Anne-Marie Schwirtlich

The Library has made notable progress in advancing its Strategic Directions for 2012–14, which focus on developing the national collection, promoting access and engaging audiences, collaboration and leadership, and achieving organisational excellence.

The Library shapes its strategic thinking with reference to its broader context. Over the course of the reporting year, the Library has monitored developments in the policy environment, trends in use and information-seeking behaviour, and changes in the digital domain. Three developments have been of particular interest. The Minister has articulated six principles by which he will shape policy for the Arts, namely excellence, integrity, artistic freedom, self-confidence, sustainability and accessibility. The Library believes that it is well positioned to contribute to these principles. The second development was the tabling of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s report on Copyright and the Digital Economy. The Library welcomes the Commission’s recommendation that a ‘fair use’ exception replace many of the existing ‘purpose-based’ exceptions in the Copyright Act. Finally, the Library has taken account of the Public Management Reform Agenda and followed keenly the proposed changes to the financial accountability, corporate planning and online security frameworks, all of which will have an impact on the Library.

Responding to the dominance of the digital in the information world, the Library is developing more robust workflows and systems to enable it to collect, preserve, digitise and provide access to an increasing number of online resources. In January, Stage 1 of the Digital Library Infrastructure Replacement (DLIR) project was completed. This enables the digitisation, management and delivery of published books and journals in the Library’s collections and will support the bit-level preservation of the Library’s digital collections. Stage 2 of the project commenced in February and when concluded will support the digital appraisal, management and delivery of manuscripts and pictures and develop prototypes for web archiving and preservation. The DLIR project is innovative, complex and significant and a mid-point review of the project will commence early in 2014–15.

The legislative environment does not support the Library’s collecting work in the digital domain. As the Chair has noted, the Library is eager to see amendments to the Copyright Act which will extend the legal deposit provisions to ensure that material published in digital form can be preserved by the Library. To prepare for this vital amendment to the Copyright Act, Library staff have worked on Regulation Impact Statements and assessed the cost of the compliance obligations for publishers. The Library stands ready to work closely with the Attorney-General’s Department and publishers to ensure the smooth implementation of these new arrangements.

In the absence of legal deposit for electronic material, the Library seeks permission to collect and preserve, in the PANDORA archive, a selection of web-based publications. A focus for the year was collecting websites relating to the September 2013 federal election, resulting in more than 500 websites collected, including those of candidates, lobby and interest groups, and registered political parties, and media, commentary, social media and video sites. In addition, many of the websites of outgoing ministers and sites relating to discontinuing programs, including the website of the Climate Institute of Australia, were collected.

Despite the acceleration of digital publishing, for the foreseeable future the Library will be collecting both paper-based and digital material, and 2013–14 has seen remarkable additions to the national collection, some of which are highlighted in Appendix I.

Over the course of the year, the Library completed an analysis of its newspaper holdings against its Collection Development Policy and the Australian Newspaper Plan, an agreement with all state and territory libraries concerning newspaper preservation. The Library collects and preserves print copies of national titles, such as The Australian and Australian Financial Review, and, with the ACT Heritage Library, all ACT papers including suburban weeklies. The Library also collects and preserves print copies of capital city dailies, ethnic newspapers and subject-based newspapers such as The Queensland Graingrower. To ensure that the Library is able to support the research needs of most onsite researchers, it also collects and retains significant regional papers Australia wide; higher use newspaper titles (those used more than ten times over the past seven years); as well as copies of newspapers from nearby areas such as Braidwood, Cooma, Goulburn, Queanbeyan and Yass. Initially, the Library collects these titles in print but does not retain the print copy once a microfilm copy has been acquired. Local and community newspapers outside the ACT—that is, those which are not regional in their coverage—have not been considered collecting priorities since 1990 and have been out of the Library’s collecting scope since 1999. The Library commenced repatriating copies of selected local print newspapers outside the scope of its Collection Development Policy to the state and territory libraries in whose jurisdictions they were published to ensure that the collections of record are comprehensive.

One benefit of the Library’s long-standing collaboration with state and territory library partners on newspaper collecting has been the highly successful Australian Newspaper Digitisation Program funded jointly by the Library and contributing partners. This year the largest number of newspaper pages was digitised since the program began in 2007, with 3.6 million pages added to Trove. The Digital Excellence Program at the State Library of NSW was a major contributor to this result. By the end of the year, over 13 million pages were accessible. Trove newspapers is by far the largest collection of digitised newspapers in the world and this content continues to drive usage of Trove, with over 24 million visits recorded in the period.

As the Chair has reported, use of Trove, which assists people to access content held by the Library and collecting institutions across Australia, rose steadily and users continue to express great satisfaction with it. In May and June 2013, the Library conducted an online survey to evaluate Trove customer satisfaction. This gathered demographic information about Trove users and about why and how they use Trove; asked about the value they place on the service and how they would like to see Trove develop. Analysis of the data was completed this year. It is most gratifying that Trove users are very satisfied and are proportionally representative of state and territory, and metropolitan, regional and rural, populations. 

