Annual performance statement

Statement by Accountable Authorities: Chair and Director-General

In our opinion, as the accountable authorities of the National Library of Australia, we present the 2015-16 annual performance statements of the National Library of Australia, as required under paragraph 39(1) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) and [other applicable legislation]. In our opinion, these annual performance statements are based on properly maintained records, accurately reflect the performance of the entity and comply with the subsection 39(2) of the PGPA Act. 

R. Stokes

5 August 2016

A. Schwirtlich AM

5 August 2016

2015-2016 Snapshot

Visitor reach

Onsite visitors to Library events, learning and school education programs and the Bookshop.

  • 1% remote
  • 4% outer regional
  • 11% inner regional
  • 83% major cities
  • 1% undeclared

Based on postcodes voluntarily supplied and grouped by Australian Bureau of Statistics Remoteness Area Codes.

Research and information inquiries reach

Online research and information inquiries received via the Library’s ‘Ask a Librarian’ service and Trove.

  • 1% remote
  • 6% outer regional
  • 14% inner regional
  • 58% major cities
  • 21% undeclared

Based on postcodes voluntarily supplied and grouped by Australian Bureau of Statistics Remoteness Area Codes.


  • 1,175,564 onsite and offsite visitors 
  • 249,000 visitors to our reading rooms
  • 132,800 visitors to our exhibition galleries
  • 24,694 visitors to events 
  • 6,699 school students


  • 20.88m visits
  • 501.03m Australian and online resources available 
  • 21.75m newspaper pages freely available online 
  • 199m lines of text corrected
  • 57,000 average daily visit


  • 256 shelf kms housing the collections
  • 188,213 new collection items
  • 2.5 new shelf kilometres


  • 4.8 petabytes of digital storage
  • 194,997 eresources accessed
  • 38,700 new items in digital format
  • 27.8m visits to the website

Community outreach

  • 98 public events
  • 996 volunteer tours
  • 195 organised school programs
  • 34 learning programs

Social media

  • Facebook followers 30,141
  • Twitter followers 46,791
  • Instagram followers 3,935
  • Blog posts 485


  • 100% of service standards for collection deliveries, 
  • IT availability and reference inquiries met
  • 96% of collection storage standards met 
  • 95% of national collection processing met 
  • 98% of collaborative services standards and timeframes met


  • 8 agreements with international organisations
  • 50 events held in collaboration with community groups, publishers and other organisations
  • 1,550 partnerships with historical societies, libraries, archives, museums, universities and research organisations

Strategic priority 1: Build the nation's memory

In 2015–16, the Library’s priorities were:

  • to continue building the Library’s innovative digital library platform to ensure that Australia’s documentary heritage, in all forms, can be acquired, managed for long-term access, and delivered to and used by the public;
  • when passed, to ensure the successful implementation of legal deposit legislation for digital publications through establishment of appropriate policies, systems and workflows;
  • to issue and implement a revised Collection Development Policy reflecting the Library’s aims for its collections in the digital environment.

Results Achieved

  • To continue building the Library’s innovative digital library platform to ensure that Australia’s documentary heritage, in all forms, can be acquired, managed for long-term access, and delivered to and used by the public

The successful completion of milestones within Stage 4 of the Digital Library Infrastructure Replacement (DLIR) program provided a much-needed boost to the Library’s capacity to manage its digital collections.

A significant milestone was achieved in December 2015 with the release of a new Digital Library Content Management System providing workflows to collect, manage and preserve Australian ebooks, websites, maps, digital pictures, manuscripts and oral history recordings. Successful migration saw over 300,000 digitised items in all these formats moved from older systems to the new Digital Library Content Management System. At that point, the DLIR program shifted focus from replacing end-of-life systems to building new digital collecting capabilities, with the successful launch of an edeposit service supporting new legislation for the deposit of electronic publications. Automated workflows and processes were developed to enable newly received econtent to be automatically managed and preserved, the last and most significant step in ensuring the preservation of digital collections for long-term access.

The Library’s edeposit service provides a web-based publisher portal enabling publishers to quickly and simply upload ebook and periodical publications, thereby meeting their deposit requirements with the Library. Launched on 17 February 2016, the first day of the new legislation, the portal was readily adopted by publishers. An important part of the system design was simplicity and ease of use for publishers, but also the realisation of end-to-end system workflows enabling the automated re-use of publisher metadata for incoming ebooks and ejournals. This minimises the need for manual intervention, saving staff time.

The DLIR program also built faster and simpler harvesting mechanisms to improve web collecting capability. This has significantly improved the ease and speed with which the Library can collect news and simple social media, responding to emerging topics of interest. New interfaces also mean that seed-list harvesting around a particular topic or theme, previously needing IT support, can now be run easily by collecting staff, dramatically expanding the Library’s harvesting capability. New technology to collect content that was previously unobtainable has expanded the range of content captured.

For unpublished digital collections, such as pictures and manuscripts, workflow automation has minimised repetitive data entry tasks and enabled re-use of metadata across related systems. Images are presented on screen in higher resolution and with zooming functionality, so that the user experience is much improved, and there is less need for staff to retrieve fragile, at-risk materials for inspection. The system’s capacity to apply access conditions and metadata at greater levels of granularity has enhanced rights management procedures. 

