Managing Change in Digital Structures

David Gerrold, a SF writer, has said "the hardest lesson to learn is that learning is a continual process". In the twenty first century this will become a truism as lifelong learning and skills maintenance will be essential. According to the American Society for Training and Development by the year 2000, 75% of the current workforce will have to be retrained just to keep up with the needs of a changing society.1

In terms of such change librarians and information workers need to know what types of structures they will be working in in the early twenty first century. If universities are delivering information in a virtual university/distance learning setting then the whole concept of organisation will change. Some of the factors to be taken into consideration are

• virtual delivery of information to the desktop

• reduced budgets in higher education and lower unit costs per student for mass education

• lifelong learning requirements

• global monopolisation by commercial suppliers from Murdoch to Microsoft

• outsourcing

• job uncertainties

• telecommuting work teams on the Net

• 'dumbing down' of education?

In the above environment the need for leadership, personal involvement and rapid but reasoned decision making will be essential. The role of "cybercoach" will be a complex, difficult and challenging one.


The AUCC/CARL Report The Changing World of Scholarly Communication: Challenges and Choices for Canada provides a useful current overview of issues and trends. It indicates the changes in scholarly communication which will affect the whole education spectrum. It recognises 'financial considerations have prevented some universities from investing in information technology to the same degree as have others. There is a very real danger that the wealth of opportunities afforded by electronic communication may not be available equally across the university system. Indeed, even within institutions, some faculties have far greater access to these technologies than do others.

In short, the current evolution of the scholarly communication system is affected by a series of complex issues, including questions relating to copyright, the basis for recognizing and rewarding scholars, the inability of university libraries to keep pace with the growing body of knowledge, and the daunting task of digitizing the enormous volume of knowledge that now resides largely in paper form if, indeed, that is a desired option. There are concerns, too, about the cost of investing in the infrastructure of information technology and telecommunications facilities.

We are at a crossroads: there are critical questions to be considered, choices to be made, challenges to be met. We have a unique opportunity to offer our own contributions to influence the development of the scholarly communication system, and to advance solutions that reflect Canadian realities, goals and values. At the same time, we must recognize that changes in scholarly communication are taking place around the world, and that some of our choices will be limited by what occurs internationally.'

Human relations organisation needs to be seen in the context of decentralised team operations. Classification and industrial guidelines need to be flexible and interactive rather than stratified and rigid. Carla Stoffle, the Dean of Libraries at the University of Arizona, has summed up many of the staffing challenges in her 1996 Follett Lecture delivered at the University of Wales - 'The Emergence of Education and Knowledge Management as Major Functions of the Digital Library'3. She addresses the need to change large public sector institutions, which often contain many staff educated in a traditional librarianship environment and often in the same job for decades, to become as Stoffle puts it, "a customer focussed, continuous learning, constantly improving, flexible, quality-based library".

In Australia review of university libraries are far more common than in the United Kingdom and the USA. A whole 'grey' literature exists as in the reports of Review teams which have ranged from one person at the University of Queensland to eleven at the Australian National University Library. The Chair of the 1982 ANU Library Review, Professor I.G. Ross, compared the reviewing of a library to reviewing a hotel! The question might be is the hotel of the Hyatt or Sheraton variety or that of Fawlty Towers. This author sometimes wonders!

Certainly if one compared the 1982 Review of ANU Library with that of 1995 chaired by Professor Mairead Browne, the physical fabric of the hotel/library had become shabbier, the staff were overworked but had extended their range of services quite dramatically. The 1995 ANU Library Review which submitted its Report (URL: http://ELISA/elisa/anulib/libreview.html) had three librarians amongst its members - John Shipp (then Chair of the Council of Australian University Libraries and Librarian of the University of Wollongong), Helen Hayes (Chair of the Australian Council of Library and Information Services and Librarian of the University of Melbourne) and Dr Peter Lyman, Librarian of the University of California at Berkeley.

One Review paragraph indicated that the library problems faced at ANU were not atypical. While ANU is one of a kind, the Committee was struck, nonetheless, by the universality of many of the Library's problems. It indicated 'Large libraries in Australia and elsewhere are experiencing similar problems of underlying structural inadequacies and the problems which flow from these in areas of staff morale, commitment to changing models of service provision and so on. In addition, there are common environmental factors which are placing enormous pressure on the Library such as the growing mismatch of funding and real costs, and the consequences of shifts in academic and research priorities. This is not to suggest that these problems are not serious and do not have to be tackled. It is intended, rather, to point out that a number of the problems at the ANU Library are not unique but reflect a general trend'.

