Area of 'good practice' where you like to nominate your project (you can put more than only one area)

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We propose to start the activity of the workgroup on 'good practice' proposing an initial set of some main areas where to put the nominations. In particular we think to start with the basic issue of digitisation itself.

Each project can be 'nominated' for more than one area, following your evaluation of the most important features contained in the example.

AREAS for nominations of 'good practice' for on-going projects on digitisation:

  1. Preservation of physical objects via digitisation and electronic surrogates.

  2. High quality of the digitisation process.

  3. Metadata and Thesaurus.

  4. Usability of project results.

  5. Management of the process and workflow

  6. Accessibility including copyright issues and web sites

For each project please specify:

  • Area of 'good practice' where you like to nominate your project (you can put more than only one area):

  • High quality of the digitisation process.

  • Usability of project results.

  • Management of the process and workflow

  • Accessibility including copyright issues and web sites

  • Name:

Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes (Miguel de Cervantes Digital Library)

  • Responsible body and/or any specific : University of Alicante

Co-ordinating body/mechanism: University of Alicante

  • Contact person:

Alejandro G. Bia-Platas


Subdirector de Investigación Informática

Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes

Universidad de Alicante (Edificio de Institutos)

Apdo. de correos 99, E-03080, Alicante, SPAIN

Tel: 34-96-590 9567 Fax: 34-96-590 9477

  • Web site:

  • Description of the project, objectives and priorities:

The "Miguel de Cervantes" digital library is a major effort in producing the biggest repository of Spanish classical literature on the Web. Supported by a Spanish financial entity, "Banco de Santander Central Hispano" and developed by an interdisciplinary work team at the University of Alicante (Spain), it has become a reality since it entered online on July 27th, 1999. Since then, this project has digitised, processed and published more than 7,000 works.

Apart from this huge amount of textual resources which is the main pillar of our library, we have also produced an important number of Web services, featuring multimedia, interactivity, or specialized thematic relevance. Among these we can cite:

A) Spanish Language Portals : Inspired by the fact that Spain is a multilingual country and the University of Alicante is located in a bilingual area (Castilian-Catalan linguistic border), our digital library has aimed at building several portals devoted to many of the Iberic languages. Currently, we present resources in three different Hispanic languages: Castilian, Catalan and Galician, and there are also some examples of ancient native American languages like Mapuche or Quechua. In the near future, we plan to incorporate Basque and Portuguese as well. Remarkable examples of these are the Joan Lluis Vives digital library, and the Biblioteca de Catalunya, with works in Catalan (both portals are part of our library).

B) Specialized Latin-American National Portals : We have signed agreements with several National Libraries and cultural or academic institutions from Latin-America to develop specialized portals dedicated to their literature, history and culture. These portals aim at presenting, in an emphatic form, the principal authors of each country and its main achievements in literature and general culture. Examples of these are the "Biblioteca Nacional de Chile", "Biblioteca Americana José Toribio Medina", "El Colegio de México", "Instituto de Literatura y Lingüística José A. Portuondo Valdor" of Cuba, and the "Biblioteca Nacional" of Argentina, all sections of our library.

C) Specialized Portals : We have produced portals specialized on different topics, like "DOXA" about Philosofy of Law, "Hispanamerican novel of the XIX century" (Benito Varela Jácome fund), "19th Century Spanish Literature Society", and the "Biblioteca-Portal on Intellectual and Industrial Property, and Information Society" (University of Alicante -- Retevisión Foundation), and many portals about history, like one devoted to the figure of Carlos Vth, Latin-American Constitutions and The Jesuits.

D) Author's Portals : These are web pages containing extensive information about selected authors, as well as links to local or external digital versions of their works. The aim is to move towards a more didactic type of contents focusing on the life and works of selected writers.

E) Discussion Forums : These are open interactive spaces for discussion about the work of selected authors or about relevant books.

F) Libraries of the World : This is a repository of links pointing to resources from the main digital libraries around the world. Our interest is mainly focused on digital libraries, but a number of the most important conventional libraries are also included. This section takes advantage of hyperlinking allowing the users to jump to interesting external resources.

G) The Research Section: In this section, we are developing applications for researchers in the field of linguistics, literature and digital libraries. Some targets for these tools are: concordances, lemmatization, generation of dictionaries by author, work, time-period, etc. We have implemented an electronic-concordances service for many of our digital books.

H) Publication of Ph.D. Thesis: The digital library offers the opportunity to all the academic staff in Spain, Latin America, USA and the rest of the world to publish Ph.D. thesis either written-in or dealing-with Hispanic languages or related cultures.

I) Publication of Emblematic Magazines: This area covers issues of remarkable classical cultural magazines, like Hispania, some are contemporary cultural efforts that use the Web as a channel to reach their audience.

