About Annelie de Villiers

Archival research assistant

Demystifying the Copyright Amendment Bill

On 22 March 2017 the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Bill was introduced to the Australian Parliament. The Bill proposed to end perpetual copyright for unpublished materials resulting in millions of historical manuscripts being freed into the public domain on 1 January 2019.

But what does this actually mean for archivists and archival organisations? Jessica Coates of The Australian Libraries and Copyright Committee was generous enough to answer my questions.

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Q: In short, what does the Copyright Reform Bill actually propose to change in the Australian Copyright Act?

 

A: There are 4 major changes proposed by the bill:

1 – the replacement of the current provisions for assisting people with a print disability with two new exceptions which will be much broader and apply to people with any disability that prevents them accessing material (eg including deafness, physical etc). The new exceptions will be a much simpler exception for institutions assisting people with a disability, and a very broad new fair dealing for providing access to people with a disability. The fair dealing in particular is a big change – it should mean just about anything can be done that is needed to provided someone with a disability proper access, as long as it is reasonable/fair.

2 – the simplification of the educational statutory licences. This doesn’t change the scope of activities permitted by the licences so much as removing a lot of the burdensome admin and bureaucracy that went along with it. The changes were jointly negotiated by the schools, unis and the Copyright Agency, which is also a pretty big deal.

These changes also introduce a new exception to allow the inclusion of material in online exams for remote students, which had previously been a gap.

3 – fixing the preservation exceptions for libraries and archives. The current exceptions are very confusing and outdated, apply differently to different materials, limit the number and format of copies made and have odd paradoxes like only allowing you to copy material after it has been lost or damaged. The new provisions are much simpler and broader, and should allow the implementation of best practice preservation policies. The one important limitation is a commercial availability test.

The provisions also remove the current limitations that prevent preservation copies from being made available onsite on anything but a dumb terminal. The institutions will now be able to make materials available on ordinary terminals on their premises, as long as they “take reasonable steps to ensure a person who accesses the preservation copy does not infringe copyright.” This is much more flexible for smaller institutions who can’t afford to have dedicated dumb terminals.

4 – changes to the copyright term provisions that will end perpetual copyright for unpublished works and provide a fixed term for works whose authors are unknown. The changes will align the copyright term for unpublished works with those of published works, meaning the standard for most works with be the life of the author plus 70 years. However, it also introduces a new term for any works – published or unpublished – whose author is not known. This includes anonymous works and orphan works where authors have been lost over time. These works will now fall into the public domain 70 years after they are published (for published works) or created (for unpublished works).

So while there will still be some risk management needed for orphan works with authors who are known but not responding, and works where it’s unclear when they were publish/created, for a good portion there will be a fairly clear date when they can be used without restriction.

It also means that on 1 January 2019 (when the new provisions come into effect) millions of works will fall into the public domain simultaneously across Australia. Very exciting.

Q: On a practical level, what would the proposed changes mean to archival organisations?

 

A: For archives, the 3rd and 4th are the most significant changes.

For those who have been trying to follow the existing preservation provisions (I suspect many have not) they can introduce new procedures that include steps like preservation on acquisition, across multiple formats. They’ll also be able to use the preservation copy of delicate works for clients wishing to access the material onsite much more easily and efficiently than they could previously.

The new term provisions will mean copyright barriers to digitisation and online access projects will be removed for a huge amount of manuscripts, ephemera and other works. Institutions should be able to identify “chunks” of their collections that will be in the public domain from 1 January 2019 eg any unpublished works whose authors died in 1949, or any orphan or anonymous works created before 1949. In 2020, the key date will be 1950 etc.

The second will also make a difference where archives are working to provide access to clients with a disability, significantly opening up their ability to provide access for individuals, including online and in different formats, when necessary.

Q: What is the partial solution to orphan records proposed in the Bill?

 

A: See the discussion of the term changes above – now many orphan works will have a fixed date when they fall into the public domain, or at least a reasonably guessable date (if the actual date of creation isn’t known).