At ANU most of the senior staff have been in position for over fifteen years, some for more than twenty five years. They were thus appointed early in their careers but were in some cases conditioned by the 1960's philosophies of collection development rather than collection management or prioritised client service. A move to a largely non-hierarchical networked organisation which takes risks and is action focussed was not particularly welcomed by some. 80% of the staff at ANU are female and the average age is early fifties. The ANU staff numbers were 206 FTE's in 1976 but only 154 FTE's in 1997 despite the University having doubled in size in the period as well as the demands and challenges of the Net, the convergence of functions on campus, etc. The staff percentage in 1997 was 46%, while information (including books and serials) was 44%.

The ANU, a predominantly research institution, has one of the lowest staffing ratios of major research libraries in the world. The scene was set for local change which serves as a microcosm of the global scene. From the ANU Library Review the Library management, staff and unions agreed to move to a flatter, team based subject and functional "cluster" model, with almost totally devolved budgets, so that there could be flexibility between the various budget votes including staff, book and serial, maintenance, equipment votes etc.

The ANU Library had a Steering Committee which included elected staff representatives, a TQM Consultant, a senior official of the National Tertiary Education Union, the Librarian and the Industrial Officer. It met frequently during 1996 and the first half of 1997 and provided a useful preliminary sounding board f;or the major issues which had to come out of the process. One of the side debates in the ANU restructure process was the belief held by many of the library staff of the unviolability and exclusivity of library qualifications. But what does it mean in 1997 that a staff member has a sole library degree (B.Lib.) or a post graduate library qualification gained in the 1960's or 1970's if continued updating has not occurred of the wider environment? Libraries need a broad range of skills which cannot be tied exclusively to degrees which when obtained contained little or no leadership, management or people skills or lacked a wider vision of the information universe.

The education industry will be challenged from large I.T. firms such as Microsoft or similar ventures. The Library is no longer sacrosanct as the "heart of the university" if indeed it ever was. What will be the Library's role in the total knowledge management environment? When the user is the information focal point at the desktop level what is the role of the librarian and information worker? Flexibility, responsiveness, team based projects and quality benchmarking will need to be ubiquitous.

The Australian National University currently has a variety of classification grades eg. librarian, computing, administrative. These qualification debates are false divisions in an interchangeable support structure. I won't even enter the debate on academic/general staff dichotomies. This author lectured on the Electronic Library at the University of Tasmania last year:

'The "general staff" have as much to offer as academic staff in the access to and transmission of knowledge. The students will be in "interactive " mode in learning, while researchers will decide from their desktop where they will access information... We cannot allow local internal 'turf wars' between various parts of campuses at a time when overall resources are declining. The library profession or increasingly as I would prefer to put it those who work in libraries will need to decide their role in this future'.5

IT skills will be an important element of such clusters. The cluster or group management structures reflected in the ANU and University of Queensland Library reorganisations sees, and will continue to see, development of a mix of skills. At above core support level the use of ITLO's (Information Technology Library Officers) in the University of Queensland environment has provided new skills for staff in the software installation and maintenance at an HEW3/4 level in subject groupings in areas previously guarded by centralised network support groups. The best mix may be one of effective decentralisation with agreed overall standards of service support. ANU's Audit Office looked at ANU Library's IT strategies and achievements in 1996 and, while praising certain aspects, found weaknesses in the lack of the integration of IT into the overall strategic planning process and clear priority settings. Customer satisfaction, and the need to benchmark and continually evaluate obviously takes resources on a regular basis. Let's ignore those who say they are too busy to evaluate their operations for otherwise how do they effectively judge their operations - historical models are no longer relevant. The users, moreover, who never enter the Library, for example, are just as relevant as those who do!

The economic downturn, and in Australia, exacerbated by the Howard Government's 1996 decision to make universities meet pay rises out of recurrent funding, will lead to a greater need for marketing, entrepreneuralism and accountability. Issues such as outsourcing need to be carefully evaluated. Griffith University Library is Brisbane, Australia has reduced its Technical Services staff from 42 to 27 staff in the period 1996-7 by outsourcing a major part of its technical services staffing to suppliers like Blackwells. These sort of economies to allow for the provision of new services will be closely examined as those in the USA such at Lehigh although a consortium of Western Australian University libraries have not been able to replicate the cost savings of Griffith in their analyses of technical services costs.

At the time of writing Stanford University Library is quoting inter-library loan delivery costs within a twenty four hour period which is cheaper then many Australian university libraries can provide and certainly cheaper than Uncover costs. There is probably a much cheaper labour component which Stanford can utilise relative to Australian costs but as an early indication of the globalisation of access and delivery it could reflect the labour distribution costs of say the clothing and programming industries in the future.

Whitter such global libraries and what does this mean for staffing and management? More funds, somehow, despite this economic downturn have to be given to continuous learning and training for staff. Some staff may not be able to "regrow" but the vast majority of staff will be motivated to continuity of creativity. As Stoffle has indicated we need to look to the future not even the present in meeting the evolving needs of our client groups. Change may be fast but requires cultural changes in attitudes of staff. Libraries are often at a disadvantage in an ability to measure their service output. This is much easier in industries where there is a readily defined product.