For oral history materials, the Digital Library Content Management System has more efficient end-to-end business processes, from commissioning and recording content through to accessing existing Oral History and Folklore recordings. More coherent, efficient and flexible delivery of materials that have complex relationships has streamlined access to audio recordings and their time-coded summaries and transcripts. The system has significantly shortened the timeframes required to upload materials for delivery and increased the quantity of materials available online, now approximately 8,000 hours.

In developing systems to collect, describe and make accessible digital content, there was a focus on ensuring minimal handling and data entry. As a consequence, acquiring digital material is faster and easier than print collecting. For example, the deposit and delivery of new serial issues occurs with no intervention from Library staff. In contrast, the Library manually processes print serial issues, with approximately eight full-time equivalent staff employed in acquiring 100,000 serial issues. This opens up opportunities for the Library to pursue further efficiencies in transitioning from print to digital collecting.

The Trove digital library was enhanced to deliver new and existing digitised special collections to users, online and for free. Any member of the public can now view these collections in their web browser at home; use deep zoom to closely examine the images; easily download, print or order high-resolution copies; and share them with social networks. Evidence shows that the up-to-date interface is encouraging researchers and businesses alike to incorporate the Library’s collection items into their work, from a real estate agency’s coffee table book showcasing images of local suburbs to prospective clients to a local government report on an early Māori visit to Parramatta. Users are now also able to download high-resolution out-of-copyright digitised maps. This has contributed to a 60 per cent reduction in mediated order requests for items from the Maps Collection, as people become accustomed to downloading maps directly. Map series indices, systematically added to catalogue records as a geographic aid for users to visually identify maps, are now interactive for digitised maps. This allows online users to navigate from the index to individual images and download as needed.

For the first time, 70,000 historic journal articles from the Library’s collection were made discoverable in Trove at the individual article level. Like the existing digitised newspapers, users can search for a term in the text and click through to read the entire digitised journal online for free. Publications from the First World War are a particular strength. Researchers, family historians and students can now delve into the soldier experience, as mediated by the government (for example, the Anzac Bulletin, a publication issued to members of the Australian Imperial Forces in Great Britain and France from 1916 to 1919) or written by those sent home (for example, Mountain Mists, a monthly magazine published by the convalescent soldiers of Bodington, NSW). This expansion of online full-text content will power future research into Australia’s social, economic and political history by ensuring it is accessible to all Australians, whether they are within the Library’s Canberra reading rooms or offsite anywhere else in the country.

  • When passed, to ensure the successful implementation of legal deposit legislation for digital publications through establishment of appropriate policies, systems and workflows

The Library commenced digital publications under the newly expanded legal deposit provisions in the Copyright Act 1968 on 17 February 2016. At launch, a simple deposit interface was offered to publishers, allowing a new publication to be deposited from anywhere in less than five minutes. 

In the first months post implementation, the Library worked directly with online distributors and large publishers to facilitate streamlined deposit of publications from a cross-section of Australia’s leading publishing houses, including Penguin Random House, Black Inc., Text Publishing and Harlequin. 

Publishers have responded positively to the new requirements and way of depositing. Several have also deposited their backlists. 

Feedback from serial publishers has also been pleasing, with recognition from several that there are benefits in terms of time and money in depositing serial issues online rather than posting print equivalents to the Library.

The first Australian web domain harvest completed under the new legislative provisions also started on 17 February and collected 53 terabytes of data, including 690 million files. 

The successful implementation of an expanded legal deposit scheme has resulted in the preservation of Australia’s digital heritage for current and future generations, as well as a new efficient and cost-effective way for publishers to meet their obligations. By the end of June, the Library had collected 812 ebooks, 35 digital sheet music publications and 121 ejournal titles. 

First use of edeposit service

The first publisher to deposit a book under the new scheme was Penguin Random House Australia, sending an ecopy of Napoleon's Last Island by Tom Keneally quickly and easily through the Library's edeposit service. Filmed as it happened, the seemingly effortless appearance of Napoleon's Last Island in the Library's system seconds after it was deposited brought a spontaneous round of applause from both the assembled Library staff and the excited team at Penguin Random House. 


  • To issue and implement a revised Collection Development Policy reflecting the Library’s aims for its collections in the digital environment

The Library’s revised Collection Development Policy was released in June 2016. It sets out the key principles from which the Library’s decisions to acquire materials flow: why, what, when and how to collect. The Library’s collecting policy has been revised regularly since its inception in 1960. This version departs from previous formats in recognition of the increasing diversity of publishing in both print and digital form and the growing complexity of collection-building choices. It outlines a principles-based approach to collecting, integrating collection of offline and online formats, and providing guidance for allocation of the Library’s acquisition resources. By clearly identifying priorities for collecting activity, the policy allows flexibility within different resourcing situations.

The revised policy sets a new priority to collect more proactively materials created by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, as well as to document cultural and social issues of concern to Indigenous Australians, from Indigenous perspectives. 

