The Digital Library of Central Bureau of Statistics
On October 20, 2017, World Statistics Day, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) launched the CBS Digital Library on its online database. The CBS’s tasks include carrying out statistical research and making the obtained data available to a broader public. This database allows the CBS to increase the availability of statistical information pertaining to Curaçao, not only to the local population but also to other interested parties, including students and those conducting research at an international level.
At its previous premises in Fort Amsterdam, the CBS used to have a library with international statistical publications as well as its own historical and recent publications. The library was open to the public (interested persons/students/researchers/policy staff) and used to be consulted by statistics researchers working with the CBS.
The librarian was in charge of keeping the collection as well as of its conservation, and historical publications were therefore not lent out, especially because the collection only included one copy of each. The collection contained publications of the 1960 Census, the statistical yearbooks of 1956 onward, and the first results of surveys carried out by the CBS, such as the Labor Force Survey and the Budget Survey.
With the rise of the internet, the inclusion of international statistical publications by organizations such as the UN, ILO, IMF and Statistics Netherlands was rendered obsolete, as all such data are now made available online. Visits to the CBS library by the public dropped as a result, except to consult the local historical publications. Being aware that not everybody had access to this historical collection and that the broader public was not even aware of its existence, the CBS made several attempts to digitize the collection, but due to budget constraints, none could be completed.
In August of 2016, the CBS’s offices were moved to the World Trade Center Curaçao. This provided a new incentive for the digitization of personnel and accounting files and the collection of historical publications, among other things. The focus was on digitizing the historical collection, as all data and survey reports were already being published and offered on the CBS website since 2000 onward.
At the same time, it was also decided to stop using a physical library like the one in Fort Amsterdam and create a digital library instead. Only the collection of historical publications made the move to the WTC, together with a number of scientific publications to be used by the statistics researchers. The great majority of the collection (especially grey literature on Curaçao) was adopted by the Library & Research Services of the University of Curaçao (UoC).
What used to be the CBS library was transformed into a Media Center where all information is made available in digital form. This transformation marked the beginning of the digitization of the CBS’s historical publications.
A collaborative project was started in December of 2016 with the library of the University of Curaçao, to digitize CBS publications using their scanners. The work was done by a number of UoC students.
The first step involved making a complete inventory of the collection. The digitization process was organized into phases, grouping the publications by their importance, with close to 80,000 pages to be scanned in total. Taking into account the availability of scanners, the project was split up into seven phases, with about 11,000 pages to be scanned per phase. The first of these started in December 2016, covering all publications in connection with the five censuses and part of the statistical yearbooks of the Netherlands Antilles of 1956-1969. Two phases have since been completed, with 210 publications scanned. Phase Three was started in October of this year. The project will continue until the end of 2018.
The CBS Digital Library
The digitization project involves not only scanning but also uploading the publications into an online database. Sobek, the database being used for this purpose, is an open-source repository also being used for the University of Florida’s digital collection and for the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dloc), as well as by other international organizations and university libraries to digitize their collections and make these available online. The UoC’s Library & Research Services also uses this repository for its Dutch Caribbean Digital Platform (DCDP) project. A full list of collections using the Sobek suite can be found on the Sobek website: www.sobekrepository.org.
Although the initial intention was to include only the historical collection of statistical publications, it was later decided to also add the more recent, previously digitized publications to the database, creating a complete historical view of the data, including data on the composition and development of the Curaçao population from 1938 to 2016. As the CBS used to collect data for all the islands of the former Netherlands Antilles until October 10, 2010, the digital library also includes historical series on the other islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Saba, St.-Eustatius and St.-Maarten), making this repository an excellent resource for researchers looking for data pertaining to these other islands.
By making the CBS Digital Library available online, the CBS hopes to reach a larger and broader public.
Highlights of the CBS’s Historical Collection
Censuses are extremely important sources of country-related data. That is why one important part of the digital library consists of publications pertaining to the censuses of 1960, 1971, 1981, 1992, 2001, and the most recent one of 2011. Census data is important for historical and social-science research purposes. Until recently, not all this data was accessible to the general public, because of its being stored in the library at Fort Amsterdam. With the digitization of this important collection of Census results, significant data has been made available for scientific research, policy development and other purposes. This development should be of great interest to local and international historians wishing to study the history of these islands, to the government, as a source of data on Curaçao’s past, to local and international scientific and public libraries, as well as to secondary and higher-education students.
The CBS Media Center
Students, researchers and the population as a whole can now consult statistical data in the CBS Media Center, located in the WTC building, where all data at the CBS’s disposal is accessible. Seeing that according to the results of the ICT & Media Survey recently published by the CBS, almost 30 percent of the population does not have access to the internet, the CBS is trying in this way to make this statistical data available also to those who do not have internet access. Additionally, workshops will be organized for students and others, such as on sampling techniques, also giving them the opportunity to ask questions on the data being published regularly by the CBS.
The CBS will continue to make its published Curaçao statistical data available online, not only through this repository but also on its website, www.cbs.cw and on its Facebook page: cbscur. In addition to further developing itself as the central publisher of official statistics for the Country of Curaçao, the CBS also wishes to form international collaborations, such as with universities in the region. Two such partnerships that will be formed in order to reach a broader local and international public are with the Dutch Caribbean Digital Platform and the Digital Library of the Caribbean. The CBS will also continue to expand its digital collection and develop metadata. Historical series will additionally be made available in Excel format, to facilitate searching.
The Digital Library and the Media Center are important steps towards becoming a modern and accessible institute, offering easy access to up-to-date statistical data to all.