University of Sydney Library Newsletter

Issue Nº 39 - April 2000

ISSN 1326-2785
Newsletter archive

Expired URLs removed

In this Issue

Friends of the Library

The Library is fortunate to enjoy the support of a wide range of friends. They include graduates of the University as well as present and former members of staff. Many of our friends have no formal connection with the University other than that they love books and are appreciative of the opportunity to use the Library.

In 1961, a small group of Sydney book collectors and academics got together to investigate ways of assisting the Library. They were interested particularly in ways to buy expensive older books, manuscripts and limited editions.

The establishment of the Friends of the University of Sydney Library occurred in March 1962 and membership is open to anyone who wishes to support the Library. The Friends have donated over $200,000 for the purchase of items which the Library could not otherwise afford. This has helped to maintain the quality of the collection and our status as an international research library.

Membership of the Friends is by donation which is tax deductible. Further information is available from the University Librarian, John Shipp. (Telephone 02 9351 2990 or email

Support is received also from many graduates who donate to the University's Annual Appeal. Graduates are able to direct that their donations be used specifically for the Library. More than $100,000 has been received from the Annual Appeal over the past three years. This has been used to fund a variety of activities including the purchase of expensive publications and computer equipment for reader education.

Another valuable source of support is bequests. The University was fortunate to be the recipient of Thomas Fisher's substantial estate when died in 1884. His endowment continues to support the Library and has been supplemented by large bequests from W H Deane, Ellis Troughton, Fraser Old and Kathleen Laurence. In addition, there have been a number of other bequests and donations which have been invested so that the Library receives an annual income.

The Library benefited for many years from the generosity of the late Sir John Proud. A fervent supporter of many causes within the University, Sir John had a soft spot for the Library and included it among his bequests. The John and Laurine Proud Fund supports the purchase of rare books which were a particular interest of Sir John.

Other graduates who remembered the Library with affection included Doris Mitchell and Ethel Richmond. Both left the Library significant bequests in the last year for the support of Library collections and activities.

We all have many demands on our resources and there are a myriad of worthy causes. Gifts to the Library help to maintain the quality of the collections and services which are available to members of the University as well as to members of the wider Australian community. High quality teaching and research depend on access to information and on strong library collections.

Two Library Staff Members Win EEO Grant Funding

Late last year the University called for applications for funding under the Career Development Support Program for General Staff Women. This grant program was set up under the University's Affirmative Action strategy, administered by the EEO Unit.

The program aims to provide funding to general staff women, up to HEO Level 9, to help develop and enhance their career opportunities. This would benefit the University by the contribution they would bring back to their workplace.

Applicants could ask for funding for a variety of training opportunities, ranging from attending a conference, seminar, workshop, help with tuition fees for a formal course, or funding visits to other universities or government organisations.

Written submissions had to be tendered, addressing what the funding was for, what the development value was for the applicant and how it would benefit the work unit and the University as a whole. As well, letters of support from the department or unit head were submitted.

Twelve people in the University were successful in gaining funding through this scheme. Two were Library staff members: Anne Goodfellow from Loan Enquiries and Linden Fairbairn, the Economics and Business Librarian.

Anne is undertaking a Graduate Certificate in Adult Education in Training at the University of Technology, Sydney and will use the funds towards her tuition fees. Linden has been accepted into the Immersion '00 programme conducted by the ACRL (Association for College and Research Libraries). This is the United States' premier information literacy programme, and will take place in Seattle, USA in August. The funding is helping to pay for this course. They will report back to the University on what has been achieved at the completion of their studies.

Rena McGrogan
Subject Librarian
Information Services

January 2000 Launch of SciFinder Scholar

The creators of Chemical Abstracts (CAS) have decided that it was time to launch a product of equivalent quality to the multitude of other great databases available in an accessible, user-friendly format. It has taken CAS a little while to come up with something that is on a par with Medline, Embase or Biosis for ease of use and availability, but it is now available in the form of SCIFINDER SCHOLAR (desktop access to Chemical Abstracts).

SciFinder Scholar offers the most comprehensive coverage of the chemical literature published in scholarly journals/serials and is of great interest to academics and students in Chemistry, Biochemistry, Pharmacy, Pharmacology, Chemical Engineering, Agricultural Chemistry, Food Science and Medicine. The University of Sydney licence is for two concurrent users at any one time.

Scholar has a web based interface that needs little knowledge of command language or database intricacies, with the emphasis on natural language searching. With Scholar you can choose to search by topic, author, substructure, molecular formula or substance name. The system will search more than 14 million titles and abstracts of journal articles and patents, as well as information on 18 million chemical substances within the Chemical Abstracts database, covering from 1967 onwards.

