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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, June 28, 2004

Books in Hawaiian are just a click away

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

Ulukau, the Web site where Hawaiian-language dictionaries and journals have been posted for several months, has taken a quantum leap in status from digital bookshelf to digital library.

The children's book "Waimanalo: Where I Live," is one of the growing collection of Hawaiian titles available online on Ulukau.

Kamehameha Schools Press photo

And it's a fully bilingual library, with the user able to click a link that switches between mirror-image versions of the site, one in Hawaiian and one in English.

Beyond the labeling, there's now a growing collection of downloadable online books written in English on Hawaiian topics, posted on a virtual shelf next to the Hawaiian language publications.

The project is the work of the Native Hawaiian Library, a program of Alu Like Inc.; and the Hale Kuamo'o Center for Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawai'i-Hilo.

The Bible, two Hawaiian-English dictionaries, a journal of archival Hawaiian texts, a collection of Hawaiian-language newspapers and a book about Kamehameha have been posted since March, but by the end of the month staffers hope to have more than three dozen titles uploaded either to the Hawaiian-language Ulukau collection or the sister English-language site, the Hawai'i Digital Library.

Many of these are books published by Kamehameha Schools Press, some of them in English, some with English and Hawaiian editions. Some are volumes from the Kamehameha "Ali'i" series on Hawaiian kings and queens; others range from compilations of legends to cultural titles such as "Hawaiian Canoe-Building Traditions."

Visit the site

Ulukau: The Hawaiian Electronic Library (English version)

Most are aimed at adult or young-adult readers, but there are now a few children's titles as well, such as "Waimanalo: Where I Live" by Julie Stewart Williams and illustrated by Robin Yoko Racoma.

Robert Stauffer, Ulukau project manager at Alu Like, said that with the latest addition the online collection has reached the "critical mass" needed to become an electronic library, albeit still a fledgling one.

"Some of these resources are only obtainable at archives at libraries that are only open at certain hours," said Kiele Akana-Gooch, one of Ulukau's editors. "With the power of the Internet, you will be able to access these materials that otherwise you wouldn't be able to find."

Kamehameha Schools provided financial support to the project even before its books were uploaded to the site, said Henry Bennett, director of the Kamehameha Schools Press.

"Providing worldwide access to KS Press publications on Hawaiian language, culture, history and studies to anyone with an Internet connection supports the goals of Kamehameha Schools and its educational mission," Bennett said .

The books can be downloaded in files that can be read by the free Adobe Acrobat software available on most computers, said Keola Donaghy, a curriculum and technology coordinator at Hale Kuamo'o and one of those responsible for how the site functions. There are book pages that can be read right online, without downloading, images from original manuscripts and selected sound files to amplify points in the text.

For example, Donaghy's master's thesis, written in Hawaiian, compares word pronunciation typical in spoken text with that of sung lyrics, using the songs of composer Johnny Almeida as the primary example. Files that let the reader hear this difference are posted online.

Most of this technology can be navigated seamlessly by any computer — Windows or Macintosh systems — sold in the past three years; older computers may need to be fitted with free software accessories available on the Web.

Donaghy acknowledged that all of this technology takes up space on the library's computers — 60 gigabytes, at this point (each gigabyte equals roughly 1 billion bytes of electronic information). Ulukau librarians haven't finished yet, though.

"We're at the point soon where we're going to need terabytes," he said. "A terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes."

Among the Ulukau goals, he said, is uploading as many of the archival Hawaiian newspapers as possible, a collection of about 125,000 pages.

"Even with the body of Hawaiian knowledge we have in books, it's not even 1 percent of what we have in the newspapers," he said. "There's so much original research that could be done with that. And at the pace (Ulukau) is going, it's going to be incredible."

Reach Vicki Viotti at vviotti@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8053.