Q: How likely is it that the bill will be ratified in its current form? What, if anything, would you like to see changed in it?

 

A: The Bill is almost certain to be ratified in its current form. In fact, it has now progressed through the House of Representatives and part of the way through the Senate. In the Senate it was granted non-controversial status, which will allow it to be passed almost immediately, without debate or referral to committee. It would have passed a few weeks ago, except the s18C debate took too much time on the schedule. Unfortunately, the Senate only sits for 3 days in May, when the Budget is tabled, so not much chance of making it on the schedule then. So we might have to wait for June. But once it makes it on the schedule, it should pass that same day.

I would have liked to remove the commercial availability test from the exception for institutions assisting people with a disability, and to have broadened the definition of library being used for the provisions (the definition of archives is good).

Q: What opportunities does the end of perpetual copyright present for archival organisations?

 

A: That’s what we all have to think about – what exciting projects can we now do with our manuscript and orphaned work collections that we haven’t previously felt confident about? I’m hoping we’ll see a lot more online collections, and some innovative access and community engagement projects coming out of them.

Archivist: Research Support or Researcher?

I recently became excited when I learned that an Australian Information Management undergrad course contained subjects about research. This excitement dampened considerably when I was told the intent of the subject was to teach future information professionals about how to support the research activities of others, rather than to conduct research of their own.

In that instance, our information professional students, on the cusp of their careers, are subliminally being told; “you are research support, not researcher.

Granted it’s postgrad courses which are designed to turn students into researchers, however I strongly believe that acknowledging the potential in students as future researchers during their undergrad will encourage them to enroll in further courses or to publish in the future regardless.

By acknowledging the ‘research potential’ of undergrad students, we move toward closing the gap between archival practitioners and researchers.

Once again, by looking outward, we can learn how other sectors are bringing about this change in emphasis. The Tweet below came about from a recent talk about how treating students as writers who have something to say shapes student identities as ‘writers’.

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By shifting the emphasis of literature review activities to the authors of papers rather than the ideas within the papers, research becomes ‘re-humanised’ and therefore more accessible to students. Students can then be encouraged to reiterate the ideas within papers in their own words, subtly putting them in the role of communicating research.

Educators play a major role in acknowledging the potential of undergrad students as researchers and fostering the confidence within those students to share their insights with others once they become practitioners.

I’m by no means arguing that everyone should do postgrad, I’m just passionate about breaking down that ivory tower in order to ensure that research in archival science actually is relevant to practitioners in the field.

Acknowledging the expertise of our GLAM students will assist them with the question; ‘But what do I have to contribute?’. This question, and the accompanying ‘But I have nothing to say’, seems to be holding professionals back from engaging in research.

Let me save us all some time by telling you that what you have to contribute is expertise because everyone is an expert in something. It’s up to you to find out what that something is and to recognise the value of it, before you share it with others and have them recognise the value of it too.

It’s all just a matter of upskilling yourself and getting started. 

Are you an archival educator or manager? What do you do to encourage research thinking and activities?

 

2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge

This year I will be partaking in the Australian Women Writers Challenge which ‘was set up to help overcome gender bias in the reviewing of books by Australian women’. Throughout 2017 I will be reading and reviewing at least 6 books which are authored by female Australians and are related to the following subject matters:

  • Archiving/Recordkeeping;
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, and;
  • Memory/Identity.

Currently I am brainstorming potential books to review and welcome all suggestions. If anyone wants to read along and join the conversation, my reviews will be shared through this blog.

Book ideas:

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2016: The Pact that Proves the Value of New Professionals

Being a new archival professional is terrifying. You are scared of stepping on toes, of being viewed as competition, of making a fool of yourself. Often this means that we hesitate to step out of our comfort zones.

Unless of course, you make a pact with a colleague…

Annelie’s experience

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When I entered the profession in 2013, it took welcoming and encouraging colleagues to convince me to submit my first conference abstract, publish my first blog post and attend my first professional association meeting.