The Oral History project, Seven Years on: Continuing Life Histories of Aboriginal Leaders re-interviewed several leaders, including psychologist Carmen Cubillo, former politician Aden Ridgeway and educator Linda Ford. Other recordings focused on performing artists in the Kimberley region. The records of the Aboriginal Artists Agency were acquired for the Manuscripts Collection and a notable acquisition for the Pictures Collection was Albert Namatjira’s watercolour of Glen Helen homestead where his family lived and worked. The Library was delighted to receive a gift of 15 carved boab nuts cast in white aluminium, commissioned by Wesfarmers from Kimberley Aboriginal artists to mark the company’s centenary.

Materials relating to Indigenous land and community life were acquired from individuals working on projects with remote communities: for example, Matthew Abbott’s photographs of Western Arnhem Land as part of the Mirarr Rock Art Survey, and Hamish Cairns’ photographs of the community on Palm Island in Queensland. 

Two other notable acquisition publications in the Australian language of Yan-nhangu—Murrunggabu yitjiwalagu dhanguny giyitibu: nhangu dhanguny Murrunggabu Yan-nhangu yan and Murrunggabu yitjiwalagu dhanguny garambakabu: nhangu dhanguny Murrunggabu Yan-nhangu yan—by Laurie Baymarrwana, Laurie Milinditj and Tom Horniblow, were acquired on legal deposit. These books come with a special pen connected to a CD that reads the text aloud. Critically endangered, Yan-nhangu is the traditional language of Murrungga Island in the Crocodile Islands, North East Arnhem Land.

‘Old TI’: Reaching Torres Strait Islander communities

When John Morseu, the Library’s 2015 Indigenous Graduate, created the Library’s first research guide for Torres Strait Islanders to explore their history in the collections, he had little expectation of its scope, impact or transformative power. His ‘Old TI’ project uncovered hundreds of pictures, manuscripts, family letters, oral histories, early forms of Islander writing in English, three regional languages, and old gazettes and newspapers dating from the 1890s to the 1980s. These documented various facets of the Torres Strait, from historical expeditions to a vibrant pearling industry, wartime defence of Australian borders, distinctive Torres Strait Islander forms of Christian worship, and people, places and culture expressed through art, music, dance and stories.

As a Torres Strait Islander whose family heritage is from Darnley Island and a former Thursday Island (TI) resident, John described ‘unravelling these collection gems’ as revelatory. 

‘We know and share our own stories and traditions, orally. But, like most Islanders, I didn’t know these kinds of original materials existed in national cultural institutions. They have changed my thinking, and helped me understand and respect both ‘Old TI’ and contemporary Islander culture as a living fusion of Torres Strait traditions and external influences, with their own integrity and history.’

John’s story grabbed national and international attention. Through Facebook, blogs and sharing sites, the Library’s social media outreach spiked and generated online feedback and collection use from Torres Strait Islanders, with 5,000 members signing in to the TI page in the first month. Media reached far into Torres Strait communities through the Torres Strait Regional Council, the Torres Strait Regional Authority and the local Torres News, and nationally through ABC News, national newspapers and online forums. John, through kinship relationships, shared knowledge about collection material with Torres Strait communities in Cairns and on TI, hosted a visit for people from Saibai Island to view collections, and represented the Library at the National Indigenous Languages and Technology Forum in October 2015, maximising the outreach from what started life as a small graduate project. 

Strategic priority 2: Make access happen

In 2015–16, the Library’s priorities were:

  • to complete the Reading Room Integration Project to transform Library services to onsite users and better meet the needs of twenty-first century Library users;
  • to collaborate with partners and the public to increase the volume and variety of digital content accessible via Trove;
  • to work with partners to expand and enrich the Library’s world-leading newspaper digitisation program;
  • to complete the evaluation of engagement with Trove by Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and by students and teachers, and prioritise recommendations to improve digital service to these communities.

Results Achieved

  • To complete the Reading Room Integration Project to transform Library services to onsite users and better meet the needs of 21st century Library users 

With the transformation of the National Library’s reading rooms completed, in November 2015 the Library conducted a user satisfaction survey of the 1,000 people who had used the integrated Special Collections Reading Room since it opened in January. 

The results were positive across all criteria with researchers clearly appreciating the general ambience, ability to use different collection formats concurrently and improved facilities. Notable findings include:

  • 81 per cent rated their overall experience as 8/10 or higher and 33 per cent gave their experience a 10/10 score;
  • 52 per cent used the reading room after 5 pm and 63 per cent on a Saturday; 35 per cent of these were researchers who live outside the Canberra region;
  • 74 per cent used multiple collection formats concurrently;
  • 94 per cent considered staff courteous and welcoming and 93 per cent viewed staff as consistently helpful.

The results strongly endorse the decision to bring together the individual reading rooms into a larger, combined space conducive to intensive scholarly research and access. The public response to the new Newspapers and Family History zone in the expanded Main Reading Room was equally positive.

The Library received many grateful responses in relation to its improved family history services, where the expertise and helpfulness of reference staff have touched many hearts and inspired confidence in the Library’s collections and services.

‘Working at the Special Collections Reading Room was one of the most pleasant research experiences I’ve ever had.’

‘The staff at the NLA are consistently excellent—the best library staff I have experienced worldwide (I have also used a large number of libraries and archives in Britain and the US).’

