INTO THE ROLE OF LIBRARIES IN THE ONLINE ENVIRONMENT
by Paul Bentley on behalf of the Wolanski
Foundation 16 August 2002
Senate has invited submissions to an inquiry on the role of libraries as
providers of public information in the online environment, with particular
the current community patterns of demand for public information services
through libraries, including the provision of such information online.
the response by
libraries (public, university, research) to the changing information needs of
Australians, including through the provision of online resources
possible strategies which would enhance the wider use and distribution of
information resources held by libraries, including the establishment of
library networks, improved online access in libraries, online libraries, and
greater public knowledge and skill in using library resources
the use of libraries to
deliver information and services over the Internet to more effectively meet
community demands for public information in the online environment.
roles of various levels of government, the corporate sector and libraries
themselves in ensuring the most effective use of libraries as a primary public
information resource in the online environment.
submission is made by Paul Bentley on behalf of the Wolanski Foundation, an
organisation that facilitates management of performing arts information (see
details appendix 2). As a user of information, the author relies predominantly on
the internet, the media, professional associations and book shops, as well as
a range of library services for business and pleasure, including the local
public library, a university library (to which he pays a membership fee for
borrowing privileges) and a special library run by a business association.
On the internet, he frequently accesses government sites, web-enabled
catalogues of libraries, online databases and e-list information generated by
a diverse range of businesses and interest groups.
submission does not pretend to be other than a loosely-paved path.
Some aspects are based on superficial research and are tentatively
offered in the interest of contributing ideas, experiences and opinions for
question of the future of libraries is no longer simply a question about the
future of libraries.
information policy and action is primarily driven by the needs of Australian
society and its economy.
is equated with moving from an old economy, based on mining, agriculture and
manufacturing, to a new economy based on innovation and productive knowledge
explosive growth of the PC and the internet has had a dramatic impact on the
status of information and the way governments, educational institutions,
businesses and individuals manage it. The
so-called Australian knowledge industry, currently valued at $171 billion, is
expected to grow to $301 billion by 2010 (15% of GDP).
an innovation system is touted as the linchpin of the new economy, it has
become lazily equated in common parlance with doing things differently
is a belief that management of information technology has tended to focus on
means over ends.
Productivity gains from technology are debateable.
But the value of technology is undeniable.
through libraries and responses by libraries
needs, expectations and habits of users are changing in response to increased
information availability and acquisition choices.
state and local government libraries and archives, as the main recipients of
government funding, have been responsive to the ICT-led information
revolution. Government funded museums have increased value as information
repositories as well as places for aesthetic and historical objects.
Libraries and information services run by Government departments,
cultural institutions and similar information services have a potentially
greater role in facilitating public access to information and the preservation
of national and corporate resources.
is an essential element of the knowledge economy. In the digital age, scholars
have enhanced their value as creators of information by developing related
information structures, systems and strategies. But management of Australian
higher education information is lagging behind overseas initiative. The school
system is the key to a future information-savvy nation.
business environments, information is predominantly managed by users, records
managers and IT professionals rather than librarians. But libraries
in this sphere offer great potential within a national information network.
ROLES & STRATEGIES
for wider use of resources held by libraries, use of libraries to deliver
services over the internet and the role of governments, corporate sector and
an uncertain society, which is increasingly reliant on information for its
territorial interests, vague management and piecemeal approaches
militate against efficient and effective management of information resources
by the governments, organisations and individuals. While the commonly used
slogan ‘content, connectivity and competencies’ is an acceptable catch-cry
and key themes for managing information and technology, a more holistic
approach is needed to develop and sustain Australia as a competitive force and
culturally rich nation.
rapid development of major industry portals may be the best way to unite
scholarly, publishing, ICT, library, archive, museum interests around the
common purposes of facilitating access to information and efficient and
effective management of associated sources, services and systems.
libraries, archives and museums will involve more of the same, but with
increased technological sophistication and a business sense as information
producers and distributors and as fundamental places in the democratic
landscape. This means managing and developing digital and non digital
resources according to established priorities and capability and creating more
efficient information access and distribution systems.
role of government is to align
information infrastructure and strategies with national objectives, encourage efficient
& effective use of information for productivity & pleasure, and encourage
business-oriented collaboration between, government, library, archive, museum,
media, publishing and ICT sectors, associations and private interests.
role of libraries is to facilitate access to free, fee-based and value-added
information available over the internet, in libraries and other sources and to
private information which, in the medium term may be required for legal
purposes and, in long term, may be important to Australia’s cultural
role of private industry and the third sector is to make up for the shortfall
and help bridge the gaps. The responsibility of professional associations
is to develop the capacity of and opportunities for members and to promote
their value to the nation, industries and enterprises.
new industry truss is the network – clusters, communities of practice,
centres of excellence and consortia. Developing
new collaborative mechanisms in an online environment will require big
thinking, a business orientation, international linkages and incentives to
stimulate synergies and negate territorial forces and piecemeal approaches.
full submission and a supplementary paper submitted in May 2003 are available
as submissions 117 and 177a on the committee pages of the Australian Parliament House website at