The Robert D. Williamson Award
ROBERT D. WILLIAMSON AWARD: 2016 - Enid Williamson Reflections
The Award recognises the pioneering work that Bob did in the computerisation of information systems and nurturing the growth of Information Science Section within the Library Association of Australia. He was the driving force behind the creation of the Victorian Group and called the inaugural meeting of the first working group in September 1976 which led in turn, to the formal creation of the Group at which he was elected foundation President unopposed. And so in 1978 VALA was born.
Jim Gilmore was founding chairman of VALA and was the first recipient of the Robert D Williamson Award. He led a team of 12 at CSIRO responsible for systems development in three main CSIRO activities, library, editorial and publishing.
Jim wrote “ to do good research , you need good information … and the only product of research IS information”. He had been working in this field since 1969 when the CSIRO moved into a computer-based library system. He quoted an early experience when he mentioned that he had sat at a terminal and using Lockheed’s Dialog information retrieval service in Palo Alto , California, he got an index of 20 references on a subject. The search was quick, cost $10, and would have been impossible to do using conventional methods.
The first VALA conference was in 1981. It is perhaps worth reflecting that 100 attendees were expected at the first VALA conference but over 300 attended. And the comment made by Jim Gilmore of CSIRO, that the three data base networks, Medline, Ausinet and Midas were handling about 160,000 searches a year, more than the total for the UK.
Nature of the Award
VALA's most prestigious award is the Robert D. Williamson Award, established in memory of one of the early pioneers of our industry, Bob Williamson.
In keeping with Bob’s legacy, this biennial award honours those who demonstrate leadership, curiosity, excellence and innovation and, in the view of their peers, are outstanding contributors to the development of information technology usage in Australian libraries and information services.
The Williamson Award is open to both individuals and organisations in the Library and Information Science profession within Australia.
The Award consists of a medallion and cash to the value of AUD $2,000.
The 2016 Williamson Award was presented to Mal Booth from University of Technology, Sydney. The winner was announced during the final plenary session at the VALA2016 Conference on Thursday 11 February 2016, and presented at the VALA AGM and Williamson Lecture on 29th June 2016 by Enid Williamson. Click HERE for reflections on the history of the award from Enid Williamson.
Previous Williamson Award Recipients
Recipients of the Williamson Award are in auspicious company, with previous winners including:-
2014 - Alyson Kosina, former VALA Executive Officer
2012 - Christine Mackenzie from the Yarra Plenty Regional Library Service
2010 - Anne Beaumont from the State Library of Victoria
2008 - Elizabeth Drynan and Pamela Johnstone, from Enterprise Information Management Pty Ltd
2006 - Lloyd Sokvitne from the State Library of Tasmania
2002 - Hans Groenewegen from Monash University
2000 - Derek Whitehead from Swinburne University
1985 - Hans Zwillenberg from ADSATIS (Australian Defence Scientific and Technical Information Services)
1984 - Des Tellis from Australian Mineral Foundation
1983 - Ian McCallum from ACI Computer Services
1982 - Neil Speirs from Australian Business Index
1981 - Jim Gilmore from Systems and Development Group, CSIRO
The VALA web site provides details about the Robert D. Williamson Award recipients.
About Robert D. Williamson
Although originally a chemical engineer, as manager of APM’s (now AMCOR’s) research library, Robert (Bob) Williamson was an early devotee of information technology in libraries. By the early 1970’s he had persuaded management to invest significantly in relevant US computer databases and software to support the company’s business objectives. This predated all of the publicly available services.
Professionally Bob was a leader. He was a quiet man, both curious and innovative, a generous advisor to colleagues, and an eager participant in the professional debates at the time. Bob also developed “recipe books” to help new online searchers navigate the different commands needed to access the new online services.
Bob was the industry representative on the STISEC committee convened by the National Library of Australia to quantify scientific and technical publication in Australia. When Peter Judge of CSIRO formed ALIA’s national Information Science Section, Bob was an obvious choice to convene that Section in Victoria just a few years before his sudden and untimely death in 1980.
It is therefore fitting that VALA's most prestigious award is named after Robert D. Williamson.