Chair - Jane Treadwell
My name is Jane Treadwell and I’m the Chief Information Officer for the Victorian Government. It’s a real pleasure to be the Chair for this session on Libraries and Collaboration. And we’ve got two wonderful speakers that I’ve just been able to grab some personal time with and found out some really interesting stuff. So, I’m sure that you’ll be inspired by the experiences of both Mary Jane Stannus and Matthew Leibmann.
Our first speaker is Mary Jane who is the head of Content Services at Our ABC, which encompasses the Archives, Libraries and Rights Managements sections for that organisation. She’s worked in Information Management roles in several organisations including Standards Australia, University of Technology in Sydney and the NSW Education Department. In her role at the ABC she’s brought together previously separately organised and located radio archives, television archives, document archives and rights managements units into a single facility. Now, Mary Jane is currently overseeing an ABC-wide records management project and a major project to digitise and preserve 60,000 hours of ABC content. And as we just discussed the three C’s for this decade are content, content, content. So, over to you Mary Jane.
Speaker - Mary Jane Stannus
Good afternoon and thanks to the organisers of today’s event for including me in on it, it’s been very interesting and I’m hoping that this session today brings out a few new things. You might have questions afterwards that we can talk about and things to follow through. We’re talking about collaboration and in our previous session people have already been referring to collaboration quite a bit. And in fact I was thinking that this topic is like bringing coals to Newcastle, do you say that in Victoria? That because libraries have been collaborative institutions for as long as we know, working together, and also we’ve got some fantastic projects like Picture Australia, Music Australia, which have really led the way in cooperative projects, bringing resources into national collections, making them accessible to individuals located anywhere around the country and around the globe. So, I think that collaboration is already a word that is used amongst this industry and so maybe if we start talking about content and collaboration and see what we come up with.
Okay, what I want to talk about today is two quite different collaborative projects which might inspire some new and innovative approaches to using our collections and to perhaps bring parts of our collections to new, different, wider audiences. Before I talk about these projects I thought it would be worthwhile to just give you a brief overview of the archives and libraries at the ABC to give some background to how we work, what we do, what’s there - I know there is a great deal of interest in this content - and perhaps give you a better understanding of some of the constraints that we work under as well. The collections that we hold are a vast and rich holding of 20th-century and now 21st-century Australian history going back from 1933 for radio and from 1956 for television. And now we’ve got ten years of online behind us, which unfortunately we haven’t archived quite in the same way that we have television and radio material. It’s our big topic that we’re looking at next - how to actually archive that. And fortunately we have partners in collaboration with the National Archives of Australia and can learn from State Libraries and the National Library etc, about what’s going on there.
So, like other media organisations we record news and current affairs stories as they unfold and we record the changing attitudes and perspectives in Australia over time. However, unlike the print organisations we have the added benefit of holding the actual sound and the moving images from the time that’s being discussed or being recorded. The audio and the visual actuality rather than just the print version, so it makes our collections extremely valuable in today’s environment. I’m also going to talk, just briefly, about the clients that we serve, just to give you an understanding of the way we operate, touch on changing technology and on ABC audiences and what they’re doing and their use of the changing technology. Before I start I need to make a confession - our archives and libraries are not yet the dream library of the 21st century so I’m not providing any advice to you about how to organise your collections or what to do, it’s just about ideas and content. Budgets hold us back but the spirit is willing and the content of course is in demand.
Our department is called Content Services and, as Jane said, it covers the Archives, the Libraries, Records Management, Documents Archives and now Rights Management within the ABC. And basically what we’re doing is providing research services and access to information and collections, both internally and externally to the ABC. But our major client focus is the internal client, so we provide services to the programme makers in television, radio, new media, and we also provide services to enterprises, which often is the interface to the public for material that’s in the archive. We manage and preserve the ABC Content Collections and look after Rights Management, providing advice to programme makers on what they use, what they should be aware of when they make the programme and also track the rights in the programmes that we make so that we can reuse that material again. That documentation has to be referred to before the material can actually be used to make sure that we’re not using something that actually belongs to somebody else.
Okay, our functions, Research Services - we assign allocated researchers to various programmes like Four Corners, Seven Thirty Report, News, etc, and they find the vision and the sound that’s needed. Rights Management I’ve discussed. Technical Services is where we dub and make copies of audio material and video material. We still have large film collections and we need to transfer those to video so that they can be used in the current working environment. Technical services is also the area that is looking after our digitisation project for the 60,000 hours that we’re committed to digitising over the next three years. And we have a small strategy unit which is a policy unit where we’re working with Records Management. That’s the area where we liaise with the National Archives of Australia and it’s worthwhile pointing out that one of the ways that the public can actually access ABC historical material of course is through the National Archive of Australia. And once we get our RDA stamped and signed off we’ll be working with the National Archive to basically improve the way people can access that material for the material that’s older than thirty years.
