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The eBethArké Syriac digital library: a case study

Isaiah Beard (Libraries, Rutgers, The State University of NJ, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA)

Digital Library Perspectives

ISSN: 2059-5816

Article publication date: 13 February 2017




The purpose of this paper is to review and describe the teamwork, collaboration and learning experiences involved in meeting the unique challenges of establishing a new digital library for Syriac collections. The eBetharké Syriac Digital Library Portal is a collaborative effort between the libraries at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and the Beth Mardutho Syriac Institute, a traditional library of texts, to create a specialized digital library collection online. This digital library features content in and relating to Syriac, an Aramaic dialect spoken in the first century A.D. and for which a great deal of historically significant documents was written during the period.


This task required effort and research on multiple fronts, including software development; collaboration on technical, interpersonal and policy-based levels; and in overcoming challenges related to the predominant computing platforms installed and in use by potential users of this digital library.


This collaboration provided significant new challenges and learning experiences among the staff who worked on this project and provides a base upon which our digital library platforms can diversify and be more culturally aware.

Social implications

There have been increasing calls within the academic community for better support in the technological space for this and other contemporary languages of the region. Creation of such a platform and expanding it significantly would benefit scholars of Middle Eastern texts in much the same way digital repositories have revolutionized online text access for the Western world.


The project is unique in that it is believed to the first production-level, digital preservation-specific Syriac digital library of its kind. It supports the display of metadata and descriptive details for digital library objects not just in English, but in Arabic and Syriac languages as well, where appropriate



The execution of this project would not have been possible, of course, without the primary partners in this endeavor. George Kiraz, founder of Gorgias Press and the Beth Mardutho Syriac Research institute, has led a long and tireless effort in ensuring that the language lives on in the academic, cultural and digital realms. Grace Agnew, Associate University Librarian for Integrated Information Systems at Rutgers University Libraries, is the driving force behind RUcore, and its master architect. There are also a stable of developers, policy makers and structural decision makers. A non-inclusive list of these talented individuals, with apologies for anyone I may have left off: Kalaivani Anathan, Jie Geng, Dave Hoover, Dr Ronald Jantz, Linda Langschied, Rhonda Marker, Chad Mills, Dr Jeffery Triggs and Yang Yu.


Beard, I. (2017), "The eBethArké Syriac digital library: a case study", Digital Library Perspectives, Vol. 33 No. 1, pp. 40-47.



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