SAWBO: Scientific Animations Without Borders

This week’s Glocal Notes post is an introduction to SAWBO: Scientific Animations Without Borders, a global education initiative based at the University of Illinois. This project aims to connect existing knowledge with people around the world who would benefit from this information, but to whom it is inaccessible. Additionally, the project aims to preserve and disseminate local knowledge. At the heart of the project is a growing library of animations about issues relevant to global development. The videos are divided into three main categories: agriculture, health, and women’s empowerment. Some examples include introductions to drip irrigation, cholera prevention, and microfinance.

Videos are available in fifty different languages, so as to be accessible to people around the world. (Note: not every video is available in every language. Most videos are available in at least two languages.) Additionally, all of the videos are free to use for educational purposes. The videos can be downloaded directly through SAWBO’s Video Library and will soon be available for streaming through a mobile app. To make the videos accessible in places with limited bandwidth, the videos are also distributed in the form of a pre-loaded USB, called the Extension System In Your Wallet (ESIYW).

SAWBO dates back to 2010 and is the brainchild of two University of Illinois professors: Dr. Barry Pittendrigh (Department of Entomology) and Dr. Julia Bello-Bravo (International Programs and Studies), who now co-direct the project. (You can read a short article about the project written by Dr. Pittendrigh in 2012 in the Illinois International Review.) According to the SAWBO website, 60% of the world’s mobile phone users live in developing countries. The project’s founders saw an opportunity to use technology to overcome some of the educational challenges to development. Fittingly, the project is partially funded by USAID, the development arm of the United States Government. Other major supporters include the Feed the Future Legume Innovation Lab at Michigan State University, the ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss, and several endowed funds at at the University of Illinois. The initiative partners with organizations throughout the world to provide access to the videos and the information contained within them.

Interested in learning more? Watch a short video about the project below. If you would like to get involved, SAWBO is seeking volunteers with foreign language abilities to help make videos available in additional languages. As the videos are free to use, you are encouraged to incorporate them into your educational materials.

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The Winners of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize

On October 10, 2014, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced that the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize will be shared by Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzay. According to a press release from the Nobel Committee, this year’s winners were chosen on the basis of their advocacy for children and access to education. The Committee states:

It is a prerequisite for peaceful global development that the rights of children and young people be respected. In conflict-ridden areas in particular, the violation of children leads to the continuation of violence from generation to generation. [I]

Kailash Satyarthi by Leandro Uchoas is licensed under CC-BY-2.0.

Kailash Satyarthi by Leandro Uchoas is licensed under CC-BY-4.0 (image via Wikimedia Commons).

Satyarthi and Yousafzay share a commitment to children’s rights. Kailash Satyarthi, who was born in Vidisha, India in 1954, has been organizing protests and demonstrations in support of children’s rights for many years. In 1980, he founded the South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude (SACCS), an organization dedicated to aiding child laborers and preventing the trafficking and exploitation of young people. [II] In 1998, he organized the Global March Against Child Labor, during which demonstrators marched across 103 countries demanding children’s rights. Today, Satyarthi chairs the Global March Against Child Labor, an organization that brings together NGOs working on these issues and continues to hold events and advocate for children in the United Nations. [III] If you are interested in learning more, Glocal Notes suggests Globalisation, development, and child rights (Delhi: Shipra, 2006), edited by Satyarthi and Bupinder Zutshi.

Malala Yousafzai by Southbank Centre is licensed under CC-BY-2.0. (Photo via

Malala Yousafzai by Southbank Centre is licensed under CC-BY-2.0. (Photo via

Malala Yousafzay, born in Mingora, Pakistan in 1997, is being honored by the Nobel Committee at just 17 years old. She has been speaking out about girls’ rights to education since she was 12 years old. In 2009, she began to write an anonymous blog for the BBC documenting her experiences living in Pakistan’s Swat Valley as the Taliban came to power in the region and began to limit girl’s access to schools. In 2012, Yousafzay, then 14 and on her way to school, was shot by the Taliban, who hoped to silence her. [IV] Although, the shooting left her in critical condition, Yousafzay recovered and continues to advocate for children’s rights. In July 2013, she gave a powerful speech at the United Nations Youth Assembly. During the speech, she encourages us all to follow her lead by telling us:

One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.

