University of Sydney Library Newsletter

Issue Nº 42 - May 2001

ISSN 1326-2785
Previous issues - November 2000, and archives

Expired URLs removed

In this Issue

Librarian's Report

The first quarter of this year brought a set of challenges which are proving hard to conquer. Fortunately, there were also some positive events which provided sufficient rewards to maintain optimism.

The greatest challenge came in the form of further devaluation in the value of the Australia dollar. More than eighty percent of the Library's information resources budget is spent internationally. Even small changes in the value of the dollar have an effect on purchasing power.

In 2000, devaluation increased the cost of journals by $683,000. This was met from reserves rather than by cancelling subscriptions. It was expected that the exchange rate would improve in the new year but the opposite was to occur.

Between January 2000 and March 2001, the dollar devalued 27.48% against the American dollar. By the end of this year, publisher price rises are expected to add a further 7% to the cost of purchasing book, journal and electronic publications.

The result for the Library is a significant deficit between income and expenditure commitments. The situation is worsened by salary increases and the normal inflationary cost rises which are not offset by growth in income.

The Library has limited opportunities for revenue raising or for increasing charges for existing services. Savings have to be derived by reducing the cost of activities and by setting priorities for those activities which are to be supported.

In 2001, the Library will be identifying around $500,000 to be saved on staffing and operating costs. This will involve an assessment of work processes and may require the amalgamation of some collections and service points.

Up to $1 million from Library reserves will be used to offset the effect of devaluation on the cost of journal subscriptions but it will be necessary to cancel subscriptions worth a further $500,000 in order to stay within budget.

Although the budget available for monograph purchases will not be reduced, inflation will mean less titles can be purchased. This will have a long term effect on the quality of the Library collection and the availability of resources for teaching and research.

The problems faced by the Library are common to all Australian universities. Static government support has reduced the capacity of universities to maintain their libraries at levels which are competitive with research universities in North America and Europe.

There is some light in the gloom. The Federal government has recently announced an increased commitment to research funding. Some of this commitment is expected to flow to libraries and the information infrastructure which supports research. Work has begun on two projects which are designed to improve access to research information.

The Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee, in association with the Council of Australian University Librarians, is attempting to identify the core information resources required to support research in science, technology and medical disciplines. It is intended that this core should be licensed nationally and available to all researchers irrespective of the institution to which they are attached.

Negotiations have been commenced with a number of electronic publishers and the first licence is expected to be concluded by the end of May 2001. Although the University of Sydney already subscribes to the core resources, it is hoped that the national arrangements will reduce the cost.

The national license project is an extension of a database negotiation programme initiated by the Council of Australian University Librarians a decade ago. CAUL has negotiated consortium access to more than thirty databases and full-text journal collections on behalf of universities. These arrangements have saved millions of dollars but the voluntary nature of the deals weakened bargaining power. By negotiating at an all-university level, further savings should be possible.

Financial support from the Federal government is being sought and will depend on the success of the current project. It is hoped that research resources in the humanities and social sciences can also be made available.

Limited financial support for an e-archiving project has already been received from the Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs. This project is examining the feasibility of establishing facilities in Australia which will allow scholars to archive their research results and make them available on the Internet.

The project is associated with similar activities internationally and will utilise established standards. If implemented, the e-archive facilities would facilitate access to research materials which are currently available only in print or through commercial services operated by publishers.

The Library is closely involved in this project which mirrors the Australian Digital Theses Program already in place. This programme commenced in 2000 and is aimed at making Australian research theses and dissertations widely available in electronic form. Thirty six of the 192 theses currently available are from the University of Sydney.

On 4 May the Veterinary Education and Information Network was launched. VEIN is a cooperative venture involving the University Library, Faculty of Veterinary Science, Post Graduate Foundation in Veterinary Science and the Veterinary Science Foundation.

The service will deliver high quality information services to the Australasian veterinary and animal science community. VEIN is an initiative which enables the Library staff to reach beyond the walls of the library to support not just staff and students of the University but also members of the wider veterinary and animal science professions.