Just to outline our collections. They’re basically huge - we’ve got music and commercial recordings of music, so the music in the sound libraries that the radio programmers use to programme music, huge collections of vinyl and CD, I think there’s something like 500 or 600,000 recordings there. The ABC radio recordings, probably about 80,000 tapes in the collection and now some CDs in there. We’re now actually capturing that material digitally through the digital audio workstations that are used and storing them as digital files. ABC TV recordings, I think there’s something like 80,000 cans of film, 30,000 one-inch tapes which will be finished in three years and we won’t have that format to deal with anymore, and then SP Beta Cam, SX Digi Beta Cam. So the problem that archives face with changing formats and having to keep them up to date.
Documents and files which are a vast source of really interesting information about the ABC’s history is available through the document archive. Not particularly well organised at the moment but fortunately we have one person who’s worked there for a quite a long time and he’s actually the gateway, the portal to that collection, so we’re working on that as well. And photographs, we’ve recently taken responsibility for the photographs in the ABC and have collected material that was either in document archives in the stills area and we think that we’ve pulled together something like 700,000 images, none of which was on an accessible database. So, basically we’ve starting entering the information into the database and as material is required we’ll scan that photo at the time so we’ve got a browsed copy available and a digital copy. The Aunty Jack project, and we all want Aunty Jack, I’m sure, for Christmas, that project was one of the initiators of getting a lot of those photographs scanned etc, so if you come and ask for Aunty Jack material we can respond really quickly.
The collections, we’ve talked about that, a rich resource for ABC production and that’s where our main role is, is providing to the ABC producers. Our Clients and Audiences, we’ve covered that. Okay, so New Technologies. Oh, I didn’t talk to you about the Constraints. I have, I think, mentioned a few difficulties we have in providing access to our material. One is our database systems. We’re currently doing an audit of the systems that we use within our department and outside our department and we have something like 57, over 57 different systems that we use within our department to do our work. Very difficult to work with. We’ve got legacy systems including card catalogues and microfiche, in fact we’ve got a new member of staff starting who came into the library and said, ‘Oh, I’ve never worked in a library where they have a card catalogue.’ And I thought that was delightful, I thought, great, we’re moving forward.
So one of the advantages of having these older databases, the fact that we haven’t moved to new platforms is actually good in some ways because it means that when we do change over to the new technology it will be up to date, it will be able to handle audio and vision as well as the metadata, but we’ve still got a way to go to get there. Tight budgets. So metadata is a problem because there’s no standard metadata model within the ABC, so that’s another thing that we’re working on. If we move to new systems we need to standardise the way we describe our content, a title in radio is not the same as a title in television.
Rights, of course, is always an issue, do we own the rights? A lot of our material, programming material, is made up of content that we’ve either generated through the ABC and therefore do have some ownership of it. But we might have used material from other places, whether it’s music or sound grabs or vision, and that material actually belongs to the original holders of that - we need to record all that information before we can use the material again. Accessibility of formats, film for example and one-inch tape is not particularly accessible. Once it’s digitised it’s fantastic because it’s on your desktop. And then we’ll have a problem with people wasting time, I’m sure, looking at all that fantastic material. And preservation of content is obviously a responsibility that we’ve got, but we’re fortunately in a position where as a Commonwealth agency we work with the National Archive and we can work together on some of those aspects of preservation.
So the ABC’s website - the ABC has four output areas, Radio, Television, New Media, which is now ten years old, and Enterprises. The website is a fantastic smorgasbord of information, entertainment, news and current affairs. The way that the material is now produced is the result of internal collaboration. The ABC’s New Media and Digital Services, as they’re known, teams have been producing content on the web for ten years, and there’s been an enormous shift to collaborative content production within the ABC over this time. Programme content is now developed with not just the initial radio or television broadcast in mind but also how it might be presented on the web.
Initially the same content was presented on the web, increasingly it’s original content being developed specifically for the web as well as for radio and television, being re-packaged with additional content. The ABC website is a gateway for ABC audiences to select topics of their interest and to access them at times that suit them. And I think Matthew will be talking a little bit more about how people want to use information in the ways that they want, not the ways that we necessarily want to schedule it. Online news is updated regularly through the day and Broadband of course provides documentary material, children’s programming and other material that is either entertaining or informing. New technologies and their popular take-up are creating new opportunities for broadcasting and publishing content.
