George Maltby

George Frederick Maltby BA

  • Redmond Barry Award 1992

George Maltby has made a valuable contribution to the Australian library and information industry, with over 40 years of active involvement in providing Australia with highly efficient external communications.

Mr Maltby had a distinguished career in the Overseas Telecommunications Commission, including filling successively the positions of Director of Foreign Relations in 1973-76, Assistant General Manager, Operations in 1976-81, Senior Assistant General Manager, Corporate Affairs in 1981-83 and Deputy General Manager in 1983-85. He was appointed Managing Director and a Member of the Board of the Overseas Telecommunications  Commission in 1985, retiring from that position in 1988.

While with the Commission he took a keen interest in communications issues affecting the Australian library and information industry. He recognised the critical  importance  of highly  efficient external communications in the industry's development, and that this was particularly vital in a country which, because of its geographic isolation relative to many of our trading and strategic partners, is heavily dependent on overseas information sources.

George Maltby was directly responsible for the first public online data connection in Australia to any overseas database, at the LASIE Kilgour Seminar in Sydney in 1973. Those attending the Seminar watched with great excitement as Fred Kilgour interrogated the OCLC database in real time. Mr Maltby perceived that telecommunications was rapidly changing from a scarce to an abundant resource and that new attitudes, policies and undertakings would be as important as new technologies in bringing to Australia the benefits to be derived from plentiful global communications. He also recognised that librarians and other information specialists would become significant users of improved data communication technologies, as they sought new ways of extending the availability of information. In subsequent years he negotiated agreements and developed policies resulting in the provision of effective telecommunication services to the Australian community, among the most important of which were those concerned with establishing international  data communication links.

Of central importance was his decision to select the information community as the initial market for a public packet-switched   network,   MIDAS   (Multimode   International   Data  Acquisition   Service),  subsequently called DIALCOM, which OTC introduced in 1979. This brought low-cost access to the Orbit and Dialog databases into Australia. MIDAS and its distance independent method of charging was to enable Australians to overcome the tyranny of distance and costs which until then had formed a barrier to the rapid supply of information from overseas sources. The transformation this decision wrought in Australia cannot be overstated, and online database access has subsequently been responsible for a revolution in information delivery in Australia.

George Maltby has also made a significant contribution to Australian librarianship in a wide range of other activities. Married to a distinguished school librarian, he actively involved himself in the successful Library Association of Australia campaign which achieved Federal assistance for school libraries in 1968, spreading the message in a wide range of formal and informal meetings. For many years he participated in the professional programmes of library schools in Sydney, especially those of the Kuring-gai College of Advanced Education. He made a significant contribution to Australian networking, serving as a Director on the Board of CLANN Ltd from its establishment in 1979 until 1988. His business acumen, vision and imagination encouraged the CLANN Board to adopt a courageous developmental path for the network, and many CLANN libraries were able to improve services to users dramatically through the introduction of automated library systems that they otherwise could not have afforded.

The breadth of George Maltby's enthusiasm and commitment to our profession is also demonstrated in his participation in major professional conferences and activities over the years. He has been a guest speaker at several conferences of the Association, and at the major Information Online Conferences established in Sydney in 1986. His major paper at that inaugural conference, on the subject of "Telecommunications Development" was a searching evaluation of the impending economic, technological and communication changes likely to affect the industry. He strongly supported the establishment and development of the communications section of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS), and was elected Chairman of the Australian chapter of the International Institute of Communications (IIC) in 1990.

The General Council may confer the Redmond Barry Award on any person who is not eligible to be a professional member of the Association and who is not employed in a library, but who has rendered outstanding service to the promotion, theory or practice of library and information science. George Maltby  has demonstrated an unwavering commitment throughout his professional  career to the value of information and to the improvement of information transfer in this country. The benefits  reaped  by Australian libraries and the profession  prove that George Maltby's contribution well merits the Australian Library and Information Association's Redmond  Barry Award.