Australian Radical Community Libraries and Archives: Opposition and Interplay

In Australia, community libraries and archives have developed as radical responses to the information needs of specific groups. They have a role to play in elevating the voices of historically marginalised people by collecting resources relevant to those communities, for use today and for preservation into the future. Libraries are also generative in ways that extend past the boundaries of their collections, creating communities that grow around these collections through programmed and serendipitous interactions.

In this presentation, the speakers will introduce audiences to some lesser-known community libraries and archives, including Jessie Street Womens’ Library, Women’s Art Register, Melbourne Art Library, and the Incendium Radical Library, as well as language and cultural community libraries. These new community libraries both build on, and exist in opposition to state, public and university libraries. In some ways, they also continue the Australian tradition of subscription-based libraries for community learning.

The speakers will argue that such community libraries and archives can be seen in opposition to mainstream public and academic libraries, collecting ephemera and publications from small, local and independent publishers that are sometimes overlooked as important collections for patrons and researchers. However, the relationship between mainstream libraries and radical libraries can also be conceived of as an interplay. Mainstream libraries can offer spaces to radical libraries (for example, the Women’s Art Register operates out of a branch of Yarra Libraries).

In return, radical libraries can provide new information professionals with access to skills and experience through providing opportunities for community volunteering and deeper understandings of associated industries, such as publishing, bookselling and academia.

Dr Romany Manuell

Research Librarian, ACER

Author Bio

Dr Romany Manuell is the Research Librarian at the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) Cunningham Library. She has a background in academic librarianship, and has worked in secondary and tertiary education in Australia and overseas. Romany has volunteered for many library and information industry committees and is currently a general member of the Melbourne Art Library board.

Katie Haden

Adjunct Lecturer, Charles Sturt University

Author Bio

Katie Haden is an Adjunct Lecturer in the School of Information and Communication Studies at Charles Sturt University. As a practitioner she specialises in collection discovery and library systems, and has lead collections and technology teams in law and special libraries. Her research interest areas are practitioner-lead research, and organisational culture in GLAMR.