Annual Report - Chair's Report

The Hon. James. J. Spigelman AC This year has been one of culmination and of planning. It was a year of assessment of the successful implementation of the Library’s Strategic Directions 2009–11 and of deliberation and promulgation of Strategic Directions 2012–14.

After many years of planning and development, the Library opened its permanent Treasures Gallery and the adjoining Exhibition Gallery. The Treasures Gallery, for the first time, highlights our national heritage from the permanent collection. The Exhibition Gallery opened to universal acclaim, with Handwritten: Ten Centuries of Manuscript Treasures from Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin succeeded by an equally well-received Australian exhibition to mark the centenary of the birth of Patrick White. 

The Library’s 14-year campaign to extend the statutory requirement for the deposit of published material beyond print to encompass e-publications and public websites, to which I referred in last year’s Annual Report, reached a critical stage. In February, the Attorney-General released the consultation paper, Extending Legal Deposit. The paper invites public submissions on how best to preserve Australia’s digital heritage. Every year of delay has meant that part of the heritage has been lost forever. The Library looks forward to the successful culmination of this project.

The transition to a digital information environment is the great challenge facing libraries throughout the world. The success of the Library’s discovery and access service, Trove, which builds on collaboration with Australia’s state libraries and other cultural organisations, was manifest in widespread praise and increased usage over the course of the year. There is, however, a long way to go.

In the absence of new funding for digitising the permanent collection, the amount of additional material made accessible each year to readers and researchers throughout Australia, not just those who live in or who can visit Canberra, is limited. Therefore, the Library welcomed the provision of additional funding in the 2012 Commonwealth Budget to assist the Library to make its collection more accessible over the next few years. The Library has taken steps to place itself in a position to undertake the transition to a National Digital Library of Australia by redirecting resources to a five-year Digital Library Infrastructure Replacement project, which will replace existing electronic systems and provide the tools needed to acquire, preserve, deliver and give access to the nation’s existing and future digital information.

The three-year program, set out in Strategic Directions 2012–14, reflects the enhanced priority given to digital collecting. Some difficult decisions have been made, particularly to reduce the extent to which overseas printed material is collected. The Library has commenced a transition from print to digital for some forms of overseas collecting.

I will retire as Chair as and from 30 June 2012. I do so because of my new responsibilities as Chair of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. My association with the Library has been exceptionally rewarding, which I attribute to the professionalism and skill of the staff and the dedication of my fellow Council members.

The Hon. James. J. Spigelman AC