ACURIL 2024: BIREME highlights opportunities and challenges of future digital libraries

BIREME's Conference at ACURIL 2024

São Paulo, June 18 (BIREME/PAHO/WHO) - During the Annual Congress of the Association of Caribbean University, Research, and Institutional Libraries, ACURIL 2024, BIREME projected the future of digital and virtual health libraries, revealing innovative perspectives for the sector. The presentation took place as a pre-congress activity of ACURIL 2024, from May 12 to 16, in Guyana, under the theme “From Metadata to Big Data: Trends and Hidden Treasures in Libraries, Museums, and Archives in the Caribbean.”

BIREME’s Historical Commitment to Health Information Management in the Caribbean

BIREME’s conference was opened by Márcia Y. Barreto, who presented the agenda and objectives of the session titled “Emerging Technologies and Innovation in Virtual Health Libraries: Exploring Cutting-Edge Technologies and Innovations such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Virtual Reality, and their Potential Applications in Virtual Health Libraries.” Next, Márcia highlighted a brief history of technical cooperation between BIREME and the MedCarib Network for the creation of the Caribbean VHL, which dates back to 1989.

During this period, she emphasized, “the launch of the LILACS Methodology for indexing original scientific and technical literature from Latin America and the Caribbean occurred almost simultaneously with the organization of the health sciences information database of English-speaking Caribbean countries, organized by the newly established MedCarib Network.” Another historical milestone at that time was the receipt of specific funding from the Kellogg Foundation for strengthening the MedCarib Network as an integral part of LILACS.

Emerging Technologies and Innovation in Digital and Virtual Libraries

Director João Paulo Souza, in turn, began his speech by presenting BIREME’s mission as a specialized digital health library for Latin America and the Caribbean, aimed at enabling access and use of scientific and technical information for decision-making and action. Among the projects and services developed, he highlighted the technical cooperation with countries for the establishment of virtual health libraries and other information products aimed at promoting “health for all.”

Next, João Paulo Souza outlined an overview of the function and social impact of libraries throughout history, emphasizing the technological transformations that have marked different knowledge management models. “Since ancient times, libraries can be understood as a symbol of human desire for access to knowledge. And to this day, we share this same historical mission of being institutions that provide access to knowledge, striving to make it useful to people and communities,” highlighted João Paulo.

The advent of computing and the internet were highlighted as inflection points that impacted all industrial developments, including the information sector. According to the director of BIREME, “This has brought us to the current point of having online portals with our collections and digitized catalogs. It is important to note that libraries have ceased to be just physical spaces and have evolved into digital portals in cyberspace, a virtual place we can enter that allows us to connect to a universe of knowledge to which we previously would not have had access.”

Finally, João Paulo dedicated some minutes of the conference to present the latest developments being coordinated for BIREME’s digital transformation, including the applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning tools. “These are tentative experiences aimed at improving users’ experience with the use of our technologies. We seek, for example, to promote more intuitive interfaces, using natural language instead of controlled terminology and Boolean operators, with information being synthesized and presented in different media formats,” he detailed.

Regarding projections for the future of health libraries, João Paulo Souza indicated a series of technological innovations shaping this scenario. The transition from digital libraries to virtual libraries was highlighted, with an emphasis on the use of virtual reality to provide an immersive experience for users. “The risk we run by not engaging in this race for transformation is precisely falling into obsolescence and irrelevance due to the loss of competitiveness and sustainability,” he concluded. To learn more about innovations in digital libraries, visit the portals of BIREME and the VHL Network.