Music Australia News

ABC Dismantles Historic Sound and Reference Libraries

ABC Centre in Ultimo. Image Credit: The Brag
Scarlett Di Maio
| February 13, 2018

The ABC is disassembling its historic Sound and Reference Libraries across Australia in an effort to save on space and wages.

Many ABC programs such as Radio National and Triple J utilise sound libraries in Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth and Hobart, which contain 85 years’ worth of CDs, vinyl, books and journals. The extensive sound and reference library collection also informs music for documentaries and other programs.

According to The Guardian, these libraries will be dismantled in favour of a centralised library in Melbourne and a small classical music collection will remain in Sydney for Classic FM.

ABC content makers will be able to access a small portion of the collection digitally via the Broadcast Music Bank, however sources have told The Guardian that only 700 of more than 100,000 CDs have been digitised so far and ABC staff was told that the 373,000 vinyl records “will be dealt with following the transfer of CDs”.

“Under this proposal the sound library collection would be centralised in Melbourne and librarians there would continue to provide expert knowledge to assist content makers around the country,” a spokesperson for the ABC told The Guardian. “With the closure of the other physical libraries, the roles there would not be required.”

“The new digital Broadcast Music Bank service has only been operating since late 2017 and CDs have been digitised into it as requested by content makers,” the spokesperson said. “The reference library services are currently based in Sydney and Melbourne, and book loans have reduced dramatically. We are not planning to digitise the books. Under the proposed changes we would move to a digital delivery model using e-resources, such as journals, e-books and databases.”

According to an ABC staff announcement obtained by Limelight Magazine, the changes will result in six redundancies at the Sound and Reference Library in Sydney, two in Adelaide, and one each in Perth and Hobart, with one new 12-month position created in Melbourne to assist with the transition.

ABC staff members, who are worried that library services are being dismantled before the digitalisation process is complete, have raised this issue and other concerns about the changes through the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU).

“The ABC’s decision to sack specialist staff supporting journalists and program makers before the ABC has even bedded down the new content restructure is irresponsible,” the section secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, Sinddy Ealy, told The Guardian. “Not only will it undermine the editorial quality of ABC content audiences rely on, but it is likely cost the ABC and taxpayers more money than it saves.”

The changes are due to take place over the coming months. No changes have been announced yet for the ABC’s archives of film and tape.

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