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Philippine eLib in Trouble

"RP e-Library project faces possibility of being shutdown"

The title of Erwin Oliva's article (INQ7.net, 18 June 2006) says it all. The problem lies, I believe, in the project's business model. First of all, it's a "project." It can be shut down any time. Second, relying on government funding in a country that has neglected libraries for so long is like wishing that Filipino politicians would start working for the good of the country instead of their own families. In short, it's not going to happen any time soon. And finally, the effort to make the eLib self-sustaining doesn't seem to be very serious.

What do I mean? More than a year ago (19 April 2005), here's what the e-Lib website said about subscriptions: "For Corporate Subscriptions, please contact us at: +63-XXX-XXXX or email us at XXX@elib.gov.ph (see Registration Form)." A month later (30 May 2005), it was announced that, "this June a prepaid card system for individual subscribers [will] be made available in P100, P300, P500 and P1,000 denominations."

Now, more than a year later, the membership page has been updated so that would-be corporate subscribers have a real contact number and email address to use (if they look hard enough), but it still says on another page that, "Institutional membership/subscription is not yet available at this time. Please wait for announcements." And all it says about prepaid cards is that, "Prepaid cards will be made available later, please keep posted."

The last time I wrote about the eLib (16 November 2005), I said that, "Perhaps those behind the Philippine eLib need to promote their product more." But I think the solution to the current problem lies not with local customers paying for the use of foreign databases.

As I wrote last year (19 April 2005), "local databases that foreign libraries might want to subscribe to do not seem to be available through the eLib." I believe that the eLib will earn more from institutions like the Library of Congress and libraries with sizeable Southeast Asian collections, which will pay significantly more than prepaid-card amounts for access to digitized Filipiniana materials.

Maybe someday...

Category: Libraries

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