Outside the individual sections within an organisational structure there is now an increasing overlapping of functions, embodied ultimately in the virtual university concept. What will be the backdrop for libraries and IT centres in this educational framework? The Virtual University concept is one, if not the major scenario for the twenty first century. There are a number of models in this context eg. niche and mega-university concepts as Daniel has argued.6 Two significant seminars in the second half of 1996, one in Singapore sponsored by the British Council and IDP Australia, and the other at Melbourne University. Hart and Mason7 which produced some fascinating future scenarios and models. In this area of development, the traditional University may cease to exist and therefore IT centres and Libraries will mutate organisationally within each concept, perhaps as virtual libraries on the one hand and local support organisation with specialised assistance on the other.

The Western Governors University is another model <>. It has as its aims:-

• Removal of the obstacles of both time and place to post secondary education opportunities for individual and corporate citizens of the West.

• A means for learners to obtain formal recognition of the skills and knowledge obtained outside a traditional higher education (campus) context and/or from multiple providers through the assessment and certification of competency.

• Joint development of new learning and assessment materials among states and with private entities

• Technology standards that will ensure connectivity.

The WGU is focusing its initial efforts on:

• linking employers and academic institutions in setting skills standards

• linking individuals seeking assessment of their competencies with assessment providers

• linking individuals seeking to enhance their level of competence in one or more of these areas with providers of educational programs/courses/modules who can meet the learners' requirements regarding time, place, and content of services delivered

• providing support services needed to help ensure that students receive appropriate guidance and that barriers to access to education offerings are minimised or removed entirely

• providing credentials to individuals - academic degrees and industry-recognized certificates - based on assessment of competencies.

The other issue which arises is the diversity of approaches required by teams. At ANU Library the teams have been encouraged to choose the model best suited to meet their client needs. The essential point of the future is that users will not care who delivers the information providing it best meets their needs in content, delivery and is economically priced. If "nomadic computing", as Professor Len Kleinrock of UCLA predicts, becomes the norm then the wired individual becomes the information universe rather than the large library.

Peter Lyman in one of his perceptive overviews has outlined the sea changes in access to information encapsulated in the term "digital library" published in Daedalus8. We have to move from the imitation of print electronically to the creation of new knowledge access patterns and useage. Clifford Lynch also picked up this point at the 1996 ASIS Annual meeting in Baltimore with the emergence of a set of new genres of communication as we move away from the 'tyranny of text'9. We will also need to move to personalised systems developments in terms of information organisation.


What are the steps in the development of such a scenario and core centralisation to achieve decentralisation. In some cases it is convergence of structures on campus - on others co-operation. In the UK convergence of IT, libraries and Teaching/Learning facilities is very much more common than in Australia. Fifty of the ninety eight UK universities have some form of convergence, ranging from total staffing integration at Hull and Birmingham Universities, to Leeds and Sussex Universities where sharing co-operatively is in place but the Librarian is Dean or Director of Information Services/Planning and is responsible for overall strategic planning. Four-fifths of the converged areas resulted in the person responsible for overall co-ordination being the "former" or actual University Librarian.

In the USA at Arizona State a large computer cluster linked to the Library has recently been opened with $20 million US funding. A new position of Associate Vice-President of Academic Affairs has been created. At the University of Southern California the Leavey "teaching" Library was opened in 1995 for total round the clock access in a high-tech environment. In 1997 the Leavey Information Commons is a centre for librarians, navigation assistants and computer consultants to deliver information to users at homes, offices and computer user clusters. At USC the newly created post of Chief Information Officer has in his portfolio to create a consolidated managerial environment for administrative information systems, university computing services, university telecommunications, university libraries, and other campus information providers and facilitators on campus. This position will chair the university's new Information Council, which will be composed of representatives from each of USC's primary information providers and facilitators. The council's initial mandate is to devise and recommend, but no later than July 1997, a strategic plan - complete with comprehensive, long range objectives - for the university's information systems.

Dartmouth College have initiated planning for an 80,000 square foot extension to the Library Building which will accommodate Academic Computing to form "computarian" alliances. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte has been planning for an expanded and renovated library facility for several years. As a part of the planning process, a Library "Vision for Today, A Building for Tomorrow" has been developed which includes a significant number of concepts and principles. It states inter alia that 'As information technologies change, faculty and students no longer need to come to the facility because there are alternate means of finding, accessing, and delivering information. Therefore, if Library and Information Services both as an organization and a building which houses its functions are to be relevant to the University, contact with customers must be the emphasis. No service can or will exist without the customer. Client service is thus the key.

