Letters to the Editor

By Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS)

From Barrenjoey High


It was in late 1991 that I abandoned the dreaded microfiche and started to search the SCIS database on-line, using the Dobis/Libis system. Mind you I experienced the usual frustrations and hassles setting up a modem for the first time and learning to log on. However, with a great deal of help from colleagues and an ex-student I eventually managed to log on and after some practice became quite a proficient searcher. Some features of the system were frustrating. It was slow (could use a 1200 maximum baud rate), but I learned to chain command and this saved time spent on-line. There were also occasions when I couldn't log on, but this problem was generally attended to fairly quickly. One could say I was generally happy with the system and I made regular orders for machine readable records via RECON.

Then, early in 1996, along came this new-fangled system called VOYAGER! I was not a happy teacher /librarian, faced with having to learn to use a new search system, especially on top of all the other changes I was confronted with at the time. I felt I just couldn't cope with learning another new thing!

However I had installed the SCISLINK software and I thought that I would try to connect to VOYAGER. The hassles and frustrations began again, only this time I was able to contact the Curriculum Corporation free helpline in Melbourne and speak to the lovely Maxine and Nicole and others who were very patient and helpful. I rang many times and was never made to feel a nuisance. The main problem seemed to be with my modem. I found another modem in the school and with some more help from the same ex-student I finally was able to log on to VOYAGER.

I was still not convinced about this new system and continued to use Dobis, until the system was no longer available and I was forced to learn to use VOYAGER. At this stage I'm mostly using the 'search only 6ption and still have a lot to learn. I can see now that this is a superior system of searching and one of the most obvious advantages is that it is really fast! It is simple and quick to log on and not once have I failed to log on at the irst attempt. The programme moves so quickly from one screen to another that stringing commands is no longer relevant. I am finding it quicker to search by author or title rather than ISBN as it is generally quicker to go through the list of hits than to key in ISBNs. I still use ISBNs on occasions and with practice one soon learns the shortest and most appropriate search method. (It would be helpful to have the ISBN displayed somewhere on the first screen of the full record, although I note that Curriculum Corporation is working on the notion of a brief information screen where the SCIS number, ISBN, title, author and year of publication will be displayed. This will reduce the number of keystrokes necessary to identify the resource being searched and will be a welcome ' improvement).

I am using a modem baud rate of 9600, but it is possible to use faster modems on the system! (Have a look around your school for obsolete modems, ones that are too slow to use on the Internet for instance. I found a modem that was supplied to the school for ordering from Q-stores, but had never been used. It was fine for VOYAGER).

I have used the bulk order facility once and discovered that it was simple and turn around time was just over a week. However there is a problem with the USMARC records in that the punctuation is different from the usual punctuation received. This problem is soon to be addressed by a modification of the OASIS programme, hopefully before the end of term 3, 1996.

No longer is it necessary to keep a log diary of the time spent on-line as the Session log keeps track of the time spent on the VOYAGER database and Keylink. This can be printed off or viewed when-ever desired (see page 9 of the SCISLINK Quick Guide under the heading 'Session log'). I usually print off the Session log when the monthly account is received.

SCIS on-line subscribers get a compli-mentary subscription to the Keylink electronic mail system of Telstra. This means that we can send and receive Email between schools (and other Email users), a very convenient means of communication and not costly. (See Lance Deveson's article in <;onnections Issue No. 17 Autumn 1996 pp2-3).

It won't be long before it will be possible to search VOYAGER on-line and download catalogue records directly into Oasis Library. This is what we teacher /librarians have been waiting for, so hang in there, it'll be well worth the effort!

Laraine Rawling
Barrenjoey High School
Coonanga Road
Avalon Beach 2107
Email address SCIS218454

Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS)