” “In an unprecedented initiative called ‘Electronic Information for Libraries’ (EIFL Direct), libraries in 39 countries will have access to a wealth of electronic full-text scholarly journals.” This announcement, by press release, marked the birth of EIFL 20 years ago, on 5 October 1999.
At that time I was working at the Open Society Institute, part of the Soros foundations network. We were receiving applications from ex-Soviet Union university libraries requesting grants to subscribe to print journals. There was a dilemma: the subscriptions were not cheap, and they only lasted for one year. So these grants were not sustainable in the long term, and we knew that there were thousands of libraries in other developing countries that also needed, and wanted, to have access to the latest scholarly information. A few years later, the shift from print to digital in the publishing industry began and we saw an opportunity to solve the problem. The Open Society Institute negotiated with EBSCO, a large content aggregator, for a 99% discount to online journals for all libraries in countries where Soros foundations existed, as well as free delivery of the content on DVD-ROM to those libraries with poor internet connectivity. At last we were able to provide access to more than 3,500 full-text journals. …”