However, access to SciFinder Scholar is not as straightforward as the access to some of the other Library databases - for instance, it is not accessible from your Web browser. The user needs to download the proprietary client software to access the database, and to date only PC and Macintosh versions are available. No one other than University of Sydney staff and currently enrolled students are permitted to use SciFinder Scholar. Usage must be carefully monitored by either registering with the Chemistry Librarian for a user ID and password to access the software for downloading, or by handing in a form of identification proving University of Sydney status to the Information Services Librarian in a library where SciFinder is available to access.

In Fisher Library, the SciFinder software has been placed on the stand-alone Terminal A - so that when a University of Sydney student or staff member hand over their favourite form of ID they are able to launch a search.

In most other cases the University of Sydney Staff member or student has already registered with the Chemistry Librarian, obtained their user ID and Password, and successfully loaded the software on to their own computer.

The Chemistry Librarian may be contacted at the following email address:

Cumberland Training Facility

The Health Sciences Library on Cumberland Campus has recently expanded the capacity of its training room to cater for increasing demand.

Staff of the Health Sciences Library offer a structured program of classes for undergraduates, postgraduates and academic staff. Classes are held on weekdays, evenings and weekends.

Topics covered include:

  • Introduction to the Telnet and Web catalogues
  • How to use the Internet for subject specialties in the health sciences
  • How to use the electronic database network
  • Utilising Current Contents
  • Endnote 3.1 overview

The expanded room has 27 terminals, so "hands on" practice sessions are factored into each class. This enables users to successfully learn strategies to enrich their learning by utilising electronic resources.

Any staff member who would like to book a session in the Training Room should contact Stephen Chan: Phone: 19389, Fax: 19421 Email:

Library Restructure

Quality in higher education is set to be a major focus for the Australian Government in 2000. The Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs has announced the formation of a Quality Audit Office which will oversee the application of quality mechanisms across a range of university activities including library services. Although the finer details of the process are not yet known, the implications are clearly that greater attention will need to be given to the relationship between library services and the needs of university staff and students.

At the University of Sydney, we have had a continuing program for some years which seeks to align library services with the needs of the University community. A crucial part of this program involves maintaining close liaison with the academic units supported by the various libraries. The changing nature of the University has necessitated the initiation of a re-evaluation of Library services and organisation.

As part of this process, the twenty-one libraries which comprise the University Library have been re-organised into two divisions, each headed by an Associate University Librarian. Humanities & Social Sciences Division will be led by Kate Sexton, and the Health, Sciences & Technology Division by Judy Campbell. The new divisions reflect the academic organisation of the University. They will include teams responsible for the technical services, such as cataloguing, acquisitions and serials, which were formerly done centrally.

Within the Health, Sciences & Technology division, libraries have been grouped into six clusters - nursing, medical sciences, health sciences, technology, physical sciences and life sciences. Each of the clusters is headed by a senior librarian who has the dual function of overseeing services provided by the library or libraries in the cluster as well as coordinating liaison with academic units.

The Nursing Library on the Mallett Street Campus is coordinated by Lesley Muir who is busy planning for an extension to the Library. The additional accommodation is required to cope with the transfer of Nursing students from the Cumberland Campus.

Monica Davis was recently appointed to coordinate the Medical Sciences libraries: Burkitt-Ford, Dentistry, Medical and Pharmacy Libraries. The Medical Sciences libraries have been at the forefront of integrating the use of electronic full-text editions of journals with the curriculum. Dianne van Sommers was appointed recently to head the Medical Library in the Bosch Building.

Led by Helen Knight, the Health Sciences Library provides services to the University community on the Cumberland Campus. Many of the information resources used by the Faculty of Health Sciences are also consulted by members of other faculties. This has become easier with the implementation of web-based services such as full-text electronic journals.

Located on the Darlington Campus, the Architecture and Engineering Libraries form the Technology libraries cluster. These libraries are coordinated by Irene Rossendell who is also the Engineering Librarian.

There are five libraries in the Physical Sciences cluster - Biochemistry, Chemistry, Geosciences, Mathematics and Physics. They were all once departmental libraries with the Geosciences library being formed from the former Geology and Geography libraries. The libraries are scattered throughout the Camperdown and Darlington Campuses and are coordinated by Julie Olston.

The most geographically scattered part of the new division is the Life Sciences cluster which comprises the Badham, Camden and Orange libraries. There is also a close relationship with the library at the Watson Wheat Research Centre at Narrabri.

The structure of the Humanities & Social Sciences division has not been finalised but will be announced later in the year. The libraries in the division comprise Alexander Mackie Curriculum Resources, Fisher, Law, Music and Sydney College of the Arts. The division also includes the Rare Book Library, the East Asian Collection and the Darlington Repository Library.

