As of 22 April 2009 this website is 'frozen' in time — see the current IFLA websites
This old website and all of its content will stay on as archive –
Since 1992, the Council has coordinated a database access programme. At its inception, the primary aim of the programme was to provide the Australian academic community with access to a range of information databases in a manner which is cost-effective, takes advantage of cooperative purchasing, complements institutional and national infrastructure investment and improves the quality of support for teaching and research.
A Federal Government grant of $600,000 permitted the ISI Current Contents database to be mounted at the National Library of Australia and provided free access to all universities for twelve months. Since then, the service has been contracted to OVID Technologies on a cost-recovery basis by a consortium of twenty nine libraries.
Extension of the programme was assisted by another Federal Government grant of $2 million over the period 1994 to 1996. This grant was part of a larger library initiative which also provided support for national network infrastructure and electronic publishing projects.
During the life of the database access programme, government funds were used to subsidise trials of products selected according to a tendering process. An important aspect of the process was that vendors were required to provide heavy discounts so that trial periods could be provided at no cost to participating universities. At the end of trial periods lasting from four to twelve months, CAUL negotiated consortium-based access arrangements. Experience proved that the longer the trial, the greater the likelihood of the product being purchased by a significant number of libraries.
Products tested included:
In addition to commercial products, funding was used to develop an interface to a series of databases maintained by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This project hastened Internet availability of the Bureau's data and resulted in advantageous long-term access fees for universities.
With the cessation of the Government funding, CAUL revised its programme goals but the focus remains on identifying products and services which can be obtained most effectively through consortium action. The programme continues to focus on database products and vendors are encouraged to provide trial periods free of charge to the universities. Since there is no matching funding available, the trials tend to be of shorter duration and have restrictions on the number of concurrent users. There is greater partnering of institutions with appropriate products than in the past in order to encourage vendors to provide trials.
To fund the consortium, CAUL levies its members an annual fee of $1,000. This arrangement was introduced in 1998 and will be subject to revision in 1999. The fee is used to fund the activities of the committee coordinating consortium arrangements and to permit the employment of a part-time staff member to liaise with vendors.
Universities in Australia operate in an environment which is different to that encountered in North America and Western Europe. Most institutions receive the majority of their funding from the Federal Government and there is a long history of bureaucratic and political influence. There is, however, increasing competition between institutions as student tuition fees become a larger source of income.
Australia is roughly the size of continental USA but with a population of only 20 million. The thirty eight universities are mostly located in the large urban conglomerations sited along the eastern and south-eastern seaboard of the country. Several institutions, however, are located in smaller towns some of which are quite remote. Institutions range in size from about 35,000 equivalent full-time student enrollment to less than three thousand.
All universities rely heavily on the Internet and there is a robust network linking them. Links to the rest of the world have improved significantly since the deregulation of the telecommunications industry in July 1996 but the main links continue to be through the USA.
University libraries purchase eighty to ninety percent of their information resources internationally but the Australian market does not represent a significant proportion of the business of the larger multinational publishers. This reduces bargaining power even when it is aggregated in a consortium of all universities. Libraries have reduced the number of printed serial subscriptions over the past ten years and there is a current round of cancellations which will probably average ten percent of all titles held nationally. There has been a concomitant gradual decline in the number of monographs acquired.
In such an environment, consortia arrangements are regarded as vital to the future effectiveness of university libraries. The small number of universities encourages collaborative activities and most chief librarians know and have worked with one another. The common history of government funding also provides a basis on which to build local consortia. To be truly effective, however, the Australian consortia need to be allied with similar bodies elsewhere so that more concerted approaches can be made to suppliers.
Extensive information includes: