Linda Groom, National CJK Project Manager, the National Library of Australia
Originally published in National Library of Australia News, 6 (7), April 1996, pp 9-12
The Internet has brought a new kind of teamwork to the National
Library. The members of a project team need no longer be on the
same floor, or in the same building, or even in the same country.
Using the electronic mail and file transfer facilities of the
Internet, a work team's 'office' can cross international boundaries.
One example of this way of working is the National CJK (Chinese Japanese
Korean) Project, a cooperative project which will establish a shared online catalogue of Chinese, Japanese and Korean material held in Australian and New Zealand libraries, with full support for input and display
of CJK characters. It is due to be implemented in seven Australian
universities and the National Library in the first half of 1996.
In managing the CJK Project, the National Library has brought
together software and people from many countries. Both the software
and the people communicate through the Internet.
Research associate Ho Yean Fee and software engineer Chong Chiah
Jen are at the Institute of Systems Science,
National University of Singapore. Their contribution to the CJK
Project has been the Multilingual Application Support Service
software which has been purchased by the libraries involved in
the project to allow input and display of CJK characters. Chiah
Jen has made many improvements to the software at the National
Library's request. The requests for changes, and the changed software,
have all been transmitted through the Internet.
Like most of the people involved in the CJK Project, Chiah Jen
has a multicultural background. Born in Malaysia, he speaks three
Chinese dialects-Hakka, Hokkien and Cantonese-as well as English
and Malay. His curriculum vitae is a sign of things to come. Almost
every line includes an Internet address at which more information
can be found-for instance, his birthplace of Muar in Johor
the high school he attended (http://sushi.iss.nus.sg:8000/chunghwa);
and the university where he attained his degree (http://www.nus.sg).
Chiah Jen describes himself as an Internet 'geek', which he defines
as someone who, when applying for a driver's licence, gives their
Internet address, or someone who describes their children as 'client
When Chiah Jen delivered the MASS software through the Internet
to the National Library, the person at the receiving end was Murthy
Manchella. Murthy has been the CJK Project Systems Officer since
late 1994. He was born in Ongole, India, and received a Master
of Science degree from Andrha University. As well as speaking
English, he is fluent in Hindi and Telagu and so is familiar with
the frustration many people feel when they deal with systems that
support only roman script. When Murthy recently took three months'
long service leave to visit his family in India, his place on
the CJK Project was temporarily filled by another Asian-born Australian,
Tien Dao. Tien is a systems officer at the National Library. He
came to Australia from Vietnam in 1979 and speaks English, French
Two other staff working on the CJK Project at the National Library
also have rich cultural backgrounds. Yumiko Tsuji joined the project
team in June 1995, bringing with her a unique combination of librarianship,
programming and Japanese language skills. Born in Kagoshima, Japan,
Yumiko completed three years of tertiary education at Tsuda College
and was on the path to becoming a traditional Japanese wife when
she decided she wanted a different kind of life. She came to Australia
as a student in 1973. She is now married to an Australian of German
descent and, to top off this rich cultural mix, is taking classes
in Malaysian cooking.
Yumiko shares the work of software testing, data loading and user
liaison with Ching-Ping Tang. Ching-Ping, known to his colleagues
as CP, joined the project in November 1994. CP spent most of his
childhood days planting rice and raising pigs and ducks on his
parents' farm in Hong Kong. Books and study were a privilege to
be squeezed in at night. CP persisted with the books and study
however, and was awarded a Bachelor's degree from the Chinese
University of Hong Kong and, after emigrating, a Master's degree
from the Australian National University and a Diploma of Librarianship
from the University of Canberra.
Another important contributor to the CJK Project lives in San
Diego, California. Karl Lo, who heads the International Relations
and Pacific Studies Library at University of California San Diego,
is also a consultant to the CJK Project. Karl was born in Zhongshan
in southern China and educated in Hong Kong and the United States.
An expert in the representation of the Chinese language on computers,
he has been advising CP Tang and Murthy Manchella while they have
developed a computer program that converts library data using
the 'Wade-Giles' standard for Chinese to 'Pinyin', which is the standard
used in China. The program will be used in building the National CJK Database,
and has attracted international attention. During an intensive
two months of program development in mid-1995, Karl sent CP at
least 12 versions of software he had written, using the Internet's
file transfer facility. If these 12 versions had been airmailed
instead of sent through the Internet, the process would have taken
Karl has never met fellow Californian Lydia Motyka, who has also
played a crucial role in the CJK Project. Lydia lives in San Francisco,
and works for Innovative Interfaces, the Californian company which
won the tender to supply the library software for the CJK System.
Lydia's electronic correspondence with the CJK Project staff at
the National Library has sometimes included several messages in
a single day as she has guided them through the process of choosing
software options and testing data loads. Lydia adds yet another
cultural dimension to the CJK Project. Born in Rochester, New
York, to Lithuanian immigrants, she spoke Lithuanian as her first
language. Lydia learned English at primary school, while continuing
to absorb Lithuanian language and culture through activities in
the Lithuanian community and at Saturday school. Lydia also speaks
German, having spent a year as an exchange student at the Mozart
Gymnasium in Wurzburg, Germany.
Does communication breakdown ever occur, with people from such
different backgrounds communicating by electronic mail, in English?
The only case of genuine misunderstanding occurred in late 1995,
when the CJK Project team at the National Library received a surprising
message from Chong Chiah Jen in Singapore. The message, as we
read it at our end, said that Chiah Jen would deliver a particular
enhancement which we had requested in 2096. In 2096? We were puzzled-was
this a polite Singaporean way of telling us that what we had requested
was impossible? Or a sarcastic put-down? Or did the Institute
of Systems Science engage in long-term planning beyond the imagination
of Australian planners? Politely, we sent a return email message
querying the date. Chiah Jen's reply asked us to look more closely
at the original message. He had in fact typed 2Q96, meaning a
delivery date in the second quarter of 1996, which on our email
display looked very like 2096. Chiah Jen was not at all offended
by the misunderstanding; in fact he speculated cheerfully on how
old he would be in 2096. In terms of job security, it would have
been a record.
As manager of the CJK Project, I can lay claim only to a very
ordinary Brisbane background, and no language skills apart from
English and some French. It has been a wonderful experience working
with people from all over the world with such rich cultural backgrounds,
and I am very grateful to the Australian immigration policy which
welcomed Yumiko, CP, Murthy and Tien to Australia-without them,
there would have been no CJK Project. I am also grateful for the
existence of the Internet, which has allowed this international
team to work so efficiently to implement a project of international
Linda Groom has been the Project Manager of the CJK Project at
the National Library since 1993.
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Last update July, 3, 1996