ROBERT D. WILLIAMSON AWARD: 2016 - Enid Williamson Reflections

The Award recognises the pioneering work that Bob did in the computerisation of information systems and nurturing the growth of Information Science Section within the Library Association of Australia. He was the driving force behind the creation of the Victorian Group and called the inaugural meeting of the first working group in September 1976 which led in turn, to the formal creation of the Group at which he was elected foundation President unopposed. And so in 1978 VALA was born.

Jim Gilmore was founding chairman of VALA and was the first recipient of the Robert D Williamson Award. He led a team of 12 at CSIRO responsible for systems development in three main CSIRO activities, library, editorial and publishing.

Jim wrote “ to do good research , you need good information … and the only product of research IS information”. He had been working in this field since 1969 when the CSIRO moved into a computer-based library system. He quoted an early experience when he mentioned that he had sat at a terminal and using Lockheed’s Dialog information retrieval service in Palo Alto , California, he got an index of 20 references on a subject. The search was quick, cost $10, and would have been impossible to do using conventional methods.

The first VALA conference was in 1981. It is perhaps worth reflecting that 100 attendees were expected at the first VALA conference but over 300 attended. And the comment made by Jim Gilmore of CSIRO, that the three data base networks, Medline, Ausinet and Midas were handling about 160,000 searches a year, more than the total for the UK.

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