Alex Byrne

Dr John Alexander (Alex) Byrne BE(Elec) GDip Lib GDipAdvLib MA PhD, FALIA

 

Nomination for HCL Anderson Award 2015

Dr Alex Byrne has made a lifetime’s commitment to the library and information profession. This is clearly demonstrated through an outstanding career, reaching the pinnacle as University Librarian at both the Northern Territory University, Darwin, and the University of Technology, Sydney, and as State Librarian and Chief Executive of the State Library of New South Wales.

He has also shown outstanding leadership and dedication as a scholar, as an advocate, and as a strong supporter of Australian library associations through his role as Chair of National and State Libraries Australasia, President of the Council of Australian University Librarians and his appointments by the General Council of the Australian Library and Information Association. In addition, he has made an exemplary contribution to the peak international organisation, IFLA.

He has published extensively on information management, community empowerment and human rights, with particular regard to freedom of expression and access to information. 

In 2009, Alex was a Visiting Professor at École nationale supérieure des sciences de l’information et des bibliothèques (enssib), Lyon, France, demonstrating his willingness to share the considerable expertise and knowledge that he has developed through his years as a leader in the profession.

International Federation of Library Associations

Through his work at the international level, Alex has enhanced Australia’s reputation to contribute to the practice of library and information services.  Alex’s involvement with IFLA, the peak global body for libraries and information services, began in 1993 with his membership of the University and General Research Libraries Standing Committee.  It gained momentum, however, when he was invited by the Governing Board to start a new program for IFLA in 1997: a new strategy to promote freedom of access to information and to fight censorship. He led that initiative for six years, transforming it from project to program: formulating strategic goals, establishing an office in Copenhagen and building a network of volunteers around the world, developing policy including manifestos and statements, and seeking to influence governments.

He was elected and served as Vice President / President-elect 2003-2005 and then President 2005-2007. His presidential theme was ‘partnership’ as he sought to strengthen IFLA through building strong – or stronger – relationships with other peak bodies, governmental agencies and businesses.

Partnership is thus a key enabler for our work. We must work in partnership within our field, with those in cognate professions, with those with shared interests and with those who are influential. Thus, my presidential theme is partnership because we must work to develop even stronger collaboration across the IFLA Sections, with our members and especially the library associations, with other sections of the library and information service community across the world and with our colleagues in archives, museums, publishing, information technology and civil society. By working together we will do great things to assist the global network of library and information services to provide unrestricted access to information and thereby to respond to the needs of humanity including the strongly felt concerns of all peoples for freedom, security and development.

Alex Byrne, Presidential address, Oslo, 2005

During his leadership period, he led the development of a number of IFLA statements and declarations, including the IFLA Internet Manifesto, the Glasgow Declaration on Libraries, Information Services and Intellectual Freedom and the IFLA Statement on Open Access to Scholarly Literature and Research Documentation.  These documents have directly influenced policy development within ALIA and practice within Australia.

Indigenous peoples, Indigenous knowledge

Alex has a deep interest in the roles of memory institutions, and specifically the complexity of issues relating to Indigenous peoples and transmission of knowledge.  One of his significant achievements has been in focusing attention and leading discussion and action on Indigenous matters within Australia and at the highest levels of IFLA. 

In the Australian context, Alex led the development of the ground-breaking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Library and Information Resources Network (ATSILIRN) Protocols (1995) and participated in their renewal (2005).  The Protocols have had a significant influence on the information sector nationally and internationally, raising awareness and establishing a foundation for continued dialogue to take place around the management of Indigenous cultural collections.  The Protocols for Native American Archival Materials, for example, acknowledge the influence and importance of the ATSILIRN protocols. 

The Protocols build upon numerous professional ethical codes (Society of American Archivists, American Association for State and Local History, American Anthropological Association, and the Oral History Association); a number of significant international declarations recognizing Indigenous rights, including several now issued by the United Nations; and the ground-breaking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Protocols for Libraries, Archives, and Information Services.

Protocols for Native American Archival Materials.  2007

Alex has actively encouraged robust discussion to take place within the profession around complex issues whilst creating a space for respectful discussion and conversation.  In addition to this, he has actively encouraged Indigenous leadership and participation in the information sector, building true partnerships and relationships, so that Indigenous voices could be heard.  In all his interactions, he has demonstrated genuine respect for Indigenous peoples and their culture, and has consequently been an outstanding leader for the profession.  

Conclusion

Throughout his career, Alex has made a significant contribution to the library and information profession. He has demonstrated his commitment to the profession by his willingness to work at the national and international level.   He is also very generous in sharing his knowledge and expertise – to enable individuals, libraries and the sector to be enriched.

Alex Byrne is a worthy recipient of the distinction of the HCL Anderson Award.

Career overview

2011 -  State Librarian and Chief Executive, State Library of New South Wales
2000 - 2011  University Librarian, University of Technology Sydney (UTS) – Sydney, New South Wales
2004 - 2006  Vice-President (Alumni and Development), University of Technology Sydney (UTS) – Sydney, New South Wales
2005 - 2006 Pro Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Technology and Learning) University of Technology Sydney (UTS) – Sydney, New South Wales
1997 - 2000  Vice President and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Information Resources), Northern Territory University – Darwin, Northern Territory
1996 - 1997 Director of Information Services, Northern Territory University – Darwin, Northern Territory
1989 - 1996 Chief Librarian, Northern Territory University – Darwin, Northern Territory
1984 - 1989 Deputy Librarian, University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy - Canberra

 

Academic awards

2014                      Fellow of the University of Technology Sydney

2000                      Awarded Inaugural University of Canberra Distinguished Alumni Award

Professional awards

2014                       IFLA Honorary Fellow

2003                       Awarded ALIA Silver Pin for contribution to the library and information profession

1999                       Elected Fellow of the Australian Library and Information Association

1996                       Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Protocols for libraries, archives and information services

