AUSTRALIA'S vice chancellors believe they have created a world first: their staff and students will soon be able to borrow library books from anywhere on the globe using a simple Internet interface.
The Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee has signed a contract with Fretwell Downing Informatics of Sheffield for software systems which will allow university staff and students to use the Internet to borrow books from any library with a Net connection.
Code-named LIDDA (Local Inter-lending and Document Delivery Administration), the system is to be trialled by staff and postgraduates at eight universities in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, starting in May. The National Library of Australia and the State Library of New South Wales are also expected to participate.
Implementation of the scheme will begin in March and is likely to take at least nine months. Scholars still rely on physical delivery of books as only a small fraction of the world's literature has been digitised.
The LIDDA system had its genesis in a project undertaken by the AVCC with a grant from the federal government.
Neal McLean, chief librarian at Macquarie University in Sydney, one of the institutions contracted for the system, said LIDDA would bring the libraries of the world together as a type of "super-library". It would "cut a swathe through the mountain of paperwork" required for most inter-library lending.
"Staff and students with access to the system will not be confined to the books just in their local university and community libraries but will be able essentially to access any library in the world," Mr McLean said.