The Pacific Rim Digital Library Alliance (PRDLA) is a consortium of thirteen prestigious academic libraries whose goal is to facilitate access to scholarly research materials, primarily by using digital technology to share and deliver information resources. Administrative bureaucracy has been minimized, pilot projects with rapid results are preferred over "grand schemes," and cooperative ventures among subsets of the membership are encouraged. Successful pilot projects will quickly deliver needed information resources to scholars and, at the same time, will provide the foundations and test beds for the development of even more substantial resources. Funding for Alliance activities has been through a combination of grants from the Henry R. Luce Foundation, the National Security Education Program, fundraising from individual donors and resources from the participating members.
The original seed of the PRDLA was planted in 1995, when the University of California, San Diego Libraries received a two year grant from the National Security Education Program to develop a multilingual computer server to provide international access via the internet to online information in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean scripts. As part of the NSEP grant, the UCSD Libraries hosted a seminar in December 1995 and invited technical specialists from Pacific Rim countries to provide input into the development of the multilingual server. The UCSD Libraries next initiated bilateral arrangements with key participants to use the internet to expand traditional library exchange arrangements. One of the first agreements enabled the provision of scientific information from UCSD in exchange for access to Chinese language databases from Academia Sinica in Taiwan. This then unprecedented electronic exchange of diverse scholarly information across academic disciplines and national boundaries was highly successful and similar exchanges were launched with Peking University, Hong Kong University, and the Australian National University.
The success of these initial bilateral exchanges inspired the concept of a multilateral partnership among libraries from major academic institutions around the Pacific Rim. In June 1997, UCSD hosted a conference during which the Pacific Rim Digital Library Alliance was conceptualized. Invitees to the conference included senior management from institutions that were represented at the December 1995 seminar and from other institutions with whom close personal working relationships had been established. The Alliance was formally ratified by its members in October 1997. A conservative estimate concludes that, as of 2012, there are more than 50 million volumes among the combined holdings of the Alliance libraries.
The Alliance has initiated a variety of actions and projects to begin creating this Pacific Rim digital library. Building upon expertise and resources within the Alliance, the following technical projects were identified as initial building blocks:
*creation of the Pacific Explorations Archive
*development of a multilingual gateway to library resources
*extension of the Chinese Serials Database
Furthermore, PRDLA supports traditional and emerging library functions among its members with collaboration and funding for:
*Digitization of information resources
*Shared access to electronic and hard copy information resources
*Sharing of expertise
*Professional development and research
The traditional role of the library to acquire, organize, and deliver information is an enduring one. However, rapid changes in both the quantity and the formats of information resources have combined with budgetary limitations to undermine the viability of the classic library founded on large, comprehensive collections. The Pacific Rim Digital Library Alliance seeks to overcome associated political, language, geographic, and technical obstacles through a variety of practical projects and agreements.