Australians have an appetite for stories, culture, knowledge and ideas from Australia, and the wider world. Australians value opportunities to encounter, debate, use and produce new knowledge. Their preferences for how they do so will evolve—but they expect digital access to be the norm.
The Library recognises that the wide availability of digital content and the ease with which Australians can access it means there is significant competition for the time and attention of our audiences. However, the Library’s experience over the last ten years is that the Australian cultural content it collects and makes available reaches new, larger and more diverse audiences every year. The Library expects to welcome a growing number of physical and virtual visitors, see signficant growth in the use and re-use of online content, facilitate increasing use of its unique and rare collections, and reach diverse communities in Australia’s cities and regions.
The Library will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of its landmark building in 2018, and will use this event to connect even more strongly with Australians, and to better understand and anticipate community needs.
Over the period of this plan, the Library will focus particularly on building respectful relationships with Indigenous communities whose unique histories and cultures are documented in Library collections.
Deep audience engagement with Australian stories and knowledge will grow as Trove expands to include more digitised and born-digital content, and as it improves the discoverability of national collections.
Australians will continue to contribute to the public good through engagement with the national digital collection via Trove. They will add their own digital content via third-party services. Volunteers will continue to improve discoverability of resources through text correction and by adding their own knowledge for the benefit of all. They will curate and share content on diverse themes, through numerous social media services and the power of Trove’s Application Programming Interface. As digital tools develop and support industrial-scale improvements to content discovery, the Library will expand its pioneering citizen engagement initiatives by offering communities new and productive ways to participate, both online and onsite.
The Library’s charter is to collect and preserve, in perpetuity, the nation’s documentary heritage. We welcomed the implementation in 2016 of legal deposit for digital materials as this strengthens and transforms the Library’s mandate. The Library now systematically collects Australia’s record of digital publishing and ensures its safekeeping.
Despite the ease with which digital content is created and distributed, the content is more vulnerable to loss, through carrier and format obsolescence, than many physical collections. Effective preservation of born- digital and digitised content is—despite intensive international standards activity over more than a decade—still a relatively new activity for organisations charged with stewarding content for the very long term. The Library is an active participant in international digital preservation activities, has implemented a digital preservation management system used by large libraries and archives around the world, and has a clear and actionable plan for preserving its digital collections.
The Library anticipates that the rate of growth of its Australian printed collections will reduce slowly as publishers move online, and material once solely collected in print will be acquired and managed in digital form.
However, the Library anticipates an increase in offers of paper-based personal, organisational and photographic archives for at least the next decade, given the extent of such material still with creators. This increase in the range and volume of material on offer will test the Library’s ability to develop, describe and manage these collections as they require a high degree of curatorial activity to make them accessible.
Over the next four years, Australia’s strategic, cultural and commercial engagement with countries in the Asian region will continue to evolve. With diminishing support for Asian collecting in the research sector, the Library’s Asian collections are a significant national resource enabling Australians to study and understand the region.
Digitisation of physical material, collection of born-digital content, and aggregation of metadata about library and cultural collections are critical to the discovery and use of these collections. The use of Trove, especially of its millions of freely available digitised newspaper pages, is evidence of this. Trove’s achievements have been built on the enduring collaboration—professional and financial—of Australia’s national, state and territory libraries and, more recently, of partners from the cultural, community, research and philanthropic sectors.
Digital infrastructure is crucial to the capacity of galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM) to build digital collections and make this content accessible to, and usable by, citizens—but requires significant and ongoing investment. With National and State Libraries Australasia colleagues, the Library will continue to develop shared digital infrastructure—with sustainable funding models—for long-term collection, preservation and access to the nation’s published heritage.
The Library’s capacity to partner with and meet the needs of libraries and the broader GLAM sector will require increased investment by institutions benefiting from shared digital solutions, and will be influenced by jurisdictional issues and resource constraints in the sector.
The Library’s capacity to support the research sector—especially in the humanities and social sciences—will be stretched in an environment in which the Library’s role in Australia’s research infrastructure has been acknowledged in the 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap, but where fundamental governance and funding issues are yet to be resolved. The Library will continue to advocate for recognition of the importance of library infrastructure in the collection and dissemination of knowledge, the transformative impact of services such as Trove, and the critical need to make the most efficient use of scarce digital infrastructure resources.
The Library will continue to partner with other collecting institutions to support exhibitions and programs, thereby maximising the impact of investments and our reach to audiences.
The Library will also continue to partner with philanthropic individuals and organisations and with business. We seek to be alert to the opportunities to work with digital enterprises, large and small.
The Library creates public value by increasing economic, social and intellectual wellbeing, primarily through contributions to lifelong learning, creation of works of research and imagination, and innovation within the cultural sector. The Library’s onsite and innovative digital services reach individuals and communities across metropolitan, regional and rural Australia, enabling access to national and local stories, past and present.
The Australian Government’s emphasis on building Australia’s potential for growth while reducing the footprint of government will require continued Library innovation to achieve efficiencies, collaborate in new ways and demonstrate value. It will also require critical evaluation of relative service value, and the cessation or reduction of some activities.
The Library has long argued that investment in digital infrastructure such as Trove is—like investment in transport and logistics infrastructure—a catalyst for economic development. The Australian Government has allocated $16.4 million to the Library during 2016–17 to 2019–20 through the Public Service Modernisation Fund, primarily to upgrade critical digital infrastructure. This will support significantly improved access to the national collection over the period of this plan.