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Abstract -- Empowering Information Professionals and End Users with New Cultural Values Regional Track
R7: Americas

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Empowering Information Professionals and End Users with New Cultural Values

Ferreiro, Soledad ( sferreir@abello.seci.uchile.cl)


A starting point for Latin America.

The telecommunications privatization, telephone companies' deregulation as well as universities' technological leadership are a powerful opportunity for emerging countries to leapfrog into the information and knowledge society in spite of many other deficiencies.

A profile of the University.

The University of Chile, 152 years old, is the oldest state university and the first in Chile and Latin America to have an ATM network that connects its 8 campuses. The University uses 30% of the total traffic of the 19 universities national consortium REUNA, a data transmission network providing connectivity to INTERNET.

In 1990, after 20 years of military intervention, a civilian Rector is elected and confronted with a prevailing university culture characterized by a great autonomy among Faculties, a mistrust towards the central administration and a very weak university wide information infrastructure, among others.

To overcome some of thess weaknesses, the University created a new institutional structure with seed money from an external grant.

Towards a new information culture: the creation of SISIB, Information Services and Library System.

This unit depending from the Pro-Rector hired its Director, a librarian, in January 1994, who formed the new work team. Brainstorming sessions and informal SWOT analysis led to the conviction that the only possibility to cope with the libraries' historical deficiencies was to take advantage of the opportunities derived from the technological changes, such as the ATM network installed in all of the university's 8 campuses.

The mission of this strategic unit being to provide new information and library services both for the university as well as for the outward community, a permanent external monitoring is being done to scrutinize the changing environment. This strategy required a very loose organizational structure with the flexibility to adapt to emerging opportunities.

Six multidisciplinary Task Forces with university and externally-hired personnel cover the following issues:

Acquisition of a know-how in the full use of INTERNET
Creation of an institutional WWW and library OPAC;
Library automation;
Conversion of information professionals and end users;
Creation of a Strategic Information Center for Agribusiness, this last a requirement of the external funding agency.
The combination of two different visions has progressively been changed by three factors: leadership and a new type of administration exercised by the Director, empowerment and training, and positive short-term results.

New type of wired administration.

Every staff member was connected to an internal network, to the inter campus wide ATM network and to INTERNET. New management resulted as goal geared staff got immediately immersed in the basics of the project, as information flowed from List Serves, from professionals, and any other reliable source and not exclusively from the heads of the Task Forces or from the director of the unit. The group is characterized by a strong synergy and a common vision. After three months of intensive work, each group had a plan of action which has in the period of 8 months, resulted in the following achievements:

Overall results in an 11-month-period: