Monash University Library Annual Report 1997

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In the past few years, the Library has developed into a very innovative organisation, as demonstrated by the fact that it has been in the forefront in the use of IT to expand the range of its services. It was responsible, in collaboration with the Computer Centre, for establishing the University's first campus wide information system, originally based on the gopher software and its subsequent migration to the World Wide Web. It continues to be responsible for the maintenance of the University's Web, at least until that responsibility is handed over to the new Information Technology Services Division. It alerted the academic community to the development of the Internet and the World Wide Web, more than two years before the widespread use of Internet, and initiated and conducted training programs for academic staff in the use of the Internet and its resources. It is also a pioneer in the electronic publishing field, having received a grant to undertake an electronic publishing project in 1995. Finally, its digital library projects, including its electronic reserve system, and its audio and video on demand systems, rank among the most advanced in the country.

The Library's innovative culture is not confined to its digital library initiatives. It extends to the innovative services provided, and these include its music and multimedia services, support for Asian studies, and the Subject Librarian model, where specialist librarians provide reference and information services, collection building and information literacy programs to support teaching staff and students in specific subject disciplines.

The Library has faced a number of challenges in the past few years, caused in part by the unrelenting increase in the cost of monographs and serials at a rate (of between 11% and 15%) which has been significantly higher than the rate of inflation, and in part by the need to find additional resources to purchase electronic information resources and pay for the IT infrastructure required to provide access to these resources. The unremitting pressure on the Library's budget continued in 1997 as the Library was confronted with the need to find money for salary increases anticipated in the new round of Enterprise Bargaining, and for new services to support the flexible delivery programs of the University.

To a large extent, the Library has faced this challenge successfully, through a considered program of reorganisation and restructuring during which process it has reduced its staffing by some 12% in the last 12 months. In spite of these losses and the continued large increase in the demand for library services, the Library has managed to minimise the impact of these losses on its services, while at the same time increasing slightly the level of its spending on books, serials and electronic information resources.

Without going into too many details, the main planks of the restructuring and reorganisation which enabled the Library to meet the University's goals, include the following:

A radical restructuring of the branch campus model into a faculty model. This would align the Library more closely with current plans of faculties to organise along discipline lines rather than campus groupings. This model aims to further break down the barriers between campuses, and to engender greater team spirit. The faculty based teams will have responsibility for the provision of research assistance, user education and other activities across all campuses. This radical restructuring involves a major cultural change which may be difficult to achieve in a short time frame.

Improved technical support for digital library projects. Restructuring in other areas has enabled the Library to redesign the jobs of some professional staff, thus increasing the number and level of technical support for digital library projects.

The centralisation of all technical services operations (acquisitions, cataloguing, etc.) at the Clayton campus. This has resulted in reduced duplication of effort across the campuses, achieved significant salary savings, and allowed the Library to move staff from the technical services operations to the information services area in Gippsland, which had lost some key staff through the Monash package.

The merger of the Biomedical and Hargrave libraries to create a single Science, Technology and Medicine (STM) Library - a process which will continue through 1998. The objective is to allow the Library to cope with the significant staff losses suffered by both libraries, by rationalising service points and staff responsibilities so that it would be possible to continue to maintain at least the same level of services that users have come to expect. The opportunity to do this was provided by the University's decision to provide funds to build an extension to the Hargrave Library which would allow that library building to accommodate all the current collections and services of the Biomedical and the Hargrave libraries, while permitting the retrospective research collections of both libraries to be housed in the Biomedical Library building. Details of the staffing and services merger in consultation with the appropriate staff, the NTEU and user committees are being worked out.

The creation of the Flexible Library Services Unit, which would provide an enhanced service for mixed mode study and off-campus students, in support of the Monash Plan. The new unit would be responsible for providing services to distance education students as well as mixed mode study students across all campuses. Unlike the former Gippsland External Services Unit (whose services were restricted to the Gippsland collection), the new unit will be able to provide services based on the entire collection of the Monash University Library system, and will be assisted by staff located on all campuses.

The restructuring has enabled the Library to continue to provide the same level of services as in the past in spite of the staff losses and increased workload, and great credit must be given to the staff for their cooperation and willingness to take on additional and/or new responsibilities.

1.1 Highlights

While the restructuring activities occupied a considerable amount of library management's time, there were a number of other major achievements, which should be highlighted.

  • expanded access to electronic databases and full-text journals, including off-campus access.
  • the creation of the Electronic Resources Directory (ERD) which provides enhanced information and access to electronic products.
  • audio and video on demand projects.
  • streamlining of the book ordering process by using Web based bookshops and the Monash Bookshop.
  • development of the MONALISA client to enable access to Windows based electronic databases.
  • upgrading of serials and monograph records in SESAME2, the online catalogue.
  • preparation of the Request for Proposal for the acquisition of a new library system to replace PALS.
  • centralisation of the Library telephone inquiries service (MULTELS) and the addition of the IVR facility for after hours' access to all Monash libraries.
  • the construction and completion or near completion of several building projects, including the new Gippsland campus library, the front entrance to the Sir Louis Matheson Library and the West Reading Room, and the Peninsula campus library.
  • the refurbishment of the Matheson Conference Room and the Humanities and Social Sciences Library reference area.
  • planning for the extensions to the Hargrave Library and the Berwick Library.
  • transfer of several thousand volumes of material to the CARM store.
  • despite the increasing range of electronic information resources made available to users, loans and renewals of "analogue" books increased by 3.36% to 1.7 million items, while some 50,000 monographs were added to the physical stock of the Library.
  • reference enquiries, which take up considerable professional staff time, increased by 12.5%, while directional enquiries increased by over 10%.
  • more than 3 million people visited the libraries in the Monash University Library system.
  • the conducting of a teleworking trial involving a 0.2 FTE cataloguer, who worked alternate weeks from home. Despite some initial difficulties output increased by 32% due to the absence of interruption.

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