University of Sydney Library Newsletter

Issue Nº 33 - April 1998

ISSN 1326-2785
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Message from the University Librarian

Welcome to the first issue of the University of Sydney Library Newsletter for 1998. This year will witness a significant period of change for the Library. Already, the need to reduce expenditure on journals has been announced and will have considerable consequences for teaching, learning and research.

The Library s recurrent budget for the year approximates $22 million which includes $1,600,000 for the operation of the Health Sciences Library. While the Library receives some 5% of the University s General Purpose Operating Funds, it is insufficient to maintain activities at the same level as 1997. The shortfall amounts to over $2 million and would have been higher if the Library had not been exempt from a 3.5% budget reduction.

For 1998, Library expenditure will be maintained close to 1997 levels by the use of reserves accumulated in better times. This will provide some respite to permit a more orderly re-evaluation and reorganisation of activities to match available resources. Like other sectors of the University, the Library is faced with higher staffing costs and will undertake an organisational restructure to effect savings and to achieve greater efficiencies. Salaries constitute more than 50% of Library expenditure and it is important to ensure that the funding is used effectively. At the same time, it will be essential to consider the effect on services if staffing is changed.

Also significant is the cost of information resources. Library expenditure (excluding that by the Health Sciences Library) on information resources will approximate $8,395,000 in 1998 compared with $8,461,000 in 1997. By itself, the reduction would have had a significant impact on the collections. Unfortunately, it is accompanied by increases in publisher charges and a 14% decrease in the value of the Australian dollar. The combined effect is a reduction in our purchasing power of more than 25%.

Although the greatest effect will be on the University s ability to maintain serial subscriptions, there will be an accompanying reduction in the number of books purchased. This is a serious state of affairs for any university but is more devastating for a one which supports wide-ranging research and teaching programmes.

Other than more money, there is no easy solution to the problem. Many of the expensive titles acquired by the Library are produced by commercial publishers who are motivated entirely by profit. Reed Scientific, for example, achieved a 41.8% profit in the 1996 financial year. A goal about which many industrial leaders can only dream.

When libraries cancel titles, publishers tend to increase their subscription charges in order to maintain their profit margins. There have been some spectacular increases in journals taken by the Library. In 1997, the subscription to Physica cost $23,252. A subscription in 1998 will require $29,065 - an increase of 25%. Similarly, Tetrahedron cost $12,126 in 1997 and will cost $15,158 in 1998. On average, publisher prices have increased by 11% since 1997 which is significantly higher than growth in the Library s income.

Part of the solution lies with re-assessing the process and rationale of scholarly communication. In many disciplines, journals are not essential to the timely dissemination of knowledge but function largely as records of past endeavours. Current awareness can be achieved far more efficiently by informal links between individuals, the circulation of article pre-prints and, increasingly, by the use of the Internet. Other methods are emerging for archiving information which may be more efficient than print publications.

In other disciplines, particularly those for which the historical perspective is more important, the journal article is a prime means of accessing knowledge. Publications supporting these disciplines are often relatively inexpensive but the number of titles strains the ability of libraries to meet demands.

Librarians, in association with other members of the academic community, are seeking to maintain access to scholarly information. Approaches are made continually to major publishers to influence their pricing and distribution policies. The Council of Australian University Librarians acts as a consortium to negotiate cheaper prices for publications especially those which are available in digital format. While considerable advantages have been achieved, the Australian market constitutes a small percentage of the business of most large publishers.

In an attempt to increase the influence of Australian university libraries, links have been established with similar groups in North America, Britain and Europe. The Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee has recognised the importance of multi-national collaboration by the appointment of a staff member to concentrate on international projects.

Locally, links between libraries are being strengthened to promote the best use of available resources. Discussions have been held with the University of New South Wales to identify possible collaborative activity. All of the NSW university libraries have contributed to a list of expensive journals which may enable a more rational approach to subscriptions.

While these efforts may be beneficial, their effect will be limited unless there are fundamental changes to the scholarly communication process.

Required changes include:

  • focussing on quality rather than quantity as a criteria for academic progression.
  • valuing intellectual property. Academic staff tend not to write for profit and are willing to relinquish their copyright in order to get their work published. At the very least, authors should retain the right to distribute their work for use in teaching and for sharing with their colleagues.
  • adopting alternative means of creating and disseminating knowledge. There are no barriers to the use of peer review and other processes being applied to electronic publication to ensure the maintenance of quality. Appropriate use of technology can improve the speed at which knowledge becomes available and the scope of its distribution. Electronic publications need to be recognised as a legitimate form of publication and the appropriate infrastructure provided to permit their use.
  • encouraging publication through and by scholarly societies and universities. The Web provides an alternative to print publication which could be utilised to reduce the influence of the large commercial publishers. Universities and scholarly societies are well-placed to become electronic publishers since they already provide the editing, content and peer-review for the majority of academic journals. More significantly, universities also provide the finance which purchases the publications.

Changing the scholarly communication process will not be easy but it has to be done. The traditional print-based model is increasingly inefficient. Publications are expensive to acquire and the combined cost of numerous libraries maintaining multiple copies of seldom used titles is excessive. In addition, the time taken for articles to appear in print is often lengthy and not consonant with the requirements of the promotion and funding processes.