In order to maintain Trove’s usability, the Library continued to redevelop the Trove newspapers service over the second half of the reporting year. Originally designed to handle 4 million newspaper pages, Trove is now delivering access to 13 million pages, requiring a major platform upgrade to deliver higher performance and to position the service for expected content growth in newspapers over the next several years. In addition, the implementation of Trove 6.1 in May 2014 saw some long-awaited improvements to the newspapers interface, including the ability to group newspaper titles by state. The Library is now focusing on upgrading the entire newspapers interface in an environment in which almost 25 per cent of Trove visits are via mobile devices. 

Other notable growth in Trove content included: transcripts of ABC Radio National shows, which increased more than 1,000 per cent, from 19,667 to over 200,000 items (Radio National content will appear in Trove hours after first broadcast following a new approach to harvesting the historic content); increased exposure of unique local collections, such as a collection of postcards from Ashfield Library; and all 18,002 images of the Fairfax Archive Glass Plate Collection, donated to the Library by Fairfax Media in December 2012, and whose preservation, cataloguing and digitisation was funded by the Australian Government’s National Cultural Heritage Account.

The Library works with purpose and skill in the digital domain but its importance as a physical venue cannot be underestimated. It remains a place to consult the overwhelming majority of the collection that is in paper form (or is in digital form that, for reasons of licensing or other agreements, must be consulted onsite), as well as to enjoy exhibitions and participate in events and learning programs. The Library takes great pride in the services provided in its landmark building.

The Chair has reported on progress on the project to integrate reading rooms and to create spaces that support learning and knowledge creation and efficient workflows for researchers and staff. The project will enable the modernisation and improvement of facilities and services and will ensure that the aesthetic and heritage values of the building are enhanced. Following completion of schematic and detailed design work early in the year, the tender process for the associated building works was conducted, with Manteena Pty Ltd appointed as head construction contractor. The project is scheduled for completion in early 2016.

The Library’s two galleries continued to be strong attractions. The Treasures Gallery drew an interested audience to its regularly refreshed content, offering visitors an extraordinary range of viewing. The Library’s Exhibition Gallery saw three well-received and very different shows: City of Trees, which was commissioned by the Centenary of Canberra from British artist Jyll Bradley; the Library’s hugely successful international exhibition, Mapping Our World; and Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection

Russell Crowe launched Mapping Our World in November before a record crowd. As the Chair has noted, the exhibition drew a record number of visitors and received public and critical acclaim. Audience evaluation by Environmetrics revealed that 98 per cent of visitors gave the content the top ratings, approximately half of the audience came from outside Canberra/Queanbeyan and the economic benefit to the ACT economy was nearly $25,000,000.

December 2013 brought to a close the Library’s significant contribution to the ACT Government’s Centenary of Canberra program. In the second half of the calendar year, the Library was able, with the generous assistance of many donors, to complete the digitisation of issues of The Canberra Times dating from 1955 to 1995. This is a lasting legacy for the Centenary year, ensuring that Canberra’s history is readily available to future generations. 

The Friends of the National Library of Australia continued to promote the Library through a diverse program of events and activities for its 2,000 members. These included the 2013 Kenneth Myer Lecture, delivered in August by Professor Julian Disney AO on ‘Media Standards in an Internet World’. The Executive Committee of the Friends also approved two very handsome contributions to the Library. The Friends will fund a project to digitise first-hand accounts of the Federation of Australia. The Friends will also fund, for four years commencing in 2014–15, an annual Friends of the National Library Creative Arts Fellowship. This fellowship has long been imagined and will open the collection in new ways. 

Highlights of the Library’s own busy events program included the Kenneth Binns Lecture delivered in August by Australian author Murray Bail; the Seymour Biography Lecture, ‘The Informed Imagination’, delivered in September by Dr Drusilla Modjeska; and the extraordinarily successful education and public programming in association with the record-breaking exhibition, Mapping Our World

It was a pleasure for the Library to work with the many generous lenders to, and sponsors of, Mapping Our World. The inclusion of Fra Mauro’s Map of the World was made possible by the willingness of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana to lend it and the support of Kerry Stokes AC, Noel Dan AM and Adrienne Dan, Nigel Peck AM and Patricia Peck, and Douglas and Belinda Snedden.

The Library’s two appeals for donations, the End of Year Appeal launched in December 2013 and the Tax Time Appeal launched in May 2014, were most successful. The End of Year Appeal sought financial donations to assist with the preservation of Joan Blaeu’s rare map Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus (Eastern or Asian Archipelago) dating to 1663, and donations received were double the target. The 2014 Tax Time Appeal was launched in May and will support the preservation and digitisation of the Library’s rare medieval manuscripts, as well as access programs for the Treasures Gallery. The target for this appeal was also well exceeded.

