“This is a radical, unprecedented change and there will be massive repercussions for editorial.” So says Deborah Brown, Information Services Manager at Fairfax Media, in an email to staff that has found its way into the hands of Crikey.

Brown was reporting to staff that the Australian Financial Review and Fairfax Business Media have opted out of a new budgeting system under which they were called on to pay their share of the cost of groupwide services, including IT, accounts and library services. Fairfax Business Media have decided they don’t need to pay for the library.

As a result, reporters on the relevant publications would no longer be able to use the library after the end of this month. This was a “new model of journalism”, Brown wrote.

Now, any good journo knows how much they owe to editorial libraries. In the old days of clippings files, it was the librarians who preserved and catalogued the memory of the organisation — all the work done over the years on issues and individuals. Many, many projects started with a good read of the clippings.

These days it is a matter of electronic databases, theoretically accessible from reporters’ desks, but as Brown comments, librarians have in the past contributed to Walkley Award winning stories, and most good reporters make frequent use of their services.

Now, according to Brown’s e-mail, AFR bosses Michael Gill and Glenn Burge have decided that journalists can be “self-service researchers”. Yet she says that previously, Business Media reporters have accounted for twenty per cent of the work of the library.

Brown writes: “Michael (Gill) and Glenn (Burge) know that FDC training, FBM books, Libary ref and book collection, bound vols, mags, clippings files and PDF disks are only accessible through the library, but not after July 31. They know that we are gatekeepers on expensive databases, and we have contributed to Walkley Award winning stories. They know all this.”

Brown writes that she plans to take all AFR enquiries personally after the end of the month, and refer them to Gill. “FBM will need to solve their own problems. It is not for us to solve them beyond the end of the month.”

So what is the reasoning behind this move?

Crikey contacted Michael Gill and Glenn Burge for an answer but hadn’t heard back from them by deadline.