A couple of the areas to highlight to talk about are ABC2, the new digital channel and broadband and also, of course, podcasting, which I’ll have a look at right now with this beautiful chart. You probably can’t see the numbers but it doesn’t matter, you only need to look at the shape. Podcasting was introduced to ABC audiences last year, I believe, and the take-up has been enormous. This first chart shows a rather dramatic uptake of steadily increasing numbers, the left hand side of the chart, make sure we’re talking right, yep, the left hand side of the chart is May last year with less than 10,000 downloads and last week close to 338,000 downloads were recorded. So there is an increasing number of iPods out there and people listening to ABC radio programmes that they’ve downloaded as they jog, travel to work on buses and trains etc.
The second chart shows usage by network and genre, the pink line up the top there shows Radio National, getting quite close to 180,000 downloads per week. The yellow line is JJJ, a little erratic but last week showing 80,000 downloads. The yellow line, is quite interesting, representing The Science Show. Okay, this chart is showing the podcast results for selected programmes, so the yellow line on this chart, just want to make sure the colours are looking good. This line here represents The Science Show. It’s probably capturing the interest of those people who are more regular users of technology but also people with a particular subject interest.
In a conversation with the project manager for radio podcasting, Gordon Taylor, he was highlighting an interesting aspect of the statistics and feedback, saying that podcasting’s actually brought new listeners to some of the long-running ABC programmes. For example, they’ve had feedback from listeners in Europe and America who had never heard of The Science Show before and they’ve commented on those programmes and have said that they’re now committed listeners and are regular downloaders of those programmes. So, programmes that we are quite familiar with within Australia are suddenly getting new audiences overseas, so that was quite positive feedback for people.
So, just to clarify these numbers, on the left hand side is the zero and on the right hand size is 180,000. So you’re getting an idea of the types of downloads there. The other thing that I was going to show you is, the blue line on this chart is Late Night Live, so can you see that? And that was a bit of a surprise as well that it got that sort of listenership, obviously people are interested in the interviews that are done on that programme. That’s just to give you a taste for how, I think it was quite a visual taste for how podcasting’s been taken up and how people are listening to ABC radio programmes and the fact that they’re being used in different ways.
A couple of the collaborative projects which are quite, nothing to do with podcasting, but I wanted to talk about, actually the first one’s the Four Corners one, I’ll just go over that. Okay, Four Corners, this is a good illustration of, again, internal collaborations. Four Corners Broadband has been the result of work between Four Corners journalists and producers and the New Media website developers. What we have now here is, still we have the impact of the screening on Monday nights for Four Corners programme but now we have the follow-up on the web, there’s the post-programme forums that you’ve probably heard about and there’s information that’s now available. So you can actually watch the programme, you can see a play button up there and you can play the programme out.
You can also listen to specific interviews, so rather than just the clip that was included in the program, you can actually listen to and watch, it’s still an edited interview, not necessarily the whole raw material but much more than what you would have got in the programme. So they’ve interviewed someone from the Sydney University there, they’ve interviewed the Commissioner for the NSW Corrective Services and various other people. There’s a chronology included there, there’s a gallery of profiles of some of the prisoners, there’s a day by day, a schedule to tell you what it’s actually, hour by hour, first thing in the morning ‘til last thing at night in a prison, so a lot of different sorts of material that was collected in the production of the program and the research, that’s actually brought together in a new way providing different information for some of the same audiences and some different audiences. I don’t think they have a section there where you can drill down and find the escape route yet but that could be coming.
One other project I was just going to mention was in relation to ABC2, again content oriented. This new digital channel will be one year old next month and it’s taking some new angles on content development. Some ABC material is replayed on this channel, so it’s on the main channel and then it’s replayed several times within 24 hours on ABC2 which means that you can pick the time that you want to watch it much more easily. It also provides content not seen on the main channel. One of the recent programmes which was a big hit, this one was something called Late Night Legends, which was a sports programme presented by Lex Marinos featuring sporting matches from the archives. My first response was, ‘Oh my God, they don’t want to watch those do they?’ But yes, they were pulled out, we had our sports expert people who knew the games, they knew what the highlights of the games were, they had the memories and they knew which matches to pull out. We had to check the rights, that was a huge undertaking in a very short amount of time and they were put to air, and that turned out to be, so far, ABC2 is only one years old, but it had it’s biggest audiences and it had it’s most positive feedback for any of the programming that it had put to air. And so that was material that had been sitting in the collection for quite some time that hadn’t been used, hadn’t been seen and now there’s a new audience for it. So that was quite exciting.
