Portrait of the National Library of Australia's Director General Anne-Marie Schwirtlich   Anne-Marie Schwirtlich

The National 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. Examples of developments that will affect the Library’s work are Creative Australia, the Australian Government's National Cultural Policy; the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Inquiry into Copyright and the Digital Economy; the Australian Government's Australia in the Asian Century White Paper; and proposed changes to government financial accountability and online security frameworks.

As the publishing world adopts digital business models, the Library has also sought to develop more robust workflows and systems to enable it to collect, preserve, digitise and provide access to an increasing number of online resources. In October, following a rigorous procurement process, the preferred tenderers for elements of the Digital Library Infrastructure Replacement project were approved, after which the Library conducted extensive system testing. The first phase of implementation began early in 2013, and will enable the digitisation, management and delivery of published books and journals in the Library’s collections and support the bit-level preservation of the Library’s digital collections. This complex project is scheduled for completion in mid-2016.

Following a review of its overseas collecting during 2011–12, the Library issued its revised Overseas Collection Development Policy in February 2013. This policy outlines the principles and general collecting strategy for the Library’s Asian, Pacific and other overseas collections. It also confirms the Library’s support for its Asian and Pacific collecting programs. In response to the changing environment, the Library has begun the transition from a print-based collecting model to a digital library model. As a result, the Library has begun cancelling overseas printed journals and either subscribing to their online equivalents or, if their use is low, ceasing subscriptions in order to direct funds to the digitisation of Australian collections.

The Chair has welcomed the Australian Government’s commitment, expressed in the National Cultural Policy, to 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 participated in a series of consultations with publishers during the year to explore and resolve issues raised in submissions to the Attorney-General’s discussion paper, Extending Legal Deposit. Questions ranged from how library material would be defined in an online environment and the extent of public access, to what the compliance obligations for publishers might be. The Library subsequently prepared information to assist publishers understand and comply with any future requirements for delivery of online and offline electronic materials. Should legal deposit arrangements be extended to include digitally published material, the Library will work closely with publishers to ensure these new arrangements are implemented smoothly.

Legal deposit for digital material is essential to the Library’s fundamental work of developing the national collection. For the foreseeable future, the Library will be collecting both paper-based and digital material, and 2012–13 has seen remarkable additions to the national collection, many of which are highlighted in Appendix J.

After a decade of planning by major national libraries, during which the Library’s staff made a significant contribution, the international cataloguing rules have been revised to enable libraries to describe and manage their digital collections. In 2012, the Library prioritised development and delivery of training programs to enable Australian implementation of the new rules—Resource Description and Access, or RDA—in 2013. In April, following intensive training of its own staff, the Library successfully adopted the new international cataloguing standard in all new record creation work. As part of its leadership role, the Library has also identified changes to library systems and workflows that will assist the Australian library sector as it implements the first major change in cataloguing standards in 40 years.

The Library continued to add significant content—in particular, digitised Australian newspapers—to its highly popular online service, Trove. Through Trove, people can access content held by the Library and collecting institutions across Australia. In November, the Library signed a memorandum of understanding with the State Library of New South Wales to digitise 6 million newspaper pages and deliver them on Trove over the following four years. The newspaper digitisation program continued to attract other contributors as well. Forty-one libraries and organisations contributed funding to digitise more than 300,000 pages from 49 Australian newspapers.

Use of Trove rose steeply during 2012–13. By June, Trove had an average of more than 60,000 daily visits, with a peak of almost 80,000—nearly double the usage recorded for the previous year. Users are increasingly accessing Trove content and services on mobile devices, with more than 17 per cent of all use being via smart phones and tablets. Trove has a national reach, with use in each Australian state and territory closely matching their populations. It is also a service used around the world, with more than 40 per cent of users being residents of other countries. While visitors from the United Kingdom and the United States of America dominate, Trove receives visits from many Asian countries as well.

Trove’s success is gratifying, although its popularity, growing content and burgeoning user base place significant pressure on its infrastructure. As a consequence, the Library is redeveloping Trove’s newspaper service to improve the online interface and performance. This development will be delivered by August 2013.

Although newspapers constitute the majority of the Library’s digitised collection material, important material in other formats is also digitised. The Fairfax Archive Glass Plate Collection was donated to the Library by Fairfax Media at a ceremony in Sydney in December. Funding from the Australian Government’s National Cultural Heritage Account is enabling the Library to preserve, catalogue and digitise the 18,000 photographic negatives, with the project scheduled to be completed in December 2013.

The Library’s Oral History and Folklore Collection includes over 42,000 hours of recordings dating from the 1950s, with 1,000 hours of new interviews added each year. The Library developed an innovative way of making audio holdings available online, enabling the relevant portion of an interview to be found rapidly, matched to text in its transcript or timed summary. This new service has dramatically improved the accessibility of the collection.

