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Telematics for Libraries - Projects


Updated: 16 JAN 98

Project Number and Title
1040 - Investigation into Greek language transliteration problems
Programme/Action line Call Topic(s) Start End Project Duration
in Months
FP 3/ I Theme 2 February 1993 July 1995 30
automatic transliteration; Greek; character sets; bibliographic record conversion; library catalogues

blue bullet Additional information is available from the HELEN website . (

Service packages to enhance international use of national bibliographic records (conversion programmes; delivery mechanisms; standards etc.) (Theme: 2)
Project description
The main goals of the project were:
  • the development of advanced transliteration software for the conversion of bibliographic records into and out of the Greek character set;
  • to promote the wider use of consistent and reversible transliteration standards.
Machine-readable records for Greek language materials exist mostly in transliterated form. Past practices in transliteration have been diverse and the use of reversible schemes limited, thus impeding the conversion and exchange of records for use in the Greek alphabet. The project developed software to aid the conversion of bibliographic records between Greek & Roman alphabet languages. The structure of the bibliographic record, the MARC format, and the relationship of key data elements to authority files was used to enhance the transliteration software. In the process, research was carried out on name authority issues and transliteration standards and practices. The software was designed as general purpose modules for use in a stand-alone environment and was tested operationally by being integrated into a library system in Greece.
Technical approach
The project was structured into six related modules:
  • Transliteration software;
  • Name conversion;
  • Character sets;
  • Transliteration schemes;
  • Transliteration and MARC;
  • Information dissemination.
As well as the development of modules and their integration as advanced transliteration software, HELEN went on to use its results to promote the wider use of transliteration standards. Both endeavours were served by the successful installation and testing of the software in an operational environment at the University of Crete.
The basis for development was a core transliteration module to handle simple character by character transliteration, logically independent of any character-set representation scheme. This was enhanced in stages: to handle main, common transliteration schemes in different languages; to incorporate name conversion routines, based on name authority files; to develop more intelligent features such as automatic recognition of transliteration schemes, routines for treating ambiguous characters. Problems of access and display of Greek script records in Roman alphabets were investigated and solutions tested. The software was evaluated and tested by partners in Greece after each of the key development phases as input to the final version.
Key issues
The main technical issues to be explored were:
  • Reconciliation of past transliteration practices with current requirements for easy reversible transliteration;
  • Use and integration of name authority files as a tool in transliteration;
  • Development of transliteration tools for potential multi-lingual sources;
  • Conformity with standards for character sets, bibliographic records in Greek environment.
Impact and results
The project gives improved and much wider access to Greek materials for both native and non-native Greek speakers and greatly encourages the exchange of records for current and retrospective cataloguing
It has also raised awareness of standards issues in relation to reversible transliteration schemes. In addition, it has made a significant contribution to the understanding of transliteration problems and has advanced solutions which can be applied to other alphabets.
Deliverables are available in electronic and paper versions. The electronic version includes core and applications software for integration into the libraries environment. With it are two guides: one for users and the other for developers wishing to integrate and utilise the software in libraries applications. Software design, specification and testing documents are project deliverables but are confidential to it.
In total, publications cover:
  • HELEN Users Guide;
  • HELEN Developers Guide;
  • Transliteration principles and practice;
  • Transliteration and MARC;
  • PC character sets;
  • Names.
Further information available from contact below and from or from .


Name of Institution/Organisation Postal Code / City Country
University of Bradford, Department of Computing UK - BRADFORD BD7 1DP UK
Title, First Name, Name Mr. M. RIDLEY Address:
Tel: +44-1274-38 39 46 Fax: +44-1274-38 39 20
E-mail 1: E-mail 2:

Other contact

Name of Institution/Organisation Postal Code / City Country
University of Crete Library GR - 74100 RETHYMNON, CRETE GR
Title, First Name, Name Mr. M. TZEKAKIS Address:
Tel: +30-831 24 066 Fax: +30-831 20 021
E-mail 1:
E-mail 2:

Other Partners

Name of Institution/Organisation Country Role
King's College Library, London UK P
University of Crete Library GR P
Athens College Library GR A
National Hellenic Research Foundation GR A

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