The Library has made notable progress in advancing its Strategic Directions, which focus on developing the national collection, promoting access and engaging audiences, collaboration and leadership, and achieving organisational excellence.
Developing the National Collection
The National Library’s Annual Report for 1993–94 noted that ‘The Library has been reviewing present legal deposit provisions with a view to developing proposals for changes in the Commonwealth legal deposit provisions to cover a wider range of materials’. In the years since then, the Library has worked consistently to bring this about, with the growing volume and variety of digital publishing making it an ever more pressing need. The last two and a half years saw a renewed focus on the legal deposit legislation and this intensive period of drafting and regulatory scrutiny has resulted in a complete revision of the legal deposit provisions of the Copyright Act. As the Chair has indicated, the Bill was presented in the Senate in October 2014 and finally passed by the House of Representatives with bipartisan support in the last week of the winter sitting, June 2015. The revised legislation, once it receives royal assent and passes into the statute books, will provide the National Library with the right to collect electronic materials published in Australia rather than requiring the Library to seek the permission of publishers individually. This means that the national collection of Australian material published online can be acquired more efficiently and will be more comprehensive. Detailed work on policy, procedures, legal matters, advice and guidelines for publishers has been completed and is ready for the commencement of the new legal deposit provisions.
The Library’s collections are a national asset available for use by the Australian people and they underpin the services and programs of the Library. The Library’s collecting intentions and priorities are articulated in its Collection Development Policies. The Overseas Collection Development Policy was reviewed and published in 2013 and, this year, a review of the policy for Australian material commenced. Since 2008, when the policy was last published, there have been significant changes in the publishing environment; in the ways in which archives, maps, oral history and photographs are created; in the accessibility of material; and in the costs of acquisition. These and other considerations are reflected in the new policy, which will be issued in the first quarter of 2015–16. Other significant policy work included a comprehensive review of policies guiding preservation work on the collection and the development of a strategic framework for preservation.
Every year sees the collection grow as the Library receives the most current material—for example, the day’s newspapers—as well as an astonishing range of new material bringing the past alive. Appendix I highlights a selection of the additions to the national collection.
The safe and efficient storage of the physical collection is both a priority and a complex logistical exercise. The Library strives to ensure the most efficient use of space and equipment in order to maximise storage capacity and defer the need for additional offsite storage. Growth and use, actual and projected, of the collection is audited carefully. The year saw the continuation of the repatriation of copies of selected local print newspapers outside the scope of the Collection Development Policy to the state and territory libraries in whose jurisdictions they were published. A major storage and asset replacement project began with the procurement of replacement compactus for maps and preparation for their more efficient housing. Units that are over 25 years old and house more than 700,000 paper maps and 800,000 aerial photographs will be replaced by mid-2016.
In Oral History and Folklore, the Library reached the milestone of preserving over 40,000 hours of analogue and born-digital original material. The Library produced the first born-digital recording for the Oral History Collection with the recording, on digital audio tape, of Bob Hogg’s address to the National Press Club in April 1990. The Library now collects and preserves born-digital material at an average rate of 120 hours per month.
The development of outstanding collections can mean that over the years certain activities are accorded a priority over others—for example, acquisition over documentation. The Library’s collection of photographs is very large and not all of the collection has been accessioned and catalogued to a standard that enables it to be found by researchers. The Library scoped and began a project to document over 400,000 photographic items. At the end of June, 373,188 items have been accessioned by the project team.
A detailed assessment was completed of the Integrated Library Management System (ILMS) products on the market to determine the availability of mature and comprehensive services to replace the Library’s existing system. Following this assessment, the Library determined to replace the portion of its system that enables the public to search its holdings.
In a collection of renown, one item received special attention in this year of the Gallipoli centenary: ‘The Gallipoli Letter’ from Keith Murdoch to Prime Minister Andrew Fisher. Written in September 1915, following Murdoch’s four-day visit to Gallipoli, the twenty-five page letter is an unflinching record of the Gallipoli campaign. In March, the letter was inscribed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Australian Memory of the World Register recognising its significance to Australia’s documentary history. The letter also received international coverage on the History Channel and in The New York Times.
Promoting Access and Engaging Audiences
The Library must work with purpose and skill to balance accessibility and engagement both onsite and online. Over the last five years, the Library has witnessed an increase in online access to collections, particularly newspapers, and a stable and solid increase in onsite use of its rare and special collections. This explains why the project to integrate reading rooms, creating efficient and beautiful spaces for onsite access, is vital; we must continue to make available traditional research materials that are not in digital form. The Special Collections Reading Room opened in January and the extension to the Main Reading Room (providing access to newspapers, microforms and family history sources) opened in May. Readers and researchers were warmly appreciative of both.
