Thursday, September 27, 2007

Uniting a profession by Jean P Whyte and David J Jones Launched on 27 September, this new publications from the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) traces the quite sensational history of the formation of the Australian national library association. Celebrating it’s 70th anniversary in 2007, ALIA was first truly nationally established at the Australian Institute of Librarians.

Jean Whyte, 1923-2003, was one of Australia’s most outstanding library educators and leaders. For many years she worked on a history of the association – collecting papers and writing many preliminary chapters. Dr Jones, her co-author, has contributed significantly in taking over such a major project and adding his analysis.

It is a riveting read. Anyone who thought librarians meek and mild will be amazed at the stories of robust debate, sectoral and state based competition and personal rivalries. It seems little short of a major dramatic event which reveals the characters and commitment of many true library leaders, such as John Metcalf.

The insights of both authors are remarkable – and both have also contributed to the debates in the association for many years.

The book covers the period 1937-1949, to the formation of the Library Association of Australia. It contains marvellous appendices including short biographies of the major characters (over 120), information about office bearers and statistics.

The passion, the disagreements and the sense of commitment from those involved leaps off the pages. A “Bodice ripper” indeed. I encourage everyone to read this volume, whether you are a library professional or not. And ALIA encourages anyone with an interest in preparing the next volume in this history to contact the Executive Director.

To order see

Australian Law Librarians Association conference: The ALLA conference ( was held in Sydney this year and I was fortunate to attend and speak on the first day. Justice Ruth McColl opened the conference commenting on the complex issues in the move to the digital environment and outlining the history of publication of cases and the law. Baden Powell gave a very interesting presentation on technical architecture and new service delivery models. Glenda Browne’s presentation focused on the differences between legal and other indexing, which provided an opportunity to suggest improvements to legal indexes (such as filing St as "St" rather than "Saint"). Carmel O'Sullivan reported on the information literacy training she and colleagues had developed at Blakes. Her lessons learnt were – develop a lesson plan, less is best, action learning is important but not essential for all courses, reflective practice needs to be included and training should, on occasion break with convention. I reported on our client survey and the information life of our clients. All in all a very stimulating experience for the approximately 140 attendees.

Australian Law Librarian of the Year: At the conference the 2007 Australian Law Librarian of the year was announced. Congratulations to Karyn Gladwish, Director Library Services, Australian Attorney-General's Department on receiving the award – very well deserved!

"The Librarians" to be on ABC TV: Tune your sets to the ABC on 31 October at 9.30 pm for the new series "The Librarians". Keep your sense of humour while watching.