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La Energaia Launches Unified Search

La Energaia a project that brings UNM’s Latin American and Iberian Institute (LAII) and Ibero- American Science and Technology Education Consortium (ISTEC) together with the University Libraries (UL) in the development of a user-friendly knowledge base on energy policy and dialogue in Latin America.

Made possible by a grant from the United States Department of Education’s TICFIA program, this project seeks to connect internet researchers in the United States with the vibrant flow of information on alternative and renewable energy in Latin America, especially in those areas where indigenous peoples are heavily impacted. La Energaia illuminates the advancements that many Latin American countries and organizations have pioneered to English speakers who would miss out on Spanish, Portuguese or Quechua discourse.

La Energaia’s challenge is to select, organize, manage and make discoverable — in English – documents and discussions from multiple sources. NotiEn, a digest written in English by our project journalists, analyzes energy issues and topics from the target languages. We match this more traditional form of producing secondary material with internet crawls and captures designed to save publications posted on Latin American social networking sites and blogs, and policy documents reprinted on electronic government pages.     Such a project requires diverse skills, including — in addition to grant organization and management — the ability to systematically research, crawl, capture, describe, archive and disseminate stories compiled within the LADB as well as in internet accessible policy documents, twitter posts (http://twitter.com/laenergaia) and blog entries, preferably within a seamless structure.

La Energaia’s  team, including Principal Investigators Susan Taino and Johan Van Reenen, Project Directors Nelmy Jerez  and Vickie Madrid Nelson, Technical Guru Renzo Sanchez-Silva,  Web Master George Lloyd Scott, NotiEn coordinator Carlos Navarro, Collections Manager Suzanne Schadl, and student researchers Hilda Paucar, Kira Luna  Aurora Cruz, Ana Berberana and Tanya Sewers, is currently on the brink of launching a unified search feature on the webpage at http://laenergaia.unm.edu/.

This search tool will enable visitors to search data selected and described over the past year from the above mentioned internet and social networking spaces. Team members have created English language metadata for these items, which we are currently merging with DRUPAL taxonomies to facilitate seamless retrieval from La Energaia collections in UNM’s institutional repository, Archive-It and the project’s customized Twitter API in Drupal.

Each of these collections has been available separately through links on the La Energaia page. The problem with this kind of organization is proverbial: It works only for those who know what they’re looking for. When the goal is to put information in the hands of people not even aware of the data’s existence, it is essential to create something better organized and more searchable through standard internet search engines.

Searchable subject specific databases that link users to multiple sources via metadata are nothing new. What is new is creating a discoverable database that can serve the purpose of alerting United States scientists to Latin American advancements within a freely accessible content management system. This system also enables La Energaia to retrieve free, but perhaps less accessible, tweets, posts and pages.  Not unlike the vertical file of the past, this project pulls data on Latin American energy into one space for interested researchers. But unlike the vertical file it does not limit access to those searching a singular topic.

Drupal’s Taxonomy helps to organize websites by attaching descriptive terms to pieces of content. La Energaia’s metadata leads people to find Latin America – Argentina – Buenos Aires, for example in simple search engine queries for “renewable energy” or “wind farms and their impact on indigenous peoples.” By separating countries as vocabulary fields and energy topics as terms and tags, La Energaia ensures that Latin American country names will not get tied up in broad searches for solar cells but that Latin America will become visible as a result of their search.

One need not know anything about La Energaia to find the data this project has compiled, but for librarians working with Latin Americanists, http://laenergaia.unm.edu/ should prove a useful tool and an ideal link for subject guides.

 

Suzanne M. Schadl
University of New Mexico

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