Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

More, Better, Cheaper: The Impossible Dream?

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

More, Better, Cheaper: The Impossible Dream?

Article excerpt

The Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) is dedicated to improving access by the staff and students of Australian universities to the scholarly information resources that are fundamental to the advancement of teaching, learning and research. Through an expanding program of information dissemination, coordination and consortial acquisition of electronic information services, it offers members tangible evidence of the benefits of working together.

The Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) in 1999 is, a focus for collaborative activity among Australia s university libraries. It coordinates national research projects, such as the Janus Collaborative Information Centres Project, the Benchmarking Project and the Authentication Project. It lobbies government on legal and regulatory reform in areas such as copyright and telecommunications. It acts as a broker for consortium purchasing of electronic information resources, and as a conduit for information exchange among members. It publishes university library statistics and performance indicator kits.

Membership of CAUL is open to the library director of each university that is a member of the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee (the council of Australia's university presidents). Thirty-nine are eligible for membership; all thirty-nine are members. The annual membership fee, currently $4,500, supports the CAUL Office, meetings of the Executive Committee, lobbying activities and some smaller projects, including the annual publication of statistics.

CAUL first formally constituted itself in 1965 as the Committee of Australian University Librarians, although meetings have been held in some form since 1928J The late 1980s were marked by the formal abolition of the so-called "binary divide" between universities and colleges of advanced education and a consequent increase in the number, originally nineteen, of institutions called universities. An executive committee has been in place only since 1991, and the chairmanship has been an elected position only since 1984. In 1995 CAUL opened its office and appointed its first full-time executive officer. Until that time, each president was supported by staff within his own institution and paid an office allowance.

* National Priority (Reserve) Fund Library Project

One of the first tasks in the newly established CAUL Office was to coordinate the trials of electronic database services in all Australian universities. These trials were financed by the Federal Government's National Priority (Reserve) Fund (NPRF).

In 1990 the Review of Library Provision in Higher Education Institutions (the Ross Review) proposed "developmental projects and investigations" designed to improve the capacity of university libraries to contribute to national goals in teaching and research. CAUL's formal response to the National Bureau of Employment, Education and Training in 1991 addressed the priorities which should be given to funding the Report's recommendations.

The outcome of the review was an allocation of $5 million over three years (1994-96) to the National Priority (Reserve) Fund Library Project Special Commonwealth Grant for University Libraries. The Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee supervised the project and managed the distribution of funds. The $5 million was used to fund three programs:

1. System-Wide Access to Databases (appendix A) $2,000,000

2. Improved Information Infrastructure (appendix B) $2,000,000

a. Network Information Support

b. CASMAC-Compliant Library Specifications

3. Electronic Publishing (appendix C) $1,000,000

* System-Wide Access to Databases

The Database Access Working Group (DAWG) was established in 1994 under the chairmanship of John Shipp, then president of CAUL, to develop a program of projects (appendix A) that would:

* enhance access to information locally, nationally, and internationally for all members of the higher education sector;

* improve information support for teaching and research activities;

* enhance best practice in the use of available information resources;

* promote the use of networked electronic information and the development of information literacy; and

* increase the cost effectiveness of access to information by sharing infrastructure costs and negotiating consortium prices. …

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