Tasmania - The Australian Benchmark

By Belinda Flowers

Tasmania has become the Australian benchmark for servicing information needs efficiently and cost effectively through a statewide network. Belinda Flowers writes from Hobart on Tasmania logging in.

Tasmanian schools are in the fortunate position of having access to a statewide education based, wide area network. This network was developed in the late 1970's and available to all schools free of charge. Access is via either dedicated lines or by dialup modem for the cost of a local call.

There are two major uses of this communications network.

1. TALIS the Tasmanian Automated Library and Information System, is an online information system that unites school and public libraries across Tasmania in a common network and a shared data base. It is the largest network of its kind in the southern hemisphere and links 132 separate libraries, including public and reference libraries, all TAFE and Senior Secondary Colleges, most high schools and over 40 primary and district schools across the state. The long term aim is to have all public, TAPE and schools libraries using TAU S thus providing comprehensive access to publicly purchased resources in Tasmania. Libraries connected to TAUS have access to:

  • Dynix library management system
  • Tasmanian Index of Community Organizations (TICO)
  • Tasmanian Index - articles on Tasmania drawn from newspapers and magazines
  • Events Calendar - a calendar of cultural activities/ events statewide
  • Fast Facts - a database of commonly asked reference questions

Access to the resources on TALIS is provided to non-participants, both libraries and individuals, via dial-up public access catalogues.

This easy access to the combined resources of all agencies within the Department of Education, Community and Cultural Development has given schools a much wider resource base to support curriculum delivery than would be the norm for stand-alone libraries. The ready access to material in the public and reference libraries encourages students to search more widely for relevant information.

Being a shared database that is maintained centrally, schools are provided with free training and support and do not have any of the system maintenance tasks normally associated with an automated library system. Minimum cataloguing effort is required by the schools with public libraries, schools and TAFE using the same bibliographic records.

2. TasNET is a network established and maintained by the Department of Education, Community and Cultural Development and available free of charge to any school with a modem or dedicated line. It contains the AAP database (schools pay a yearly fee) and a full range of Internet tools including Email, Gopher, Telnet, FfP and World Wide Web. Whilst use of the Internet is free, there are some drawbacks in that the service to many schools is text-only, and thus the graphics and colour that make the Web in graphical form so appealing, are missing. A limited number of schools have ISDN access and it is hoped to extend this service, which would provide full graphical Internet access, within the next few years.

The access to e-mail is particularly valued by the schools as a means of communication with other schools and educators throughout the world. Many incorporate this within their teaching programs encouraging student to student contact.

Belinda Flowers

Education Systems Librarian

State Library of Tasmania