Update on cuts to librarian and archivist roles at the ABC 

Canberra, 15 June 2022: Support continues to flow for the ABC’s librarians and archivists following the news last week that 58 specialist librarian and archivist positions were at risk, in a move ALIA has described as a “short-term budget saving that risks an irreplaceable loss to Australia’s history and culture.” 

We were grateful to receive widespread cross-sectoral support, particularly on social media, and to see a number of high-profile figures from across the media, political and LIS sectors making their voices heard on the issue. 

The Weekly, Tomorrow Tonight and Hard Quiz all work very closely with ABC librarians and archivists and we would often be lost without them” tweeted Charlie Pickering. “The ABC archives are such a significant resource and record of Australian culture and the work these folks do is vitally important.” 

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was similarly quick to condemn the ABC’s decision, writing that “this is appalling and must be reversed. The ABC is fundamental to our national historical memory.” 

Support also came from writer and columnist Anne Summers who noted that “libraries and archives are where our history resides. Different skills are required to store and access these materials” and reporter and author Louise Milligan who tweeted “speaking personally, ABC archives and the specialist knowledge our archivists have of them are precious historical resources, enriching our stories endlessly. I value these professionals and their work.”

We also received international support from our colleagues, with Nicholas Poole, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), tweeting that “the loss of 58 specialist library and archival posts at the ABC is a short-term decision that will echo through generations.” 

What became abundantly clear from the response is that these professional, specialised roles are recognised and valued far beyond the LIS sector.  Our concerns expressed on behalf of library and information specialists were echoed by politicians, journalists, media specialists, educators, authors, researchers, the public and private sectors and many more for whom the skilled management of archival material is essential for maintaining the integrity of journalistic practices. 

In continuing action, ALIA joined with the Australian Society of Archivists to release a joint statement. Contrary to remarks made by ABC Chair Ita Buttrose on ABC Breakfast that advances in technology and digitisation will “streamline things and allow us to collect and use and manage our archival material far more efficiently” our joint statement dispels the idea that the increasing digitisation of collections means a decreased demand for the skills and knowledge of the ABC’s librarians and archivists. 

ALIA CEO Cathie Warburton and Director of Policy and Education Trish Hepworth were pleased to be able to meet with ABC Managing Director David Anderson and Director of News, Analysis & Investigations Justin Stevens last Friday 10 June to discuss our concerns.    

We are continuing discussions with key stakeholders, and will update you as the situation evolves.  We thank all our Members and followers for their ongoing support for the profession.