‘Staff and policies are wonderful. I hadn’t realised just how good until I used other MS collections elsewhere.’

Reuniting families

Christie and her family had been looking for 30 years for her lost grandfather, a Polish refugee, who they believed had died destitute after his divorce and was buried in an unmarked grave. Christie had searched tirelessly to find records of his life and death, and engaged international and local family tracing services and genealogists, all without success. Finally, she contacted the National Library’s online ‘Ask a Librarian’ service. By conducting a wildcard search, a senior reference librarian solved this family mystery. A simple typographical error in the NSW death records had hidden him: his name was Frank Koscik but his death was registered as ‘Frank Koscak’. Christie wrote about her experience: 

‘This has been completely amazing, especially for my Uncle, Frank’s son. We now have his death certificate, have located the grave, and we are all off to Poland for a reunion with his surviving family in a small village where only the children like Frank escaped the Nazis during the Second World War. I cannot thank the Library enough.’


  • To collaborate with partners and the public to increase the volume and variety of digital content accessible via Trove  

In addition to providing access to the Library’s own digital collections, Trove brings together and showcases unique Australian documents and artefacts through a series of strategic partnerships with collection holders. These content partners range from tiny local museums—started by volunteers—through to large research, government and cultural organisations with significant digital collections they wish to share with the widest possible audience. This year saw a focus on museums, in recognition of the vital role that they play in fostering community memory and a sense of identity. Feedback from Trove users consistently emphasises the desire for more content of every kind, with many specifying that they want to see more museum and archival content in Trove. Trove makes an important contribution to moving these collections out from behind the walls of museums and connecting them with people who wish to learn, create and share.

‘Trove is unique and globally important. It is the most significant public sector [Digital Humanities] project in the world.’

Trove established a further 39 new contributor partnerships in 2015–16, including the addition of eight new museum collections, three from Museum Victoria. The Library has now forged relationships with 203 such partners, representing a range of sectors. This is in addition to the collections of the 1,200 Libraries Australia members.

Twenty-six partnerships, some two-thirds of those established this year, resulted from a cross-jurisdictional strategic partnership with Victorian Collections, a service that provides a central portal to cultural treasures held by museums, galleries and small collecting organisations throughout Victoria. Trove and Victorian Collections now share more than 28,000 records describing digital objects from 45 different organisations. This partnership provides a pathway for small non-mainstream collecting organisations, such as RSLs, school archives, sporting clubs and multicultural groups, to make their distinctive collections accessible through Trove. 

The material in these small collections provides a fascinating counterpoint to that found in the collections of larger institutions. This may be through their specialist focus, such as the collection of the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages Library (a repository of specialist language materials for Indigenous communities) and the RAN Naval Heritage Collection (one of the largest online collections of historical naval objects), or through a local or regional focus, such as the City of Vincent’s image collection, with its 3,000 photographs depicting the life, times and landscape of Vincent, Western Australia, from 1860 through to the present day.

These unique and previously hard-to-find collections are of tremendous interest to professional and recreational researchers, commercial organisations and government. Heritage architects Lovell Chen have noted that Trove is an unparalleled resource for research supporting their professional practice, particularly in regional Victoria, and that collections of very small museums and historical societies are particularly valuable. In 2016, business development consultant Jan Bimrose shared her story of using Trove as a vital resource in her work with rural and regional centres. Ms Bimrose explained that Trove newspapers and collections help in gaining an understanding of individual community characteristics. This is used to formulate suggestions on how services, including community and regional events, can further develop, become more viable and be further enriched. 

‘Trove helps make publicly funded and often open access research discoverable and accessible to a non-academic audience.’

In September 2015, the Library was approached by the Japanese Government’s Division for the Recovery and Repatriation of the Remains of War Dead (funded by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare) to supply copies of a large quantity of Second World War military maps. After the Library had copied approximately 450 maps, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare offered to fund the digitisation of approximately 3,000 Southwest Pacific theatre maps held by the Library. The Ministry will use these maps with relevant unit diaries held by the Australian War Memorial, together with maps and documentation supplied by the Government of the United States of America, to pinpoint military engagements and possible burial sites. These maps are publicly accessible through Trove.

‘Want innovation? Trove is one of our best cultural heritage exports with global influence on both Digital Public Library of America & Europeana.’

Connecting people with collections

In 2016, the Library worked with Museum Victoria (MV) to expand the visibility of its digital collections on Trove, ensuring their currency and making valuable open-licence information available. This work increased the Trove discoverable MV images to 97,000, half of which have Creative Commons licences, allowing people to identify material that can be re-used and repurposed. 

In the month following the completion of this work, MV experienced a substantial increase in online visitation via Trove, making it the second largest source of traffic to their digital collections. Dr Elycia Wallis, who manages the Museum Victoria Online Collections, contacted the Library to emphasise the value Trove offers galleries, libraries, archives and museums (the GLAM sector) in exposing collections that researchers might not otherwise find. 