The Library aims to make its onsite services as efficient and inviting as its reading rooms, and strives constantly to improve the Australian community’s access to digital content, from the Library’s own collections and from collecting institutions across the country. Trove—an essential vehicle for this access—celebrated its fifth birthday in November. The Chair has reported on the very strong engagement with and use of Trove, and the extent and value of the public contribution to its improvement.
The year has also seen heartening expansion of content in Trove from around Australia. The first contributors from Victorian Collections—a free, online cataloguing system developed by Museums Australia (Victoria) and Museum Victoria—were welcomed in November. Victorian Collections includes more than 40,000 items contributed by hundreds of small- and medium-sized organisations, such as historical societies, local museums and RSL Clubs. Having developed a simple and effective way for these organisations to open their collections for harvesting by Trove, 16 of these collections have been added to the Trove content base, with more Victorian Collections partners choosing to join Trove each month. Large contributions of content documenting Australia’s political history have also been added, most notably through the addition of press releases and biographies from the Australian Parliamentary Library and the Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate.
A remarkable 3.89 million pages of historical Australian newspapers were digitised and made accessible through Trove, an increase of 7 per cent on last year. The success of the newspaper digitisation project is very much a shared one; this year’s achievement was made possible with the generous support of the State Library of New South Wales, through its Digital Excellence Program (39 per cent of content), and other external contributors (7 per cent).
The Library celebrated Chinese New Year with the announcement of the digitisation of three of the earliest known Chinese language newspapers: The Chinese Australian Herald (Guang yi hua bao), 1894–1923, Chinese Times (Meilibin bu ai guo bao), 1902–1922, and The Chinese Advertiser, 1856, which later became the first bilingual newspaper, The English and Chinese Advertiser, 1856–1858. Trove’s search and text correction facilities were enhanced to ensure that members of the community can search the text and correct the Chinese scripts as easily as they can correct text in English and European language newspapers. The Library also began digitising The Age newspaper; this project is scheduled for completion by the end of 2015 and will be received enthusiastically as it is one of the most frequently requested newspaper titles.
Although the success of the Library’s international exhibition, Mapping Our World, was reported last year, it continued to gain plaudits, winning the Major Festivals and Events category of the annual Canberra and Capital Region Tourism Awards in December. The Library’s next international exhibition, Celestial Empire: Life in China, 1644–1911, was a curatorial and fundraising priority over this year. Drawn from the collections of the National Library of China and the National Library of Australia, this extraordinary exhibition will be at the Library from January to May 2016.
To sustain large-scale digitisation, the Library is looking to new approaches to funding this work, including commercial partnerships. The Library issued a Request for Proposal in May 2015, seeking a commercial partner. The first partnership will digitise and deliver online the Australian Joint Copying Project. This is being done in collaboration with the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the United Kingdom which, together with the National Library, was a founding partner of the project. The online availability of the content of the Australian Joint Copying Project—10,000 microfilms created over fifty years—will be a boon for genealogists, historians and political scientists, among others.
Once again, the Library’s publications won critical and industry acclaim. Tea and Sugar Christmas by Jane Jolly and illustrated by Robert Ingpen received laudatory reviews. The title has been shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Eve Pownall Award, having already been recognised as a Notable book in both the Picture Book category and the Younger Readers category, and has won the Australian Book Industry’s 2015 Small Publishers’ Children’s Book of the Year award. We are delighted that An Eye for Nature: The Life and Art of William T. Cooper by Penny Olsen was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards in the Non-fiction Book category. The Library enjoyed the novelty of receiving multiple offers to take out film options on the book, Lennie the Legend: Solo to Sydney by Pony by Stephanie Owen Reeder, and negotiations continue on these offers. Several of the Library’s titles were accepted to be represented at the 2015 Bologna Book Fair as part of Hello! from Australia: An Exhibition of Australian Children’s Book Illustration, presented by Books Illustrated and the Australian Publishers Association.
