How does the information get onto the SCIS database?

By Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS)

Have you ever wondered how the records magically materialise onto the SCIS database? There are actually nine cataloguing agencies throughout Australia inputting data. Agencies currently exist in South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, ACT, Victoria, Tasmania and the National Catholic Education Commission. Each agency, with the exception of the NCEC, is funded by its State Education Ministry. Agencies receive a credit for items added to the SCIS database. 

The agencies operate differently and provide different services to schools. Here are some examples:

Ministry of Education, Western Australia

The Cataloguing Section Curriculum Materials Information Services provides a free original cataloguing and records distribution service to all Western Australian government schools. This is compatible with the school staffing situation where schools are not expected to undertake cataloguing functions themselves. School staffing and funding reflect this policy.

The central team catalogues any item required by a school, provided it fits within cataloguing policy guidelines.

Even if only one school requires the item it is more effective for a professional to create a quality record than for a non professional to spend time creating a record of lower quality for student use.

The records created in WA are stored on the Ministry's mainframe which uses DOBIS LIBIS software. On a fortnightly basis new records are transmitted on tape to the Curriculum Corporation. There, a duplicate checking program ensures that only new items are loaded onto the SCIS database from the WA tape. This is a reciprocal arrangement with WA receiving a SCIS update each fortnight.

Government schools order from the Ministry using an order form which cites the ISBN and title. Additional information is required for items without ISBNs. Central staff search the database and if the requested catalogue record is on the database a set of catalogue products or a machine readable record on diskette is produced. The set of catalogue products contains a complete set of cards for a dictionary catalogue or a simplified set of shelf list, title and series cards. The type of card set provided varies according to the level of professional staff in the school. All card sets are accompanied by prepared spine labels, loan card label and book pocket label.

If the requested title is not on the database, the school is invited to send in the item for the creation of a new catalogue record.

Priorities are for new school acquisitions and the maximum turnaround time for product requests is less than 10 working days. In 1991 the WA team created approximately 18 500 catalogue records which were transmitted to the SCIS database.

SCIS in the Northern Territory

The Northern Territory Library Service (NTLS) provides centralised access to SCIS for schools throughout the Northern Territory. All schools which participate in the Northern Territory government mainframe Unisys system(CBASS) have online access to SCIS. This includes high schools with a Search only facility and primary schools with the Search and Product Ordering facilities - a total of 55 schools in all.

All costs incurred by the schools records including subscriptions, line lease, terminal connect fees and products are met centrally by NTLS.

A centralised cataloguing service is provided by the Technical Services section within NTLS. The Senior Cataloguer has been responsible for all SCIS cataloguing. The creation of six hundred records a year has been the accepted target however this goal has not been achieved during the past twelve months due to factors such as staff shortages.

The two sources for materials to be catalogued onto SCIS are the primary schools themselves and curriculum materials produced by the Northern Territory Department of Education. The accepted practice for the collection of these materials is for them to be sent into NTLS as they are identified by the schools or as they are released for publication. The turnaround time again depends very much on the availability of cataloguing staff. Ideally it should not be more than 2-3 weeks.

New South Wales

The NSW Department of School Education will maintain its involvement in SCIS following a State Government decision to approve funding for this purpose. Recent restructuring of the Department of School Education will ensure that the team of five cataloguers will achieve an annual target of 6,000 new bibliographic records. A panel of teachers and teacher-librarians from schools throughout the state is being coordinated by the SCIS Review Coordinator to ensure that a target of 750 reviews of learning materials is also contributed to the database annually.

Materials for cataloguing and review are being solicited from publishers. A small number of schools with online access to SCIS have been invited to assist in the location of relevant new materials, not on the database, by sending them directly to the Cataloguing and Review team. Such materials are returned to schools within three weeks. From time to time materials which support curriculum priority areas in NSW will be purchased for review.

The NSW cataloguing team will give priority to materials which support curriculum implementation in NSW. In 1992 particular emphasis is being given to the support of the following Board of Studies syllabuses: •

  • Aboriginal Studies 11-12 
  • Design and Technology 7-10 
  • English K-6 
  • Personal Development, Health and Physical Education K-10 
  • Science and Technology K-6 


In October 1984 Victorian cataloguers added some of the first records to the then ASCIS database. Several of the same cataloguers are still involved, giving the Victorian Statewide School Support Centre a sense of history, background and consistency. The cataloguing staff has gradually declined from the original nine to the current three full-time cataloguers.

The Statewide School Support Centre has a commitment to add 6,000 new records each year. About 60% of this material is obtained directly from schools. All schools are encouraged to submit items not on the database for cataloguing. Schools must ring to make an appointment with the cataloguers and can then arrange to have material collected or sent for cataloguing. Schools that take advantage of this service receive free cataloguing records. Resources are catalogued in order of receipt with a six to eight week turnaround time. The remaining 40% of material is obtained directly from publishers (book and non-book) and/or educational booksellers.

Statewide School Support Centre caters for all schools in Victoria including independent and Catholic (except for religious education material) as well as Ministry of Education. The cataloguers, as well as providing general cataloguing expertise, can also cope with a range of languages other than English including French, German, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew and some community languages. 

Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS)