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.

Williamson Medallion

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 recipient will be announced at an appropriate time during the VALA Biennial Conference. 

Nominations for the 2018 Williamson Award are now closed.

Previous Williamson Award Recipients

Click HERE for reflections on the history of the award from Enid Williamson.

Recipients of the Williamson Award are in auspicious company, with previous winners including:-

2016 - Mal Booth, University of Technology, Sydney

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

2004 - Gary Hardy and Stewart Hall from VICNET at the State Library of Victoria

2002 - Hans Groenewegen from Monash University

2000 - Derek Whitehead from Swinburne University

1997 - Geoff Payne

1995 - Informit

1994 - Peter Stansfield

1993 - Geoff Huston

1992 - Kim Jelbart

1991 - Warwick Cathro

1989 - Jeff Leeuwenburg

1988 - Elizabeth Swan

1987 - Sherrey Quinn

1986 - Susan Wannan

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 some of the Robert D. Williamson Award recipients.

About Robert D. Williamson

Robert D WilliamsonAlthough 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.


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