Another example of the Library's outreach is the digitisation of the lectures of Professor John Anderson. Staff in the Library's Scholarly Electronic Text and Imaging Service are digitising lectures given by Professor Anderson between 1927 and 1955. The lectures are freely available from the Library's web pages and are accompanied by photographs and comments by Professor Anderson's students.

The University of Sydney Library continues to be one of the best academic and research libraries in this country. That distinction, however, may not be of great value. All Australian libraries are lagging well behind the best libraries in comparable nations.

British, Canadian and several European governments have recognised the need to fund national research information infrastructures. They have made available additional funding over multiple years to ensure that researchers have access to the most current information.

Without similar investment Australia will lag further behind. The quality of research will be severely affected in some disciplines and the value of an Australian education will be questioned. The economic implications of poor investment may take some time to manifest but they will take even longer to correct.

John Shipp
University Librarian

Australian Bureau of Statistics data now available online

In April 2000 the University of Sydney, along with 37 other Australian Universities, entered into an agreement with the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This agreement allows authorised users in participating universities free access to a wide range of ABS publications and data online. That product is now available to University of Sydney users and is known as AusStats.

AusStats is a web based information service providing you with the ABS's full standard product range, both free and charged material, on-line. Available by subscription only, AusStats allows you to conveniently access:

  • All ABS publications from 1998 onwards in Adobe Acrobat format (.pdf);
  • Over 2,000 spreadsheets;
  • Multidimensional datasets in SuperTABLE format;
  • Census Basic Community Profiles to the Statistical Local
  • Area (SLA) level in Excel spreadsheet format;
  • Free summary information including Main Features, Release Advice; and
  • Australia Now and extensive linking between related information.

The ABS/AVCC AusStats Agreement can be found via the ABS website ( by clicking on Products and Services, then on Services for Universities.

To access AusStats directly, see the links at the bottom of the ABS home page ( Of these links, the subscription-only portions are:

  • Publications - all ABS publications from 1998 onwards.
  • Spreadsheets - Economic and Social Data.

This means that users can directly access the latest ABS publications as soon as they are released, usually within 30 minutes of release. You also have access to a wide range of time-series data via the spreadsheets, many of which include several decades of data.

If you would like more information about AusStats, please contact Ray Penn in Fisher Library.

Phone: 9351-5679 or Email:

Library Web Site redesigned

On the 26th of February the Library launched its "New Look" web site. This large project was more than just an exercise in changing the colours on the pages. It involved a total re-think and re-organisation of all the information that was on the old site.

In totally redesigning the Homepage, the Library is aiming to give visitors to the site quicker access to more links and services. You can go straight from the Homepage to a range of information on everything from renewing loans and classes offered to details about an individual library. You can also give us feedback and suggestions, or email a question to the 'Ask a Librarian' service. Many of these services were difficult to locate on the old site.

On the new site certain "Key" elements of the Library and its services are now featured much more prominently. These include:

  • Information about the 24 libraries of the University of Sydney.
  • Borrowing and the self service options associated with this service.
  • Classes and training offered by the University of Sydney Library.
  • Our "Ask a Librarian" service.

Old favourites, such as the Catalogue, Databases and Subject Guides, are still easily accessible.

The old site was developed over four years ago and stood the test of time remarkably well in such a fast changing industry. However technology has moved on since then, as has the way the Library produces information for the web and the demands of our users. The new site will allow the Library more flexibility in meeting the demands of a rapidly changing academic research environment.

The Homepage itself uses minimal graphics and is mostly text-based with javascripting handling the functionality. The style throughout the site is controlled by Cascading Style Sheets making it more accessible to the web community.

If you have any questions about the site please contact the Library's Web Services Development Manager.
Email: Web Services Development Manager

JSTOR - The Scholarly Journal Archive

Starting out with the intention to help Libraries solve their space problems with long back runs of scholarly journals, the academic world now has a wonderful new full text database providing digital access to an archive of leading scholarly journals.