The Paul Hamlyn Learning Resource Centre at Thames Valley University has a Head of Development who is quoted: 'People are looking for information in different formats now - not just book and booklists. We are trying to create the old scholar-librarian type of model by employing cyberlibrarians, who can pull together information that is published on the Net, on CD-Rom, in databases. They will bring it into electronic libraries on the intranet, and then make it learning material by adding comments and linking it to specific courses.' (The Independent 7/10/96 Section Two, 15).

We are therefore seeing more physical concentration of facilities as well as remote Net use. As for libraries, if research library material is relatively little used then we don't need extensive opening hours (expensive in Australian terms) to cater for needs but instead have lengthy borrowing periods. Libraries can then concentrate on what is being used and make material available electronically outside the physical library confines eg. for course material, electronic textbooks, document supply etc.

How do staff interact in this process of convergence which has as its aim the better provision of teaching and research locally, nationally and globally? As the Cornell University FABIT Report stated 'We have done a good job of distributing technology, but we have not done as good a job of distributing the support infrastructure. Central staff and faculty work well together, but we haven't achieved a level of organization that is efficient; too often we practice in the same area, sometimes creating duplication while leaving other areas unaddressed'10. To achieve this synergy we may be better served by a vocabulary which does away with historical terms like "librarian" which are rooted in historical and missions and goals. Staff values can be fixed to historical routines when new paradigms are required. Library schools in America now have become Schools of Information with courses such as the Implementation of Distributed Information Systems.


Technologies and Innovation

The CAUSE Current Issues Committee (1996) has produced a thought provoking set of questions concerning the integration of technology in teaching and learning. It argues 'as the necessary technology and support become more readily available, faculty will integrate World Wide Web, multimedia, desktop video, and other new technologies into the teaching and learning process to serve students on campus, within commuting distance, and at great distances from the institution. Other providers will enter and compete for educational services business'11.

CAUSE identified issues that need to be addressed as:

• What is the role of information technology in the transition from teacher-centered to learner-centered instruction?

• What is the information resources organization's role in this transformation - leader, supporter, participant in the creative process?

• How do we help our institutions to approach this in a way that effectively plans for and leverages the investments that will be necessary in technology, process, and pedagogy?

• Is there a model for effectively supporting faculty in using technology in their teaching and incorporating it into the learning experience of their students?

• How do we address the policy issues and challenges raised by distance education?

Catherine Lilly and Gloria Thiele have identified the following aspects as necessary in reengineering in a university environment. Firstly to develop customer focussed and marketing concepts that enable information technology staff to become more customer driven and to link process innovation into total quality programmes, strategic data planning and continuous improvement. Leadership is required more then ever in the management portfolio12. We probably need a visionary leadership, albeit one not too divorced from reality, more than ever.

Structures and Staffing

We need to evaluate services overall so that the total vision is apparent. Sheila Creth in her 1996 October Follett Lecture titled her talk 'The Electronic Library - Slouching Toward the Future or Creating a New Information Environment'! The term "slouching" may be a relevant one for some in the library profession? The organisation by division of knowledge will be the key to coping with change process. The IT environment is usually more associated with change then has been the case with libraries. The 1996 CAUL (Council of Australian University Librarians) Seminar on 'Convergence in Universities' held at Adelaide University heard comments that generally speaking that IT professionals were insensitive to users but able to introduce rapid change, whereas the reverse was true for the Library environment ie. slow to change but good with users who come into a Library!

At the CAUSE 96 Conference in San Francisco Patricia Battin and Brian Hawkins provided the following influences on 'The Changing Role of the Information Resources Professional'

• traditional roles will need to change, a radical change may not be in individuals best interests in the short term

• future education will be customised rather than centralised

• change may be discontinuous and transformational

• need budget flexibility, access will be ownership

• need contribution from scholars, librarians and information technologists

• perception of information technologists as "anarchist" and librarians as "control freaks"

• need to establish a baseline of service

Our ultimate work will be measured in outcomes and needs to be based on evolving and flexible competencies and skill. Gileland and Tynan have stated an immense amount of time in an organisation is given to "terrorists" who complain, refuse to offer solutions and participate in eventual ones. They believe leaders must focus time on those individuals and the teams that are committed to their project and being part of the solution. Hierarchies exist throughout institutions and need to be addressed at all levels if a true team based solution is to eventuate.13

New technologies have to be incorporated into complex and often inflexible structures. Dr Peter Taylor, co-author of a recent report Flexibility, Technology and Academics' Practices: Tantalising Tales and Muddy Maps found 'formidable barriers to change - mainly funding work against the introduction of flexible delivery technologies and that universities concentrated on helping staff acquire technical skills that to think about new teaching patterns'.14 We need to integrate ideas management with the managing of user needs. John Kao brings up the jazz metaphor by the synthesis of individual effort into a collective form (John Kao. The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity, Harper, 1996 <>). Others might prefer the Wagnerian style of leadership but in a distributed learning environment, particularly when telecommuting is common, this is hardly likely to succeed.

