In the latest instalment of my column for Information Professional, I interview Trish Hepworth, Director of Policy and Education at the Australian Library and Information Association, ALIA. You can find the column here and read the full conversation below.
MF: What was your journey to libraryland?
TH: I originally did a law degree. I was admitted as a practitioner to the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), was working as in-house counsel for a government department, and I fell into libraries by complete accident.
I joined the precursor to today’s Australian Libraries and Archives Copyright Coalition, who look after copyright policy and training for the entire library sector, and the Australian Digital Alliance, a cross-sectoral group advocating for fair copyright reform, with members ranging from libraries to tech companies, education institutions, and organisations like Vision Australia which support people in getting access to media and materials. These groups were looking at some of the fundamental values which hold the library sector together: equitable access to knowledge, information, and culture.
I found myself suddenly based at the National Library of Australia, in this wonderful institution, surrounded by amazing library and information professionals, delving deep into the intricacies of the copyright act. This is a confusing, often quite antiquated patchwork of legislation, which sometimes doesn’t even make sense; one of the greatest achievements in our copyright reforms has been that it’s no longer an offence to file document delivery request slips in chronological order!
We were looking at ways to make life easier for libraries and information services, when this act from 1968, which has since been amended in various ways, still doesn’t really sit very well with the changes which have been brought by digital. We faced, and still face, frustrating situations where there is an amazing wealth of archival materials, and no legal way to make these accessible to people. There are still obstacles, for example, to people accessing materials remotely – which, during a pandemic, has basically cut off access to huge swathes of knowledge and culture. Even when we’re not under conditions of COVD and lockdown, it still disproportionately favours people who live in large metropolitan centres and close proximity to the physical collections. Why should people who live in rural areas, or whose disabilities make travel difficult, be disadvantaged relative to people, say, who live in the centre of Melbourne? With all of the technologies and capabilities that we have, it’s slightly ridiculous that this is even an issue.Read more