How one record from a small museum changed lives

In December 2015, American designer Ivan Owen contacted the Library and shared the story of a chance finding in Trove that helped change the life of Liam, a young boy born without fingers—and thousands more people with similar special needs around the world. Mr Owen used Trove in his research into the construction of the world’s first 3D-printed, body-powered partial hand prosthesis for Liam. He uncovered, via Trove, the Health Museum of South Australia’s records about the Coles Hand, a prosthetic hand made for one Corporal Coles in 1845 out of whalebone and metal pulleys. 

Mr Owen told the Library that his research in Trove led him to find crucial details about the pulley mechanism needed for Liam’s prosthetic hand. He then generously made his designs freely available as open source, so they can be used and adapted by anyone. A large community has built up around his initial work; his design has spread internationally and led to the creation of more than 1,600 prosthetics for children. This is just one demonstration of the power that can be unleashed through the digitisation of cultural collections—and of the remarkable social, health and economic benefits that result.


  • To work with partners to expand and enrich the Library’s world-leading newspaper digitisation program 

In February 2016, Trove 7 was released—the most significant upgrade to Trove since its launch in 2009. Trove 7 incorporated an upgrade of the underlying infrastructure used to deliver its services, as well as a revised interface for digitised newspapers and the New South Wales Government Gazette.

The newspaper digitisation program delivered 3.5 million pages in 2015–16, bringing the total number of pages delivered online to 21.75 million. The first Dutch-Australian newspapers were digitised, to mark the 400th anniversary of the Hartog landing in 2016. 

In February, the newspaper digitisation program reached another milestone with the processing and delivery of the 20 millionth newspaper page. This was the Friday 31 August 1928 edition of The Northern Sportsman from Innisfail in Queensland, ‘North Queensland’s only All-Sport newspaper’. It also proved to be previously completely unknown, as it was the only issue of this newspaper microfilmed and was ‘hidden’ within a reel of a differently named newspaper title. 

The Library continued to work successfully with partner organisations, including libraries, historical societies, local councils and others, who funded the digitisation and delivery of 283,000 newspaper pages, or 6.8 per cent of the output this year. The State Library of New South Wales, through its Digital Excellence Program, was again the biggest partner, funding the digitisation of a further 1.23 million newspaper pages from New South Wales.

Historical government gazettes are another rich research resource that complement early newspapers. With the State Library of New South Wales’ support, the Library embarked on digitising the New South Wales Government Gazette from 1832 to 2001. The first 100,000 pages were delivered on Trove at the end of February and immediately proved popular. By June, this title had become the third most used New South Wales publication on Trove, demonstrating the value that the State Library has brought to the Trove enterprise. All 950,000 pages of the Gazette will be delivered by late 2016.

This year, the Library also consolidated its new journal digitisation program through modest internal programs, as well as working with funding partners. The well-known Inside Indonesia magazine was digitised with sponsorship by the publisher, and most volumes of Building magazine were delivered online, funded by the State Library of New South Wales. The program has started to attract interest from various sectors and organisations.

  • To complete the evaluation of engagement with Trove by Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and by students and teachers, and prioritise recommendations to improve digital service to these communities

In 2015, the Library conducted an independent evaluation of three Trove audiences: students, teachers and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. These groups were found to recognise the value and usefulness of Trove, but had low levels of service awareness and some usability issues. The evaluation made a number of recommendations, which focused primarily on marketing solutions. The Library has used these to identify a range of short-, medium- and long-term actions. 

A Trove Facebook page was launched in January 2016 to reach and engage with all three audiences, who have a much larger presence on that social media platform than on others previously used by the Library. Within four months, the page amassed 4,000 followers, with most posts reaching between 1,000 and 6,000 people. Trove Facebook is a particularly effective platform for reaching and sharing resources with teachers: for example, sharing curated lists of resources on Australian prime ministers and a video explaining how to create curated lists. This video had been viewed 1,800 times through the Facebook page as at 30 June 2016.

A number of teacher support and train-the-trainer materials have been developed that are suitable for both teachers and public librarians working with people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. These resources comprise six information sheets supporting different features in Trove, in addition to other branded products: notebooks, teaching bags and bookmarks. The information sheets were trialled at a college teacher professional development day in January and received a very strong response. One teacher commented that many teachers already encourage students to use Trove in their research, and that these types of resources provide an additional layer of support directly to the student.

The Library is also focusing on creating connections with Australian teacher associations and building teacher champions. There is a growing relationship with the History Teachers’ Association of Australia, which has seen members of the organisation provide advice regarding teacher training resources, and an invitation to participate in their annual conference.

‘I was using Trove this morning with my year 10 history class for primary research. They
were in awe!’

‘I teach first years in a number of disciplines. Trove is a revelation to many of them, it fosters a love of research.’

‘Most kids grow up without school librarians in their schools to teach them how to research, which is why Trove is so important.’

‘Trove is essential for me as a historian, manager of archives and as a teacher.’

Strategic priority 3: Lead, partner, connect and excel

In 2015–16, the Library’s priorities were:

  • to develop national infrastructure by exploring and transforming provisioning and business models for Libraries Australia in a cloud-dominated library systems environment;
  • to participate in international collaborations that focus on standards and practices that make it easy for people everywhere to find, use and build on its collections;
  • to sustain, with the assistance of the Library’s Council and Foundation Board, the Library’s giving community and develop new approaches to attract personal, philanthropic and commercial giving;
  • to build on sound governance arrangements and effective resource management so that the Australian Government, partners and the community are assured that their investment is well managed;
  • to continue reducing the Library’s energy and waste footprint, carefully assessing the return on investment for each improvement project.

