Australian Government Web Archive

After a bit of a wait the National Library has gone live with its Australian Government Web Archive.

The service allows users to access the archived websites in the Australian Commonwealth government domain. Currently accessible are harvests from  June 2011, March 2012, March 2013 and April 2013.

For content older and, in some cases, more recent than that available here, users should still access PANDORA.

It is to be hoped in the long run that content from the previous Australian Whole of Domain Harvests from c2004 will also be available here and that there will be an integrated TROVE, PANDORA, AGWA search.

But even as it is, the Digital Archiving Section of the NLA should be congratulated on producing this very useful service.

The Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced With Adversity


It is of the opinion of Lemony Snicket, author, reader, and alleged malcontent, that librarians
have suffered enough. Therefore he is establishing an annual prize honoring a librarian who
has faced adversity with integrity and dignity intact. The prize will be a generous amount of
cash from Mr. Snicket’s disreputable gains, along with an odd, symbolic object from his
private stash, and a certificate, which may or may not be suitable for framing. It is Mr.
Snicket’s hope, and the ALA’s, that the Snicket Prize will remind readers everywhere of the
joyous importance of librarians and the trouble that is all too frequently unleashed upon

Read more

Historic ALA posters

ALA poster

This 1921 poster from the ALA is very nice.

On one hand it very much fits into the US self improvement  through independent study ethos, as popularised by Andrew Carnegie and to some extent by Ayn Rand – though of course Randians these days don’t like any public services. The worker here is supposedly improving his chances at getting better employment by reading.

It could of course also be seen as an example of Communist/Anarchist art within the noble worker paradigm. The worker studying revolutionary literature to improve everybody’s chances at getting better employment.

Either way, I like the use of the term power within the poster. Whether it is a person’s individual potential or the power of the working class as a whole, it works.

This was brought to my attention by this article which also links to the originals.

For an interesting comparison here is a soviet poster from 1920, which says ‘Knowledge breaks the chains of slavery’

soviet poster


Last week, Minister Fiona Nash, the Commonwealth Government’s Assistant Minister for Health made the decision not to continue funding the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA). The Federal Government had made a commitment in April 2013 to provide funding for ADCA to 2015.

ADCA has a library and information service called the National Drugs Sector Information Service which is used by hundreds of doctors, social workers, psychologists and other health professionals working with the most vulnerable Australian families. The library has a collection of 97,000 essential and often unique items. 

Do what you can to help – ALIA have provided the ways you can contribute at:


Australian library wars of 1970 revisited

I read with some surprise an article – Fleming’s vision: the first computer for Australian libraries – in the current November/December 2013 issue of InCite written by Ian McCallum of Libraries Alive!

Of the many interesting features of the article are the following quotes:

Inevitably he stepped on some toes. The ‘elders of the Australian Advisory Council on Bibliographic Services (AACOBS) ‘ were wary of this newcomer with his background in management as the art of the possible rather than collection development and bibliography….  p.20

What a superb irony! The cold-shouldered ‘non-librarian’ shifted the National Library, and by example, other major libraries, into the red-hot world of information technology. Fleming’s understanding of technology in the future of libraries was much more professionally acute than the views of the ‘concerned librarians’ . p.21

Now I would have thought that people writing for a library journal would have some more regard to the fact that librarians would naturally support librarianship as a profession.

McCallum writes about librarian’s opposition to Allan Fleming’s becoming the senior librarian of Australia in 1970 as though somehow it was a bad thing. In fact those opposed to his elevation within the Concerned Librarians Group were sensible, correct and some of best librarians of the day. Any attempt to make out they were anything less is ill-judged. Those upset at the appointment were rightly concerned that instead of any of the highly qualified librarians in Australia getting the job, it was instead delivered as a gift from a politician to an unqualified but clubable ex-spy who’d been in the army and gone to the right school.

As to the further claim in the article that Allan Fleming was some sort of computer visionary who brought computers to the NLA, well really.

Major libraries worldwide were already of course getting computers, and the NLA would have gotten them whomsoever was in charge at the time. And in fact the first major Australian library to computerise their holdings was the U Syd Library run by the exceptional Harrison Bryan. The same Harrison Bryan (a later DG NLA) who didn’t get the position in 1970 because it went to Fleming.

Before and during Fleming’s time in libraries, there was a group of librarians running Australian libraries of a calibre not before or since seen. These librarians including Bryan, Whyte, Sharr, Horton, Balnaves and Pat and Ted Flowers wrote well and often, were respected in their fields and by the wider academic community and were also respected enough to be routinely asked to serve in a range of capacities by governments and organisations who recognised their knowledge and skills. Fleming no matter how benevolent he was does not deserve to be in their company.

Addendum, this attack on ‘concerned librarians’ also now appears in the latest issue of the Australian Library Journal - extraordinary!

Real librarians

We all know librarians hate stereotypes of librarians, which is why some are compelled to indelibly ink their skin and post public pictures of themselves or anonymously tell the world that they don’t like library patrons.
I’m not sure what they’re trying to prove with this, since basically no one but librarians cares about librarian stereotypes, and all the tattoos in the world won’t change anyone’s opinion.

