ENGAGING WITH REMOTE COMMUNITIES IN THE NORTHERN TERRITORY: THE LIBRARIES AND KNOWLEDGE CENTRES PROGRAM

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  • ENGAGING WITH REMOTE COMMUNITIES IN THE NORTHERN TERRITORY: THE LIBRARIESAND KNOWLEDGE CENTRES PROGRAMAuthor(s): Cate RichmondSource: Fontes Artis Musicae, Vol. 55, No. 1 (January-March 2008), pp. 165-169Published by: International Association of Music Libraries, Archives, and Documentation Centres(IAML)Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23512418 .Accessed: 14/06/2014 16:54

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  • ENGAGING WITH REMOTE COMMUNITIES IN THE NORTHERN TERRITORY: THE LIBRARIES AND KNOWLEDGE CENTRES PRO GRAM Cate Richmond1

    English Abstract This article discusses remote library services in the Northern Territory, where the

    Northern Territory Library is assisting Indigenous communities to document and

    preserve their cultural heritage through the Libraries and Knowledge Centres

    Program. Local communities are now faced with preservations issues of both repatri

    ated local materials and of local collections and documentation in photographs, docu

    ments, and audio/video recordings. Many of these items are best preserved in a digi

    tal format, but this needs to be supported by a structure and organisation of the

    materials to provide easy retrieval and access. The Libraries and Knowledge Centres

    Program was developed in 2004 to address these needs.

    French Abstract

    Cet article examine les services proposs par les bibliothques en rgion rurale

    dans le Territoire du Nord, o la Bibliothque du Territoire du Nord aide les commu

    nauts indignes documenter et prserver leur hritage culturel par le biais du

    programme Bibliothques et centres du savoir. Les communauts locales sont

    aujourd'hui confronte aux questions de prservation la fois du matriel rapatri et

    de collections de documentations locales tels que des photographies, documents et

    enregistrements audiovisuels. Le format numrique semble tre le plus appropri la

    conservation de la plupart de ces documents, mais cela demande de les structurer

    afin de faciliter l'extraction des donnes et leur accs. Le programme Bibliothques

    et centres du savoir s'est dvelopp en 2004 et concerne ces besoins.

    German Abstract

    Dieser Artikel stellt Bibliotheksdienstleistungen im entlegenen Northern Territory vor. Durch das Libraries and Knowledge Centres Program" untersttzen Bibliotheken dort die Gemeinden der Ureinwohner dabei, ihr kulturelles Erbe zu dokumentieren und zu erhalten. Die rtlichen Gemeinden stehen vor der Aufgabe, lokale Samm

    lungen von Dokumenten, wie Fotos und Audio-/Videoaufnahmen, dauerhaft zu

    bewahren. Fr viele dieser Materialien ist eine digitale Speicherung das Mittel der

    1. Cate Richmond is Assistant Director, Public Libraries and Knowledge Centres, Northern

    Territory Library.

    165

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  • 166 FONTES ART1S MUSICAE 55/1

    Wahl. Hierzu muss jedoch eine entsprechende (technische) Umgebung geschaffen werden, um die Recherche und den Zugang zu den Materialien zu ermglichen. Das

    Libraries and Knowledge Centres Program" wurde 2004 geschaffen, um sich dieser

    Themenstellung zu widmen.

    The Libraries and Knowledge Centres (LKC) Program was developed in 2004

    in response to requests from Indigenous communities, who were seeking to

    preserve their cultural heritage and provide appropriate access to it. This is

    particularly important in the Northern Territory (NT), where nearly 30% of

    the population is Indigenous. There are approximately 40 distinct Aboriginal

    language groups throughout the NT, each with their own set of cultural tradi

    tions and practices. Unfortunately many of these cultures and languages are

    vulnerable or threatened by the influences of Western culture. Two-thirds of

    the Territory's Indigenous population lives in communities run by local

    Councils with poor infrastructure and staffing. Many communities are only ac

    cessible by air and/or four-wheel drive vehicle. The NT is the most sparsely

    populated region of Australia, representing about 1% of the Australian popula tion in one-sixth of the total land area. The distance between Darwin in the

    north and Alice Springs in the south of the Territory is almost 1300 kms, or

    over 800 miles. Northern Territory Library (NTL) is the major reference and research li

    brary and is administered by the NT Department of Local Government,

    Housing and Sport. One of NTL's roles is to provide public library services in

    partnership with local Councils. There are 6 municipal libraries and 22 com

    munity libraries, most of which are in isolated and remote Indigenous com munities. Each Community Library is staffed by one or more Community

    Library Officers (CLOs) and is usually open from between 15-30 hours per week. CLOs are employed by local Councils to operate the library and to pro vide library programs for community members. NTL has a small team of staff in Darwin and Alice Springs who visit communities as often as possible to sup

    port and train CLOs and to promote the use of the library to the community and other service providers. This Program was recently awarded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 2007 Access to Learning Award for its work to im

    prove the lives of Indigenous Australians.2

    The LKC Program

    Many Indigenous communities are now focussing on the repatriation of local material and the preservation of photographs, documents and tape and video

    recordings. There is recognition that these items need to be preserved in a

    digital format. In communities where digitisation is well advanced, there is fur ther recognition of the need to structure and organise digital material so that it can be easily retrieved. There is high demand for access to local material and for personal copies of family photographs and recordings of songs and stories.

