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2 minutes to read Posted on Friday August 27, 2021

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Fred Saunderson

Fred Saunderson

Rights and Information Manager , National Library of Scotland

portrait of Georgia Evans

Georgia Evans

Senior Editorial Officer , Europeana Foundation

Professionals in Focus: Fred Saunderson

Europeana Members Councillors have diverse jobs and wide experience across the heritage sector, but are united by their passion for digital cultural heritage. In our ‘Professionals in Focus’ series, we speak to Europeana Network Association Members Councillors about their roles, working lives and plans for their time on the Members Council. This month, Fred Saunderson tells us about his work as Rights and Information Manager at the National Library of Scotland.

Photo of Fred Saunderson
Fred Saunderson
Fred Saunderson

How did you enter your profession? 

Before I joined the National Library of Scotland in 2014, I worked as a researcher for the Open Data Institute (ODI) in London after completing my Masters in Digital Asset Management. During my Masters course I worked as a consultant on digital transition projects in local museums in the south of England, which was my first professional experience in the cultural sector. A keen interest in the benefits of openness led me to my initial role at the Library, which specialised in copyright policy and developing an open licensing approach. 

Over time, my role within the Library evolved and grew as our priorities and resources shifted, and now encompasses responsibility for data protection, records management, freedom of information, and other forms of information support services in addition to responsibility for copyright. 

What are you currently working on? 

Much of my day-to-day work involves providing guidance and support to colleagues and the public (for example, in research and digitisation projects) as well as developing and managing policies and procedures in my areas of specialism.

In addition, I have a few larger activities that I am excited to be working on at the Library right now. In 2017, fellow Members Councillor Dafydd Tudur (National Library of Wales) and I co-developed a copyright risk assessment framework, to structure a standardised approach to the assessment of copyright in our collections. I am now working within the Library to develop this framework into an automated tool that can produce indicative assessments of the copyright status of collection materials using data from our catalogues. We will use this tool to advance the Library’s digitisation and openness objectives.

Over the last year I have also been working on a framework to support the assessment of ‘sensitive’ content within the Library’s collections. The framework works to provide a structure to this complex and nuanced process, enabling our collection professionals to make informed decisions about the degree of access that can be afforded to materials, as well as the degree to which content warning notices ought to be applied. And with my records management hat on, I am continuing long-standing work to embed a comprehensive records management plan across the Library. 

What are some of the challenges in your role? What are some of your favourite elements?

The greatest challenges, and what I love most about the role, are the range of topics that I work on and the speed at which they can evolve. I love that in my role I am a specialist in a number of topics and that I am called upon to provide support, guidance, and structure in these different areas. On any given working day I can expect to hop between topics, which means I am continually exposed to activities, issues and ideas of incredible variety.

Another aspect of my role that I love is the chance to tackle topics that could readily be seen as ‘mere compliance’ and instead explore and help my colleagues to benefit from the positive, proactive, and supportive aspects of these areas. I try to approach every opportunity or issue in my areas of specialism from a positive angle. I think this is so important, because structures like copyright and data protection don’t simply exist to stifle innovation and activity, even if it can feel like that in the heat of the moment. These structures are much more nuanced and expansive than many realise at first glance, and I feel that it is my role to help my colleagues and our users to get the very best out of these structures and to understand why they are constructed as they are.

What was your motivation for joining the Members Council? 

My engagement with Europeana has been on a slow, steady upward trajectory over the past few years. Mainly this has been through the Copyright Community, but it has also been through projects that the Library has been involved with and through secondhand enthusiasm of my peers for other areas where Europeana has great strengths, such as on impact.

Between 2017 and 2020 I was privileged enough to chair the UK’s Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance (LACA), a long-established group that advocates for fair and balanced copyright and has been instrumental in ensuring delivery of positive changes to the UK’s copyright laws. My work with LACA further exposed me to the range of cultural and information organisations working to improve our quality of life and to the high challenge, high reward world of advocacy. After finishing my time as chair, I was excited for a new challenge and new means to support the cultural sectors. The opportunity to serve as a Councillor seemed the perfect means to do this within an organisation that I have found remarkably rewarding to my own career and to my own organisation’s digital engagement activity. 

What do you plan to do as a Members Councillor? 

I have two key objectives as a Councillor. First, I would like to continue to advance the open agenda. Openness is central to cultural organisations, and we cannot truly do our best if we are not open and exploring new, more dynamic ways to be open.

Second, I want to help to make the Members Council, and Europeana itself, even more accessible and transparent to our sectors and communities. Although I have worked closely with Europeana for several years, have been active on the Copyright Community, and now chair that Community, I have found the organisation and the Council challenging beasts at times to understand.