Networking with Periodicals

By Catherine Ryan

Networking sounds like such a good idea, but in reality, we know that most of our experiences of networking land up being a sharing of ideas and a return to the limitations of our own collections or the maintenance of inter-library loans which can be a job of its own.

This is not the experience of a group of school and Municipal libraries in the Central Eastern Area of Melbourne. They have taken the bull by the horns and put their periodicals to work with a fax machine.

The idea was conceived by two librarians (Janie Gibson, Xavier College & Catherine Ryan, Gennazzano College) after the 1992 ALIA Conference in the Blue Mountains. After hearing about the Queensland Periodical Centre for Schools they wanted to know how they could extend the use of their periodical collections.

Firstly, the Queensland periodical storehouse is an organisation which collects periodicals indexed by Guidelines. They undertake to send articles as requested to member schools for the cost of a photocopy. Out of this idea the Melbourne group, CENET (Central Eastern Network) Periodical Union, was born.

A request for interest was sent to 30 local government and private schools and Municipal libraries and the response was overwhelming.

The idea was not that the periodicals be kept in this one place or that one person administer them. On the contrary, each participating school undertook to fax 4 pages to another participating school for free. Any more than that could be negotiated between librarians. In many cases this means that the article is sent in the mail instead of wasting time at the fax machine.

A list was prepared of holdings, member schools and fax numbers. So far the system has been in operation for 4-5 months and most users seem more than happy with the service. As one user put it, this is a network which makes every library benefit on a day-to-day basis in their own library.

As a result of this there has been no trouble with finding people interested in investigating further projects for the group. There is currently a task force in operation investigating how user libraries can rationalise their periodical collections, this will hopefully mean access for all schools to a greater variety of journals. This is becoming so much more important nowadays with schools having access to more comprehensive indexes such as SAGE and the AUSTROM indexes.

Another task force is investigating the possibility of producing the list on computer disk o that it can be loaded onto the PC used to access the indexes.

The advent of this list in many libraries is seen as a vital tool to assist in the provision of resources for VCE students. It encourages students to endeavour to use the indexes if they are almost assured of success in their search.

There are a number of libraries in the inner eastern suburbs of Melbourne who have listed a fax on their 1993 budget submission. This is now seen as a central part of library service. Many prospective new members have made enquires about joining the union. In these days of instant gratification, the success of this group speaks for itself.

Catherine Ryan