Murdoch's aliens

I could be the only cataloguer still standing who trained in the ABN

Rewind 36 years. The internet was non-existent, businesses communicated by fax, and catalogue cards and microfiche catalogues were king in libraries across Australia. It was then, in 1981, that six libraries came together to create Australia’s first shared, computerised cataloguing network—the Australian Bibliographic Network.

Who says librarians aren’t ahead of their time?

The Australian Bibliographic Network, or ABN, was the forerunner of what is now Libraries Australia, which today encompasses over 1200 Australian libraries, providing access to more than 31 million bibliographic records.

Someone who has witnessed these changes firsthand is Ross O’Neil of Murdoch University Library in Western Australia. Ross began working as a cataloguer at the library in 1977 and was one of the early cataloguers to be trained in the ABN in the early 1980s.

‘It’s possible I could be the only cataloguer still standing who trained in the ABN in its first year,’ Ross suggests.

Around the same time, in 1983, Murdoch University Library moved from its catalogue from cards to computer—with searching by author, title and subject indexes.

‘There was much celebration at the discarding of the card catalogue of around 100,000 titles,’ says Ross. ‘We cheekily called the new computer system ALIEN—Automated Library Inquiry and Enquiry Network.’

These days Ross spends most of his time at Murdoch University Library ensuring quality control of the database and importing datasets for eresources. He can still be found cataloguing the occasional item, though—especially those within Murdoch’s special collection of science fiction materials, including some unique fanzines.

Clockwise from top right: Ross in his first year as a cataloguer at Murdoch University Library; Ross today, looking at fanzines with Dr Jessie Lymn and Sharon Beccaria; some of the items from Murdoch Library's special collection of science fiction material.