Once I did these things however, I realised that not only was I welcome to do so, the established professionals asked me how they could get more new professionals to get involved. In every archival association meeting I’ve attended, the question has been asked “Where are our new professionals and how can we better engage with them?”

It became clear that we new professionals have two things which are sought after in every level of our associations and workplaces:icaairport

  1. We have enthusiasm, and more importantly;
  2. We have time.

On the heels of this realisation, my colleague Nicola Laurent and myself made a pact at the beginning of 2016 to put our hands up for every opportunity which came our way, no matter how under-qualified we felt.

Without this conscious commitment to stick our necks out, I don’t think that we could have achieved half of the things we did in 2016.

I started the year as a research assistant and ended it as a project manager, a reviews editor, the coordinator of the Information Technologies Indigenous Communities Symposium, the recipient of an international bursary and the author of a minor thesis and journal article.

2016 was a wild ride, and whilst it sucked on a global scale, it won’t be easily surpassed on a personal/professional level. I encourage any new professionals out there to make the same pact. Chuck your hand up, even if the only thing you feel you can offer is your time. You have no idea how welcome your contribution is and what doors it will open along the way.

 

Nicola’s experience

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When Annelie suggested this pact, I thought ‘how many opportunities could come my way?’ By the end of the year friends were training me how to say no, because I literally did not have the time to do more. If you had told me a year ago everything I have since achieved, I would have laughed and said I don’t think you’ve got the right person.

My year started with a mentoring opportunity to meet David Fricker, Director-General of National Archives of Australia and President of the International Council on Archives (ICA), through the Australian Society of Archivists (ASA). I was nervous, but I had made the pact so I went for it. I asked colleagues (and Google) the types of questions people should ask of a mentor, I flew to Canberra with my notes, and I came home with the message to ‘change the world’ and with so much inspiration for the year ahead.

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Much the same as Annelie, I started the year having done a lot less – I was a Project Archivist, the Communications Officer for the ASA Victorian Branch and I had just submitted a conference abstract after a lot of encouragement and help. I ended the year, as a higher paid Project Archivist, a Councillor for the ASA, Secretary of the VIC branch, a recipient of ICA’s New Professional bursary (and therefore a member of the ICA’s New Professional Programme) and helping to organise patriarchive.com. I now have 4 conference presentations (including two at an international congress), a poster presentation at a conference and multiple talks for my work under my belt. I’m also now on YouTube thanks to one of my conference presentations and on the ICA’s homepage promoting the bursary for 2017 and I have an incredible network of new and experienced professionals who help, encourage, mentor and support each other so we all achieve our best.

I had so many amazing moments in 2016, I learnt and continue to learn so much, I met some incredible people, made great friends, and I’m sure that the whirlwind of amazing is definitely going to continue. But don’t think it will all be easy, sometimes you will wonder why you said yes or what you have signed up for, or if you can really manage it, but in the end it will all work out. Looking forward, I’ve already applied for an international conference for 2017, and I’m in the process of finishing my first conference paper and journal article and I will soon be launching a blog on advocacy and outreach (two things that I have found at every turn on my journey so far).

So believe in yourself, smile, and I hope that from this blog post you can see that you have value as a new professional within the archival profession and that you are wanted. Without the encouragement of Annelie and our pact, I know that I wouldn’t have gone for half the opportunities and done half the things I have, despite my supportive workplace. So if you need someone to give you the confidence to say yes, and to get involved, or throw your hat in the ring then find us on twitter and I’m sure we can help 🙂

 

Where to start:

