- 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
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.
The Guardian reported this week that the ABC plans to abolish 58 permanent roles for librarians and archivists, as well as 17 contract staff from smaller ABC offices.
Academics in the Charles Sturt School of Information and Communication Studies said these staff provide important services, such as locating material for major news and current affairs programs, as well as documentaries and other purposes.
They also ensure the ABC’s archives are well-curated and accessible to the organisation’s staff.
Associate Professor Mary Carroll, an expert in education for the library and information professions, said, “Charles Sturt University has a proud history of educating professionals in these fields, and we know that they bring extraordinary value to the public broadcaster and other media organisations.
“Australian media, and the ABC in particular, will be vastly diminished as a result of these cuts.”
Lecturer in Information Studies Dr Louise Curham said that while both journalists and the information professionals have similar goals as trusted providers of evidence and information, the specialist skills of archivists and librarians cannot be easily replaced.
“The kinds of assets the ABC holds in its archives and library of course include many different formats, some old and very fragile, others current digital formats prone to all the headaches of obsolescence that audiovisual archivists specialise in,” Dr Curham said.
“But it’s not just caring and finding and using information that’s at stake, we keep material from the past for a reason and that’s to help us understand ourselves better now and in the future.”
The academic staff note that the cuts at the ABC come on top of resource reductions at the National Archives in recent years.
“These institutions are vital to preserving and telling Australian stories,” Professor Carroll said.
“Even though people increasingly access information through the internet, digital resources alone cannot replace professionally-maintained archives, and they too need to be well-curated in order to be accessible and useful.”
Dr Curham said, “The ABC is the public broadcaster and those resources belong to all Australians. They need to be cared for not just to meet the ABC’s immediate business need but for the long-term as well.”
Senior Lecturer in Communication Dr Travis Holland said that the cuts would also impact the ABC’s journalists.
“Newsroom staff and journalists are experts in finding and reporting information, but they can’t be expected to intimately understand the ABC’s archives and to find clips and other material at the drop of a hat for a breaking story in among their existing workload,” he said.
“Australia’s stories cannot be properly told, and the ABC’s resources properly utilised, without these staff.”