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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

ABC Sound and Reference Library

We hit the ground running after the State Library visit on the morning of the 2nd September and walked from one end of Sydney to the other to visit the ABC Sound and Reference Library.

It was a non-lending library servicing the needs of ABC producers and reporters. It is not open to the public and only holds collections which are directly relevant to the core needs of the ABC.

Our guide was Kate Burnham who had been at the ABC Library for 11 years and had worked in the industry for 43 years.
She gave an excellent overview of the changes in her industry over the years and the impact of technology on her workplace. For example, in the past the ABC Reference Library would provide physical resources (music) but now due to technology they can now download it directly from the distributors.

Kate stressed that "statistics are your fundamental accountability" so don't shy away from them! Statistics support your claims that you are making a difference in your organisation. This quote has stayed with me since the Study Visit.

The Library had a specialised 8-digit classification system and kept music, periodicals of interest and also newspaper clippings. The Library is highly responsive to the needs of a producer and if needed can get a resource to them within an hour if it is available in Sydney (and this includes processing and cataloguing).

When it comes to cataloguing the big challenge for the library is managing metadata of classical music resources. Often the Library will need to catalogue liner notes from records or CD's. 46% of resources are catalogued at a track level and rely on an active MARC field 505, blocks of text. Most of the copy cataloguing that they use requires them to go back into the database and include more searching terms.

The one activity of the library that amazed the CSU students at the study visit, were the newspaper clippings. Every day they go through three newspapers and clip out articles that they believe the ABC would be interested in. Every week on Media Watch, you can see the newspaper clippings being used as "props" in the show. Files on issues and key Australians are kept on the off chance that the ABC needs it.

At the moment Kate said that digitisation was not a priority because there is not a computer system that could handle the amount of data generated by converting their collection over into digital. Tracks are digitised "just in time" as needed and sent to the capital city that needs it using their Netia System. Then it is wiped from the system. A standard "rip" from a CD of a song would not have enough clarity to be used "on air", so the files that the system handles have to be broadcast quality (mp4) which means that they take up lots of storage space.

At the end of the visit, we had the opportunity to get our pictures taken with Big Ted and Humpty Dumpty, but by that time the battery on my phone was running very low indeed.


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