J) Educational Material for Secondary School Teaching and Presentation: We have just embarked in a program of cultural presentations based on the resources of our digital library, which have started to be given at local secondary schools, with the intention of expanding it to other remote places.

K) Video Resources: There are many examples of digital video recordings within our library. Some are part of our Author's Portals, where writers can be seen reciting their works or expressing their thoughts. Others show contemporary comedians on stage.

L) The Library of Voices: Features selected pieces of verse or narrative read by some of the best Spanish voices who generously volunteered in this cause.

M) The Librarian: Is an interactive, human-powered online-service, which tries to emulate the helpful assistance of a library information-desk.

N) Primera Vista ("First Sight"): is a service of book reviews and previews of the latest "paper" editions, which for copyright reasons cannot be published entirely on the web. Instead, one or two chapters are usually published for preview. It proved to be a very successful service by the number of Internet accesses it shows.

  • The main technical features for what you consider the project a 'good practice' example:

· High quality of the digitisation process.

The use of XML descriptive markup and the TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) scheme.

The elaborate design of different well defined production processes, one for each kind of multimedia resource (text, facsimiles, etc.). We have successfully integrated commercial software with software tools of our own creation to obtain a versatile automation of the production processes.

· Usability of project results.

The wide use of multimedia technology, together with a careful planning of contents make our library a necessary reference both for academic researchers and for cultural interest.

Its contents are meant for a wide audience covering different ages, interests and cultures. The library includes such diverse resources as digitised cultural magazines, a library for children, and academic research resources like PhD theses.

Our texts cover a wide range of subjects (history, literature, geography, thesis, etc), a wide period in time (from the 12th century up to contemporary works), and a wide diversity of multimedia resources (audio, video, text in various formats and electronic concordances).

This variety allows us to reach different publics, from those with modest PCs and modem connection, which can at least access our vast collection of texts, to power users with permanent Internet access, as is the case of university scholars.

Our library is being used by “amateurs”, students, teachers and researchers as well from all over the world.

· Management of the process and workflow

Our library has a very carefully designed workflow, and is embarked in developing workflow control software to aid in every part of the production process by helping keep track of the documents being processed and generating decision support information.

· Accessibility including copyright issues and web sites

Special interfaces for improved accessibility:

The audio collection features a Library of Voices with quality recordings of top Hispanic voices by volunteers1. Well-known Hispanic poets and authors also take part in the production by reciting parts of their own works. This collection is of interest for the general public, but specially for visually impaired users. A special interface big letter size has been designed for this purpose. Additionally, an alternative navigation structure based on sound is being designed for the whole library in cooperation with ONCE (Organización Nacional de Ciegos de España: Spanish national organization for the blind).

This collection also features a Library of Signs2 for serving hearing impaired users where images of persons using sign language are synchronized with scrolling literary texts.

  • Long term sustainability strategy:

  1. Using an open text format (XML-TEI) allow for easy conversion in case of future obsolescence.

  2. A cyclic tape backup procedure is followed daily to avoid information loss.

  3. A digital preservation procedure on CD-ROMs includes a yearly rejuvenation recopy of the whole CD-ROM repository to prevent data aging.

  • Accessibility by users via local network or Internet (describe modalities and IPR issue from a technical point of view):

Accessibility via the Internet.

  • Problems encountered :

The main concern was not technical but human: changing the minds of correctors used to commercial word-processors to work with the new “unknown” tools required for XML markup.

However, the learning time was less than expected. In this, the philological background of most of our correctors played an important role since they were prone to understand the new structural approach.

On one aspect current XML markup tools still present a drawback for the Spanish language, which will surely be solved soon: the lack of spell-checking dictionaries and grammatical aids for Spanish, which are commonly found and friendlier-to-use in commercial text editors.

This problem was bypassed by using auxiliary tools for spell-checking, particularly those that accept long user dictionaries (e.g. ispell). This allowed us to build specialized dictionaries for ancient Spanish of different epochs, that improved the correction of ancient works.


Figures and documents enclosed:

I agree this information could be published/

X Yes


Organisation & person completing the questionnaire

  • Formal name of organisation:

Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes / Miguel de Cervantes Digital Library

  • Type of organisation:

University digital library with private financial support.

  • Field of action: Archive / Library / Museum / Foundation / others ….

Library, foundation, digital publisher

  • Address:



Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes

Universidad de Alicante (Edificio de Institutos)

Apdo. de correos 99, E-03080, Alicante, SPAIN

  • Name of director:

Emilio La-Parra

  • Name and role of person completing the questionnaire:

Alejandro Bia-Platas

Subdirector de Investigación Informática

  • Tel: +34-96-590 9567

  • Fax: +34-96-590 9477

  • Web site:

  • E-mail:

Date: 10-05-2002




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