Elizabeth Swan

Elizabeth Swan BA FALIA

Elizabeth has an extraordinary drive, commitment, and passion for the role of the special librarian. She is held in high regard by those who work in the sector, and recognised as a leader and mentor in the field of special librarianship in Australia.

She was one of the first librarians in Australia to recognise the benefits and importance of online information retrieval systems in the very early days of their existence. Her leadership in this area helped to ensure that librarians were the professionals who became the experts on these systems within their organisations. Elizabeth was one of the first Australian librarians to use overseas online databases.

Elizabeth was a founding member of the LAA's Information Science Section (ISS) in the mid-seventies and served continuously on the National and NSW Section in various capacities for 25 years. Her expertise, contacts, enthusiasm, ideas and commitment of time were invaluable. Elizabeth was a member of the ISS committee that met with OTC representatives and led to the establishing of MIDAS which, by providing reasonably priced telephone access instead of trunk-call rates, opened up online searching of overseas databases.

The Section ran many evening meetings and successful one-day conferences and workshops on a range of topics to update the professional knowledge of members. Her enthusiasm for and work in organising the ALIA Information Online Conference has significantly contributed to its positioning as one of the premier conferences for ALIA and the information services sector.

Elizabeth also recognised the importance to the library and information profession of looking beyond library and information practitioners and developing strong links and strategic alliances with other groups and stakeholders. She always placed great emphasis on the exhibition and individual exhibitors at the Online Conference. Most of the generous sponsorships attracted by Online were the result of her efforts and personal contacts. The Acting Chair of the Senate Commission of Inquiry into the Role of Libraries in the Online Environment, Senator John Tierney, was so impressed by the Information Edge submission to the Inquiry that he registered for and attended the Online Conference as a delegate.

Elizabeth has also contributed greatly to the field of special librarianship in Australia. She delivered the first Lesle Symes Memorial Lecture in 1985, which an outstanding special librarian gives by invitation. She has nurtured and inspired many special librarians, both in developing and delivering highly relevant and much needed training through her company, Information Edge Ltd, and her generous gift of a great deal of her time to support special librarians and help them to lift their profiles within their organisations. Her commitment in this area has included mentoring, training and development of PD for the profession. She has promoted the valuable role a librarian can play in the corporate and government sectors, and has been diligent in drawing attention to the importance of the information industry and the opportunities that exist for librarians to redefine their role within their organisations.

In mentoring other librarians, from graduates to established professionals, Elizabeth has given freely of her own time to help develop many careers. Her advice and example has been particularly valuable in special librarianship, as many librarians work in isolation and under tight budgetary control, often falling victim to economic and financial downturns.

Arguably Elizabeth's greatest contribution has been her leadership of the ALIA Information Online Conference. In 1984, Elizabeth and Enid Roberts suggested that the Information Science Section could run a conference similar to the London Online conference, and since that time Elizabeth has been on the committee of every Online conference, on several occasions as Convenor or Program Convenor, positions with a heavy responsibility to ensure continuing broad participation. Her business acumen and commitment to the conference have ensured that it has flourished and many thousands of information professionals from all over Australia, New Zealand and Asia have been inspired by the possibilities of the online environment.

Elizabeth's contribution to the profession has been recognised by ALIA when she was made an Honorary Member in 2003. Other recognition of her work has included the Williamson Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Development of Information Science in Australia in 1988 and the Maria Gemenis Award for Special Librarians in 1985 and 1993.

For her contribution to professional training, her service to ALIA and her capacity to identify the unique skills of librarians and sell the value of librarians as information specialists to the wider community, Elizabeth Swan is a worthy recipient of the distinction of Fellow of the Australian Library and Information Association.

In 2021 Elizabeth received Member (AM) status in the General Division for significant service to the library and information sciences.