                               nominated by the Australian Government for the UNESCO Prize for Human Rights Education

Other distinctions

2006                       Member of the Honorary Committee for the 175th Anniversary Celebration of the Law Library of Congress,

                               Washington DC, USA

1999                       Elected Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management

 

Overview of professional participation and practice

Australian Library and Information Association

2001-2005              Online Content and Regulation Reference Group

1999                        Fellow of the Australian Library and Information Association

1996-2001               International Relations Working Group

1996-1997               Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy Steering Committee

1989-1996               ALIA Press Board

1987-1989               Information for the Nation National Committee

National and State Libraries Australasia

2015-16                   Chair

2013-14                   Deputy Chair

International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions

2005-2007               President

2003-2005               Vice-President

2001-2007               Member of the Governing Board

1997-2003               Foundation Chair of the Committee on Freedom of Access to Information and

                                 Freedom of Expression (FAIFE)

1997-1999               Chair of the Section for University and General Research Libraries

1993-2001               Member of the University and General Research Libraries Standing Committee

Council of Australian University Librarians

2002-2005                Chair, Australian Digital Theses Program

1996-1998                President

1993                         Deputy President

1990-1993                Member of the Executive

 

Citation for Fellowship conferred 1999

Alex Byrne's career in the library and information profession began in 1979 when he took up a position in the library at James Cook University of North Queensland. In 1984 he was appointed deputy librarian at the Australian Defence Force Academy, a college of the University of New South Wales, in Canberra. Alex moved to the Northern Territory University in 1989 where he held the position of chief librarian until 1996. In 1996 he became director of information services and is now pro-vice chancellor (information services) within the University.

During his career Alex Byrne has made a distinguished contribution to the library and information profession. A champion of the information needs of indigenous people, he served on the Association's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy Steering Committee in 1996 and 1997 and was instrumental in drafting the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander protocols for libraries, archives and information services. The protocols are recognised as a model for the statement of guidelines for services to indigenous people.

His interest in developing Indonesian collections and relations with Indonesian libraries, especially in the eastern regions of Indonesia, has been important. Alex was a foundation member of the Northern Territory University's Board of Management of the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies from 1990 to 1997. It was through his initiative that the Intan Mas database which indexes material relating to the region and is available to researchers world-wide was established. Alex's participation in consultancies, including advice on library service to partners in the Northern Territory University's Memorandum of Co-operation and the Academy of Nursing, Kupang, Indonesia has also assisted the development of library services in the region.

As pro vice-chancellor (information services) Alex plays a major role in the wider affairs of the Northern Territory University. He is a member of the Vice-Chancellor's Management Group, the Planning Board, the Academic Board as well as working parties and university internal committees.

He has also made a substantial contribution to other national professional activities including the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee AARNet Board of Management of which he was a member from 1992 to 1995, and the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee on Information Resources. He is originator of and leads the steering committee for the JANUS project which in December 1998 received Commonwealth funding to develop a business model for a collaborative approach to research collections and information and to test a pilot phase of the project.

From 1995 to 1997 Alex served as a member of the Commonwealth Public Lending Right Committee. He was appointed by the then Minister for Communication and the Arts who recognised the need to have a committee member with an education library background. At that time active consideration was being given to introduction of a possible Education Lending Right and Alex provided valuable input to the development of the principles for such a scheme which is as yet to be implemented by government.

An active member of the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) since 1989, Alex held a position on the CAUL executive from 1990 to 1993, served as deputy president in 1993 and president from 1996 to 1998. Since 1993 he has been co-ordinator of the CAUL Key Performance Indicators Project and from 1994 has been the CAUL nominee to the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee Improved Information Infrastructure Program.

At a personal level and as a representative of the Northern Territory University, Alex has been active in a range of Northern Territory cultural, government and public activities which have benefited the library and information profession. He was appointed by the Northern Territory Cabinet to the Steering Committee to oversee the project to replace the Northern Territory Library's computer system in 1996 and as a member of the Northern Territory Review Panel for Networking the Nation. As associate editor [1992-1997], and previously as a member of the editorial board [1991-1992], Alex was actively involved in the Northern Territory liberal arts journal, Northern Perspective.

At the international level, Alex has also made an outstanding contribution to the work of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). In 1993 he was elected as a member of the Standing Committee on University and General Research Libraries and its chair for the period 1997-1999. However his most important role has been in the complex and sensitive negotiations leading to the establishment of the committee on Free Access to Information and Freedom of Expression (FAIFE) at the 1997 IFLA conference. His subsequent appointment to chair of this committee recognises his international reputation.

As a library and information professional, Alex has been active in the Australian Library and Information Association. While at James Cook University Library he was involved in the North Queensland Regional Group of the then Library Association of Australia serving as secretary [1980], president [1981] and newsletter editor [1983-1984]. Later, in Canberra he was a member of ACT Branch Council and was elected to serve as branch president in 1989. Between 1986 and 1990 he served on the Reference and Information Services Section (formerly Reference Librarians Group) Committee and was involved in organising the 1987 and 1989 conferences. Following his move to Darwin he served the Northern Territory Branch as treasurer and vice-president before becoming branch president in 1991. He was also a member of the Branch Committee on Library Training in the Northern Territory during 1991 and 1992. Alex has further demonstrated his commitment to the Association by accepting General Council appointments to various national committees including the International Relations Committee on which he is currently serving.

Throughout his career, Alex has made a significant contribution to the library and information profession. He has demonstrated his commitment to the profession by his willingness to work at the national and international level and this, in turn, has enhanced the reputation of the profession. Alex Byrne is a worthy recipient of the distinction of Fellow of the Australian Library and Information Association.