Strategic Direction Two: Make the Library’s Collections and Services Accessible to All Australians

The Library provides access to its collection for all Australians through services to users in the main building and nationally through online information services. Its reference and collection delivery services are provided both to onsite users and to those outside Canberra via online services and the digitisation of selected collection resources. The Library also delivers a diverse annual program of exhibitions and events.

In 2012–13, the Library undertook to:

  • harness new and emerging opportunities in the digital environment—including the National Broadband Network—to engage with diverse Australian audiences, including those in regional and remote communities
  • support research and lifelong learning for all Australians by maximising online access to the Library’s collections and services.

Major Initiatives

Digitisation partnerships were a prime focus.

During 2012–13, 1.1 million pages of newspapers published in New South Wales and 330,000 pages from the New South Wales Government Gazette were digitised under a partnership with the State Library of New South Wales. This partnership will see 6 million pages of newspapers and the complete Government Gazette of almost 1 million pages digitised and accessible on Trove by June 2016.

In addition, 41 regional libraries, councils and other organisations sponsored the digitisation of 49 newspaper titles, amounting to 310,000 pages. Individuals and organisations also generously contributed to the project to digitise issues of The Canberra Times between 1955 and 1995.

Issues and Developments

Collection Management

A major project commenced to review policies and improve workflows associated with the development and management of the Library’s archival collections. This project will streamline collection processing activities including acquisitions, enhance collection control, and enable integration of similar work functions. It will also provide faster access to collection material for users, and better management of digital records.

Online Access to Special Collections

The Library continued its focus on increasing the discoverability and online access to special collections.

Innovative approaches have led to the cataloguing of over 1,150 map series, enabling users to identify individual sheets via digitised graphical indexes. All series covering the Pacific, South Asian and Middle East regions were completed, leading to increased use of these collections. Another project—to increase discoverability of pictures lacking an online catalogue record—produced subject-based records for approximately 365,000 photographs. A further 500 hours of oral history recordings were also delivered online, with the audio linked to transcripts and time-pointed summaries to support easier discovery and navigation.

In addition, a project to convert catalogue card entries for Chinese collection material was completed. This resulted in 7,000 new holdings being added to the online catalogue, greatly improving access to this important collection.

Information and Research Services

The Ask a Librarian and Copies Direct services are widely appreciated, particularly in regional Australia. Thirty-eight per cent of questions from Australian users to Ask a Librarian and 28 per cent of Australian Copies Direct requests came from people living in regional Australia. In the words of one user: ‘Superb service, courteous, accurate, fast … you will have saved me a trip to Canberra from Melbourne which is extra good. In addition, I am a disabled student with only one hand so your service is more than extra good, it is a life-saver’.

The system used to manage reference inquiries was upgraded to enable questions to be redirected efficiently. Inquiries received by Trove are now being transferred to the Ask a Librarian service, negating the need for clients to resubmit inquiries, and saving staff time through automatic transfer of both the inquiry and transaction history. Planning is under way to extend this functionality to enable the transfer of inquiries between all state and territory libraries.

The Library’s continued support of in-depth study of its collections is borne out by the output of researchers and authors. Dr Martin Thomas, for example, won the National Biography Award for his book, The Many Worlds of R.H. Mathews: In Search of an Australian Anthropologist, which was based on research undertaken during his Harold White Fellowship; author Kate Grenville was a regular user of the Petherick Reading Room; and Alan Fewster made extensive use of the Library for his book, The Bracegirdle Incident: How an Australian Communist Ignited Ceylon's Independence Struggle.

Online Engagement

A Social Media Coordinator was appointed to manage online engagement through Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and blogs. The Library’s Flickr Commons account is updated with a monthly upload of photographs on selected themes such as the outback and Australians at war. The account generally receives over 800 visits per day, with a surge in visitation to approximately 75,000 daily visits following the upload of each new set of images. The Library has also commenced offering online participation in learning programs using the Google+ platform, which enables participants outside Canberra to hear the presenter and view the presenter’s screen.

An evaluation of the Library’s four instructional videos found they had received 30,000 unique views in the six months since release. These short online videos have an excellent retention rate; they explain how to get a library card, what is available online, how to order copies, and how to start researching family history. Two additional videos were developed on accessing newspapers and searching catalogues.

Publications and Exhibitions

The Library published 18 new books promoting the collection. Sold through more than 1,550 outlets in Australia and New Zealand and also online, sales of two titles—Flying the Southern Cross: Aviators Charles Ulm and Charles Kingsford Smith, and Topsy-turvy World: How Australian Animals Puzzled Early Explorers—required reprinting within six months of release. Topsy-turvy World has been shortlisted for the 2013 Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Eve Pownall Award for Information Book. Collaborative arrangements with the Indigenous Literacy Foundation’s Book Buzz program and the Libraries ACT Bookstart for Babies program resulted in bulk purchases of the Library’s children’s books.

Since the opening of the Treasures Gallery in October 2011, over 170,000 patrons have enjoyed viewing some of the Library’s greatest treasures. During the year, over 200 new items were displayed as the gallery content was refreshed on four separate occasions. Public response remains positive, and the gallery has successfully established itself as a new destination for tourists.

Performance

Performance data relating to access to the collection and service to users is provided as follows:

  • Table 3.4 shows deliverables and key performance indicators relating to access to the national collection and other documentary resources during 2012–13
  • Figure 3.3 compares delivery of physical collection items to users against targets over the past four years
  • Table 3.5 compares performance against the Service Charter over the same four-year period.

Table 3.4: Provide Access to the National Collection and Other Documentary Resources—Deliverables and Key Performance Indicators, 2012–13

 

Measure

Target

Achieved

Deliverable

Physical collection items delivered to users (no.)

238,000

182,192

Key performance indicator

Collection access: Service Charter (%)

100.0

99.0

Figure 3.3: Number of Physical Collection Items Delivered to Users

Figure 3.3: Vertical Bar Graph Showing The Number of Physical Collection Items Delivered to Users

The target was not met. There is a clear trend of reduced usage of the Library’s printed collections, with users preferring digital resources, including Australian newspapers on Trove.

Table 3.5: Collection Access—Service Charter (%)

Achieved

Achieved

Target

Target

2009–10

2010–11

2011–12

2012–13

2013–14

2014–15

2015–16

100.0

100.0

100.0

99.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

The Service Charter standards for reference inquiries responded to and for collection deliveries were both met. The website availability target was not met due to an extended internet outage in September 2012.