While the Library’s notable success in providing digital services is evident, the importance of the Library as a physical venue cannot be underestimated. The Library remains the place to consult the overwhelming majority of the collection that is in paper form (or 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.

Last year’s Annual Report foreshadowed the need to improve reading room facilities to meet the changing requirements and expectations of twenty-first-century library users. In the second half of 2012, the Library began analysis, consultation and initial feasibility work on a project to integrate reading rooms. The project proposes moving the Newspapers and Microforms Reading Room from the lower ground floor to integrate it with the Main Reading Room on the ground floor, and to integrate the Petherick, Maps, and Pictures and Manuscripts reading rooms on the first floor. The objective, in line with the Strategic Building Master Plan, is to create spaces that support learning, knowledge creation and efficient workflows for researchers and Library staff. This modernisation and improvement of facilities and services will also enhance the aesthetic and heritage values of the building. Detailed design work is being completed in anticipation of conducting a tender process for the associated building works in the new financial year.

The Library’s two galleries have established strong identities as venues for thoughtful and varied exhibitions. The Chair’s Report notes the success of the Treasures Gallery, which celebrated its first anniversary in November. The new gallery for temporary exhibitions presented three well-received shows during its first full year of operation: a travelling exhibition from the State Library of New South Wales, Lewin: Wild Art; Things: Photographing the Constructed World; and the first of three Centenary of Canberra exhibitions, The Dream of a Century: The Griffins in Australia’s Capital.

The Library’s Centenary events commenced with a very successful evening in February, celebrating the national contribution of women who have lived and worked in Canberra. With a view to a lasting legacy for the Centenary year, the Library also began the preservation microfilming of Canberra newspaper titles and the digitisation of The Canberra Times issues since 1955, to ensure that Canberra’s history is readily available to future generations.

The depth and diversity of the Library’s collection are reflected in its publishing program. Canberra Then and Now, published to commemorate the Centenary, compares historic images from the collection with their modern-day equivalents captured by staff photographers. Other new titles include Flying the Southern Cross: Aviators Charles Ulm and Charles Kingsford Smith; In Search of Beauty: Hilda Rix Nicholas’ Sketchbook Art; John Gould’s Extinct and Endangered Birds of Australia; and Eucalypt Flowers.

Several titles received national recognition. Amazing Grace: An Adventure at Sea by Stephanie Owen Reeder was awarded the New South Wales Premier’s Young People’s History Prize; Shy the Platypus by Leslie Rees and Dymphna Rees Petersen and Australian Backyard Naturalist by Peter Macinnis received Whitley Awards from the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales in the Children’s Story and Young Naturalist categories respectively; and Wolfgang Sievers by Helen Ennis was highly commended in the Museums Australia Multimedia and Publication Design Awards.

Changed public car-parking arrangements in areas adjacent to the Library, including the removal of over 300 long-stay spaces with the restitution of the Patrick White Lawns, are causing difficulties for visitors and impacting on some services. As part of the Commonwealth 2013–14 Budget, the Government announced the proposed introduction of pay parking in the area—an approach designed, in part, to help improve access to the cultural institutions. The Library looks forward to working with the National Capital Authority and other institutions in the Parliamentary Zone to help resolve the issues.

The Friends of the National Library continued to promote the Library through a diverse program of events and activities. These included the 2012 Kenneth Myer Lecture, delivered in August by Mr Kerry O’Brien, on the topic ‘In an Age of Information, How Easily We Forget the Past’; and an event in October celebrating Ms Hilary McPhee’s contribution to writing and publishing.

Highlights of the Library’s own busy events program included a ‘Meet the Winners’ celebration held in conjunction with the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards; the Seymour Biography Lecture delivered by Professor Jeffrey Meyers; participation in many National Year of Reading events; collaboration with the late Mr Bryce Courtenay on two writing master classes; and the Ray Mathew Lecture delivered by Australian author, Mr Peter Robb.

Over decades, the Library has been the fortunate beneficiary of financial support and collection donations, and it works with purpose to build the relationships from which such generosity flows. The Library’s Bequest Program was formalised during the year and documentation prepared for potential bequest benefactors.

Considerable effort has been devoted to raising funds to support the major international exhibition, Mapping Our World: Terra Incognita to Australia, which will open in November. The Library is delighted to have gained the support of Shell as principal sponsor. In addition, it is grateful to Etihad Airways and Virgin Australia for their commitment to support travel for couriers and freight requirements; to Australian Capital Equity, Esri Australia, Planet Wheeler Foundation and Channel 7 as cash and in-kind supporters; and to Crowne Plaza, Canberra and TOGA Hotels, which will accommodate couriers and representatives of institutional lenders. The loan of the Fra Mauro Map of the World to the exhibition has been generously supported by Mr Kerry Stokes AC, Associate Professor Noel Dan AM and Mrs Adrienne Dan, Mr Nigel Peck AM and Mrs Patricia Peck, Mr Douglas and Mrs Belinda Snedden, and the Embassy of Italy in Canberra. The Library also welcomes the financial generosity of Mr Kevin McCann AM and Deidre Mcann, Macquarie Foundation and Origin Energy Foundation.

