Williamson Award 2004


The 2004 Robert D. Williamson Award went to Gary Hardy and Stewart Hall from VICNET at the State Library of Victoria.

The 2004 Robert D. Williamson Award Citation for Gary Hardy and Stewart Hall 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.

We’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge that 2004 is the tenth anniversary of VICNET.

The State Library of Victoria was the first free public library in Australia when it was established in 1854 and has a proud tradition of initiatives to develop Victoria’s cultural infrastructure.. Its early commitment to the collection and display of art and artefacts led to the development of the National Gallery of Victoria and Museum Victoria. In 1993, knowing that the newly elected state government was encouraging, and funding, Information Techology innovation, Helen Tait – then State Librarian – and Don Schauder – then University Librarian at RMIT, agreed to develop a proposal to take advantage of this.

It was at this stage that Don approached Gary Hardy, then working at RMIT, for input and ideas about what might be done. Gary seemed an appropriate choice as he had early on recognised that playing with the Internet could be a lot of fun. He was also running one of the earliest Australian gopher services, and was positively evangelical about the possibilities.

Gary’s proposal was to develop a World Wide Web based publishing service for community organisations, and after some discussion a proposal was put forward, resulting in a $360,000 grant from the state’s Community Service Fund.

Within the State Library, Derek Whitehead was delegated the task of establishing the project with Don. Their first moves were to appoint Gary as VICNET Editor and Stuart Hall as Technical Manager.

Amongst other things, Stuart had a long history of involvement in automation in the State Library, undertaking such important tasks as rescuing staff members who had cleared their PCs by entering “del *.*” (including for a current VALA Programme Committee member).

VICNET was born.

From a humble start running on Garys’ Mac, VICNET now runs three independent businesses. The main VICNET website was its first major achievement. Acting as both a Victorian community portal and a community publishing site, it attracted twenty million sessions in 2002/2003. It acts as an ISP, primarily serving the library and information community, and provides free training in the use of the Internet and HTML. Its Skills.net programme alone has trained over 100,000 people.

VICNET has been instrumental in expanding the horizons of library services in Victoria – and in raising the expectations of users in those services. That would not have been possible without the pioneering work and perserverance of its two operational managers. It is in recognition of this achievement that, on VICNET’s tenth anniversary, this year’s Robert D. Williamson Award goes jointly to Gary Hardy and Stuart Hall.