Publication Details

This conference paper was originally published as McGregor, F, Inside, outside and upside down, International Business Excellence Summit 25-27 March 2001, Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, Darling Harbour.


It is said that Abdul Kassem Ismael, the scholarly Grand Vizier of Persia in the tenth century had a library of 117,000 volumes. He was an avid reader and a lover of books. On his many travels, he could not bear to part with this beloved books. Wherever he went they were carried about by 400 camels trained to walk in alphabetical order. His camel drivers thus became librarians who could put their hands instantly on any book for which their master asked. (Hawkins, Brian L and Battin, Patricia (2000) Camel Drivers and Gatecrashers, Educause Review May/June 2000 p50). How did the performance of this mobile library measure up? As there was only one key client and stakeholder, the Grand Vizier, matters were relatively simple and he, perhaps, thought in terms of the number of items in his collection, whether they were correctly arranged for immediate retrieval and whether his wealth was sufficient to acquire even more precious volumes. Such measures are still common today in libraries even though we can now transport our libraries – or at least make them accessible - to the far corners of the earth, not by camel but via electronic publishing and the internet.