While universities do not have an enviable history as publishers, the Web does offer opportunities to improve the dissemination of knowledge and to do so more cost-effectively. The difficulty is how to provide the necessary impetus to effect the shift. The Library has been introducing full-text electronic publications as appropriate material becomes available. While electronic publications are not necessarily cheaper than the print versions, it is often easier to negotiate prices in conjunction with other libraries and there are benefits in terms of improved access independent of the physical constraints of the Library.

The aim of the Library is to be a partner in the research and educational processes of the University and to participate through the provision of high quality services and collections. Excellence cannot be achieved in every field of endeavour and some choices will need to be made. This will involve aligning Library activities more closely with the strategic objectives of the University and identifying what services are required by those who use the Library.

The journal cancellation exercise is an opportunity for faculties and departments to review what is being purchased and to make adjustments which reflect research and teaching requirements. Although it is not a pleasant task, it is part of the constant review process necessitated by economic constraints, changes in University activities and developments in the ways in which information is produced, stored and accessed.

John Shipp
University Librarian

Fisher Library Fire and Safety Upgrade

Two major building projects took place in Fisher Library over the 1997-1998 long vacation - an upgrade the fire safety features of the building and the replacement of the aging air conditioning plants.

The fire safety upgrade was the most obvious project and involved changing the building to enable it to meet current fire safety standards. Installation of sprinklers, the construction of a new fire control room accessible to the Fire Brigade, the isolation of a number of stairs to prevent smoke spreading throughout the building and the installation of fire hoses on each floor were all part of the work completed during the vacation period. One of the major construction activities was the extension of a fire stair from Floor 4 to the Acquisitions Department on Floor 5.

The installation of the sprinkler system was a relatively simple task in the Research Library but the Undergraduate Library was a different story. Here installation of the sprinklers was a complex undertaking since it involved the removal of the old ceiling tiles and light fittings which were incorporated into the ceiling tile grid. This was a messy and, at times, noisy job and visitors to the Library during this period grew used to the construction zone appearance of the Undergraduate Library. Darkened areas of the Library, with the complex network of electrical wiring and air conditioning ducts revealed, were common during the construction period which at times tested the patience of both staff and users.

Much of the heavy demolition and construction work was carried on outside opening hours in an effort to minimise inconvenience to Library users and staff. However, despite this there were some disruptions as services and staff had to be relocated temporarily while work was carried out in their home areas.

As a result of the work new ceiling tiles and lights were installed in the Undergraduate Library giving this section of the building a facelift. The ceiling tiles were over thirty years old and were in very poor condition. We knew that many would disintegrate when they were removed and since they were obsolete, it would not be possible to match them in size or appearance. It seemed more sensible to reduce maintenance costs by replacing all the tiles at this time.

Some members of the University community have expressed concern at the installation of a sprinkler system in the Library given that such systems seem to have a history of false alarms. While it is true that, for many years, sprinkler systems were frowned upon in libraries the situation has changed over the last few years. Library planners now recommend sprinkler systems in new library buildings and expert conservators now say that it is simpler to repair the damage to library materials caused by water than by fire.

New sprinkler systems are now more reliable and even if a sprinkler head is damaged and activated, only that individual head will discharge water rather than activating the entire system. The Rare Books and Special Collections Library has a special dry pipe system to guard against accidental sprinkler discharge. It also has sophisticated very early smoke detection system which offers additional protection for the valuable collections.

In contrast the project to replace the air conditioning plants was mostly carried out behind the scenes with much less interruption to normal services. The air conditioning plants were no longer able to meet the air conditioning requirements of the building and handle the new requirements for large numbers of workstations which are now an integral part of library service. The new plant is now operational but fine tuning is still taking place. Once this has been completed the Library should become more comfortable for users and staff.

The Library is grateful to the Office of Facilities Planning, and in particular to the supervisor of the two projects, Ian Cutcher, for the detailed planning which enabled the projects to be carried out with minimal disruption to the Library and its users. Both projects were completed on schedule and relative peace and quiet has now returned to Fisher Library.

Interlibrary Loans and Document Supply Services for University Academic Staff and Postgraduate Students

The University of Sydney Libraries provide many different services to the academic staff and postgraduate students of the University. A vital part of any research is access to current research material and the Interlibrary Loans / Document Supply Service (ILL / DS) aims to fill gaps in the University collection. All libraries of the University offer similar services.

Material not available in the Library can be obtained from libraries in Australia and around the world through ILL / DS. The University of Sydney Libraries provide more than 19,000 items per year to library users. Academic staff and all postgraduate students of the University of Sydney have free access to material elsewhere if that material is available for loan. This could be a book from another library collection or chapters of books (photocopies), or articles from periodical literature.

A request for any material through ILL / DS can be made in person or electronically. Indeed, while we would like to see the user in the library, we recognise that an electronic request can save time, especially if you are working from home or from the office. For information about electronic requests see the Library home page: under Document Delivery.

Most requests for articles published from 1990 onwards can be obtained in just a few hours and rarely in more than two days. Only if the request is difficult or not easily obtainable does it take longer.