Results Achieved

  • To develop national infrastructure by exploring and transforming provisioning and business models for Libraries Australia in a cloud-dominated library systems environment  

Libraries Australia is a membership-based collaboration that supports the cataloguing and document-delivery workflows of more than 1,200 member libraries. The service operates on a full cost-recovery basis, and the Library continues to find ways to ensure the sustainable delivery of this national service in a rapidly evolving technological environment.

In October 2015, the Library successfully transitioned the Virtual Document eXchange system operating the Libraries Australia Document Delivery service to an environment hosted by the system vendor. This transition enabled Library staff to focus on service delivery to members, while creating a pathway for robust support and more timely system improvements via the platform vendor.

The Library is closely watching the experiences of three international services providing support similar to Libraries Australia as they transition to cloud-based platforms. Scrutiny of outcomes for those services will inform the Library’s deliberations as it considers optimal strategies for future Libraries Australia service delivery.

The development of cloud-based library systems and their implementation in Australian libraries has provided opportunities to improve the coverage and currency of the Australian National Bibliographic Database by facilitating better collection management and exposure by smaller libraries.

The Library has worked with two major international library system vendors (OCLC and Ex Libris) to develop a seamless data contribution mechanism that allows Australian libraries using cloud-based library systems to
contribute data for their library collections to the Australian National Bibliographic Database.

Through this process, 35 university, public, research and special Australian libraries have refreshed information about their collections on Libraries Australia. This has enabled accurate information to be syndicated to Trove, and also to WorldCat, the world’s largest aggregator of bibliographic records.

  • To participate in international collaborations that focus on standards and practices that make it easy for people everywhere to find, use and build on its collections

One of the most important international standards used in the Library’s work every day is the set of cataloguing guidelines and instructions known as Resource Description and Access (RDA), which guides the creation of bibliographic metadata for library materials. The Library is a member of the RDA Board, an international governing body of English-speaking countries that sets strategic directions for the standard. The Library chairs the Australian Committee on Cataloguing and is also a member of the RDA Steering Committee, which is responsible for the development and content of the standard.

This year saw a significant change in the management of the RDA standard as the Board introduced a new internationally oriented governance structure, enabling participation and representation from all countries and all sectors. The benefit of doing this became apparent as RDA developed. As more organisations develop rich and compatible data sets about their holdings, the adoption and promotion of RDA can enable these data to be actively shared across borders and increase the discoverability of collections for the benefit of users everywhere.

The Library is a founding member of the International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC), an international organisation established to improve the tools, standards and best practices of web archiving while promoting international collaboration. Some of the innovative work being done by the Library on web archiving technology through the DLIR program has already attracted the interest of the IIPC community. This led to the offer of funding for the Library’s Web Archiving Manager, Dr Paul Koerbin, to travel to Iceland and present on the Library’s work to a large and influential professional community at the IIPC’s annual conference.

Oral History collections grew through partnerships with universities, mostly via Australian Research Council (ARC) linkage grants, and with other organisations. During 2015, the following multi-year ARC linkage projects drew to a close: New Beats: Mass Redundancies and Career Change in Australian Journalism (60 interviews, led by La Trobe University); the History of Press Photography in Australia (57 interviews, led by the University of Melbourne); Trailblazing Women and the Law (45 interviews, led by the Australian National University); The Past in the Present: Australian Lesbian and Gay Life Stories (60 interviews, led by Macquarie University); and Australian Generations (300 interviews, led by Monash University). 

These collaborations have enabled the Library to collect contemporary social history interviews on a scale otherwise impossible from within Library resources. They have harnessed academic knowledge and institutional expertise and created audio collections of enduring research value. The Library trained interviewers in its leading-edge digital collecting and archiving methodologies to ensure long-term preservation of recordings and facilitate online access to the funded research. 

Privileged access to the Library’s digital management and audio delivery systems has enabled researchers to mine, synthesise and analyse content in new ways across large numbers of interviews. The Library’s infrastructure and tools helped researchers create new knowledge and research outcomes much faster than was previously possible: for example, in the rapid publication of a book by Macquarie University academics arising from the interviews recording the life experiences of gay men and lesbians. 

‘The Library’s infrastructure and tools are changing paradigms for the use of oral history sources, akin to the transformations in research achieved through newspaper digitisation.’

National and State Libraries Australasia—leading collaboration

The National Library, Australia’s state and territory libraries and the National Library of New Zealand collaborate closely, under the aegis of National and State Libraries Australasia (NSLA), to share solutions, to represent the rights of library users and to remove barriers that hamper collecting and providing access. NSLA collaborates to build a comprehensive national collection, to make it accessible to all Australians and to do so in ways that deliver value, share benefits and strengthen relationships. NSLA’s strategic direction is set by the chief executives of member libraries who meet three times a year. NSLA achieves its ambitions through project groups and communities of practice, whose members are drawn from the staff of NSLA libraries.

