National Library hits Y2K snag as NDIS saga ends

With the death of the NDIS (national document and information service) project, the National Library is scrambling to find a replacement for its non-Y2K-compliant New Zealand Bibliographic Network. To make matters worse, one consultant, who worked on both the NZBN and NDIS projects, believes the new systems project is being driven solely by the need for Y2K compliance and will not even have the functionality of the aging NZBN.

With the death of the NDIS (national document and information service) project, the National Library is scrambling to find a replacement for its non-Y2K-compliant New Zealand Bibliographic Network.

To make matters worse, one consultant, who worked on both the NZBN and NDIS projects, believes the new systems project is being driven solely by the need for Y2K compliance and will not even have the functionality of the aging NZBN.

"Any package they buy won’t be tailor-made for a national library. They are taking steps backward just to get beyond the year 2000,” says the consultant, who does not wish to be named.

He believes that whatever system the library finally purchases will need to be up and running by mid-1999 to be able to handle its subscription issues. Add to that a testing regime to ensure the system works properly and he believes the library has run out of time. “They don’t have a full year to test whatever system they buy.”

NDIS, initiated in 1995, was intended as a replacement for the NZBN system. The project was a joint venture between the National Library, its Australian counterpart and Computer Sciences Corporation but ran into functionality problems and cost overruns. The National Library wrote off costs of $8.5 million in the 1996-97 financial year, but the consultant says that figure is inaccurate.

“They spent over $20 million. They said the project had started only after it had been going for three years.” This week the National Library has received a payout of around $5 million from CSC over the collapse of the NDIS project’s.

The original NDIS budget was set at $6.9 million, but didn’t include such fundamental items as data migration, security and disaster recovery. Other problems arose with Oracle’s Tech Server search engine and when it was replaced it was discovered the new search engine was incompatible with NDIS’s hardware.

“Their current system is desperately out of date but any replacement will not do all the things NZBN does,” says the -consultant.

The NSP is intended to replace existing systems, including NZBN, inter-loan systems and national online publications service Kiwinet, but should also improve services currently offered, according to chief executive Chris Blake in an open letter on the project. The ability to access other databases is of key importance, as is the ability to interface with other library systems.

Concerns were raised by the New Zealand Library and Information Association over NDIS’s ability to take advantage of such developments as the Web. The current president of the association, Sue Cooper, expressed her faith in the NSP and is “confident they will have the system running by the year 2000”.

Neither Blake nor the minister in charge of the National Library, Wyatt Creech, could be reached for comment.

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