Planning and development of the South East Melbourne Internet Link

A paper presented by Debra Rosenfeldt
(Dandenong Valley Regional Library Service)

At the Viclink/Vicnet meeting "Networking for all Victorians: the way ahead"
Tuesday 3 September 1996

1. Introduction

Over the last three years Dandenong Valley Regional Library Service has worked hard at developing its technological base. We have installed a new computer system, set-up CD-Rom workstations in five branches and, in 1995, under the guidance of our Regional Information and Networks Manager, Paul Mercieca, we set about establishing our library service as a key player in Internet development in Melbourneıs South-East Growth Corridor. Paul left us at the end of 1995 to take up the position of Associate Head at Informit (the job of his dreams!), so thatıs why Iım talking to you about our Internet project, rather than Paul.

On the 1st of August 1995, the Minister for the Arts, who at that time was The Hon Haddon Storey, presented Dandenong Valley Regional Library Service with a cheque for $21,000 for the development of the first stage of the South East Melbourne Internet Link, known to staff by its acronym - SEMIL. Of course weıd asked for almost twice that amount, but the $21,000 was our allotment from the yearıs Library Co-operation and Development Grants.

Over the next few minutes I will talk about the SEMIL vision - its objectives and the planned stages of development. I will then talk about what has been achieved so far. As I am sure you are aware, it is rare for things to happen exactly as planned, no matter how meticulously they may have been planned. There have been unexpected hiccups and unforseen opportunities that have resulted in modifications to the planned development of SEMIL, although we have remained true to the objectives outlined in the original submission. I will conclude this segment with a summary of whatıs in the pipeline for 1996/97.

So, what were our objectives in establishing the South East Melbourne Internet Link?

2 Objectives of the South East Melbourne Internet Link

I will read these objectives to you much as the appeared in the original SEMIL submission:

1. To establish the communication infrastructure necessary to develop public access to the Internet via Vicnet from a branch library in each of the three municipalities of Greater Dandenong, Casey and Cardinia (These are the three municipalities making up Dandenong Valley Regional Library Service).

2. To establish training programs for the public on accessing Internet resources and networked information. (This is something that we wanted to do early on because we believed that it was a way of marketing the Internet and the library service as a whole, and because it was a way of ensuring that staff were trained, competent and enthusiastic in Internet use. We didnıt want the Internet terminals to be tucked away in a corner of the library and ignored. We wanted them to be prominent, and their use to be encouraged by staff).

Objectives 3 and 4 really go together. For us the Internet was never simply about the public using access terminals in the library. We also wanted to facilitate access to the Internet for other community groups . . .

3. To link the Dandenong branch hub to the Dandenong Campus of Casey TAFE as a gateway for its access.

4. To establish hubs at a number of Dandenong Valley Regional Library Service branches to act as a gateway for other community groups to access the Internet via Vicnet. Such hubs would provide potential for extending ISDN channels or dial-in facilities to local schools, welfare and other agencies.

5. To make local community information available on the Internet with the installation of a web server.

6. To provide access at a later stage to the communication functions of the Internet through the installation of an e-mail server/news server.

3. Proposed stages of development of the South East Melbourne Internet Link

Seven stages for the implementation of the project were identified and separately costed. In Paulıs original SEMIL submission there was a lot of technical detail about cabling, routers, hubs, file servers and so on. Stages 1-6 are really about introducing Internet access across our three municipalities. In summary these are the seven stages:

1. Establish an ISDN connection between Vicnet and the Dandenong Valley Regional Library Service administration building local area network, enabling all administration staff to access the Internet from their workstations.

2. Extend the ISDN link from the administration building to one branch library in each of the three municipalities served by Dandenong Valley Regional Library Service and mount the existing multimedia hardware onto these connections.

3. Increase the number of access terminals at each site.

4. Establish dial-in facilities at the Pakenham branch library to overcome the difficulty of patron access to Vicnet from outside the 03 area code. (We wanted the residents of Pakenham, who live in the 059 STD area, to be able to dial-in to a hub at Pakenham branch library so that they could access the Internet from home for the price of a local call).