The Library’s annual fundraising appeal was very successful. So also were two fundraising dinners held in Sydney and Melbourne, to gain support for the preservation and digitisation of an important collection of panoramic photographs, and for an early Australian atlas. Following the Sydney dinner, a significant pledge was received from a foundation to assist the Library with its educational work.

Collaboration with institutions in Australia and overseas is a hallmark of the Library’s culture. The Libraries Australia Search service—which meets the collection management needs of more than 1,200 member libraries—was redeveloped during the year, and will be released to members during the second half of 2013–14. The new platform will deliver improved capacity and performance, together with a refreshed and more usable online interface.

A senior delegation from the National Library of China led by the Director, Mr Zhou Heping, was welcomed in December, and a memorandum of understanding was signed between the two libraries. In May, colleagues from the National Library of Malaysia visited, to learn about the implementation of Resource Description and Access in Australia.

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.

Collaboration can also enrich the collection, and two notable examples are testament to this. The Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants oral history project—a three-year project funded by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs—was concluded formally in November with a ceremony at the Library and the launch of a commemorative booklet. This project recorded over 200 interviews with those who experienced institutional life as children, policy makers, employees of children’s homes and advocates. In the second notable example, the Library and the Australia–China Council at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade initiated a project to track the history of 40 years of Australia–China diplomatic engagement through the eyes of Australian ambassadors. This oral history project, Beyond the Cables: Australian Ambassadors to China 1972–2012, aims to produce extended interviews with Australia’s former and current ambassadors to China.

As it enters its nineteenth 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 Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport; the National Archives of Australia; the National Museum of Australia; and the National Film and Sound Archive. Grants of up to $15,000 are awarded to libraries, archives, museums, genealogical and historical societies, and multicultural and Indigenous groups. In 2012, 181 applications were received for Community Heritage Grants. Of these, 78 organisations received grants averaging $5,500. Thirty-two first-time awardees received their awards from Minister for the Arts, the Hon. Simon Crean MP, on 30 October. The 2013 grant round closed on 1 May and received 125 applications.

The Library’s Strategic Workforce Plan (2012–2014) identifies three priorities aimed at focusing the Library’s decisions and resources, particularly as they relate to the increasing workforce demand for digital competencies and technological confidence. During the year, the Library reinvigorated the mentoring program, and developed core leadership capabilities and a related leadership model. A diversity work-experience program was also developed, together with a reflective senior leadership forum to assist with career sustainability and to help deliver major strategic initiatives and projects across the Library.

In response to the changing digital environment, a process to identify potential workforce gaps began. This will be followed by a review of initiatives across similar institutions.

Over the course of the year, the Library consolidated its work health and safety systems and processes. Documentation for the Work Health and Safety Management System is designed for easy access and application across all functional areas, with users being able to select a specific procedure relevant to their particular task.

The Library completed the first stage of a project to increase the energy efficiency of lighting in stacks and office areas, covering 15 per cent of the main building. The Library is also assessing the potential benefits of installing a solar plant on its repository building at Hume, where a year-long trial aimed at maintaining appropriate temperature and humidity levels without air-conditioning has already proved successful. In December, the Library was pleased to achieve accreditation with the ACTSmart Office Recycling program, with the final audit showing a significant reduction in waste to landfill of 35 per cent (or 3 tonnes per month).

This report provides me with a welcome opportunity to thank the Library’s 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.

The Library is conscious of the significant challenges it faces. These include the need to invest heavily in technology and systems development to support digital library services, to identify a cost-effective solution to long-term storage needs, and to manage a decline in external revenue.

Nonetheless, in the coming year the Library will advance its strategic directions, appreciative of the supplementation for national collecting institutions that was announced in the 2012–13 Commonwealth Budget. 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 Digital Library Infrastructure Replacement project; press and prepare for the extension of legal deposit; develop a sustainable business model for Trove; complete the design and tender phase and commence construction of a specialist reading room which will bring together services to researchers using original materials including maps, pictures, manuscripts and rare books; conclude its program to celebrate the Centenary of Canberra; maintain its digitisation program; assess options for a new Integrated Library Management System; and present the major international exhibition, Mapping Our World: Terra Incognita to Australia.

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

Director General Ms Anne-Marie Schwirtlich's signature

Anne-Marie Schwirtlich