Collaboration with institutions in Australia and overseas is a hallmark of the Library’s culture. The Library has continued its efforts to achieve Reimagining Libraries, the vision of National and State Libraries Australasia (NSLA). Library staff have led and contributed actively to NSLA groups, working on a range of strategic priorities to improve and harmonise public access to collections and services. During the year, issues on which groups collaborated included the preservation of digital heritage, the implications and challenges of digital collecting, and the accessibility of large pictures and map collections—all with the aim of benefiting library users for generations to come.

Libraries Australia is a membership-based collaboration which meets the collection management needs of more than 1,200 member libraries. The redevelopment of its search service was a priority for the year and the new service will be released to members in July 2014. This redevelopment will deliver improved capacity and performance, together with a refreshed and more usable online interface.

The Library continued to collaborate with members of the Australian diplomatic community. In particular, the embassies of the United States of America, France and Italy made significant contributions to the Library’s public programs. The Library also hosted visits by delegations from a number of embassies, including the United States of America and the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

A senior delegation from the National Library of China, led by Mr Sun Yigang, Assistant Director of that library, was welcomed in December. The visit furthered the collaboration which will bring to the National Library of Australia a major exhibition of the treasures of the National Library of China. 

In February, the Library hosted the Conference of Directors of National Libraries in Asia and Oceania, welcoming 24 participants from 18 countries and regions. India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam participated, as did several countries in Oceania. The conference focused on library initiatives and activities in the region and also enabled a day of discussion between international colleagues and colleagues from NSLA about collaborative collecting initiatives, copyright, digital preservation and digital collecting. 

As it enters its twentieth year, the Community Heritage Grants program continues to be an important source of support for community groups. The program is managed by the Library on behalf of funding partners, including the Attorney-General’s Department Ministry for the Arts; the National Archives of Australia; the National Film and Sound Archive; and the National Museum of Australia. Grants of up to $15,000 are awarded to libraries, archives, museums, genealogical and historical societies and multicultural and Indigenous groups. In 2013, 125 applications were received for Community Heritage Grants. Of these, 78 organisations received grants averaging $5,400. Awardees received their grants from Mr Roger Wilkins AO, Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department, on 29 October. The 2014 grant round closed on 2 May and received 134 applications.

Planning for, and building the capability of, the Library’s workforce continues to be a corporate focus. The production of the Library Leadership Development Resource Kit and launch of the Library’s Indigenous Employment Strategy were both proud and significant moments. Arrangements affecting recruitment have had an impact on the Library’s ability to manage staffing levels smoothly in the second half of the operating year.

The Library continues to reduce its energy consumption and improve its environmental management. Energy consumption for air-conditioning in the two large offsite repositories was significantly reduced last year and, this year, trials in the stack areas of the main building yielded promising results. Stage 2 of the project to improve the efficiency and performance of lighting in the Foyer and Main Reading Room was commenced and is due for completion in 2014. The Library was re-accredited as an ACTSmart Business site and has achieved significant reductions (from 44 per cent in 2010 to 24 per cent in 2014) in waste to landfill. 

This report provides me with a welcome opportunity to thank the Library Council, volunteers, Friends, members of the Foundation Board, donors and partners. The generosity with which they contribute their time, energy, goodwill and expertise to the Library is inspiring. 

It is with gratitude that I also note the counsel received from colleagues in the department, which was, as always, immensely useful.

Each year I say that the Library is conscious of the significant challenges it faces. The year ahead is no different as the Library seeks to manage a doubling of the efficiency dividend while endeavouring to maintain the investment in technology and systems development to support digital library services, to identify a cost-effective solution to long-term storage needs and to manage continuing pressure on its budget. Financial constraints will require the Library to reduce its collecting and cataloguing work; to reduce its opening hours for reading rooms; to suspend the Harold White Fellowships; to cease its e-publishing and curtail its trade publishing program.

As part of the 2014–15 Budget measures, five corporate back-office functions at the Library will be consolidated with those of six other Canberra collecting institutions and delivered by the Attorney-General’s Department’s Shared Services Centre. The five functions are payroll, accounts, records management, information and communications technology corporate systems support, and common goods and services purchasing. The Library will transition to this consolidated service by 30 June 2016. Over the next two years, with departmental colleagues, the Library will work to ensure that affected staff are best placed and that the quality and scope of services provided under the new arrangements strongly support the Library’s business and accountability needs.

Nonetheless, the Library will advance its strategic directions. To ensure that Australians can access, enjoy and learn from a national collection that documents Australian life and society, the Library will progress its work on the DLIR project; continue to press and to prepare for the extension of legal deposit to electronic materials; continue work to develop a sustainable business model for Trove; manage the construction of a specialist integrated reading room and the expansion of the Main Reading Room; mark the centenary of the First World War with an exhibition drawn from the Library’s collections; maintain its digitisation program; continue to assess options for a new Integrated Library Management System (ILMS); and prepare a new corporate plan for 2015–2019.

Library staff take pride in advancing the institution’s role in supporting learning, scholarship, curiosity and cultural life. They pursue vital long-term goals with industry, innovation and intelligence, conscious of the extraordinary legacy of which they are stewards. The pages ahead tell the story.

Anne-Marie Schwirtlich