Currently the Library uses a number of commercial document suppliers such as UnCover, BLDSC, CISTI and UMI. UnCover offers users direct ordering. The UnCover Reveal service provides users with a profile of the contents pages of selected journals, which can be chosen either by title or by subject, and the Library has a licence for a limited number of users. If you would like to have more information about this, please contact the Fisher ILL Librarian or any Branch Librarian and, if you would like to find out more information about UnCover, see:

The ILL / DS also offers an urgent request service called FastTrack. This means that we aim to obtain any material urgently within 24 hours depending on availability and location. As the Library covers the surcharge for this service please restrict Fast Track requests to items generally needed urgently.

The ARIEL system for document delivery was recently installed in the Fisher, Medical, Badham and Engineering libraries. This is a system for the fast and efficient transfer of documents via email or ftp. The use of ARIEL has added a new dimension to our services and provides the technology to eventually deliver documents directly to requestors workstations.

Censorship Exhibition

The history of censorship has been long and involved. Among those books which many may regard today as being some of the greatest treasures of mankind's intellectual history, there are many that have survived attempts at their destruction or suppression by only the narrowest of margins. The current exhibition of materials from the Rare Book & Special Collections Library, entitled Censored, banned and burned, attempts to show, chronologically, what is only a sample of these works. In all, over seventy works by more than sixty authors are on display.

In their various times, nearly all the books shown in the exhibition have fallen under bans brought about by the demands of either religion, politics or morality, making their offence, or rather the offences of their authors, ones of either heresy, treason or obscenity. In some cases the offence could have been a combination of all three.

History shows us that it is no disgrace to be censored. Many of the works by some of the greatest writers in history have been banned or suppressed at one time or another. Names such as Bacon, Boccaccio, Erasmus, Shakespeare, Voltaire, Shelley and Darwin represent but a few of the authors who could be included in any historical study of censorship or in a list of banned books. Censorship however sometimes went past the mere suppression or correction of an author's work. Occasionally, some authors paid a higher price for their beliefs and suffered imprisonment, mutilation and sometimes even death.

Censorship has been a continuing force throughout the ages. Whilst many of the works in the exhibition have been drawn from the distant past, unfortunately there are also examples exhibited of works which have suffered censorship or repression in the Twentieth century. Nor does the history of censorship exclude Australia. There are several examples shown in the exhibition of works which, for various reasons, have been banned or censored at some time in Australia. While censorship in Australia has, in general, been much less severe, and has occurred over a much shorter period, there still exists an impressive list of materials which over the years have aroused the ire of the censor.

Closure of the Wolstenholme Library

Following discussions with the Faculty of Economics, the Wolstenholme Library closed on 28 November 1997 and its collections were transferred to the Fisher Library over the Summer vacation. This has enabled the Library to consolidate holdings on disciplines taught in the Faculty of Economics and users now have access to these resources seven days per week during semester. The Faculty is converting the vacated space into a study centre, which will include computer access to the Library's electronic resources in Economics.

One of the key factors governing the move was time. Over a period of six weeks, Library staff in both Fisher and Wolstenholme identified and organised the transfer of nearly 8,000 monographs and 500 serial titles to Fisher, with the remainder of the collection being moved to the Darlington Repository Library for further evaluation. In order to house the new collections, and to allow room for growth, space needed to be created in both the Undergraduate and Research wings of Fisher Library. The subsequent moves of the collection, on Floor 4 and Floor 6 of the Research Library, and on Floor 1 and Floor 2 of the Undergraduate Library, occurred between December 1997 and February 1998, with the Wolstenholme material being integrated into the Fisher collections by the beginning of First Semester.

In addition, a number of multi volume loose-leaf services were transferred to the Fisher Library Reference collection. These services cover mainly commercial law topics such as taxation, company law and trade practices and typically contain the extensive text of legislation, annotated materials and some commentary.

The Wolstenholme move affected a large number of Library operations, with departments and individuals being asked to make the move their major priority at a time when extensive building renovations were taking place. That it was done so willingly and within the deadlines imposed, is a tribute to the staff involved.

Two New Branch Libraries

The libraries of the Orange Agricultural College and the Sydney College of the Arts joined the University Library system on 1 January 1998. Both libraries will continue to operate on UNILINC until their holdings are added to the University Library s database, at which point their operations will be transferred to the Library s automated system Innopac.

The SCA Library is located on two floors of a heritage building, in pleasant park-like grounds at Rozelle. The College educates practicising artists, craftspeople, object designers and other arts professionals at the undergraduate and masters level. In addition to books and serials, the collection includes a large number of slides. The Librarian in charge is Wendy O Connor, who can be contacted on extension 11038 or by email at

The OAC Library is housed in a modern building on the Orange Campus, which covers 500 hectares north of the city, 260 km west of Sydney. The mixed College farm boasts a horse stud, horticulture centre and even a vineyard. About two thirds of the enrolment are distance students. Courses are offered in various aspects of rural business management at the undergraduate and postgraduate level. The Librarian in charge is Lindy Eggleston, who can be contacted by phone on (02) 6360 5594 or by email at