    2. See: Accessed 20/9/07.

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  • ENGAGING WITH REMOTE COMMUNITIES IN THE NORTHERN TERRITORY 167

    The LKC program is made up of elements from conventional and non conventional library services, from which each community can select accord

    ing to its needs and references. Components of the model include a database of digitized historical and cultural materials, the library collection, and access to the internet and online resources. The strength of the model lies in the fact that it builds on existing infrastructure of the community library, and that it is sustainable through ongoing funding and support by NTL.

    A key component of the program is the Our Story database, which enables communities to establish digital collections of local knowledge and cultural re sources by creating, adding and repatriating content. Our Story uses the Ara

    Irititja software that was developed specifically for Pitjantjatjara communities in Central Australia. The database has a simple, user-friendly interface and a

    proven record of successful implementation and use by Indigenous people. An important feature of the database is the ability to restrict access to indi

    vidual items to cater for cultural sensitivities. Parts of the database can be cus tomised to reflect local names and language. NTL has negotiated a Territory wide licence for Ara Irititja, which allows it to be installed in all NT public libraries at no cost to communities. Ongoing licence fees are met by NTL.

    In all cases, the community owns the content in the database and data is stored according to rules set by community leaders. NTL's technical support and library management expertise ensure that content in the databases is ap propriately structured and stored, and is archived according to local require ments, as well as made accessible to the community.

    Many of the local databases contain a significant amount of material. The

    Wadeye Our Story has approximately 20,000 items and includes photographs from every clan group. Elders and community members continue to provide content to enrich items in the database by adding local stories and information.

    This is the really powerful part of the database: it facilitates user-generated content in an appropriate and accessible way. Material identified as "public" is accessible to the entire community through a computer located in the Wadeye LKC. Back-up processes are in place to ensure data is not lost due to hardware or power failure.

    The database is not internet-enabled for good reasons: poor connectivity in the bush and the need for community control of the data. Portable computer equipment enables database access wherever people need it: under a shady tree, or on a bush trip. All of this can be achieved without compromising the

    key components of the model. The flexibility of the LKC program means that

    library services don't always have to be delivered within a designated library

    space. Programs may better meet local needs if they are delivered elsewhere

    in the community (e.g. childcare centres, women's centres, art centres). What is so significant about the LKC program? Before its introduction the

    community libraries contained a range of resources much like any small

    public library. They each had a clearly identified collection of published

    Indigenous resources, but little or no material that was by or about a specific

    community, because there is so little published, either in traditional language or in English, about individual Indigenous communities. For the first time, the

    LKC Program has given communities an opportunity to develop a publicly

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  • 168 FONTES ARTIS MUSICAE 55/1

    accessible collection of local resources, which might include: family and com

    munity photos; images of country, including significant cultural sites; short

    films made in or about the community; and recordings of traditional songs and

    stories. The LKC Program assists communities to record cultural traditions and pre

    serve ancient knowledge systems. The Our Story database enables community members to connect with their history in a simple and direct manner. It pro vides a measure of ownership over local historical and cultural records. It in

    spires a sense of pride and self worth in individuals. Young people particularly are learning how to use the database and developing the skills needed to man

    age it. It is bringing more people into the local library, where they can access

    a range of library services, designed to promote literacy and lifelong learning.

    Collectively there are over 40,000 items held in 13 local Our Story databases, with planning underway to bring the program to one more community by the

    end of 2007. How is content from the Our Story databases being used? The Wadeye data

    base has enabled community access to resources which were previously un available. For example, Gemma came to the library to search for a photo of her

    family totem. The family had never before had access to a digital image of their

    totem. The image was printed off and then screen-printed on to T-shirts, which were worn at a family funeral.

    Bernice Cavanagh is CLO at Ltyentye Apurte near Alice Springs. When the

    library received a book written by Roy McFadyen, Bernice realised that the au thor may have known some of her family. Mr McFadyen lived and worked at Loves Creek Station east of Alice Springs from 1937-1942. Bernice wrote to him to ask for more information and whether he had photographs of her fam

    ily. Mr McFadyen, who is now in his 80's, invited Bernice to visit him in

    Queensland. He presented Bernice with a copy of his photographic collection and donated a second set to the Ltyentye Apurte LKC. With some technical as sistance Bernice was able to record an oral history of Mr McFadyen's time in Central Australia. This wonderful material would have been lost to the com

    munity, but for Bernice taking the initiative to contact Mr McFadyen making the journey to Queensland to hear his story.

    In June 2005, NTL commissioned an evaluation of the LKC model3. The evaluation was undertaken by a group of academics, headed by Professor Martin Nakata of University of Technology Sydney. The team visited three

    LKCs, talked with community leaders, elected members of Community Government Councils, Council staff, and community members at each site.

    They also spoke with government and non-government agencies and with a

    range of service providers. The findings were very positive, with the evaluation team reporting that the LKC Program could be a key infrastructure ele ment for building capacity in Indigenous communities, and that it provided an

    3. Evaluation of the Northern Territory Library's Libraries and Knowledge Centres Model (2006). Available at . Accessed 20/9/07.

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  • ENGAGING WITH REMOTE COMMUNITIES IN THE NORTHERN TERRITORY 169

    ILLUSTRATION Children at the Anmatjere Library and Knowledge Centre in Ti Tree, Central

    Australia. Photo courtesy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

    innovative approach to engaging with changing community needs for knowl

    edge and information. The Evaluation Report contains a number of recommendations for further

    development of the program and NTL will use funds from the Access to

    Learning Award to implement programs in three key areas:

    Preserving culture and Indigenous heritage; Building the capacity of community library staff and community mem

    bers through information literacy and computer literacy training; and Fostering early years literacy.

    Further information about the LKC Program is available from the N...

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