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									Titillating Technological Traumas to Test the Techies
Julie Morris, Acting Manager, Katherine Public Library

Abstract

Technology has advanced more in the last 40 years than it has since the dawn of
time. We have come to rely on technology in every day use to the point that we
take it for granted. In fact if it were not for gas stoves or wood BBQ’s how many
households could cope in this fast paced 21st century with out pulling our hair out,
if we lost electricity for just one week. The nightmare that was the Katherine
Flood did just that and in hindsight it was the amazing strength of the community
pulling together as a whole that saw us through this difficult time.

In the library world technology has now become commonplace. All but gone are
the days of card index. Heaven help the OPAC if it runs too slow! It has become
apparent that library workers need to keep up with these ever changing
technological advances so that they may deliver information to the public that is
now an expected service.

Technology is one area of advancement that is sure to test change management.
Competencies are now in place in all areas of the library and all levels of staff are
expected to have knowledge relevant to their position. Libraries collection
management and development policy and procedures can take advantage of the
sophisticated systems in place, thereby providing up to date information in book
or electronic form and ensure the continuing education of its community.

The vision for the future of libraries will see us as educators for a generation that
has long since left the hallowed halls of their high schools. We will be expected
to be the gatekeepers at the toll booths of the information superhighway. Those
that come after us are going to slip straight into the technological waters with out
even testing the depths as we have had to do. So as library workers, and “the
group in the middle”, are we going to be teaching our elders, whilst trying
ferociously to keep up with the pre-schoolers?


Biography

Julie Morris

Julie was born in Adelaide, grew up in a pub in the Adelaide Hills, moved to
Whyalla where she qualified as a Registered Nurse, then in the eighties, followed
her parents to Katherine. Working night duty at the Katherine Hospital she
saved up and travelled the world. After four years globe trotting and working in
numerous types of employment, as mundane as a factory worker, to bizarre as
synthesizer player in a rock band, she returned to Katherine and created a little
entrepreneurial empire which lasted twelve years. She sadly lost a husband, but
gained an amazing son.

A friend introduced her to the Library where she worked voluntary nine to five,
five days a week for six months until the Librarian finally employed her. Julie’s
passion for the industry encouraged her to enrol in the Library Technician's
Diploma where she is all but finished. Julie was promoted through the Council
system, to Manager of Katherine Public Library. “It is one of the most rewarding,
challenging and infinitely interesting jobs I have ever had.” she says. “The only
down fall being you don’t have enough time to sample your own wares.”



Titillating Technological Traumas to Test the Techies
Julie Morris, Acting Manager, Katherine Public Library


The Nightmare of the 1998 Australia Day flooding in Katherine decimated the
central business district and the majority of flats and housing in Katherine,
sparing only the area known as Katherine East. The library was located smack
bang in the middle of the CBD and suffered not only book loss but the majority of
the technological hardware associated with running a library, from a client and
management point of view.

If it had not been for the generous donations of book stock, technology and other
associated items we would never have been able to recover as expediently as
we did. The relief effort organized with in the Northern Territory alone, the many
phone calls, faxes, and emails show just how the technology we take for granted
now, was imperative in the effective facilitation of the recovery process.

Thousand of people played a part in the recovery process including the Police,
RAAF and Emergency Services to get people in the first instance out of their
homes, and eventually back into them. Other government employees undertook
long hours and back breaking work to ensure the governments information
technology and communications systems were up and running as soon as
possible. Four out of nine of Katherine’s PABX systems were completely
flooded. Although the river peaked at 20.4 metres and the Government Center
was flooded to 1.5 metres only two systems at the Government Centre and
Power and Water Authority needed to be replaced. Daniel Hunziker coordinated
an intense effort to ensure it came on line with a minimum of fuss an as speedily
as possible. It was an amazing stroke of luck that Parks and Wildlife and
Katherine Hospital came within centimeters of losing their systems, considering
how close they are situated in relation to the riverbank.
The Department of Communications and Advanced Technology (DCAT) under
the direction of Owen Peak, gave the command that the Government Centre was
to be fully operational by Monday February 2. Bill McMillan (Regional Manager)
Robert Thompson, Garry Wall, Tim Kingston and Deputy CEO Dennis Bree
actually walked on water - albeit flood water! - ensuring the nerve centre of the
town would not suffer permanent paralyzing effects. Within days of the waters
receding the new PABX system ordered form Melbourne landed in Darwin on the
evening of February 1.

