It’s all available online…until it’s not!

July 21, 2020
Adan Griego
logos for Consejo Nacional para Prevenir la Discrimaction; Colombia Diversa; & PROMSEX

In mid-June news reports about Mexico’s National Council to Prevent Discrimination (Consejo Nacional para Prevenir la Discriminación or CONAPRED) hinted about the agency’s possible closure.  Created in 2003, it has published numerous reports on gender discrimination, Indigenous rights, and LGBT issues in an effort to bring awareness to Mexican society on issues of social inclusion. The Stanford Libraries have a few publications I gathered over the years while attending the Guadalajara International Book Fair. Often the book fair stand for the agency carried only a display copy, and I was told that many more resources were available for downloading online…until they were not.

CONAPRED’s site was hacked in late June and was not accessible for a few weeks. From conversations with colleagues at the Center for Research Libraries and the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials I knew the Internet Archive had crawled the site and captured some publications. Fearing that part of that born digital content would disappear, I looked at what the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine had saved and wondered on how “to move” it from there to “here,” our Library.

I consulted with James Jacobs, the Library’s U. S. Government Publications specialist and an expert on internet archiving. Although we live 3 blocks away in San Francisco’s Mission District, sheltering in place presented one option: a Zoom session where I could ask the simplest of questions on how to get started. He was very generous with his advice on ways to add those more stable links into Searchworks, the Library’s catalog, either enhancing current records for print items or creating new ones for digital only versions.

Surprisingly, I found several reports already archived in the Wayback Machine but several others were missing. My searching started right before the site was hacked and taken off-line so I was able to capture very few of the missing resources. But I had gained sufficient familiarity with how to save a page in the Wayback Machine and create a stable link that could later be added to Searchworks.

This is not the first time that government information has been in danger of vanishing from the Web. It happened two years ago as the current rightwing candidate assumed the presidency in Brazil. Much closer to home, the last change of presidential administrations experienced a potentially similar case. Both times committed librarians and other activists came to the rescue.  

The CONAPRED project led me to focus on two human rights NGOs: Bogota’s Colombia Diversa and Lima’s Centro de Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos/Promsex. I had visited both of their offices while attending book fairs in Colombia (2009) and Peru (2015). At the time I was able to secure a few paper copies of their reports, again being told to consult the webpage and download many others. While those publications have remained online, the links have changed over time, proof of the ephemeral life of internet sites.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the Library’s staff in Technical Services for their work on processing multiple internet cataloguing requests, often arriving overnight or on weekends (Greta de Groat, Kay Teel, Jeanette Kalchik, Blandine Clausing and others). Whether just updating an existing record, either by including a link or removing a dead one, or creating a totally new record, they have been very understanding of my initial errors when I cut and pasted wrong links or did not include one to an existing Searchworks record.

Collectively this enhanced digital access to resources is a small contribution to support current online teaching and research during these pandemic times when the Library’s print materials are not readily available to Stanford researchers. It’s very gratifying to see CONAPRED’s online holdings grow, initially there were only 6 records linking to an online version. There are many more from both Colombia Diversa and Promsex awaiting to be updated and/or catalogued.