Central Information Services at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation: History and Change at East Melbourne and the Work of the Divisional Libraries or Whatever Became of CILES?

By Arny, Linda | Special Libraries, Winter 1990 | Go to article overview

Central Information Services at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation: History and Change at East Melbourne and the Work of the Divisional Libraries or Whatever Became of CILES?


Arny, Linda, Special Libraries


Part One

Central Information Services at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation: History and Change at East Melbourne and the Work of the Divisional Libraries or Whatever Became of CILES?

* Numerous important changes have occurred at Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Technical Research Organisation's central information services facility in East Melbourne, Victoria. Divided into two parts, this article discusses the history and results of the implementation of recommendations from management reviews on the Central information, Library, and Editorial Services and its successors. Part one describes the development of central library services at CSIRO from the "Head Office Library" to the current Information Services Unit. Procedures and effects of a series of independent, governmental, and corporate reviews are discussed, and the institutional position, purpose, and services of the divisional libraries are briefly described.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is one of the largest national research institutions in the world. In 1987, there were 7,200 staff members (of which 2,500 were scientists) in about 100 laboratories and field stations located all over Australia.

First established in 1928 as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the organization's scientific endeavors were originally divided by subject and concentrated on animal health, soils, crops and pastures, fisheries, food preservation, and insect studies. In 1936, the creation of the Division of Industrial Chemistry, the National Standards Laboratory, and the Aeronautical Laboratory extended the range of investigation into the physical sciences and engineering. The Council became the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (the spelling was changed to organisation in 1987) in 1949. Growth was rapid in the 1950s and 60s, but slowed in the 1970s.

"In the years around 1960 the organisation may well have come closest to Rivitt's (the first chief executive officer of CSIR) ideal of an institution with many of the attributes of a university, committed to the advancement of knowledge, internationalist in outlook, largely insulated from day-to-day political pressures, yet widely accepted as a powerful force promoting technological change."[1]

In recent years, CSIRO goals have reflected the Australian government's desire that research should advance Australia economically rather than be concentrated in areas of pure science. CSIRO's present objectives are:

* to carry out strategic research that can

be applied by Australian industry or

government for community benefit;

* to collaborate with other institutions

and industry to strengthen their

research efforts and to insure transfer and

application of results; and

* to lead and promote an expanded

scientific and technological effort in

Australia.[2]

Over the past five years, CSIRO funding has been lowered in real terms, and staff size is decreasing. Budgets for the corporate center and all library and information service activities have correspondingly decreased. Divisions of CSIRO have been required to be partially self-sustaining, and central information services are expected to be so as well.

Establishment of Library Services

In 1928, the Australian Association for the Advancement of Science gave 200 periodical titles and a collection of monographs to form a library for the CSIR, and in 1929 the organization's Executive Committee ruled that specialist libraries be constituted at research centers and that the "head office," then in East Melbourne, should maintain a catalog of all CSIRO libraries' holdings, do all of the ordering, and arrange for interlibrary loan among the members. Thus began the divisional and central libraries. …

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