Getting the technology to Katherine was hindered by lesser technological
hiccups, when the van carrying the equipment blew a tyre, and of course the
spare was flat. There were a few tense moments when the men thought they
would have to rely on Morse Code but thank God for radio technology, which was
used to call the Police to Hayes Creek to pick up the machine and transport it to
Katherine. If this has failed I am sure these single minded men would have
opted for smoke signal, such was the determination not to fail.

The whole situation was reminiscent of a movie drama where the live heart,
packed in ice is transported, only to be hijacked for ransom along the way. The
tension was very near the same, and for all intents and purposes so is the
analogy. After great efforts from people such as Nick Burns form NEC and with
the skills of people such as Bill McMillan, the system was up and running just 15
minutes behind schedule, dispelling that old adage that NT stands for Not Today,
Not Tonight, Not Tomorrow, Not Tuesday, Not Thursday, Next Time.

The system, once safely transplanted into the nerve centre of this great lady we
call Katherine, created a continuous effort of working around the clock to ensure
computer and telephone communications would be available to all government
agencies, including the library. Workers who had their own homes flooded such
as Scott Caban, gave selflessly of themselves, putting in eighteen hours days,
sleeping on make shift cots on the first floor of the Government Centre, and
eating whatever the Red Cross bought in on the day. Gary Wall, Project
Manager of the communication section said that DCAT, Telstra and private
company personnel were physically running cables and connecting to services,
to cater for the influx of over 1000 people who would visit the Government Centre
on that day alone.

Prime Minister John Howard and then NT Chief Minister Shane Stone pledged
over fifty million dollars in total to the relief effort, but the real trick was the re-
establishment of essential services to agencies such as Territory Health, Centre
Link, MVR, CES, Housing Asian Relations Trade and Industry and of course the
library. Maintaining communications is the quintessential part of successful
operations. Communications not only relate to the equipment involved, but also
to the content of the communications.
In the Library all the initial hard yards of relocating premises and stock, washing
shelving, planning and placing shelving and stock in well ventilated areas, stock
taking and ordering furniture, stationary supplies and technological equipment,
and then the installation, took many weeks. Initially we only had two PC’s. The
public PC did not have a printer nor could it read floppy discs - but it looked good!
- and gave the public a sense that things would return to normal…eventually.

At the time of the flood we were operating with DOBIS, but had no access to it,
ABN or LINNet. So it was pretty much back to manual issue and stock piling
returns. On March 19 Bill McMillan managed to get Dobis hooked up to 3
terminals, two on the circulation desk, and another which was located in the
Kitchen come make shift office. Needless to say we were overjoyed and could
get all the returns logged back into the system and back on the shelves. The
excitement did not last to long however. The following day all three terminals
went down. They were still down on Monday March 23 and on Tuesday March
24, 1998 the Library opened it doors for the first time since the flood. Telstra
was contacted on the Wednesday as the phone lines were still not connected,
and finally on Thursday the 26 March Bill McMillan managed to get three Dobis
terminals and one OPAC up and running.

Over the following weeks Dobis went down intermittently for short periods of
time, and even now seven years on, I question if anything really has changed.
Across the whole library system we experience down time every so often with the
Virtua system, so you could say it goes with the “Territory”. One positive is that
our nightmares have abated somewhat, and now we just suffer the odd bad
dream.

Patron registration was a nightmare as we had lost all our membership records.
New members, who were actually old members, were renewed and became new
old members! Thankfully library staff are adept at lateral thinking, so with
initiative, imagination, and skills from staff who actually knew the card system, we
were able to provide a comfortable effective and efficient working environment for
staff and patrons alike. The Northern Territory Library thankfully serviced our
country borrowers until we were in a position to service them ourselves. It just
goes to show that technology cannot substitute for qualified and experienced
staff, and I can safely say that Library workers will never be replaced by
computers, only computer literate people.

However from every negative we should strive to find a positive. It is from the
circumstances that arose out of the flood that implemented new policy and
procedure in the form of counter disaster plans, within local government and
internally in the library itself. Staff were involved in the processes of the
preparative stage and together, worked on a plan which also highlighted a spirit
of unity. Staff devised ways to use technology that would keep them in
communication with each other, and sourced the overwhelming information on
the Internet to devise a plan suited to our particular library.
New initiatives guided and re-focused our efforts, and the direction the Katherine
Public Library would take over the next five years, not only with the services on
offer to patrons, but in the area of change management. Our hand was forced to
grasp hold of an era where we would develop a level of comfort to trust the
reliance of the system that was in place. We needed to be prepared to accept
changes that would inevitably come. It forced a greater trust in database
management. It forged a willingness, to be more reliant on existing, and
impending areas of systematic control, which is ultimately integral to the efficient
day to day operational roles and functions a library is expected to provide its
wider community.