Collaboration and Leadership
One of the Library’s longest and most productive collaborations is with the Friends of the National Library of Australia Inc. The Friends is an organisation—2,000 members strong—that supports the Library in many ways. The Friends celebrated its 25th anniversary in April with an event featuring Don Watson, Marion Halligan and Omar Musa, all of whom spoke movingly about why libraries matter. The occasion gave the Library the opportunity to thank the Friends for its generosity in supporting the Treasures Gallery campaign; digitising projects; funding an annual Travelling Fellowship for staff; and, from this year, supporting a Creative Arts Fellowship. The Friends is a Gold Patron of the Library, a reflection of the strength of the support it has provided through donations and endowments. To commemorate its 25th anniversary, the Friends has funded the purchase of two dramatic pieces of Indigenous art from Western Australia, which will be enjoyed by all who work in the refurbished Main Reading Room.
The combined forces of the Library and the Friends of the National Library of Australia resulted in a very busy events program. Highlights included: the 2014 Kenneth Myer Lecture, delivered (in Canberra and in Melbourne) by Nobel Laureate Professor Brian Schmidt AC on ‘Science and Society: Exploring the Role of Research in Australian Lives’; the Seymour Biography Lecture, delivered in September by British philosopher Ray Monk, titled ‘How Can I Be a Logician Before I Am a Human Being? The Role of Biography in the Understanding of Intellectuals’; and the Ray Mathew Lecture, ‘Private Passions, Public Exposure’, delivered in May by Australian novelist Andrea Goldsmith. The Library’s education and public programming was varied and successful, including events in association with exhibitions, author talks and Digital Culture Talks.
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), and participated in the development of the group’s new strategy, Leading Collaboration. Library staff have led and contributed actively to NSLA working groups and projects, including: preservation of digital heritage; the possibilities of collaborating on digital infrastructure; the development of digital skills; the management and accessibility of collections of manuscripts, maps and pictures; and the implications of digital collecting.
Libraries Australia is a membership-based collaboration that meets the collection management needs of more than 1,200 member libraries. In July, the Library released the redeveloped search service, which was welcomed for its improved capacity and performance, and its new and more usable online interface. Activities to increase the currency and coverage of the Australian National Bibliographic Database were once again a focus. This year, the bibliographic records created by members in two new cloud-based library management systems required close attention before they could be incorporated into the Australian National Bibliographic Database. In all, 7.95 million holdings from 499 libraries were processed successfully over the year.
The Library received a number of approaches from departmental or agency libraries closing or downsizing. The Library provided advice about how to close a library and disperse a collection, and provided analyses of the uniqueness of material in these collections for those that were Libraries Australia members. These analyses identify the unique titles in the collection, which enables prioritising of the placement of this material in other libraries so that it remains accessible.
Collaboration remains crucial to much of the Library’s collection development work, particularly in Oral History and Folklore. The Australian Generations oral history project, funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC), was led by Monash University, with academic partner La Trobe University and with the Library and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) as industry partners. The project concluded in 2014 having produced 300 interviews, many available online. Similarly, collaborations with the Museum of Australian Democracy, Geoscience Australia and an Australian National University-led ARC project resulted in interviews documenting the contributions of Australian parliamentarians, the history of geosciences, and trailblazing women and the law.
Collaboration with ABC Splash resulted in the Library producing online education content tailored to the Australian Curriculum. ‘Digibooks’ on Headlines Through History (featuring headlines from Trove newspapers), The Home Front and Mapping the Australian Coast are available on the ABC Splash website to its annual audience of two million students and teachers.
As it enters its twenty-first year, the Community Heritage Grants program continues to be an important source of support for community groups responsible for significant collections. The program is managed by the Library on behalf of funding partners, including: the Ministry for the Arts within the Attorney-General’s Department; 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 2014, 134 applications were received for Community Heritage Grants. Of these, 73 organisations received grants. Senator Simon Birmingham, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment, presented recipients with their grants on 28 October. The 2015 grant round closed on 4 May and received 153 applications.
iPRES 2014, an international digital preservation conference, co-convened by the National Library and the State Library of Victoria, took place in October. Attracting 85 international and 115 Australian delegates, feedback was uniformly positive, with recognition that Australia had set the bar very high for future conferences.
Eighty digital humanists from across Australia and New Zealand participated in the Trove THATCamp from 31 October to 2 November. Participants explored the possibilities and problems raised by the application of technology to the humanities, saw visualisations of Trove and other cultural data, tested apps and learned about the use of digital maps to explore historical themes.
Library staff hosted national conferences of the Australasian Sound Recordings Association, the Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand, the Australian and New Zealand Map Society, the Australian Folklore Network and the Librarians’ Day associated with the Congress of the Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations, as well as contributing to program organisation and delivering papers.
