Williamson Award 2000


Derek WhiteheadThe 2000 Robert D. Williamson Award went to Derek Whitehead from Swinburne University for his outstanding contribution to librarianship.

The 2000 Robert D. Williamson Award Citation for Derek Whitehead reads as follows.

VALA’s most prestigious award is the Robert D. Williamson Award, which is in memory of one of the early pioneers of our industry, Bob Williamson. This biennial award is presented to an individual or organisation who or which, in the opinion of the judging panel, has made and is currently making an outstanding contribution to the development of information technology usage in Australian libraries and is positively and significantly influencing development in information technology usage within libraries.

The recipient of the R.D. Williamson Award for 2000 has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in library and information services, despite having entered the field after a change of career. Starting in technical services in the seventies he has been witness to, and part of, many of the technological innovations that have made library services what they are today. At the same time his career has been marked by an abiding interest in facilitating information access in the broadest sense.

During the eighties he pursued his professional interests to national and international levels, developing a reputation as a key player in the national library scene and long term lobbyist for libraries. A member of many and varied committees, he also found time to complete a Master of Librarianship on library management issues and has occupied senior library posts since 1988.

This year’s recipient is highly regarded for his professional vision and his capacity to sense, and act upon, emerging trends in the library profession. His long experience in lobbying governments, both state and federal, and the private sector, together with his success in forging working partnerships have led to his playing a central role in the development and use of new technology by libraries across Victoria. This is best demonstrated by his pivotal involvement with Australia’s most significant community networking enterprise and his efforts to achieve Internet access throughout the Victorian public library system, again underlining his commitment to equity and access.

Launched in 1995, VICNET has proved to be a unique achievement both within Australia and internationally. It is Australia’s largest and busiest community web site, playing host to over 200 virtual Web servers and nearly 2000 Websites for Victoria’s community groups, while attracting around 10 million hits per month. A commercial operation of the State Library of Victoria, VICNET generated a turnover of $1.7 million in 1998/99. It has also provided the foundation for innovative projects such as Skills.Net and Libraries Online. A $5 million program, Skills.Net is creating a network of more than 100 community-based centres throughout Victoria to provide free or affordable Internet access and training to those Victorians who would otherwise miss out. The result of a far-reaching policy document developed by the recipient, the Libraries Online program has helped to advance the goal of an integrated Victorian library system, increasing access to online communications, information resources and multimedia computers.

His collaborative approach also led to the formation of the Artsvicmm group, bringing together arts organisations to discuss the latest developments in digital technology and multimedia. Beginning with the State Library and the Museum of Victoria it now includes representatives from 8 organisations and 3 government agencies. In 1998 this group ran a major research project, ZAVIER, utilising the Z39.50 standard to allow cross searching of paticipating institutions catalogues. He was also instrumental in the digitisation of the State Library’s pictorial collection and subsequent participation in the Image Search project, allowing searches of distributed image collections from a single site.

In addition he has been a member of ABN Network Committee, the Information Society Committee, the Victorian Government IT and Telecommunications Policy Committee, convenor of the CAVAL Digitising Working Group, chair of the Digital Access and Preservation Task Force and a member of the ABA’s Task Force on Children and the Internet, and the board of Net Alert – the Commonwealth Government community advisory board on Internet content.

For his involvement over time with many aspects of library automation, his efforts in lobbying and promotion and his influence on the conception and development of several major automation projects, this year’s recipient of the R.D. Williamson Award is Derek Whitehead.