Copies Direct: An Innovative Service from the National Library of Australia

By Missingham, Roxanne; Moreno, Margarita et al. | The Australian Library Journal, November 2005 | Go to article overview
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Copies Direct: An Innovative Service from the National Library of Australia


Missingham, Roxanne, Moreno, Margarita, Xu, Anne, The Australian Library Journal


One of the great challenges for the National Library of Australia is to enable individuals, whatever their institutional affiliation, and wherever they are, to access copies of material from the collections. Copies direct was developed to enable online ordering and payment for copies of material, regardless of format, and has already increased use of the collections. This is consistent with the Commonwealth GovernmentOnline strategy, based on developing more and better services online to overcome barriers of distance and access and to meet more effectively the real needs of individuals, organisations and enterprises. Through online access Australians are better able to obtain services from agencies, in this case access to their national documentary heritage. This paper describes the development of the service, its technical infrastructure, issues considered in its development and includes a report on an evaluation undertaken in 2004.

Introduction

As a sector we need to look at the services we are providing to our users from the user perspective. We must move away from systems and services that can be used comfortably by library staff but that leave our users bamboozled and ultimately dependent on the mediation of library staff to find and get information resources. (Opening address by Jan Fullerton, director-general, National Library of Australia, National Resource Sharing Forum, 11 November 2003, Canberra, Australia.)

THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF AUSTRALIA, IN ITS KEY STATEMENT OF AIMS AND OBJECTIVES> Directions for 2003-2005, espouses the simple philosophy of making it easy for users to find and to get information resources. This is, however, a fundamental shift in direction away from services that have hitherto been developed by librarians for librarians, or at the very least, for library users with an advanced awareness of what was possible. With search engines offering quick and simple access to information via the internet, the National Library has adopted a new approach to its services in order to provide users with easy and direct pathways to reliable and authentic information resources. This is reflected in the redesign and redevelopment of the Library's web services and the development of new online services. The new services are underpinned by the collecting and creation of digital content, with a shift in emphasis from discovery to delivery.

The Library has an important role as a major centre for scholarship and research, with Australian and international collections essential to the pursuit of knowledge and innovation. It has built a national collection of material in its many forms over two centuries. As a major cultural institution, it is required to meet long-term objectives such as building its collections whilst evolving to meet the changing needs of customers. Given that the client base is broad and diverse, and that it serves an Australian community of many cultures, consistency and continuity are important, and much of its strength has been achieved through cumulative actions and strategies over considerable periods.

Its central location in the capital of Australia, Canberra, has limited physical access to its services, but Australian libraries have used traditional interlibrary loans to mitigate this. The World Wide Web and other developments in internet technology have provided the Library with a mechanism for successfully overcoming the barrier of distance for individuals for the first time, assisted by the fact that Australians have been rapid adopters of the internet. In 2003, 53 per cent of Australian households and 58 per cent of individuals had a personal computer with internet access. Australians have embraced the internet as an information resource and have come to expect to find the information they need online. The National Library of Australian is the largest net lender in the Australian interlibrary lending system, supplying approximately 52 000 loans and copies to libraries and 2188 Copies direct to individuals in 2003/04.

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