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.
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.’
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.’