External Collaboration. Okay, one of the projects that we’ve done that I think is of interest and it ties in with some of the sorts of things that were being discussed in the last session, was a research project that we were involved in with the University of New England. We were approached by Dr Adrian Kiernander from the University of New England, who had an interest in exploring the ABC archive for material of the development of the performing arts in Australia. This was an Australian Research Council linkage funded project and so the university and the industry body, which was us at this time, chipped in to do it, so it required sitting down and negotiating who was doing what, what kind of input we were having, cash is always hard to get out of us, I’ll tell you that right now, but there is also an in-kind, there’s a small cash component and an in-kind component. So together we partnered up and got this project off the ground.
I saw this as an excellent way to tap into the expertise and time that we did not have within our own department to address this very specialised area of the collection. The PhD student who undertook the research, Jeremy Gad, brought a lot of knowledge of the history of Australian theatre, a who’s who of the performing arts as well as the political and popular context of the times. The results of the projects was that he reviewed the holdings in our collection, he identified some of the missing material, he actually found some of the missing material, he located some that was inadequately catalogued and was able to add, what do we call it? Value add to it, correct names, things like that, identify people by looking at the footage itself, because he knew who was who on the programme, and all that information was added into our catalogue records. And the reason that I put the value on that was that I felt that the key thing that I wanted to come out of a project like this was that that material was accessible and that that information was available and could be used by people much more broadly in the future.
And so getting that record into the database, we do have some databases, not all card catalogues, was very important and the outcomes were fantastic. I think he looked at something like about 900 recordings at the ABC. Part of the project was with Channel 9 as well but in the end it turned out that our collection was much richer but they had some quite significant material at Channel 9 as well. So that was a project that we did under an Australian Research Council grant. We’re currently working on another one called Screen Comedy with Dr Felicity Collins who’s at Cinema Studies at Latrobe University and one of her colleagues, Dr Sue Turnbull. They’re looking at screen comedy in Australia and the development of that and the politics around it. We’re looking forward to seeing what comes out of that and again they’re identifying material in our collection and, I guess, recording that we’ve actually got copies of all the things that they’re talking about and the records again will be included in the database and checked.
The last one is a really important project and the reason I’m showing this one is it’s an example of one of the collaborative projects that have been done by the New Media and Digital Services area within television. A number of people and organisations represented in the group here today have actually worked with the ABC on collaborative projects and getting content onto the ABC. This one, Pacific Stories, was one that we did with Film Australia. Film Australia was celebrating 40 years and 40 years of documentary in the South Pacific. They knew that they had this content, these old documentaries and they were interested in bringing this to today’s audiences. But they knew that there’d be limited appeal for simply replaying the material on television so they came to the ABC to toss around a few ideas as to how it might be used and presented.
So basically, Film Australia had the content, Film Australia had the contact with the industry and the networks, the who’s who, they made contact with the producers who had worked on these films back at the original time, got those people together talking about ideas on how they might do it and it was the web skills, I guess, from the ABC side that contributed in bringing this project to the web. So, I’ve just got screen dumps here, I didn’t do an on-line thing because I knew we’d meander all over the place if we did that. So just an example of one of the screens. We’ve got presenters, Vika and Linda Bull were brought in to give the introduction, there’s seven stories so each one of those boxes up there. When you click on it represents a different one of the seven stories. You can pick a story and then go into actually seeing the documentary. They were re-edited for Broadband and then you can either read about them, find additional material about the story, the people etc, there’s information about where and when and what’s happened to people.
So really it’s a whole new life for documentaries that were made quite some time ago and probably would have had limited appeal had they just been played on television or on screen someway. Once they had actually produced this there was a lot more interest and then they did actually play the documentaries on ABC2. So we got a great amount of usage out of repackaging that material and rethinking about it, contextualising it in today’s audiences.
So, collaboration, just a few thoughts on effective collaboration. Obviously there’s got to be mutual understanding between the parties involved in the project and an understanding of what their organisations are, what their purpose in life is, what they want to get out of the project. You have to find a common goal and have a clear goal for the two of you but also to be able to see the specialisation, the expertise and the assets that each of the partners actually bring to that project. And once you get a very clear view on all those things, all the other parts, which are sometimes quite time consuming and can be expensive, can fall into place quite easily. So it’s a partnership of specialisation and expertise.
So I have run through a number of different thoughts and ideas there, you can go to www.abc.net.au and you can click on some of the things that we’ve talked about and find a lot more information about it. Thanks very much.
Transcript from the Libraries & Collaboration session of the Library of the 21st Century Symposium, State Library of Victoria, Thursday 23 February, 2006.