If you would like to learn more about Yousafzay, her autobiography, I am Malala: the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban, is available in the library. Both Yousafzay and Satyarthi’s work in support of children’s rights is very inspiring and Glocal Notes congratulates them on their well-deserved Nobel Peace Prize!


[I] Noble Media AB. (2014). The Nobel Peace Prize 2014 – Press Release. Retrieved from

[II] Harma, R. (2009). Global march against child labor. In Hugh D. Hindman (Ed.), The world of child labor: An historical and regional survey. Retrieved from Credo Reference.

[III] Global March International Secretariat. (2014). Global March Against Child Labor. Retrieved from

[IV] Walsh, D. (2012).  “Taliban Gun Down Girl Who Spoke Up for Rights.” New York Times. Retrieved from

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Glocal Notes Travels Around DH

This past Tuesday marked the final day of Around DH in 80 Days, a collaborative project that showcased a different digital humanities project from around the world every day for eighty days. Inspired by Jules Vernes’ classic novel, the project illustrates the diverse range of work that can be considered part of the “digital humanities.” Today, Glocal Notes is traveling Around DH and highlighting some of the projects from our service areas. Just in case you were wondering, there are plenty of copies of Vernes’ text in the library.

Image of the complete map of Around DH projects.

The complete Around DH map. / This image from is licensed under CC BY 3.0 US.

Around DH was started by Alex Gil, Digital Scholarship Coordinator at the Columbia University Libraries, and built with the help of many contributors. The first project was posted on June 22, 2014 and the last was published last week on September 9, 2014.

The project was motivated by the desire to highlight the disciplinary and regional diversity of digital humanities projects. Indeed, as you can see from the map above, multiple projects from every continent were included. If you are wondering what, exactly, digital humanities is all about, a look at some of the projects highlighted here should give you a better idea.

The concept behind Around DH is simple: every day for eighty days, a new digital humanities project appeared on the map. Crowdsourced suggestions for projects to include were submitted by contributors from around the world. The editorial team selected and wrote up the projects which were featured on the website. Each project is accompanied by a description of its scope and coverage. Most of these descriptions are rather brief, providing just enough information to give you a sense of the project before directing you to the project itself. Finally, the website was designed according to minimal computing principles, so as to be accessible in places with limited bandwidth.

Below are just a few examples of Around DH projects from our service areas here at the International & Area Studies Library. Visit to learn more about the project and see what other resources it has to offer. You can also follow along, or share additional projects, using the hashtag #arounddh on Twitter.

Day 10: Aluka

Aluka is a collaborative project to build a digital library of scholarly sources “from and about Africa” tailored to an undergraduate student audience.

East Asia
Day 1: Frog in a Well | 井底之蛙

This project, the first one to be featured, is a blog dedicated to publishing open-source scholarship about China, Japan, and Korea. Its name comes from an East Asian proverb that highlights the importance of openness and collaboration.

Eastern Europe
Day 76: Digitális Irodalmi Akadémia

This project is a “digital academy” of living Hungarian authors. Beyond providing digital access to the texts themselves, the project includes a rich collection of supplementary materials contributed by the authors.

European Union
Day 24: Quijote interactivo

Quijote interactivo is a beautiful digital edition of Cervantes’ Don Quijote. It is a high quality reproduction of the first edition of the work that allows the reader to turn the pages and search the full-text. Supplementary materials about the novel are included as well.

Latin America & the Caribbean
Day 16: Memorias de la Patagonia Austral

This project aims to provide access the a rich collection of primary source materials about the Patagonia region. It includes a wide variety of materials, ranging from newspaper articles to oral histories.