- This totally, read it all

For the last x many years so many in the library profession have been whining about the ‘librarian stereotype’ of the severe older lady, the shoosher, the hairbunned spinster, the attractive man in tweed, etc. that was presented in the media.

It was not a stereotype that ever really connected with the public because they actually deal with librarians in all their diversity.

But some librarians, they take it all so seriously.

In recent years there has been elicited huge joy at the number of librarians who don’t fit the stereotype, through their hair, clothing, tattoos, makeup, muscles etc.

Doing this is all very well, but is problematic as it is merely based on how people look and not how they perform or are perceived. Of course, everyone should dress how they want, but this is just personal choice and shouldn’t be linked to the profession as a whole.

How about we develop a stereotype for librarians as professional, focussed, knowledgeable, disciplined, technology capable etc. ?

This month Incite is asking for contributions for its Jan/Feb 2014 issue thus:

do you know a hipster librarian?

We’re looking for photos, stories, out

of the box email addresses and zany

twitter hashtags, tattoos, ukuleles,

and all that creative energy. We want

to track it down and give it some


I just hope none are found.

Morrissey and libraries

Morrissey in Manchester Central Library . Photographer Tom Sheehan

Morrissey in Manchester Central Library. Photographer Tom Sheehan, 1984

After reading Morrissey’s long awaited Autobiography, I am a little sad to report that there is not much said of libraries nor the role they have played in his life and art. There are yet two mentions, but no real exposition. In past interviews, Morrissey has mentioned that his mother (Elizabeth Dwyer) was an Assistant Librarian but there is no discussion of this in the book.

“Fields are places in books, and books are placed in libraries.” p. 3

“The new Hulme Library is where Jackie [Morrissey's sister] and I prowl each day once St Wilfred’s [Morrissey's school] pulley raises its draw-briddge, and books transport the mind until Mother appears to cart us homewards. Around the flashy library, the cobbled streets of terraced houses are dark cabins with their lights out, with windows like eyes facing downward, awaiting the chop.” p.22

from, Morrissey. (2013). Autobiography. ISBN: 9780141394817 0141394811

On Greer

On hearing that Germaine Greer easily Australia’s greatest writer is providing (for a modest sum – which she in turn is giving to charity) her archival papers to the University of Melbourne archive. I find it sufficient reason to provide a couple of quotes, neither of which are particularly true…

Greer - A library is a place where you can lose your innocence without losing your virginity.

Susan Ryan on Greer - Women who were housewives, who were pretty miserable … felt inspired by her book [The Female Eunuch] and their life changed. They didn’t become megastars, but they became a librarian or something. 

Why such an important national figure’s archival collection is not going to the National Library is obvious, but why is that so - well, never mind, never mind.

Neil Gaiman speech

“But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.

I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally.

I think it has to do with nature of information. Information has value, and the right information has enormous value. For all of human history, we have lived in a time of information scarcity, and having the needed information was always important, and always worth something: when to plant crops, where to find things, maps and histories and stories – they were always good for a meal and company. Information was a valuable thing, and those who had it or could obtain it could charge for that service.

In the last few years, we’ve moved from an information-scarce economy to one driven by an information glut. According to Eric Schmidt of Google, every two days now the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation until 2003. That’s about five exobytes of data a day, for those of you keeping score. The challenge becomes, not finding that scarce plant growing in the desert, but finding a specific plant growing in a jungle. We are going to need help navigating that information to find the thing we actually need.”

Neil Gaiman speech to the Reading Agency – Read more at The Guardian

May 22

What a day for information.

The Attorney General Mark Dreyfus announces that Australia is joining the Open Government Partnership and the interpretative conversation begins.

Also it was NSS13, so I could watch 40+ children being enthralled by a telling of The Wrong Book and a costumed performance of it afterwards at my workplace.

Sport – it is a thing

Here are some things about that thing, that relate to Australian collections or management – in case you wanted some quick sports reference help. They come from this conference paper Sports archives and collections in Australia which has some links at the end, to save you opening the document here they are:

National Sport Information Centre, Australian Sports Commission
Davis Sporting Collection (State Library of New South Wales)
Tom Brock Collection (State Library of New South Wales)
MV Anderson Chess Collection (State Library of Victoria)
History of the Paralympic Movement in Australia (Australian Paralympic Committee)
Olympic and Paralympic games digital archive (National Library of Australia)
Athletics in Australia, 1890- (Paul Jenes, Peter Hamilton, David Tarbotton, Fletcher McEwen and work from Bert Gardiner)
Empire Games, Sydney, 1938 (National Archives of Australia)
Olympic Games, Melbourne, 1956 (National Archives of Australia)
Australian Centre for Paralympic Studies Oral History Project (National Library of Australia)
National Sports Museum
Australian Centre for Olympic Studies
Orange City Council Sporting Hall of Fame
Picture Australia – sport (National Library of Australia)
Australian Rules Football (State Library of Victoria)
Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games (Powerhouse Museum)
Clearinghouse for Sport (Australian Sports Commission)
Criteria for Judging Heritage Significance, Australian Sports Commission
Heritage Significance Assessment of Objects, Australian Sports Commission
Sport Australia Hall of Fame
NSW Hall of Champions
Australian Society for Sports History
There are a number of people tagging sport in TROVE, here is an example