The Institute of Data Processing Management has predicted (Times Internet 23/10/96) that as companies move from different office networks to intranets and simpler networks based on Internet standards then, this will remove the need for large numbers of network specialists and systems integrators. The Report concluded 'prepare for retirement or retrain preferably out of IT' Grim words indeed? Yet in contrast Richard Day, Director of Black Horse Relocation, in the same issue, argues knowledge of IT is vital for future employment. One suspects here it is how IT is defined. In addition, according to more than 700 chief executives, chairmen and managing directors of UK companies, the most important skill a job applicant can cultivate is the ability to work in a team.

Deborah Allmayer and Phyllis Davidson, respectively the Human Resources Administrator and the Director, University Computing Services of Indiana University, in their paper 'The Employee and Organisation of the Future' to the December CAUSE Conference argued that the traditional principles of employment are "dead". Their organization of the future 'could only support continued employment for those jobs that contribute to the stated goals of the organization, placing immediate demands on incumbents to become employees of the future - committed to those goals, adapting to change with multiple skills... For our partnership to be credible, management had to accept its obligations as well. Communicating organizational direction and engaging in dialogue, facilitating a professional growth plan and providing opportunities to achieve those development objectives for staff members became essential elements of the manager's tasks.'15

"Power teams" has been a jargon word in the business community with teams establishing their own goals within an overall strategic framework. Does it really matter how a team achieves the end goal as long as it does within the agreed parameters, eg., financial, strategic and physical. Power teams can exist both in the long term or short term. The mix of skills in short term projects provide results and a sense of achievement when a task is finished. Reward and satisfaction mechanisms need to be in place for both operational situations. Library manager "burn out" may still occur even in the decentralised structures. One response in public sector position might be for more contract positions with higher rewards being the norm and mobility to assist freshness and hard decision making. This would be analogous to the private sector managerial situation.

The CAUSE pamphlet Reflections on Leadership (CAUSE Professional Papers #15) identified leadership as "contextual". More than one of the writers like Kao used the example of taking sequential solo leads in a jazz group in contrast to the conducting of an orchestra as a metaphor which is one much favoured by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southern Cross. The need for new leadership images is constant. Thus Thomas West, Vice-Chancellor of the State University of California, has canvassed the transition of the CIO "from Butch Cassidy to City Slicker" ie. from greenhorns in the IT area to accomplished practitioners in the widest sense.16 West stresses only the most broadly based and adaptable IT personnel will be able to function at the highest level, ie, they should not only have the vision but be able to manage the change process. There clearly needs to be a team based approach and input at the top of organisations as no one can encompass all the future IT environment in its total context. Indeed IT will be seamless in many operations.

The stresses and strains on library structures will be profound in the period up to the end of the decade given the important government policies, budget reductions and the impact of both divergent and emerging technologies on information infrastructure. Do we need new forms of leadership and structures to enable the effective operation of staffing delivery? Accountability in an era of unpredictability will be essential. Time frame horizons of change are lessening yet our traditional strategic plans have usually had a three to five year horizon. Certainly in technology implementation a three year horizon is probably about as far as one can predict at the moment. As Thomas Shaughnessy of Minnesota has said 'the most important reasons for restructuring, however, is also the most abstract, namely, that libraries must be organised to deal with the extraordinary changes that are occurring in the environment'.

The issue is then team difficulty in appreciating the complexity of the total picture and interpreting this in their local context of client needs. The tension between central core standards and the necessary decentralisation will occur. What is the projected role of librarians? Are they the Internet facilitators, the analyses of Web indexes, the creators of Web content, the integral element of the teaching and research process. Search tools will continue to advance with relevancy rankings, file format interchangeability, document operability etc. Nonetheless the specialisation and sub division of information will require specialists with rankings devoted to academic needs. Some of the current developments in the Asian Virtual Library scene at ANU will emerge in this context as research goals, methods and interpretation differ a great deal from popular Net sites indexing.

Michael Lesk of Bellcore has indicated that by 2010 scholars will use text libraries as currently they do manuscript collections. Most of the new information produced by 2010 will be in digital form and only the material that has economic or major academic value will be retrospectively scanned and digitised unless costs begin to reduce significantly. Professor Carol Tenopir, in analysing the end user searching trends, notes that for twenty five years the end user markets had been difficult and relatively static because

• not many end users knew what online searching was;

• not many end users had the equipment to go online;

• not many end users were willing to learn how to search;

• and, not many end users were willing to pay for online information.17

Currently these have changed because of the Net and five major end user trends have emerged: web versions; end user systems through the library; integration of information sources; the rethinking of proprietary software solutions; and specialized focus/customized products. As we bring systems to users we will see increasingly sophisticated web enhancements. In terms of content developments such as Biomed Net and Engineering Information Village set examples of intellectual conglomeration.

