The national resource sharing network, managed by the National Library of Australia, has operated since 1981 under 3 names:
- The Australian Bibliographic Network (ABN, 1981-1999)
- Kinetica (1999-2005)
- Libraries Australia (2005 onwards)
The development of ABN (mid 1970)
In the mid 1970s the National Library, noting the success of OCLC, began to plan the establishment of a national shared cataloguing network. After undertaking a feasibility study, the Library in August 1978 announced a pilot of the software that supported the Washington Library Network (WLN). After a period of internal use by the Library and a further period of pilot network use, the Australian Bibliographic Network (ABN) commenced operations in November 1981.
From the first ABN was a multi-sector network, with members including university, state, public and special libraries (school libraries have used a separate network, the Schools Catalogue Information Service, since 1984).
The National Library established an advisory body, the ABN Network Committee (now the Libraries Australia Advisory Committee) to advise the Library on the operation and development of the service. The current Committee comprises a mixture of appointed members (representing particular library sectors, or bringing particular expertise) and elected members.
The database at the heart of the service is known as the Australian National Bibliographic Database (ANBD). It has been built by contribution from the member libraries, and by the addition of files from the Library of Congress, the British National Bibliography and other major national files.
During its first decade, ABN’s online network was supported by a combination of leased line telecommunications connections (using IBM mainframe standards) and X.25 dial-up connections. In the early 1990s the network progressively shifted to using the Internet protocols.
ABN also had to transition from an era when local online library systems barely existed, and when the key products were catalogue cards and microfiche catalogues.
From ABN to Kinetica (1999)
Initially the National Library upgraded the WLN software to meet the needs of the member libraries through small scale and piecemeal enhancements. By the late 1980s it was focussing on larger projects, such as a more powerful search interface and implementation of an ILL Subsystem. However, by 1990 it was apparent that the WLN software was aging, complex and expensive to maintain.
In the early 1990s the national libraries of Australia and New Zealand decided to undertake joint redevelopment of the network systems used by both libraries. This project commenced in 1994, and initially made good progress. However, concerns about the core search engine product arose in early 1996. After a change of chief executive and responsible minister in New Zealand triggered a review of the viability of the project, the two libraries announced the termination of the project.
Since remaining with the WLN software was not a viable option, the Library moved to select an alternative system to replace ABN. It selected the AMICUS software, originally developed for the National Library of Canada, but now supported by a Belgian company called ELiAS. IBM Global Services was selected to implement and support the new system. A separate software module, VDX from Fretwell-Downing Informatics, was used to support the network interlibrary loan function.
The new system (given the name Kinetica) was implemented in March 1999. It was an advance over ABN in that it was Y2K (Year 2000) compliant, provided a graphical interface and also complied with standards such as the Z39.50 search protocol.
From Kinetica to Libraries Australia (2005)
By 2003 there were significant doubts about the ability of the AMICUS software to support the future requirements of Australian libraries. The outsourced support arrangements were also quite costly, and there was little scope for software innovation. For these reasons, the National Library decided to redevelop the Kinetica system and to develop what is now known as Libraries Australia.
In addition to service improvements and cost reduction, a key objective was to minimise the risk of failure in any future redevelopment, by moving to a more modular architecture. The Library managed this project itself, and integrated the software modules. Libraries Australia was implemented in November 2005, when the following 4 modules were completed:
- Libraries Australia Search – developed and maintained by the Library, and based on the TeraText search software from SAIC.
- Libraries Australia Cataloguing – based on the CBS software supplied and supported by OCLC in Leiden (this software was chosen through a Request for Tender process in 2004).
- Libraries Australia Document Delivery – based on the VDX software supplied and supported by OCLC in Sheffield and Melbourne (continuing the use of this software in the Kinetica service).
- Libraries Australia Administration – developed and maintained by the Library, and based on Open LDAP directory software.
Libraries Australia continued to be enhanced after 2005, with improvements such as relevance ranking of search results in Libraries Australia Search, and improved duplicate record removal capabilities in Libraries Australia Cataloguing.
A new subscription model, based on the intrinsic size of the member library instead of on than usage, was announced in 2005 and was progressively applied to the various library sectors and member categories during 2006 to 2010.
In 2007 a major agreement was concluded between Libraries Australia and OCLC, which provides for:
- unlimited access by Libraries Australia member libraries to WorldCat
- OCLC member status for Libraries Australia member libraries
- provision of ANBD data to OCLC for loading into WorldCat
- provision of a subset of WorldCat data (any record linked to an Australian library holding) to the ANBD.
Under this agreement, ANBD data was loaded to WorldCat in 2008, and is kept up to date in near real-time thorough the use of the ‘SRU Update’ protocol.