ALIA Blog Article

ALIA Blog: cross-sectional support for ABC's librarians and archivists

Canberra, 22 June 2022: Momentum continues to build through cross-sectional support for the ABC’s librarians and archivists following the news that 58 specialist librarian and archivist positions were at risk.

ALIA CEO Cathie Warburton and Director of Policy and Education Trish Hepworth met with ABC Managing Director David Anderson and Director of News, Analysis & Investigations Justin Stevens on Friday 10 June to discuss concerns and are continuing discussions with key stakeholders.

The following articles and news items give a thorough overview of all the issues and the organisations that are voicing their support.

The ABC's plan to axe its librarians will damage its journalism. Here's why, The Conversation, 9 June 2022

 When the war broke out in the Ukraine early this year, journalists scrambled to gather stories and images from the archives to supplement information and images gathered on the ground. A similar scramble occurred when floods struck Queensland, as it often does when big stories break.

We saw the results on our screens, but what we didn’t see was the invisible yet critical work of librarians and archivists – the people who design, manage and facilitate access to the archival systems that house vital news resources.

This makes all the more surprising the news that the ABC plans to eliminate librarian and archivist positions and require its journalists to fill the gap. Journalists are expert investigators and storytellers, but their success in reporting stories rests on their ability to find source material quickly and effortlessly – a process in which librarians and archivists play a key role.

Timely access to source material is critical. Extra time spent looking for resources – not to mention uploading and describing new material – is time taken away from journalists’ other work.

Read the full article from Lisa M. Given.

ABC archive and library cuts alarm Charles Sturt experts, 20 June 

Charles Sturt University library and media academics are concerned that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) plan to cut archivist and librarian positions will damage Australia’s cultural heritage.

  • Charles Sturt University academics caution that Australian media, and the ABC in particular, will be vastly diminished as a result of proposed ABC archive and library staff cuts
  • The experts warn Australian stories cannot be properly told, nor the ABC’s resources properly utilised, without these staff
  • They argue the ABC is the public broadcaster, its resources belong to all Australians, and they need to be cared for to meet the ABC’s immediate and future business needs

Read the full news item.

Statement from the Heritage Collections Advisory Group on staffing cuts proposed by Australian Broadcaster ABC, 24 June

We are deeply concerned at the news of the proposal by the Australian Broadcaster ABC to cut 58 librarian and archivist roles and a further 17 contract staff from their professional workforce.

We endorse the views set out in the Joint Statement of the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and the Australian Society of Archivists (ASA)... Read the full statement.

Heritage Collections Advisory Group is an industry-led advocacy group working to promote the value of specialist knowledge, collections and expertise in libraries, archives, museums and other memory institutions. We believe both that quality services depend on promoting specialist expertise and that the collections of these institutions should be seen, not in isolation, but as part of a ‘tapestry of knowledge’ spread out across our sector for the purposes of learning, research and discovery.


Australian Historical Association Statement on the ABC Archives Proposal, 16 June

The Australian Historical Association (AHA) is deeply concerned by the proposal to abolish 58 positions of ABC librarians and archivists, with additional contract positions also to be ended. It is also reported that journalists will take responsibility for performing work previously undertaken by archivists and librarians, including the search for items and, most worryingly, tagging of items for the purposes of future findability. The ostensible justification for this change, we understand, is the recent digitisation of a substantial part of the ABC archives.

Read the full statement.

Professional Historians Australia's submission on ABC funding cuts, 17 June

The Professional Historians Australia strongly objects to the proposed job cuts affecting specialist content management staff at the ABC.

Professional Historians Australia represents over 450 professional historians working in the GLAMR (galleries, libraries, archives, museums and repositories) industry across the whole of Australia. We are the peak body for professional historians in Australia, supported by state and territory associations. Our members work across the media, university, heritage, museums and cultural institution sectors. Many of us are clients of the ABC Archives.

Our members professionally benefit from the considerable expertise and institutional knowledge of the ABC’s archivists, librarians and researchers, and the extraordinary historical materials that they care for.

Our members, along with the ABC’s archivists, librarians and researchers, have developed their expertise through tertiary qualifications and years of professional experience.

We are concerned at the suggestion that journalists will have the time and the skills required to do the highly specialised work currently undertaken by cataloguers and researchers, such as entering metadata and navigating copyright restrictions. Effective cataloguing requires expertise, institutional knowledge, and an understanding of cataloguing principles, such as the need for consistent and accurate keywords. Archivists systematically assess and save today’s content in anticipation of future research needs.

Read the full submission.