  1. Get in touch with your professional association, whether it’s local (Australian Society of Archivists) or international (International Council on Archives)
    • Remember that it’s not about what the association can offer you, it’s about what you can do for the association which also benefits yourself, ie. volunteer to write content for their social media accounts – This will help you to meet other professionals and develop an employable skill, whilst being of benefit to your association.
  2. Check out call for papers for conferences
    • Submitting abstracts to conferences is an invaluable step toward developing your networks and career.
    • If you need help, here is a tip sheet that Nicola, Annelie and Mike Jones developed for anyone wanting to submit for the 2017 Australian Society of Archivists conference.
    • If you can’t afford to go to a conference, get in touch with the conference organisers and ask whether you can attend the conference for free in exchange for volunteering as a helper.
  3. Get writing
    • Do you have blogs in your region that are dedicated to archives? Why not write a guest blog post? Write something for your professional association’s newsletter. I know that the ICA New Professionals welcome submissions to their newsletters.
    • If you would like to do a research project one day, have a look at Annelie’s post about conducting archival research.
  4. Apply for bursaries
    • Apply for bursaries such as the ICA New Professional bursary (hurry as applications are closing soon).
  5. Keep an eye out
    • Sign up for the newsletters and listservs of professional associations in order to keep abreast of upcoming opportunities. Once you know where to look, and start developing your networks, you will find that there is no limit to the opportunities open to you.

Innovative Archivists as Drivers of Change

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Innovative archivists know three things:

  1. Archival systems are infrastructure
  2. Archival infrastructure is man-made
  3. That which is man-made can be man-unmade

The word ‘infrastructure’ generally brings to mind roads and bridges, but our economic systems and very society is based upon intricate, interrelated sets of infrastructure. A unique feature of infrastructure is that it supports our society and our ways of living, but is taken for granted and largely goes unnoticed. Unless that is, something goes wrong. 

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Road Infrastructure

For example, consider the roads we drive on every day and facilitates our transportation; invariably mostly we notice them is when there are faults on the road. As they don’t pull our attention, little thought is given to maintaining roads until potholes jolt us into action.

As archival systems (encompassing recordkeeping technologies, standards and behaviours) facilitate and support activities within a community or organization, they are another example of infrastructure. Like our roads, archival systems go largely unnoticed unless something is wrong, leading to the refrain that audits and disasters are an archivists’ best friend.

The nature of archival systems as infrastructure contributes to the lack of awareness of the importance and complexity of archival systems and of the archival profession. Regrettably, infrastructure also appears to be ‘set’ and unchangeable.

The innovative archivist recognises that archival infrastructure is man-made, and anything that is man-made can be man-unmade.

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NASA Infrastructure, 1949

When the innovative archivist is told that something is impossible, their mind amends it to ‘there’s a limitation in the existing system’ with the recognition that the existing system could be changed. Just as a system can be changed, so too can systemic recordkeeping behaviours.

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During the 2016 ASA conference, Laura Miller argued that we should look at how service initiatives have enabled change in the past. Miller used the Reduce Reuse Recycle campaign to demonstrate how attitudes to rubbish were changed through a systemic, long-term campaign.

The innovative archivist recognises that recordkeeping behaviours are waiting to be changed.

As Miller argued, archivists need to stop feeling overwhelmed by the wave of technological and societal change and instead become the drivers of that change.

Debunking Archival Research Myths

For most archivists, research continues to be shrouded in mystery. Unfortunately this contributes to the growing gap between practitioners and researchers in our profession.

This blog post sets out to debunk a couple of myths that are stopping people from doing research.

Myth 1: I don’t have the authority to do research.

FALSE. Everyone is an expert in something. The first trick is to identify what you know.

Example: I have only worked in the profession for three years. So last year, a couple of us organised a panel discussion at the ASA Conference about what it was like to be a new professional in the Australian archival sector.

Myth 2: Everything’s already been done.

FALSE. The more you read, and the more conferences you go to, the better you get at identifying the gaps. The second trick is reading as widely as possible. Join your professional association and gain access to their journals, you will soon be overwhelmed by how much has not yet been rigorously considered. Journal articles will help you out here by identifying their own limitations.

Example: “The impact of the WW1 centenary on the public’s exposure to archival material was out of scope”. Remember: Another article’s limitation is your opportunity.

Myth 3: I don’t write well enough.

FALSE. The more you read and the more you write, the more you get the hang of the jargon. Journal articles are written in dense, academic language because the writers want to convey complex ideas in fewer words. Every writer approaches things differently; compare the dense, academic style of the Canadian academic Terry Cook with the more conversational style of practitioner Cassie Findlay. The more you write, the more you will develop your own style. Start your own blog or contribute to others’ (e.g. the Recordkeeping Roundtable.