As the technical developments divide into predicability and basic operations eg. one stop boxes for TV, information and entertainment provision then network infrastructures, which currently take up a lot of current discussion may become only a question of price and performance. Mobile computing and wireless/networks nighbandwidth will lead to distributed work environments including libraries which will demand a new paradigm of responsiblity, accountability and service provision.

The first market for them will be the DUBS (Digital Upscale Believers). Paul Mockapetris at the December CNI Conference in San Francisco spoke of his company's role @Home's strategy making use of:

• caching and data replication

• proactive network management

• added value at every level of the network

Gore Vidal identifies stages of civilisation which include theocratic, democratic and dictatorial, all of which are essential cyclical. As the individual user in the twenty first century becomes one to one with the information provider he or she will be as the seventh century monk in the scriptoria and a cyclical pattern will occur. In the IT environment West identifies the academic, bureaucratic, technocratic and network-centric processes - the latter to include individual empowerment on the one hand and the facilitation process at the managerial levels.

The Benton Foundation Report Buildings, Books and Bytes found that in America the age group 18-24 were the least enthusiastic of any age group about the importance of libraries in a digital future.18 This was presumably because of the flow on of he TV and Nintendo generations into the Net "nerds" environment. This Study said that if this age groups wanted to enhance their computer skills it would be from "someone they know" rather then from a local library. In the Benton Report public libraries were perceived in the USA to be reactive and to be "behind the technology curve". Interestingly the "super-bookstores" like Borders were seen as competitors with discount offers and presumably cyber-cafes. Libraries in the academic area in Australia are probably less in danger, although they could be if the user becomes the focal point of information access. Physical and temporal walls will change for libraries in the twenty first century. Twenty four hour reference services will be available both publicly and privately.

The challenges identified by the University of California in its 1996 Digital Library Framework are extremely relevant for most Australian libraries.19 They aim from an organisational perspective to provide a set of human, financial, and technological systems which enable knowledge generation, access, and use, with four primary roles:

• information preservation, storage, and retrieval;

• information access and delivery via electronic communications;

• the on-line publishing of the scholarly and scientific knowledge base, or knowledge management; and

• information management consultation and training.

It is important to note that these roles are viable only in the context of new business models which are scalable with an exponential growth in digital information.

Working collaboratively at a distance will come as a significant achievement as hierarchical structures evolve into regular team based work groups and then into individual joined together from home bases in university content creation and knowledge provision. Dr Clifford Lynch from the University of California System-wide Automation indicated at the January 1997 On-Line Conference in Sydney 'the World Wide Web' is not a Library. There will be a need for organisational overlays but that organisation may well not reside in libraries but rather in software houses!

Future Trends

The Polish writer Stanislaw Lem once said "Thoughts, like fleas, jump from man to man. But they don't bite everybody". In the twenty first century structures to provide access to information will have as many variants as cybernetic fleas. The one constant will be the direct access of information and entertainment by the user at his or her desktop in the office or home. What are some of the technologies which will "enable" this future? Will it be a "wireless future" with college and university libraries unplugged as Clifton Dale Foster argued at the December 1996 Cause Conference. Northrop Frye, the Canadian author, has said "our real crystal ball is a rear view mirror". One way out of this is not to say what are the standards or the physical pieces of equipment which will provide desktop access but rather what is the concept and what will be the results. The video is ubiquitous but not with Beta standards. Digital audio tapes and digital assistants hit a time warp but the concept of the latter is increasingly valid. George Gilder believes the Java 'teleputer' will overtake the PC and will be as portable as a cellular phone.

The question will also then occur of "who pays" - already we are seeing gaps in access between university libraries on the one hand and public and small special libraries on the other. If Pay-TV increasingly charges by sequential 'slots', as it does already with the rounds of boxing, then the greed of the media moguls will know no bounds in the information arena. We do need to monitor and retain the intellectual property of the creators in the academic arena.

The move to intranets either within a single organisation or within a group, the new Optus AARNet in Australia or the US Internet Two concept dedicated to academic traffic, will continue. Voice and video will also become norms in the future with digital slim line TV's interactive for shopping, banking, information, and entertainment. This trend will need to be associated with cable modem and similarly high speed delivery mechanisms associated with digital compression devices. Users will have to figure real costs into the operations unless subsidised. Economists such as Hal Vanon from University of California at Berkeley and Jeff Mackie-Mason of Michigan University are just two commentators who believe use-based pricing is essential to encourage the rational allocation of scarce transmission capacity.

