1981-1991: A centre for innovation

A clear benefit of centralising library services in Robertson Library was that the building became a centre for innovation. Library staff were able to develop and maintain better services than would have been possible if ideas, energy and resources were spread across many departmental libraries.

Under Principal Librarian Geoffrey Allen, the Western Australian Institute of Technology (WAIT) Library was a leader among Australian libraries generally, most evidently in the areas of educating library users and in the uptake of electronic information resources. 1

Library staff developed a range of self-directed guides to library resources which proved effective in reaching increasing numbers of students as well as encouraging independent learning.

Although the Library subscribed to an ever-expanding range of electronic journal indexes useful to clients, searches to find information and retrieve articles were done by Library staff as it was a costly and complicated process via dial-up facilities. In 1989 when the first searchable journal indexing database on CD was installed that allowed clients to carry out their own free online searches, it heralded a novel change to self-service.

In 1991, the first database with full-text journal articles arrived in the Library. Business Periodicals on Disc 2 comprised hundreds of CDs and this single purchase boosted the number of business journals in the collection by an impressive 76%. As the number of electronic journal databases increased, they were networked where possible for access on multiple workstations, signaling the first step towards an electronic library.

Having been a pioneer in computerised library systems and a leader amongst Australian university and college libraries in the 1970s and early 1980s, by the end of the decade the Library found itself burdened with outdated systems based on antiquated hardware.3 The choice was between significant upgrading of existing systems and equipment or the purchase of a commercial product. Both options were expensive and budgetary constraints meant that in-house development continued until 1994.

Within Robertson Library, new collections were developed, the photocopying service moved towards a self-service model and installation of a security system meant patrons’ books no longer needed to be checked on exit.

In 1987, WAIT became Curtin University of Technology and Geoffrey Allen became the first University Librarian.

By 1989, student numbers at WAIT had trebled to over 15 000. With extra space for clients and collections sorely needed, construction of an extension to Robertson Library began, with work being completed in late 1991.

Robertson Library, 1980sRobertson Library, 1980s

Level five of Robertson Library, 1980sLevel five of the Library, 1980s.

WAIT Library in the 1980sWAIT postcard from the 1980s showing Robertson Library.

Robertson Library home A concrete presence A centre for innovation Bigger and better A 21st century library Facts and figures