Restructuring of the Library has also involved a more strategic evaluation of the issues which need to be addressed. Senior Library staff have identified a number of strategic objectives for the year. These objectives are closely related to those contained in the University's plan for 1999 - 2004. Key issues identified for the Library include improving the:

  • student experience
  • faculty liaison
  • access to information
  • services to researchers
  • physical and information technology facilities

Other key areas are information literacy and the future role of the Library as a digital publisher. The development of the strategic objectives will occur in association with the University community. They will be subject to constant refinement to ensure that they remain consistent with the needs of the University.

A major challenge will be the marriage of vision, needs and resources. Australian universities continue to experience considerable stress as their funding sources changes. In many institutions, income growth has stagnated due to the decline in Government support and the slow growth in other revenue sources.

Libraries have been affected also by fluctuating currency exchange rates and by the inordinate escalation of publication costs over many years. One effect of this financial situation has been a reduction in library purchasing of information resources - books, journals, audiovisual, electronic.

In 1998, the University of Sydney Library was forced to reduce its projected expenditure on journals by 20%. This was necessary simply to keep within the available budget. Further cancellations of around 11% were made in 1999. These cuts were equivalent to the gap between the available funds and the publication price increases.

The good news for 2000 is that there will be no mandatory cancellation of journals. This has been made possible by a number of factors including a containment of costs achieved by substituting electronic for print journals where appropriate. We have also decided to use accumulated reserves to offset price rises. This is possible for only one year but it will provide time to evaluate:

  • what information resources are required to support research, teaching and learning;
  • how publications are used;
  • what are the best means of making them available.

The mission of the Library is to be a partner in the research, teaching and learning activities of the University. Past investment has provided the University with a high quality research library collection. While this collection has a continuing role as a research resource, it will not satisfy our future needs. Staff and students increasingly require access to information at times and places which are independent of the physical library or university.

Meeting those requirements will be addressed by the Library in a number of ways including:

  • enhancing the computing equipment available in the libraries to access information resources;
  • improving Library web pages as gateways to knowledge sources;
  • upgrading the software used to manage Library activities such as the catalogue;
  • developing opportunities for University staff and students to acquire information literacy skills;
  • providing as much information online as possible to support any time/any place access.

Successful implementation of these initiatives will assist the Library to maintain its leadership as an academic library both nationally and internationally. They will contribute also to the reputation of the University of Sydney as an institution renowned for the high quality of its research, teaching and learning.

Upgrade of Public Workstations

For the beginning of the academic year the Library improved access to its networked services through the implementation of its "Public Gateway Service," which saw the replacement of 230 networked Macintosh computers and dumb terminals, which had been used for catalogue and database access in most libraries. The replacement was necessary due to the age of the machines. These could not be efficiently maintained and were incapable of providing access to the services the Library now offers. In deciding on replacement technology the key goals were to provide a high level of reliability and availability of terminals, to reduce the need for maintenance of individual workstations and to allow for future upgrading of the infrastructure as the demand for capacity inevitably increases. The solution adopted was thin-client technology, which involves a number of central servers running applications displaying to windows-based terminals. The 230 new workstations comprise 150 web-based terminals (WBTs) and 80 PCS running as thin-client workstations but also providing the option of downloading to a floppy disk.

The thin-client workstations look and function like Windows PC workstations, but instead of the processing being done at the desktop it is done by central servers. There are five production servers and user load is balanced across these servers. There is also a development server which can be used with the production servers when not needed for testing proposed changes to the service. The servers have built in redundancy in the event of CPU, disk or power failure. If a server fails the remaining servers can support the service until the problem is addressed. The servers are supported by a maintenance contract and problems will be addressed promptly.

Technically, the system uses Microsoft's NT4 terminal server operating system and Citrix's Metaframe application software, enabling the Library to easily choose and manage applications running at the workstations. Metaframe provides very efficient network communication and load balancing, reducing traffic between workstations and the servers to a minimum level.

The advantages of the thin client technology include:

  • Faster improvements to public access services, because changes and enhancements are only done once, on the server;
  • Less support of individual stations because only minimal configuration is required on the individual devices;
  • Central management of virus protection through the server;
  • Upgrades to capacity and functionality through incremental upgrades of the server rather than through total replacement of workstations;
  • If service is disrupted by failures such as proxy server failures, all workstations can be quickly re-configured to an alternative server;
  • For WBTs, reduced need for troubleshooting because of the relative simplicity of components and reliability of terminals;
  • Reduces the possibility of tampering with software through workstations.

The installation of the new workstations was rushed but relatively smooth. They have proved popular with students, who have commented favourably on the speed at which processes run. Fine tuning and further enhancements of the applications available will continue. For example, it is intended that the workstations will be able to access some databases previously only available in the Fisher Library or other individual libraries. The infrastructure now in place will allow more workstations to be added to the system as the Library's budget permits, as well as upgrading of the system as the processing requirements for networked services increases in future years.