5. Establish ISDN links to other organisations willing to contribute to the network. This could include Casey TAFE, the South East Resource Action Centre, and local schools.

6. Provide dial-in access at the administration building hub so that Dandenong Valley Regional Library Service could consider being an Internet provider for the region.

7. Develop a web server at the administration building for the mounting of local information such as the libraryıs catalogue, the Citizens Advice Bureauıs database, council minutes, community and business directories.

4. The achievements so far in developing the South East Melbourne Internet Link

In the year since receiving the initial $21,000 grant much has been achieved, particularly over the four months from September to December 1995. You will see that we have managed to achieve bits of several stages of the planned development. And weıve achieved a few things that we hadnıt planned for because opportunities presented themselves to us. I should point out that small amounts of additional funding for development came from a re-allocation of funds from the ACCESS Library Co-operation and Development Grant, the Community Support Fund and the Greater Dandenong and Casey Councils. Our key achievements have been:

1. A SEMIL project team has been established and a half-time Co-ordinator appointed. The project team has developed policies for use of the Internet in the library.

2. An ISDN connection between Vicnet and the libraryıs administration building has been established and this link has been extended to both the Dandenong and Cranbourne branches. The administration building and Dandenong branch ISDN links were funded from the Library Co-operation and Development Grant. Funding for the connection at the libraryıs new Cranbourne branch came from the City of Casey.

3. Modem access to the Internet through Access One has been provided at the Pakenham branch as part of the Networking for all Victorians initiative funded by the Community Support Fund.

4. Four Internet access terminals are in operation at Dandenong branch (Paid for by the City of Greater Dandenong so that we could start training). Cranbourne and Pakenham branches have one Internet access terminal each. We have chosen to make these stand alone Internet terminals and they will remain stand alone terminals.

5. A SEMIL Home Page has been mounted on the Vicnet web server with links to Dandenong Valley Regional Library Service and outside information.

6. SEMIL and the Fairfax Community Newspapers Home Page were both officially launched at Dandenong Library in December 1995. The library was approached by Fairfax and agreed to enter into a reciprocal promotional arrangement whereby it receives regular publicity in the Dandenong Journal for Internet access at the library in return for promoting the newspaper on the SEMIL Home Page.

7. Another reciprocal arrangement has been made with the City of Greater Dandenongıs Libraries, Language and Literacy unit. This independently funded and operated unit has an office at the Dandenong branch. It uses the libraryıs ISDN link to access the Internet from its five PCıs. In return it allows the library to use its office and PCıs for Internet training outside normal office hours. It was always part of the libraryıs plan to facilitate access to the Internet for other community groups in return for some contribution to the SEMIL network.

8. Dandenong Valley Regional Library Service has entered the Internet training business in a joint venture with Informit and the Internet Training Institute. All training is conducted at the Dandenong branch using the four public access terminals. Providing Internet training to the public was seen as a great way to promote the Internet and other library resources and to ensure that library staff are skilled in using the Internet.

5. Conclusion

So, thatıs the story so far. As I said earlier much has been achieved in a relatively short space of time. I think that is because we have been very focussed on this project. We have had the Big Picture firmly in mind throughout. We have known where we were heading with the Internet. But we also realised that we were unlikely to get the $60,000 or $100,000 to do everything that we wanted to do all at once. So we prioritised, worked out smaller stages of development that could be more realistically achieved and which, when put together, would indeed give us the Big Picture.

I said at the beginning of this talk that I would conclude with our planning for 1996/97 - and I am proud to announce that SEMIL is about to give birth to twins, two new Internet projects. As I am sure many of you are aware, the City of Greater Dandenong has withdrawn from the Dandenong Valley Regional Library Service to operate a stand alone service, and the two remaining municipalities will reconstitute as the Casey-Cardinia Library Corporation. Already the Corporation is costing the necessary wiring to establish the central Narre Warren branch as a regional technology centre for the South-East Growth Corridor.