Over the year, project groups focus on advancing collective thinking and approaches to copyright; building capabilities in the preservation of digital collections; strengthening the skills required to operate in the digital world; evaluating and purchasing published eresources; effectively managing heritage collections; serving Indigenous people and stewarding Indigenous collections; and developing approaches to improving literacy and learning.

Communities of practice focus on benchmarking and exploring areas of common concern in areas such as Communications and Marketing, Corporate Services, Funding and Sponsorship, Public Libraries, Storage, Trove and Visitor Experience. 

While the Library is an active participant in most, and leads several, of these groups, it has been deeply involved in NSLA’s investigation of the feasibility of shared digital infrastructure for all published Australian digital material: digital books, journals, newspapers, maps, music and Australian websites. Our collective goal is to achieve simplicity and certainty for publishers, a more comprehensive collection available through all NSLA members to Australians and significant efficiencies across NSLA libraries.


Australian generations 

The Australian Generations Oral History Project has been the largest, most innovative and most complex of the Library’s Oral History collaborations. It addressed intergenerational dynamics and the impact of dramatic social, technological and environmental changes on the experiences and attitudes of successive generations. 

The project encompassed 300 life history audio interviews (1,221 hours) across generations from 1920 to 1989, now securely archived at the Library and subject to shared rights and access conditions as agreed by each participant and institution. The project has shaped the creation, preservation and use of historical evidence; highlighted how digital technologies are transforming the interaction between historians and their sources and audiences; and tested the methodological and ethical responsibilities negotiated by partners across archives, radio and academia. 

From inception, the project was designed to transform, test and use, as well as test governance of, the Library’s online audio delivery system. Through shared access to its data and Content Management System, researchers have been able to mine content in new ways. In March 2016, Australian Historical Studies devoted a special themed issue to examining the methodological and technical innovations of the project. The forthcoming book from the project will use the interview data to explore a range of themes in Australian social and cultural history and will enable online readers to listen to extracts directly from the Library’s website.


  • To sustain, with the assistance of the Library’s Council and Foundation Board, the Library’s giving community and develop new approaches to attract personal, philanthropic and commercial giving

In 2015, the Library expanded, refreshed and relaunched its program of fellowships and scholarships, replacing the former Harold White Fellowships, which had supported over 150 research fellows since 1983. This philanthropy enabled the Library to broaden the scope of the fellowships, offer increased levels of financial assistance to fellows and revise guidelines to better address issues of equity, access and merit. Six funded National Library of Australia Fellowships for sustained advanced research were created, each supported by individuals, consortia or trust funding. Two Creative Arts Fellowships, one funded by the Friends of the National Library of Australia Inc., the second by a bequest, were established to assist artists and writers to create new work, creatively using or inspired by the collections. The inaugural round for the 2016 National Library of Australia Fellowships attracted a remarkable field of 147 high-quality applicants, from which seven fellows were selected (including two Honorary Fellowships and one funded by the Library). The Creative Arts Fellowships attracted 82 applicants, with the panel noting the exceptionally high quality of applicants and the range, originality and depth of projects across disparate art forms. 

The 2016 fellows have fulfilled expectations of outstanding research, creation of new knowledge from and about the collections, inspirational public events and strong media presence, as well as deep engagement with the Library, including Council, donors and staff. In reporting to Council and through media, fellows have become outstanding ambassadors and advocates for the Library’s collections and services.

Advancing understanding and knowledge

‘In a challenging budgetary environment, the NLA has delivered one of the most significant turnarounds I’ve ever seen and positioned Australia well for advancing our understanding of Australia and knowledge more generally. 

The response from the researcher community has been overwhelming, with applications tripling for the new program and the quality among the best in Australia and the world … It was an exhausting but rewarding job knowing that, even beyond the superlative scholars selected, we’ve exposed hundreds to the wealth of the collection. We have no doubt many of them will by hook or by crook find their way to being able to access this national asset. 

We can expect some of the most significant research coming out of Australia in the next couple of years will have been seeded by this program. I cannot congratulate—and thank—the NLA and its staff enough for what they’ve done for Australian knowledge with this turnaround.’

Professor Kent Anderson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Western Australia, and a member of the Fellowships Advisory Committee, August 2015


  • To build on sound governance arrangements and effective resource management so that the Australian Government, partners and the community are assured that their investment is well managed  

The Library has continued to refine governance arrangements and corporate structures to gain efficiencies and best meet corporate objectives and accountability requirements. Consultative mechanisms include, for example, a Corporate Management Forum, which consists of senior executives from agencies in the Arts portfolio and representatives from a small number of non-portfolio agencies. The forum considers a range of corporate issues, including human resource management, financial management, procurement, risk, and IT and facilities management, with a view to achieving economies of scale, sharing experiences and encouraging better practice. The forum met four times during 2015–16. 

Major long-term initiatives, such as the Celestial Empire exhibition and Reading Room Integration Project, have been successfully completed and the DLIR program is on track for completion in 2016–17. Efficiency targets set by government for 2015–16 have been met and the Library has in train initiatives to meet the targets for 2016–17. Consistent with previous years, no compliance issues of any significance were identified for 2015–16.

