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Supporting Economic Development Research:
A Collaborative Project to Create Access to Statistical Sources Not Born Digital

Introduction to the Economic Growth Center Library Collection

The Economic Growth Center at Yale, founded in 1961 by faculty in the Economics Department, studies and promotes understanding of economic development within low-income countries and how development is affected by trade and financial relations between these countries and those that developed earlier.

The Economic Growth Center Library Collection (EGCLC) focuses on materials relating to statistics, economics and planning in over 100 developing countries. The EGCLC, which directly supports the activities of the Economic Growth Center, is one of the most comprehensive collections of its kind in the United States. It provides an historical perspective to current research in globalization, urban studies and development policies. Faculty and students from a variety of disciplines, but especially economics and political science, use the EGCLC statistical data for their research and teaching on education, health, social expenditures, economic development and labor.

The collection, which has been painstakingly acquired over more than 40 years, has unrealized potential for supporting interdisciplinary and global research and collaboration not only at Yale but at other research institutions in the United States, in the countries from which the data originated, and in countries throughout the world. This project focuses on the EGCLC because it contains data that are useful to faculty and students in doing comparative studies of demographic, social and economic characteristics of developing countries, but are underutilized for research because of inadequate mechanisms for identifying and locating specific data within the collection. Many of the publications lack a table of contents and an index, are published at irregular intervals, are printed on acidic paper and are deteriorating; and the series are distributed among several libraries on campus.

Creating the Economic Growth Center Digital Library

This project, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, digitized a selection of Mexican state statistical abstracts and a selection of Nigerian commodity price statistics volumes from the Yale University Library’s Economic Growth Center Library Collection.

Working together with faculty members, researchers and information specialists from Yale and other universities, the Social Science Research Services and Social Science Libraries and Information Services built a prototype archive using standard digitization practices and emerging metadata standards to open up this material to all possible forms of academic enquiry.

This project initially focused on the annual state statistical abstracts of Mexico, spanning the years 1994-2000 for all 31 Mexican states. This subset of material was selected because it provides annual data at the state and municipal level and covers a variety of social and economic indicators including education level, employment, agricultural and industrial production and service sector activity.

In addition to its contribution to scholarship in studying economic development, the Mexican data used in this project serve as a test bed for exploring and evaluating the usability of statistical resources via the Internet, and to analyze, define, and develop the internal metadata structures needed for the scholarly use of digitized versions of table- and statistically-intensive materials.

The second phase of the EGCDL project involved digitizing volumes of commodity price
statistics for Nigeria and 16 Nigerian states, spanning the years 1977–2000. These volumes, of markedly different paper and print quality than the Mexico materials, provided a good comparative test for the digitization standards, procedures, costs, and outputs
and metadata production processes used for the Mexican series.

The EGCDL will co-exist with the physical collection and will inspire researchers to expand their vision of access to statistical series from developing countries, to experiment with online statistical resources in new ways, and to build instructional and research applications from the materials we launch into this new digital knowledge base. The system has been built so that additional series in other languages and from other countries may be added over time.

Preservation and Sustainability

Yale will provide ongoing operational support to the EGC Digital Library and will commit to the long-term preservation of the digital collection.


If you intend to use the digital statistical abstracts collection of Mexican states for commercial purpose, you will need to request a license or permission from Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática (INEGI). Please contact atencion.usuarios@inegi.gob.mx for contracting.

Project Staff

The Principal Investigators for the project are: Ann Green, Director of Social Science Research Services (SSRS); Sandra Peterson, Director of the Social Science Libraries and Information Services (SSLIS); and Dr. Christopher Udry, Professor of Economics and Director of the Economic Growth Center.

The social sciences at Yale have for decades benefited from coordinated service support between SSLIS and the SSRS. Our collaborations range from technical support, to shared networked resources and computing clusters, to joint teaching, research in digital archiving, digital asset management, and scholarly consultation services. This project will extend that collaboration into new arenas and inform the overall development of a ‘digital landscape’ for the information technology architecture of the university.

The SSRS/SSLIS team for this project is Steven Citron-Pousty, Manager of SSRS, Julie Linden, Data and Government Information Librarian (SSLIS), Ann Green, Director of SSRS, and Sandy Peterson, Director of SSLIS. Other staff advisors include Edita Baradi, Economic Growth Center Librarian, and the Library's Latin American Curator, César Rodríguez.

 File last modified: 30 April 2005