Just think of the current legal problems of America On-Line with its unlimited offer of use monthly subscription. The leasing of international lines which benefits the US maybe overcome by the Graves/Gates satellite provision. Cost could also be segregated by type of access eg. currently higher costs for video and substantially less for e-mail or basic text. Through the protocol of RSVP people will be able to specify the quality the service they need and be theoretically billed for it. Many of the IT provisions of the twenty first century will be "invisible". How many TV repairmen are there now - my TV has lasted 20 years without needing repair yet in the 1950's and 1960's TV repairmen were ubiquitous. The Net provider support firms are currently mushrooming but once delivery mechanisms and software become standard then they too might disappear.

The Internet as depicted in David Brin's Earth (1991) is simply taken for granted by the characters of the novel. Brin wrote 'And to think, some idiots predicted that we'd someday found our economy on information. That we'd base money on it! On information? The problem isn't scarcity. There's too damned much of it. The problem usually wasn't getting access to information. It was to stave off drowning in it. People bought personalized filter programs to skim a few droplets from that sea and keep the rest out. For some, subjective reality became the selected entertainments and special-interest zones passed through by those tailored shells. Here a man watches nothing but detective films from the days of cops and robbers - a limitless supply of formula fiction. Next door a woman hears and reads only opinions that match her own, because other points of view are culled by her loyal guardian software.'20

Bruce Schatz in Science has shown how the immediate access to scientific literature is now possible, whereas once it was just the dream of writers like H.G. Wells (The World Brain concept) or information science analysts like J.C.R. Licklider in his book Libraries of the Future (1965)21. Now large-scale simulations on the HP Convex Exemplar supercomputer at the National Center for Supercomputer Applications have resulted in generating concept spaces for 10 million journals abstracts across 1,000 subject areas covering all engineering and science disciplines - the largest vocabulary switching computation ever achieved in information science. Future developments will require automatic indexing with scalable semantics to coordinate searches among the one billion repositories likely in the next century.

Schatz concludes that the 'first major revolution of the Net millennium will come when the information infrastructure supports routine vocabulary switching. Then scientists will be able to break the bondage of their narrow specialities and effectively utilise the whole of scientific information in their research'.

Every technological change of a major nature leads to the debate as to whether technology drives the development or whether they enhance an agreed mission eg. the educational process. That process clearly will be an encompassing multimedia one rather then the centuries old print on paper environment as the TV generations of "microserfs" come through. What we will need to blend is the increasing decentralisation and individual access with the need for centralised co-ordination and facilitation.

Mirror sites, caching, competitive price structures, consortia deals are all part of the organisational infrastructure which have to meld with content provision, software gateways, intelligent agents etc. Structures will need to accommodate the now intertwined strands ranging from course content and development to network infrastructure to library pro-active organisational skills. Virtual firms will mirror virtual universities and mass skills will be bought where they are cheapest eg. programmers in India. The virtual stock market is not far off in terms of home linkages to brokers and the world. The New York Times said of the 1939 World Fair "television will never be a serious competitor for radio because people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen; the average American family hasn't got time for it". What we currently don't have time for is to take in the myriad flow of information which encompasses print, TV and now Net access.

We're faced with a deluge of data, a hailstorm of hype, a depression of data, and an inundation of information! Information anxiety has been termed as the black hole between data and knowledge. Librarians and IT personnel will face future anxieties but someone has to be the interpreters - it's really whether the institutional frameworks we sit in are the right ones to allow the necessary growth. This is not the fashionable 'endengenous growth', cited by Victor Keegan, which leads to economics selectively booming from a knowledge or skills base. (Guardian, 5/11/96, 2-3). Keegan further stated 'Nearly 20 million words of technical information are being recorded every day - so a quick reader covering 1,000 words every three minutes for eight hours a day would need nearly five months to get through one day's output. Around 1,000 books are published every day; and one celebrated copy of the New York Times contained 1,612 pages and 12 million words - more data than a man in Bacon's time would have encountered in his lifetime.'

Cybernetic sifting agents will thus be increasingly providing "push" information supports which in science fiction terms will be neural links - the android Data in Star Trek being the ultimate logical outcome. Professor Donald Dennett of Tufts University at the Sydney Writers Festival in January 1997 illustrated his work on bringing philosophy and biological research together. Dennett sees the human mind as a conglomeration of 'robotic items' with consciousness as the software run by the brain computer. There is no reason, he argues, why machines cannot be conscious, because we ourselves are machines. Arthur C. Clarke in his recent novel 3001 invents "braincaps" which allow small libraries of "instant knowledge" to be transmitted, stored and interpreted in the human brain. It also incidentally brings social re-engineering in terms of criminal tendencies.


The entertainment industry also perhaps provides a model (sadly) for the future. The world is dominated by firstly American media and secondly by the English language. Burgeoning local industries eg. Australian and British film industries have risen and fallen given US dominance of finance and distribution chains. Similarly global libraries and global laboratories are not impossible in the future. The University of Illinios is working to create a World wide facility which can be utilised anywhere in the World.