In December 2015, work was completed on the Reading Room Integration Project. This milestone marks the culmination of a significant project for the Library and completes an important component of the Library’s Strategic Building Master Plan. The project has improved and modernised the public spaces in keeping with a twenty-first-century national library, and builds on the achievement of the Treasures and Exhibition galleries and improvements to the Main Reading Room completed in 2012.

During 2015–16, a range of other capital expenditure building projects was undertaken, including installation of new energy-efficient lighting and controls in the Treasures and Exhibition galleries, fire corridors, plant rooms and lift lobbies.

The Library has a dedicated workforce plan that identifies people priorities and workforce development initiatives. A new plan took effect from 1 July 2015, developed to support initiatives in the Library’s Corporate Plan 2015–2019 and to build on leadership capability, digital confidence and career sustainability.

In 2015–16, in line with the government’s Protective Security Policy Framework and Information Security Manual, a three-point IT security strategy of People, Policy and Enforcement was implemented. To address this, the Library released updated IT security policies and conducted IT security awareness seminars to inform staff of the updates to these policies. Security assessments for new IT systems and major system updates were successfully completed.

As more staff use mobile devices to assist in their work, Mobile Device Management was implemented to allow secure access to corporate resources from these devices.

As a result of implementing the three-point strategy, over the course of 2015–16 there were no cyber security incidents of any consequence.

  • To continue reducing the Library’s energy and waste footprint, carefully assessing the return on investment for each improvement project

The review of climate control parameters for collection storage areas to ensure the building plant and equipment operate at optimal efficiency has continued. Further seasonal trials were conducted throughout the year to test our ability to continue to reduce energy usage in collection storage areas while maintaining appropriate conditions. 

The sustainability program at the Library has been very successful in reducing energy and water usage, and waste to landfill. It has also garnered a great deal of staff engagement and support, and entrenched systems, processes and thinking are now in place to ensure energy usage is minimised and sustainable practices are adopted.

Reducing the energy and waste footprint

In comparison with the previous year, the Library has reduced electricity consumption by 1 per cent to 5.6 million kWh and decreased gas consumption by 6 per cent to 4 million MJ. Water usage was 12,600 KL a reduction of 9 per cent.

Waste to landfill was 19 per cent of total waste in 2015–16, a reduction of 1 per cent to 37,090 kg compared with the previous year.

Paper consumption has reduced by 9 per cent to 5,500 kg compared with the previous year.

Cross-agency key performance indicators

With only two exceptions, the Library fully met or exceeded its performance targets for the cross-agency key performance indicators. The targets for indicators reporting the number of visits to the website and the number of onsite visits by students were not met. In 2015–16, the Library continued to focus on developing and delivering more online educational programs for a national audience, with particular emphasis on secondary education in both the development of digital resources and in marketing. The Digital Classroom education platform provided activities to engage students with significant items from the Library’s collections. 

Table 3.1 lists the Library's results against the cross-cultural agency key performance indicators.

Table 3.1: Cross-cultural Agency Key Performance Indicators, 2015-16

Key Performance Indicators1 2014–15 actual Actual Target 2016–17 forward estimates 2017–18 forward estimates 2018–19 forward estimates
Visitor interactions
Total number of visits to the organisation 1,234,200 1,175,564 1,104,000 1,026,000 1,026,000 1,026,000
Total number of visits to the organisation’s website in millions 28 27.8 30 32 34 36
Total number of onsite visits by students as part of an organised educational group 7,340 6,699 8,694 8,640 8,640 8,640
Participation in public and school programs
Number of people participating in public programs 517 501 380 370 360 360
Number of students participating in school programs 56,588 49,113 44,690 48,640 50,640 52,640
Quantity of school learning programs delivered
Number of organised programs delivered onsite 180 195 173 173 173 173
Number of program packages available online 7 9 8 10 12 14
Number of educational institutions participating in organised school learning programs 143 150 133 133 133 133
Visitor satisfaction
% of visitors that were satisfied or very satisfied with their visit 97 92.4 90 90 90 90
Expenditure mix
Expenditure on collection development (as a % of total expenditure) 28.3 28.64 27.2 27.9 28.4 29.4
Expenditure on other capital items (as a % of total expenditure) 12.9 12.15 13.9 13.2 11.7 8.4
Other expenditure (i.e. non-collection development)
Labour costs (as a % of total expenditure) 25.6 26.14 25.4 25.2 25.6 26.5
Other expenses (as a % of total expenditure) 33.3 33.06 34.4 33.7 34.3 35.7
Collection management and access
Number of acquisitions (made in the reporting period) 137,170 188,213 51,000 51,000 51,000 51,000
Total number of objects accessioned (in the reporting period) 42,667 46,170 43,000 43,000 43,000 43,000
% of the total collection available to the public 93 92.9 93 93 93 94
% of the total collection available to the public online 5.3 5.5 4.4 4.30 4.40 4.50
% of the total collection digitised 3.73 3.8 3.7 3.95 4 4

1 The national arts and cultural agencies have progressively implemented a range of cross-agency key performance indicators to facilitate standardised reporting to enable aggregation of data across the agencies.