Cornell-run program that has helped researchers all over the world gain access to agricultural journals, will expand to 50 more countries this year.

Wallace Olsen,  a former senior research associate, and his wife Jan, director of Mann Library,  founded TEEAL in 1996 after they noticed on their travels that the agricultural journals available in developing countries were incomplete and out-of-date.

According to TEEAL’s website, the Olsens believed that providing researchers access to scientific journals was necessary to promote long-term improvements in agriculture.

In order to remedy this problem, the Olsens created TEEAL, sending CD collections that contained new and up-to-date journals to researchers in developing nations for free.

TEEAL has since modernized, fitting roughly 250 agricultural journals into a small, one-terabyte external hard drive. This hard drive can be plugged into a computer, allowing researchers to access journals without the Internet.

The hard drives are updated yearly to ensure that they provide comprehensive and current information. The project is currently managed by Mann Library’s Service and Collections staff, who are in charge of its production, distribution and marketing.

Beyond the U.S., TEEAL has expanded to 115 nations, including countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, the South Pacific and Asia.

“We want to provide materials to those in need who do not have the infrastructure,” said Erica Reniff, head of TEEAL outreach and client relations.

With the help of a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, TEEAL’s collection now includes over $1 million’s worth of journal articles. Reniff said that the project will continue to provide more communities with TEEAL sets.

Reniff said she hopes that TEEAL reaches female and graduate student researchers.

According to Reniff, the project’s administrators are hoping to make TEEAL faster and compatible with the web browser Lynx. They also intend to expand the database of journals to include veterinary and medical information.

Reniff said that TEEAL aims to increase the amount of local information available to meet the needs of researchers in each specific country. In order to achieve this goal, TEEAL staff are working to distribute the hardware, creating 14 outreach centers that will focus on the particular needs of each region.

“We get comments about how it’s helpful, easy, and [how] this is a fantastic tool,” Reniff said.

Original Author: Erica Boorstein