ASSOCIATES (vol. 1, no. 3, March 1995) -

Table of Contents

                  THE LIBRARY IN THE YEAR 2000
                         Rosalind Coote
                      Reference Officer/DBA
                   Treasury Information Centre
                          The Treasury
                     Wellington, New Zealand
If the words Internet, CD-ROM and "networking information" make you
sit up and take notice, ONLINE AND ONDISC is for you.  This
conference and exhibition is held every two years in Australia and
every year in the US.  This is a summary of some personal
highlights from this year's conference in Sydney, January 31-
February 3.  1300 people attended and 101 were from New Zealand.
Most were either computer support techies or library staff and from
what I could see, the line between these two roles is definitely
The latest and greatest techniques for fighting the information
. electronic publishing
. Windows front-end for Internet access
. CD-ROM and multimedia
. document delivery service
. getting information to the PC on the researcher's desk
  ("networked information")
Challenges for anyone who uses information technology (IT):
. overcoming computer phobia and developing information technology
. surviving the daily info-bog!
. getting their needs heard by the vendors and developers of
  information services and IT software
. finding the on-ramp to the information highway - whatever that
Challenges particularly affecting library staff
. using the Internet as a reference tool
. users wanting the library to fulfill the IT education role
. competency with the technology is essential
. as programming software becomes more end-user oriented, there is
  an opportunity for library staff to take over the development of
  IT applications as well as interfaces specific to the users'
Emerging trends
All bets regarding the Internet are off!  The Internet will either
develop slowly and only as a research trend, or it will quickly
become widely commercial and deliver information and entertainment
to as many households as can afford to have a PC connected.  The
reality is expected to be somewhere in between.  As the CEO of
Knight-Ridder (new owners of Dialog) said in his keynote address -
"I'm not going to bet my company on it."
New players will replace the current online provider companies
within 5 years.  Elsevier buying Lexis/Nexis and Knight-Ridder
buying Dialog are just some of the huge shakeups going on with the
large information service companies.  Online services will not die
out but will have to investigate new presentation such as hypertext
linking and images.  The pricing structure will change, too:
connect time will be free and output charged for (client-server
systems have difficulty measuring connect time).  The old dinosaurs
of the business will find it harder to move in these directions,
and this is where entrepreneurial services will have the edge.
End-user markets will increase only slightly and within specialized
information areas.
Merging of computer services and information services
So you thought the one-stop-shop ended with Information Centres
(merging of library, records, mail and typing staff).  It's on
again: academic institutions in Australia and UK are starting to
merge computing and library departments to involve information
experts with effective delivery.  The downside seems to be the
financial cost of multiskilling and loss of lower-grade jobs,
resistance from staff, and perceived loss of independence.
Upsides: it's easier to build function-based teams -- one help desk
deals with all information-related queries.
These notes are from the address given by the manager of Ferntree
Information (Australia).
First wave:  libraries were automating for the first time; online
services starting up
Second wave: online, networked systems; change driven by technology
only, e.g. CD-ROM
Third wave: subject matter of documents driving technology, e.g.
document management where compound documents are indexed and images
provided; distance from source not a concern because of
international connectivity.  Establishing standards for hardware
and software will be used to describe the structure of the document
as the document is created.  3rd generation databases will have a
different style of query based on document structure: element-based
approach rather than relational or object.
The great promise of multimedia packages is still a promise.  There
are real advantages for educators in the combination of video,
sound and text on CD-ROM, e.g. being able to layer the information
so that users discover knowledge at their own pace.  It can be hard
to hold the attention of a child of the nineties with a text book
in a crowded classroom!  Unfortunately, although there are
excellent CD-ROM packages, there are also some that are poorly
assembled and contain inaccurate information, e.g. maps labelled
incorrectly.  These packages need powerful PCs to run on and some
skill to present the material well.  Keep an eye on this area as
there are big bucks going into multimedia development, and it is
forcing up new data management and compression techniques.
Collection giving way to access
The paradigm for libraries is changing to providing access for
information rather than physically storing it.  People want to
search the Internet and manage their information better, and they
see the library as the provider of that training.  One Australian
university described relocating nine reference librarians out to
the faculty offices and renaming them Access Librarians.  They
provide informal first contact with information (which researchers
rate as being more valuable than libraries) and also help academics
deal with their computer phobia.  The academics need help with
locating and obtaining information but also managing gathered
It seemed to me that far from trying to agree on one true solution
for using information technology (IT), everyone was working on
providing totally customized and client-focused solutions for their
organizations.  The people who will shape the library of the year
2000 aren't the chief executives of the information industry, but
the users -- the information industry will develop in response to
their demands.
[Note:  The Treasury folk will be back in the July issue with the
next in their series on full text data management.  In the
meantime, they wanted to share this report.  The Editors.]