In the late 1980s the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research became interested in finding a means to distribute current agricultural research information more effectively. The Group contracted for a study of the issue and then contracted for a prototype of a CD-ROM publication and distribution system. Following the production and evaluation of the prototype, a full-scale CD-ROM publication was initiated, containing publications from nineteen international agricultural research centers plus the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. The final CD-ROM set, called the Compact International Agricultural Research Library - Basic Retrospective Set (CIARL-BRS), was a single master disc that contained the catalogue and synopticon records and sixteen text-image discs that contained the documents from the centers. They were accompanied by a paper A-Z Reference Guide in English, French, and Spanish, and a Tutorial Guide.
This series consists of the background records of the project; the contracts with each center for use of its publications; contracts for the studies, the production of the CD-ROMs, and the translations of the paper publications; record of the preparation of the paper publications and master copies of them; correspondence with the evaluation sites and the advisory committee; and records related to the marketing of the final CD-ROM set. The records are essential to understand the authorized uses of the publications from the centers.
The records reflect CGIAR's effort to preserve and disseminate the bountiful research information that was being produced by the centers. As an early CD-ROM project, it also provides a miniature study of the developmental steps that were required; for example, the project had not intended to create a paper Tutorial, but the users had difficulty with the unfamiliar CD-ROM technology so a Tutorial was devised. While the project staff hoped that the CIARL-BRS would be the first of many editions of the CD-ROM, website technology soon replaced CD-ROMs for CGIAR distribution purposes and no further editions were produced.