Library sector unites for First Nations collection description

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Cataloguing practises have come a long way, but there's still work to do
"Library Card Catalogue Drawer" by Poughkeepsie Day School is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

In 2021, an audit of contemporary Indigenous collections was undertaken by four NSLA libraries (National Library of Australia, State Library of Queensland, State Library of New South Wales, State Library of Western Australia). The audit resulted in 32 recommendations to be considered for action by individual member libraries. The most pressing was the development of a set of guidelines for description of First Nations material that could be broadly applied by member libraries.

In discussions with representatives from ALIA, CAUL, CAVAL and AIATSIS, it became apparent that there was much wider demand for description guidelines of this nature – extending right across the library sector – and further, a need to communicate any shared requirements to vendors.

A project team was formed in October 2022 with representatives from across the library and information sector (LIS) to progress this important work. Our objectives are to:

  1. Provide a sector-wide picture of current practice in First Nations collection description by collating guidelines currently in use by the partner organisations and/or their members.
  2. Develop and disseminate sector-wide guidelines that will result in greater confidence and consistency in description of First Nations collections by libraries and publishers across Australia.

The guidelines we aim to create will guide the work of librarians, archivists and all others involved in item description of First Nations materials across the LIS and publishing sectors as well as vendors involved in collection description activities in Australia.

We will be reaching out to colleagues across the sector to help us with this important work. In the meantime, if you have any queries about the project, please contact any of the working party or advisory group members listed below.

Working party

Sara Davidsson (CAVAL) - Co-lead sara.davidsson@caval.edu.au
Kathleen Smeaton (CAUL) - Co-lead k.smeaton@library.uq.edu.au
Anthony McLaughlin (AIATSIS)
Michela Goodwin (National Library of Australia/NSLA)
Nicole Hunt (ACORD/QPLA)
Phoebe Weston-Evans (ALIA) education@alia.org.au

Advisory group

Alissa McCulloch (ACORD)
Lilly Hoi Sze Ho (Library & Archives NT)
Catherine Johnston (Library & Archives NT)
Robert Deininger (State Library of New South Wales)
Barbara Lemon (NSLA) executive.officer@nsla.org.au
Kate Davis (CAUL) caul@caul.edu.au
Trish Hepworth (ALIA)