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The Evolution of the eGranary - the first 10 years

At its outset, the eGranary Digital Library was a CD-ROM full of copied websites mailed to a handful of universities in Nigeria.  However, the thirst for information quickly outgrew the 650MB capacity of a CD-ROM.  Today's eGranary contains more than 14 million resources and is the equivilent of 3,000 CD-ROMs.  Installed in over 350 location worldwide since 2000, the eGranary Digital Library has continued grow and better serve the needs of close to one million users.

In 2002 the WiderNet Project produced its first hard drive edition of the eGranary.  In a package the size of a paperback novel, the 80GB eGranaries contained over 100 web sites. In 2003, the WiderNet Project released a 120 GB eGranary, and the installed base grew to more than 150 educational institutions around the world.

As users marveled over the millions of documents the eGranary put at their fingertips, trainers in the field began to identify an unanticipated problem.  Most people using the eGranary had little to no previous experience using computers and the Internet. Users lacked the searching and browsing skills which have become second nature to much of the developed world.  The WiderNet project redirected its focus, working doubly hard to make it easy for eGranary users to find the information they were seeking.

The 3rd edition of the eGranary Digital Library, a 250GB model released in 2005, was the first to include a search engine.  But eGranary developers were not finished.  Two years later, in July of 2007 a 750GB edition was released. This model’s features included not only a search engine, but a catalogue and a set of portals that highlighted resources in topics like engineering, medicine, water, health and English literature. 

The catalogue and portals make it extremely easy for users to find common information. 

"This librarianship helps to get the right information in the right hands at the right time,” Missen explains.  "Portals enable teachers and students alike to quickly access information identified by experts about a given topic." Today the eGranary Digital Library contains close to 50 portals. The Global Disabilities Rights Portal is the organization’s most recent endeavor.

The latest model is 2TB -- or 2,000GB -- and contains an additional feature: the Community Information Platform.  This is a set of Web 2.0 technologies that allows users to add their own content and create Web pages on their eGranary.

Where is the eGranary Digital Library heading in coming years?  Missen says, “We are getting bigger and smaller”. The eGranary Digital Library is growing bigger with more content, more portals, and more local communication and teaching tools. Yet, future eGranaries are also going to be smaller.  The WiderNet project aims to put smaller, more specialized collections of information along with the same eGranary features on smart phones and handheld computers.

As the number of eGranary installations nears 400, it is amazing to see how far the eGranary Digital Library has come from its start on a CD-ROM.

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