Friends of Agro-Know: Meet Melanie Gardner


Melanie_GardnerIt has been quite a long time since we last had the pleasure to interview any of our special friends for the Agro-Know blog, following up on the “Friends of Agro-Know” series which includes interviews of people with whom we have discussed and usually collaborated. This time, we were delighted to receive the responses to our questions from Melanie Gardner, one of the most active persons behind the National Agricultural Library of the US Department of Agriculture. Melanie was kind enough to accept our invitation and to provide us with her feedback on our questions, which you may find below. In the meantime, our Nikos Manouselis, the CEO of Agro-Know, had the opportunity to meet Melanie in person during his last trip to Washington D.C., and after the discussions that we had he made us even more anxious to get to know more about Melanie and the things that she is working on!


1. Can you please tell us some things about your education and studies?

I have a BS in Education, James Madison University, and a Master’s in Library Science, University of Maryland

My education degree was in teaching severely emotionally disturbed and learning disabled, and my MLS was in Rare Books and Archives/Manuscripts. I am “all-but-dissertation” for a PhD in history.


2. What is your current affiliation?

I work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Library and have for nearly 22 years. I am currently the Acting Associate Director of the Information Products Division, and the Chief of the Digital Library Branch. From 1999 until 2012, I was Coordinator of AgNIC – Agriculture Network Information Collaborative.



3. Would you like to introduce us to the Agriculture Network Information Collaborative (AgNIC)?

AgNIC is a voluntary alliance of institutions working together to provide access to freely available agriculture information. What is the scope of the network and which are its members? Currently, there are over 50 member institutions globally. Each institution agrees to focus on one or more topics within agriculture – typically the one or more major research areas of the institution.

Melanie Gardner presentation – Maryland Library Association


4. We know that AgNIC/USDA has been active in adapting the VIVO ontology; what is the current status and what do you think of AgriVIVO?  


With the leadership of the Agricultural Research Service and the National Agricultural Library, the USDA is implementing VIVO. The process has taken nearly 4 years. The major issues have been the ontology and maintaining alignment with the VIVO core ontology. The VIVO ontology was developed in an academic environment. The government is structured differently and it has taken a huge effort to ensure alignment with the core ontology. Would it make sense for the agricultural community to make the transition from VIVO to AgriVIVO?  The USDA most likely will not transition to AgriVIVO. AgNIC is not involved in VIVO.


5. The National Agricultural Library is one of the largest sources of agricultural research worldwide; could you provide us with the latest news on NAL? What are the plans for the next months?

NAL is working to launch a platform, PubAg, in October that would allow Open Access to publications funded by the U.S. Federal Government. The NAL currently has a Digital Collections,  that includes over 40,000 open journal articles which have been authored by U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers.


6. PubAg sounds like a really ambitious service for the agricultural information domain but there is not much information available. So, what is PubAg and what is its status?

PubAg is a platform that supports USDA response to the OSTP Memo on Public Access to articles resulting from federal funding. This directive may be located at – The goal is to launch the system publically October 1, 2014.


7. The recently-announced Global Agricultural Concept System (GACS) aims to facilitate access to agricultural information and enhance the interoperability between different systems by unifying the three major classification systems used worldwide (NAL Thesaurus, the CABI thesaurus and FAO AGROVOC). What are your thoughts on that?

This effort is important and important to all three organizations.


8. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

NAL has created a high-volume digitization program. In the last 18 months, the Library has digitized over 50,000 Public Domain documents. These documents are currently available in Internet Archives and NAL will begin importing them into the NAL Digital Collections this fall. NAL also has created a new Division for data – the Knowledge Services Division. This Division has several major projects underway including the LAC Commons.


We would like to thank Melanie for accepting our invitation and we hope that we will hear more from her in the near future!

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