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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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