The Library welcomed Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, in September for a range of meetings, including with the Library’s executive, with colleagues from collecting institutions and with colleagues in Canberran libraries and research institutions.
Achieving Organisational Excellence
Last year, when the Library suspended its program of Harold White Fellowships, it committed to reinstating fellowships with private support. In March, the Library announced that, thanks to generous private benefactors, four National Library Fellowships would be offered and it was with pleasure that, in March, the Library called for applications for its suite of fellowships. The Library is delighted that its range of fellowships has been broadened, with the addition of a Creative Arts Fellowship, thanks to the support of the Friends.
Each year, the Library makes two appeals for financial support to its community. One is a Tax Time Appeal, the other an End of Year Appeal. The 2014 Tax Time Appeal sought funding to better describe, preserve and digitise the 228 medieval manuscripts in the Library’s collection.It was most successful and has enabled the conservation and digitisation of 11 bound volumes and 250 fragments of manuscripts, and the preparation of a finding aid for these medieval treasures. The 2014 End of Year Appeal sought funding to improve the functionality of Trove. The generosity of donors will enable this work to be done next financial year.
As part of, and linked to, the Smaller Government Reform Agenda and the Efficiency through Contestability Programme, a range of initiatives has been proposed regarding the relevance, efficiency and sourcing of services. A major internal focus is to establish the arrangements that best position the Library in this emerging contestability and common services environment.
The Library’s Enterprise Agreement notionally expired on 30 June 2014. The Library began formal bargaining in October. Following approval of the Library’s bargaining position by relevant Ministers, the Department of Finance and the Australian Public Service Commission, the Library’s remuneration offer was tabled in March.
This is the first agreement negotiation in which wage increases are proposed to be solely funded from reductions to employee entitlements. The Library is continuing to look for other affordable and sustainable ways of funding reasonable levels of wage increases. Discussion of the offer continues.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has obtained approval from the Fair Work Commission for its Library members to take protected industrial action. The initiatives permissible under the order are able to be managed by the Library.
Staff turnover at the Library has continued to be very healthy at 8 per cent. The Interim Recruitment Arrangements to reduce staffing levels across the Australian Public Service (APS)have slowed down recruitment time lines and the Library has welcomed the relaxation of some of the Service-wide arrangements.
After 14 years of exemplary hospitality, Mocha Espresso relinquished the catering contract at the Library. Through Bookplate café, Paperplate café and at functions, Rachel Romney-Brown and Peter Brown, and their staff, have welcomed and nurtured the Library’s readers, visitors and staff. Following an open procurement process, in December the Library was delighted to welcome Tracy Keeley of Poppy and Maude to the Library to take over the running of the cafés.
Pay parking was introduced in the Parliamentary Zone at the beginning of October. The parking areas adjacent to the Library are managed by the National Capital Authority—other than a modest loading dock, the Library controls no public or staff parking areas. With data for fewer than 12 months, it is premature to make a definitive assessment of the impact of pay parking. The Library can, however, observe that pay parking has freed parking in the vicinity of the Library—formerly these carparks were at capacity on weekdays. Since the introduction of pay parking, the Library has recorded fewer visits to the building, with a decline in visitation to the Main Reading Room, the galleries, the Bookshop and Bookplate café, and hopes that this will be reversed in the coming year. However, visitation to the reading rooms may also have been affected by measures implemented to allow the Library to live within its budget: ceasing stacks retrievals on Saturdays; closing all reading rooms on public holidays; and reducing Main Reading Room hours to support evening access to the Special Collections Reading Room. The Library will continue to monitor these trends as the community adjusts to revised reading room service and changed parking arrangements.
The Library’s Corporate Plan 2015–2019 is the result of many searching, vigorous and humorous discussions with colleagues and Council. The Corporate Plan represents a significant piece of strategic thinking and its development was an inspiring process because of the passion, ambition and creativity of all involved. The Library’s three strategic priorities will be to build the nation’s memory; to make access happen; and to lead, partner, connect and excel. In the year ahead, the Library will advance its work on the DLIR project; implement legal deposit for electronic material; present the international exhibition, Celestial Empire: Life in China, 1644–1911; complete the last phase of the Reading Room Integration project; implement a modern discovery interface to the Library’s books, journals, electronic resources and finding aids; and influence and best manage contestability and common services.
It is with gratitude that I also note the counsel received from colleagues in the department, which was, as always, immensely useful.
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.
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 the stewards. The pages ahead continue the story.
Anne-Marie Schwirtlich AM