Myth 4: I don’t know how.

Ok, this one is possibly true. However it’s one of the easiest obstacles to overcome! In order to get your research published you need to prove two things: that the research was rigorous and that you are contributing to existing knowledge.

You demonstrate these two things by completing the following process:

  1. Identifying the gap in existing knowledge through a literature review
  2. Articulating your research question, adapting the literature review accordingly
  3. Designing your methodology to best suit your research question
  4. Collecting your data
  5. Analysing your data
  6. Comparing your findings with existing knowledge
  7. Identifing what new knowledge has been gained
  8. Writing it up

I would recommend getting your hands on this book as it guides you through the steps listed above.

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Of course there are little tips and tricks that I’ve only learnt by asking experienced researchers. The best advice I can give is just to talk with as many people as possible. Collaboration opportunities are likely to come your way if people know you are interested.

 

‘Let me tell you’: Designing personal digital archives for children in out-of-home care

This post is a re blog of the post I wrote for the Find & Connect Web Resource Blog on 27/06/2016.

This blog post introduces the Master’s Thesis of Annelie de Villiers, who recently completed her Masters in Archival systems at Monash University.

Personal recordkeeping refers to the processes of creating, capturing, organising and pluralising records of a personal nature, whether by the individuals themselves or by others. This means that the records that are created about a child in out-of-home care (OOHC) actually forms part of that child’s personal recordkeeping.

So why do Care Leavers have so much trouble accessing their records? Why are the records often incomplete, incorrect and upsetting?

In the past, the Australian Care sector has created records as part of everyday business processes – for example, about Care decisions and children’s medical reports. Because these records were created without the understanding that the child might one day see them, the records can be confronting and upsetting. Care Leavers sometimes report feeling re-traumatised after accessing their records. They had hoped for something that would be personally meaningful and help them to make sense of their past and the records did not deliver.

If the Care sector recognised that their records were evidence of a child’s life and therefore formed part of that child’s personal recordkeeping the nature of their records would be very different. Unfortunately, recent studies have shown that the Australian Care system is continuing to create business-centric records, meaning that alternative measures of supporting the children’s personal and collective identity need to be explored.

My Life Story Book Front Cover

One example of an alternative personal recordkeeping practice is life story work. Life story work has been applied more broadly across the Australian Care sector in recent years. I was prompted to do my research when I found the NSW Department of Family & Community Services’ My Life Story book – the Aboriginal version (download) .

Life story work involves the child or young adult engaging in narrative therapy with an adult in order to help make sense of their experiences.

As young people are more interested in engaging with life story work if it is in a digital format I first wanted set out to design a digital life story resource for children and young people in OOHC. Because there are more Indigenous Australian and Torres Strait Islander children removed from home now than ever before, this project also aimed to identify the personal recordkeeping requirements of Indigenous children.

I quickly realised that even if such a resource was built, there is currently no underlying infrastructure or governance framework to support it. As a result, the research looked instead at how personal digital archives can be developed for children and young people in OOHC. After conducting a number of interviews, the project resulted in a set of design requirements for such a system.

Here are some of the requirements identified:

  • The system would need to be secure.
  • The repository would need to hold authoritative records (e.g. birth certificates) in an ‘administrative’ collection which is accessible by the child, carer and social worker(s).
  • The repository would need to hold records of a personal nature which is accessible only by the child.
  • The system needs to be interoperable.

At the ‘back end’, such a resource would be composed of two platforms; the first being the actual personal digital archive repository, the second being an interactive platform where the child or young person engages with their records – or creates new ones – in a meaningful way. While no system should ever replace face-to-face engagement, the use of such a system would acknowledge the right of a child or young person to their personal records.

For those who are interested in seeing the full set of requirements – the thesis ‘Let me tell you’: Designing personal digital archives for children in out-of-home care is currently undergoing review before being made available through Monash University’s Faculty of IT.