Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

Swift: The Future Library System for Victoria's Communities

Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

Swift: The Future Library System for Victoria's Communities

Article excerpt

The Swift initiative is a proposal for Victorian public libraries to share one library management system to achieve improved service outcomes for library users plus operational and cost benefits. It is envisaged that over time all Victorian public libraries would participate, The paper covers the reasons that prompted consideration for the proposed project and an overview of the business case prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The business case was intended to persuade libraries and councils of the merits of the project and to participate, and the Victorian state government to provide funding to assist with the initial establishment costs of the venture. Edited version of a presentation at the Vala conference Melbourne February 2004

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Victoria is a state in the south east corner of the Australian mainland with a population of nearly five million people in its 227,000 square kilometres. There are 42 local government public library services serving 2.5 million registered members through 275 static service points and 31 mobile libraries. The collections have 9 million items and there are 47 million annual loans. Public internet services are available at all static service points and in some mobile libraries.

Local and state government share the responsibility for the funding for the recurrent operational costs of public libraries. On a statewide basis the proportions of the funding by the two levels of government are 78% local and 22% state. The funding contributions were once more equal--over the last two decades there has been shifting of financial responsibility for public libraries from the state to local government. This has had implications for the amount of funding available for investment in information and communication technology (ICT) at a time when its utilisation has increased significantly. The limited funding has curbed the ICT aspirations of most or all Victorian public libraries, something not unique to Victorian public libraries. It is therefore important for libraries to consider collaborative arrangements to use the existing financial resources to maximum advantage.

Cooperation

Sharing and cooperation is a precept that underpins public libraries. They are about the sharing of collections and resources for the benefit of the communities they serve. For many years public libraries have been distinguished by the implementation of various collaborative and sharing ventures to enhance their performance for the benefit of their users, although more recently Victorian public libraries have not embraced collaboration with the enthusiasm of the past. This is in part a disturbing outcome of the aftermath of their experiences of the restructure of Victorian local government in the mid 1990s. This change was coupled with an ensuing short term harsh regime of compulsory competitive tendering of services in the late 1990s.

Gulliver

There is now some restoration of cooperative spirit. An example is the Gulliver consortium project. This project is a cost affordable shared purchasing of access for library members to a range of authoritative and expensive databases. The Gulliver consortium project is a particularly noteworthy and successful exception to the recent reluctance to collaborate. Gulliver started with a state government grant and is now an ongoing and sustainable venture between all Victorian public libraries. No one Victorian public library could afford the cost of the access to the range of database resources available through Gulliver. The Swift initiative is intended to emulate and build upon the collaborative essence of the Gulliver success (its nomenclature connection is that Swift, of course, was the author of Gulliver's travels ed)

Library management system affordability

A number of Victorian public libraries still use legacy library management systems overdue for replacement because of insufficient funding for a new system. …

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