Whereas most electronic databases are indexing or providing full text to recent research in their fields, the JSTOR database has gone the other way and digitalised the early issues of a range of leading scholarly journals in the humanities, social sciences and general sciences. In some cases the coverage starts in the late 1800s and with most others they start in the early decades of this century. So in this way it makes JSTOR fairly unique.

The University of Sydney Library has recently started subscribing to the JSTOR database.

The beauty of this database is the combination of providing top quality reproduction of articles from the amongst the core journals in each discipline with the full search capability. This greatly improves the access to the research content contained in the journals and places it on the desktops of staff and students of the University. Many of these journals' early issues would not be indexed in other electronic databases, nor possibly in older print indexes - this database puts the early research at peoples' fingertips. The database gives people the ability to explore the development of theories and ideas in a discipline over time. JSTOR is still evolving and the publishers are looking to add further titles in the future.

The database is fully searchable - you can search by keywords, combining them with main subject areas or specific journals. It is also possible to limit your searches to looking for articles, reviews, opinion pieces or other items. Alternatively, you can use the browse function to view the contents of a particular journal title. You will also find links to all the titles in JSTOR included in the Library catalogue.

Another unusual feature of JSTOR is the "moving wall". This is a gap of 2 to 5 years between the issues found in JSTOR and the most recent published issues of the journal. The moving wall is there to make JSTOR a true archive and also to provide some protection to the publishers in order not to lose revenue from their current issues.

Subject areas covered include: African American Studies, Anthropology, Asian Studies, Ecology, Economics, Education, Finance, General Science, History, Literature, Mathematics, Philosophy, Political Science, Population Studies, Sociology, and Statistics.

JSTOR has already proved to be popular with the Library's clients, as the following quotes indicate:

  • "The whole idea is fantastic….it gives a very good perspective on the evolution of economic theory….you can open many documents at the same time and do a comparison across disciplines….the best database for the social sciences and economics."
    Dr Joseph Halevi, Senior Lecturer, Political Economy, Faculty of Economics and Business

  • "The ability to access history articles electronically, going back sometimes to the 1920's, is an absolute joy." Mr Harry Knowles, Associate Lecturer, Work and Organisation Studies, Faculty of Economics and Business

JSTOR is available via the Library's homepage. Click on the link to Databases and Electronic Resources and then go in through the alphabetical list. If you have any questions or need help with using JSTOR please feel free to contact the relevant subject librarian for your subject area.

Portrait of a donor - Jules Ginswick

An academic and researcher to the end, Jules Ginswick died on 9 April 2001. He was a devoted scholar who loved the University of Sydney and cherished the treasures housed in the University Library. Although long retired, Jules continued to research and was compiling economic statistics relating to the early years of New South Wales when he died.

By 8.15 am every Wednesday, Jules would be seated outside the Fisher Library waiting for it to open. Once the eager crowd of students had bustled through the doors, Jules would rise and walk determinedly into the microfilm area. Here he selected the roll of film on which he was working and patiently examined columns of minutely printed figures.

Within weeks of my becoming University Librarian, Jules came to my office to welcome me. We met often during the ensuing years, usually while he was waiting for the Library to open. Even in inclement weather, Jules refused to accept my offers that he enter before the official opening time.

Our discussions often centred on the future of the University, education and scholarship. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Jules did not hanker for a mythical long-lost golden age. He remembered how poorly universities were funded prior to the 1956 Murray Report. Jules recognised that many students faced great challenges due to their need to work while studying and the pressures caused by increasing competition for resources like the library.

He regretted, however, the increasing commercialisation of education and the lack of investment by government. For Jules, the acquisition of knowledge and the ability to use it were important aspects of education. In his schema, libraries were inseparable from knowledge, scholarship and education.

He often came across items in the Fisher Library which were in need of repair. Rather than complain, Jules would write a cheque to cover the cost of re-binding. He made regular donations to the Library and his last commemorated his birthday on March 17.

Jules Ginswick in many ways was the epitome of the University of Sydney. He treasured knowledge for its own sake, believed that the role of a university was to provide its students with the skills to learn for the rest of their lives.

John Shipp
University Librarian