This new reliance led to a turnaround in the structure of Katherine Public Library
internal collection development policy. Whilst still focusing on accepted library
guidelines and best practice, new initiatives were identified, enabling us to set
benchmarks which were reachable and pertinent to local demographics.

Relocating the library to the centre of town after spending months at the Civic
Centre, challenged our technological partnership with Katherine Town Council.
This relocation meant we were no longer supported by our “parent company’.
Thus autonomy pushed us further into providing technical aides to our stake
holders and partners. LGANT funding (no that is not an oxymoron) played a vital
role in providing the dollars to keep our Internet lines open, providing free access
to the public. The endorsement of the President’s action in organizing the
National Local Government Flood Appeal to assist the people of Katherine was
very much appreciated as was their generous donation. With out the aid of
DCIS for our network and LGANT for the loot, we would have looked very bare
indeed.

The increase in space alone afforded us the ability to provide the community with
up to date hardware and some groovy software like PhotoShop, Nero and even
Fire Wire. Fortunately this impressed the tourists and we were no longer
considered “Hicksville”. Our donated equipment such as the CD player provided
light relief from the nightmare of trying to put life back into our own families and
the community as a whole. The eventual access to the OPAC played a silent
martyr role in providing links to information on how to cope with the stress and
anxiety brave and tough folk sadly suffered during this time. Travelling down the
road of the information superhighway was like being on the road to recovery.

The relatively new technology of river cams during that time could be accessed
via the internet, and went a long way to dispelling fears the community had over
the behaviour of the river in coming wet seasons. A town siren would sound the
first Friday of every month as a test. The community was advised that should
they hear the siren at any other time, to “pack up your troubles in your old kit
bag” and head for high ground. However the wonders of modern technology
sometimes fail, as they do, and the sound of that siren one rainy Thursday
morning sent people into panic, practically depleting the whole of Katherine’s
food, water and essential items stock in three hours flat. No doubt the
businesses in town were grateful for this particular technological hiccup, and
cash registers could be heard ringing far into the night.

We see our role at the library as we head into the 21st century as being a
knowledge provider, gateway, teacher, organizer, creator, publisher partner and
advocate. The community has come to expect electronic resources along with
traditional means, to meet their information needs. They expect to be able to
access information via the internet, and this is coming increasingly evident with
the influx of the “grey nomads” that require email services on their caravanning
jaunts through the outback. The fact that training sessions for seniors are now a
service that libraries deliver reinforces this. Gone are the days when dad
listened to the cricket on the wireless. He is more inclined to surf the net with his
own lap top no less, for all the latest up to date scores with his right finger, whilst
simultaneously SMS’ing you with his left, to brag that his team beat yours. This
new expectation and vision of future learning modes, places added responsibility
on staff keeping the wheel of technical knowledge turning, Could this be the only
true form of perpetual motion?

It is our responsibility to act as the catalyst between all individuals and
community partners to bring together initiatives and continue to advocate this role
for libraries. We need to exercise our professional judgment on the organization,
approach and selection of technological resources, so that we can expedite
access by users, and herein lies the vision for the future

Staff deal with technology issues on a daily basis and it is also important that
skills keep up with these ever changing technologies. Staff issues can include
their expectations and what is expected of them in regards to software hardware
and their respective applications.

We need to include in our vision for the future, minimum expected technology
competencies for nearly all classifications and work locations at the library. It is
imperative we look at ongoing technology training programs for library staff
appropriate to their positions. A simple commander system can often throw a
person into disarray, especially when you are the only one about and all four
lines are flashing!

Pager systems, fax machines, terminals, printers, power cords, fire wire, hard
drives, floppy drives, CD Rom and DVD’s, scanners, USB ports and associated
memory sticks, and multi card readers, are competitive software and hardware
items and there are a multitude of them out there. It can be impossible to cater
to every need; however a simple understanding of them is vital in delivering a
quality service, especially in a library that has a high patronage of international
tourists, such as Katherine.
In closing I will finish with that old favorite technological thorn in our side, the
Photocopier. Why is it, by the way, that they can put a man on the moon, but can
not make a photo copier that does not get a paper jam at least five times a day?
We have a staff photograph on our wall, there are 11 people in it but we only
have a staff of 10. I often get asked who the 11th man is. “He’s the photocopier
repair man,” I say. Now that is a nightmare vision of the past, that I am sure will
continue to haunt our present, and in this area of technology I definitely look
forward to the future.

								
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