In May 2015, Football Federation Australia (FFA) published its Whole of Football Plan. Within that document it announced plans for the creation of a football museum within an ‘Australian home of football’.
There is already discussion of how and where this establishment will be built and what its functions and scope should be.
This piece, of primary interest to those interested in sport research and information access, seeks only to advise on how best to provide library, research and scholarly services within a future football museum – or indeed any other sport discipline museum.
As is best practice, all of Australia’s major cultural institutions (galleries, museums, etc.) have a research library or research centre within them. Any proposed new football museum will also need a research centre (a library by any other name) if it is to be successful.
The primary stated purpose for the creation of the FFA’s football museum is to “acknowledge the history of football in Australia and establish a strong connection between football’s present and its past” and to “act as a focal point for the whole football community”.
To achieve those goals the museum needs not only to attract general visitors to view its exhibition spaces, but also to support and encourage researchers and scholars to directly access, study and build on its collections. It is through a research centre/library that academics and researchers best interact with institutions.
While the primary purpose of a museum library is to assist with the work and research of museum staff, it must also seek to cater for the external scholar.
Football, like all major sports in Australia, has a very healthy number of researchers, historians, and social commentators the expected usage by external scholars can therefore be expected to be high.
Given this, it is important to set out very clearly and early in this major project proposal, what the expected user community will need and also what librarians and archivists think is needed so that we will all get the museum services we want.
Below I present a few ideas and suggestions on how we can get a football museum research library that will best serve its users as well as being cost effective and principle based.
Form of library
The principal responsibilities of the library will be to provide scholarly access to the collected records of football in Australia.
The library would primarily be a research institution that seeks to manage its activities and collection in a digital environment. Wherever possible users, wherever they are in Australia, should be able to access the library’s holdings in an accessible online format.
A determination of the football museum’s collecting intentions will be established at the outset of its creation. This will guide the ongoing collecting focus of the museum and its library. It should be considered that the library should seek only to support and enhance the whole museum collection and there should be no duplication of collecting activities.
The museum would be expected to collect and curate the physical and documentary records of Australian football. Within that collection will be the traditional library items, including: books, periodicals, fanzines, match day programs and general paper-based ephemera.
The library would be expected to maintain a public (with access restrictions) reading room where research access to items within the museum and library collection could be viewed.
If appropriate, to develop an initial paper-based collection, consideration should be given to seeking out already formed collections from individuals. As the museum will be entitled to Australian Tax Office listing as a deductible gift recipient, any donation of a collection will be tax deductible for those persons under the Australian government’s cultural gifts program.
The library should seek to collect and recognise football communities that have traditionally been under represented. This would include women and people with disabilities.
The library would cooperate with any Australian football organisation, cultural institution or individual to seek loans, gifts or digitised copies of individual items or collections for its collection. This would include seeking football-related content from all migrant and indigenous communities, including newspapers and periodicals in non-English languages.
The library would cooperate with any overseas body to seek loans, gifts or digitised copies of any records of Australian football or footballers they may hold for its collection.
It would seek to collect content that was created outside or antagonistic to mainstream football organisations and clubs. This may be traditional content produced by supporters in forms such as fanzines, or other content created by ‘active’ fans or those sometimes entitled ‘ultras’.
Strong oral history resources should be developed by interviewing and recording elder Australians, in particular from football communities without a strong publication record and from within migrant and indigenous communities.
Football history and activity in all Australian regional areas would be recognised, as well as its traditional centres in Sydney and Melbourne.
Working where possible with other cultural collecting agencies, the library will begin a digitisation program to preserve and make widely available Australian football periodicals and ephemera.
Where the library receives a large or formed collection of paper-based materials, consideration will be given to digitising that entire collection. To ensure that the most important and/or fragile items are digitised first, a list of publications should be compiled and an expert group of researchers created to decide on the order of digitisation.
As digitisation is an expensive process, crowdfunding should be considered for particular publications to be digitised.
Both the library and museum collection will be catalogued preferably using a combined free and open source collection management system (such as Collective Access).
Alternatively, the library collection could be separately catalogued, preferably also on an open-source standards based system.
The records from any catalogue chosen must be able to be made available on Australia’s TROVE service, managed by the National Library of Australia.
Australia has a great wealth of football history already published in electronic format. These documents exist on websites, ebooks, blogs and online forums.
The library should seek to become a partner within PANDORA: Australia’s web archive. By becoming a partner it will allow the library to (with publisher’s permission) select, collect, preserve, catalogue and disseminate the available online football history resources.
If this is not an option, the library may alternatively use the Internet Archive’s Archive-It service.
The library should provide a basic reference service to the public, subject to staffing and budget. This would be best conducted via an online query service.
The library will create a service-level agreement which defines its levels of service and response times. Consideration should be made to creating a fee-based system for managing higher level research requests.
The purpose of most academic journal publishing is to limit the availability of scholarly information to a wide audience by imposing substantial financial barriers.
Libraries traditionally spend large proportions of their collection development budgets on subscribing to journals from major international academic publishing houses, this option should not be considered for the Football Museum or its Library.
Consideration will made only to the collection of journals from Australian sources or from open-access journals.
The library should establish and maintain an online-only refereed journal specifically on Australian football history. There are many free and open source journal publishing systems developed by universities that it could be managed on.
Centre of excellence
The library will work with any Australian football organisation to assist in the overall management of football’s documentary heritage. This may include providing advice and assistance on the creation, maintenance and preservation of any football related item or record.
The library will produce publications and provide outreach services to promote good document management practice within sports organisations.
Sport science and medicine
Dependent on the creation of the museum within a broader ‘Australian home of football’ that would encompass football sports science and medicine facilities and staff, the library could provide services within this field. These services would best be provided in cooperation with the AIS NSIC, who are the lead agency in this field.
The library will establish a division between its reference and lending collection.
Items identified as able to be lent will be available for loan according to the Australian inter-library loans system.
To function appropriately the library will require a suitably qualified librarian (i.e. a person entitled to receive Associate Membership of ALIA) as library manager.
Dependent on size and capacity, the library will employ full-time librarian staff to carry out its core functions. These professional activities would include:
• Collection development
• Collection maintenance and preservation (including Digitisation)
• Reference Services
Where possible, the library will employ volunteers to assist with public access and research.