Thomas Cochrane

Thomas Cochrane BA, MPhil, FALIA, AM

  • Fellowship conferred 2006
  • Order of Australia conferred 2015

Tom Cochrane joined the library world in 1971 as a general library Assistant at the University of Sydney Library, and sat for the first of his registration exams two years later. A series of increasingly senior appointments followed his move to Queensland in the mid-1970s. Tom's career is a testament to his intellectual capacity, drive, strong engagement with and interest in library and information services, and most importantly, his ability to translate strategic thinking into practical outcomes that are of benefit to the whole industry. His contribution to the Australian information community has been most notable in two areas: copyright and intellectual property, and the application of ICT to the dissemination of information. He early recognised the importance of copyright law reform to libraries and higher education institutions; he worked tirelessly to prepare the library and information community for change and to direct that change.

In the fast-changing field of copyright law in Australia he has promoted the interests of our industry on major policy and advisory bodies, including the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Standing Committee on Copyright and Information Policy, the Australian Libraries Copyright Committee, the Attorney-General's Copyright Law Review Committee and as an Australian representative at the Zwolle Copyright meetings in the Netherlands. All Australian librarians have been the beneficiaries of the revisions of copyright law that Tom played a large part in securing, particularly the benefits of fair dealing in the digital area through the workable and pragmatic amendments to the Copyright Act of the Copyright Amendment (Digital Agenda) Act 2000. The Creative Commons and Open Access to Knowledge projects in Australia, in which he has leadership roles, aim to provide the capacity to improve access to knowledge through flexible copyright protection for authors and users that is integrated with Australian domestic law. Tom's work has helped reduce barriers to research, enabling international collaboration.

While copyright is the area where Tom's leadership and impact are perhaps most obvious, he has also contributed to the field of library and information science in many other areas; he has had a significant role in the higher education sector, bringing a wider library and information perspective to the higher levels of the sector. The list of committees, reviews and working groups of which he has been a member - often the chair - over the past three decades is extensive. His wide-ranging work for professional associations, state and federal government bodies, and tertiary institutions shows both the respect in which he is held and his generosity with his time and effort. Collaboration between Australian libraries has been advanced by his work with the Australian Council of Libraries and Information Services (ACLIS) and the Australian Bibliographic Network (ABN). He played a significant part in the development of ABN in the period from the mid-80s to the mid-90s. Through a variety of roles including chair of the ABN Network Committee and of the Annual Users Meeting, Tom contributed to the evolution of a national service that has been the envy of colleagues from other countries. While many people have contributed to the success of the service that has made Libraries Australia possible, Tom's input over a decade of hard work is noteworthy.

In his professional life, one of his major achievements is combining library, IT and learning support services at QUT to create the Technology, Information and Learning Support Division. It is not an easy task to manage a converged service, but Tom appreciated the benefits to customers that could be gained from a true partnership between these three areas. He pioneered new ways of working, including job rotations of senior positions so that staff could benefit from the experience of managing different areas. His strategic interest in IT services led to involvement in the Queensland Parallel Supercomputing Foundation, the Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing and the creation of QUT's e-Print repository. His published contribution to the literature of the library and information sector covers several pages, principally in his areas of expertise: copyright, electronic delivery of services and the higher education sector.

In the Library Association of Australia, ACLIS and ALIA, he served more than capably in many capacities in an almost unbroken stream from 1987 to 1994. During the period when the library industry had both a professional association and an industry association, maintaining good relationships between the two was particularly important. Tom was national president of ACLIS from 1992 to 1994, and his low-key, inclusive approach was a factor in smooth working relationships. With the closure of ACLIS at the end of 1999, Tom was prominent among the negotiators of ongoing arrangements for copyright management involving ALIA, the Australian Digital Alliance and other players, and these have proved durable and effective.

In his career, Tom has made a distinguished contribution to the library and information profession. He has demonstrated his commitment by working successfully in its interests at professional, national and international levels. Tom Cochrane is a worthy recipient of the distinction of Fellow of the Australian Library and Information Association.

In 2015 he was awarded an Order of Australia for significant service to library and information management particularly to copyright law and to education through electronic learning initiatives.