Middle East & North Africa
Day 52: AlexCinema

This project aims to preserve the history of Egyptian cinema, specifically in Alexandria. The film-making tradition in the city is over 100 years old and AlexCinema is an extensive bibliography documenting that tradition and its modern-day revival.

South Asia
 Day 33: Indian Memory Project

The Indian Memory project is an online archive dedicated to the history of the Indian subcontinent. It includes a variety of resources, including images and oral histories.

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Using Transliteration Tables

Doing research related to area studies oftentimes means using specialized research tools that you may not have encountered previously. Becoming familiar with these tools can make all the difference in your research and the Glocal Notes blog is here to help! This week’s post is about transliteration tables, which are an essential tool for scholars whose work involves non-Roman alphabets. 

Introduction to Transliteration Tables

Perhaps the best place to start when discussing transliteration tables is by defining a couple of key terms: transliteration and Romanization. Transliteration is the process of converting one script into another. Transliterating a term does not mean translating it, rather it means representing in a different alphabet. Oftentimes, transliteration is done on the basis of phonetic similarity. Romanization is a specific kind of transliteration, in which words from other languages are written in the Roman (also called Latin) alphabet.

Transliteration example.

The Russian words for “library” and “alphabet” transliterated from Cyrillic into the Roman alphabet.

Transliteration tables are one of the most important research tools for scholars working in international and area studies to master. Scholars working in this domain conduct a substantial portion of their work using resources in foreign languages and scripts. While preferable, using the original script is not always an option. For example, records in library catalogs do not consistently include bibliographic information in the original script and not all systems are configured to allow input in non-Roman characters.

There are many conceivable ways to represent letters from one alphabet in another and it would be very confusing if everyone transliterated words according to their own interpretation. Romanization tables have been developed over time in order to simplify this process as much as possible. A typical Romanization table lists each letter from the vernacular alphabet alongside the letter (or combination of letters) of the Roman alphabet chosen to represent it and any notes about special cases are included at the end of the table. Once you know where to find them, the tables are actually very easy to use and will be extremely helpful in searching library catalogs, databases, and reference materials containing vernacular language materials.

Partial Romanization table for Hindi.

Part of the ALA-LC Romanization table for Hindi.

In the United States, the most commonly used Romanization schemes are those developed by the Library of Congress in partnership with the American Library Association. Up-to-date tables for 70 languages are available on the Library of Congress website and I recommend printing out a copy of the tables for any language you use regularly to have on hand as a quick reference. Additionally, many of the research guides put together by the subject specialists in the International & Area Library include information about transliteration standards.

Beyond the Basics

Once you understand the basics of using transliteration tables, here are a few caveats to keep in mind that will aid you in your research. Should you run into any trouble, the subject specialists at the Library are here to help.

One important thing to keep in mind is that transliteration standards are different in different countries. If you are looking for materials held in the United States, the ALA-LC tables have you covered. However, if you encounter materials produced in other countries (including foreign library catalogs) the transliteration scheme used could be considerably different. If you are searching for items held in the country of interest, you should use the original script, as information in those databases is not always transliterated.

Additionally, transliteration tables (even in the United States) have changed over time and materials are not always updated to reflect changes. For example, books in the library catalog are listed according to the standards in place when they were originally acquired by the library.

Finally, keep in mind that formal transliteration standards are not all-encompassing and oftentimes learning informal Romanization systems in addition to formal standards can benefit you in your research. The growing popularity of social media platforms (many of which do not support non-Roman characters) has led to the increased prevalence informal Romanization systems that look very different from the formal systems, but which have their own internal logic. Scholars interested in new media in an international context, among others, would benefit from becoming familiar with these alternative systems, several examples of which are listed below.

Learning how to properly use transliteration tables is an easy way to improve your research skills in order to locate foreign language materials in the library catalog and beyond. If you found this tutorial helpful and would like to see something similar about another specialized research tool, let us know by leaving a comment below or stopping by our Facebook page. We would love to tell you all about it!

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