The same could be said societally. With the car and the move to suburbs, the ring road (UK and USA) hyper markets sprang up and inner city corner shops died. By the twenty first century with online supermarket shopping and home delivery direct through timed deliveries or cool store secure devices, then the growth of "isolationism" will continue for basic services. Social commuting will occur deliberately rather than randomly. If people today will pay $40 a week for ironing services in the cash flush/time poor environment then the Internet is just one step away in service provision. Home shopping in the UK will get a boost in 1998 when B. Sky-B launches its digital satellites. These, BSkyB says, will have the computing power of an average PC and a very fast modem. BSkyB is negotiating with possible partners such as BT, in the hope that they will give initial subsidies for the decoders to kick start the market. In return, they will be allowed to run home shopping and banking services on the system. Anyone with a satellite dish, as Hague has indicated, and a decoder could then go on shopping trips that cut out shops.22

Bill Gates also picked up the supermarket analogy in his address to the 1995 Food Business Forum when he congratulated supermarket executives in getting shoppers to do most of the work, ie., drive to shopping conglomerates, buy food, load and unload trolleys and drive home. This is unproductive time. Information will be the same. Users will want their information accessible to them when they want it. Driving to a library, which may not be open, hoping to find the information wanted, is not the future model. The twenty four hour reference Library and IT service will supersede the check out circulation clerk. Can we manage the decentralised access with centralised overlays. Achievement by more focussed and agreed results may be the only benchmark of the cottage cyberlibrary?

The future can be utopian or Orwellian in cybernetic visions. Do we have Murdoch's dominance, the decline of the BBC and ABC or do we have a myriad of individual Net accesses - a plurality of cyber villages but with most users ghettoised in their dedicated information and entertainment channels. Will digital harmonisation increase the risks because of the growth of monopolies? The future will pose many digital dilemmas for library managers. Change, adaptability and vision will be needed more than ever before. The super league of the information age will provide challenges as well as rewards as never before.


1. Oblinger, D.G. and Maruyama, M.K., Distributed Learning. Boulder, CAUSE, 1996,

2. Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and the Canadian Association of Research Libraries. The changing world of scholarly communication. < >

3. Stoffle, Carla (1996). The Emergence of Education and Knowledge Management as Major Functions of the Digital Library". Follett Lecture. University of Wales, Cardiff. 13 November 1996. <>

4. Shaughnessy, T.W., 'Lessons from Restructuring the Library', Journal of Academic Librarianship, July 1996, 251-256.

5. Steele, C.R., 'Dinosaur or Phoenix: The Profession of Librarianship', Info, University of Tasmania, 1996, 2-3

6. Daniel, J., Megauniversities and mega knowledge. London, Kogan Paul, 1996

7. Hart, Graeme and Mason, Jon eds. The Virtual University. Symposium Proceedings and Case Studies. Parkville, University of Melbourne, 1996.

8. Lyman, P., 'What is a Digital Library', Daedulus., December 1996, 1-33.

9. Lynch, C., 'Reflection on Our Future', Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science, December 1996-January 1997, 21-22.

10. Cornell University. Campus Profile. Cause/Effect 19(2), Summer 1996, 1996, 28-31.

11. CAUSE (1996). Current Issues Committee. 'Current Issues for Higher Education Information Resources Management'. Cause/Effect 19(2) Summer 1996. 5-7.

12. Lilly, C and Thiele, G. Reengineering in a University Setting: Pathways and Pitfalls. Educom/CAUSE, 1996.

13. Gilliland, M.W. and Tynan M. and Smith K.L. 'Leadership and Transformation in an Environment of Unpredictability. 1996 CAUSE Conference (see Allmayer above for URL).

14. Taylor, P., Lopez, L. and Quadrelli, C. Flexbility, technology and academics' practices. Canberra, DEETYA, 1996

15. Allmayer, D and Davidson, Phyllis, H., The Employee and Organisation of the Future: A Partnership At All Levels, Proceedings of the 1996 CAUSE Conference. < >

16. West, Thomas W. 'More Lessons from the CIO Trail'. (CAUSE Professional Paper Series #15) Boulder: CAUSE, 1-4.

17. Tenopir, C., 'Trend In End User Searching', Library Journal, December 1996, 35

18. Benton Foundation. Building, books and bytes libraries and communities in the digital age. Kellogg Foundation 1996 < >

19. The University of California Digital Library. Executive Workshop Group. A Framework for Planning and Strategic Initiatives Report. Available at < >

20. Brin, D., Earth, NY: Bantam, 1991, 284-5.

21. Schatz, B.R., 'Information Retrieval in Digital Libraries: Bringing Search to the Net." Science 275. 17 January 1997, 327-333.

22. Hague, Helen, "Beyond Shopping". Independent on Sunday (UK) Supplement, 6 October 1996, 14.

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