Ryan Stokes

It is my pleasure to report that over 2013–14 the National Library has continued to broaden its reach and to build and preserve its collection innovatively and successfully. The Library’s significant achievements are set out in this report.

For some years now, the Library has been at the forefront of research and action by collecting institutions around the world to meet the collecting, access and preservation challenges presented by the dynamic digital environment in which we operate. The Library is part-way through an ambitious and challenging project to replace existing digital infrastructure to provide the required capability and capacity to efficiently collect digital content, digitise paper and other analogue collections, preserve digital material, and deliver digital content. 

This project is core to the Library’s ability to protect and deliver digital collections and to meet collecting and access obligations into the future. Using a mix of commercial products, open-source software and in-house development, in January the Library released a system to support the end-to-end digitisation, management, preservation and delivery of published books and journals held in its collections. Given the centrality of the project to the Library’s work and success, and its complexity, the Library Council takes a close interest in its progress and governance.

On the access front three things stand out as highlights of the year: the extraordinary success of the exhibition, Mapping Our World: Terra Incognita to Australia; the continuing growth and success of Trove; and the careful planning, design work and preparation for the integration of the Petherick, Maps, and Pictures and Manuscripts Reading Rooms, and the integration of the Newspapers and Microforms and Main Reading Rooms.

Mapping Our World brought together spectacular maps from international collections and those from the Library and other public and private Australian collections to tell the story of European mapping of Australia, from early notions of a vast southern land to Matthew Flinders’ published map of 1814. With 118,264 visitors to the exhibition, from around Australia and abroad, it has broken previous attendance records and ranks as the most popular exhibition in the Library’s long exhibiting history. The exhibition was made possible only by the generous support of lenders: the Australian and ACT Governments; the exhibition’s Principal Partner, Shell; its Major Partners, Australian Capital Equity, Esri Australia, Planet Wheeler, Channel Seven and Crowne Plaza Canberra; its Airline Partners, Etihad and Virgin Australia; and its Accommodation Partner, Toga Hotels.

Use of Trove, the Library’s free, online national delivery and discovery service, continued to grow, as did its content. In June 2013, Trove had an average of more than 60,000 visits a day; by June 2014 the figure had grown to 66,000. More than 24 million visits to Trove, from Australia and the world, were recorded for the year—an increase of 16 per cent over the previous year—with visitors completing more than 93 million searches. The number of unique visitors rose to 15 million—an increase of 25 per cent over last year. 

The Library conducted the first major evaluation of customer satisfaction with Trove and was heartened by the results, with the overwhelming majority of users (84 per cent) rating Trove as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’, a further 14 per cent rating it ‘good’, and a total of 98 per cent of Trove users happy with their experience. The Library is particularly pleased that the evaluation showed Trove’s reach extending to Australians in regional, rural and remote areas, with many respondents thanking the Library for this new form of easy access to Australian documentary heritage.

Consistent with the master plan for the Library’s building, design work for the expansion of the Main Reading Room on the ground floor and relocation of the Petherick, Maps, and Pictures and Manuscripts Reading Rooms to a new space on the first floor of the building was completed. This work will also ensure that significant portions of three levels of the building will be upgraded to meet building codes, work health and safety requirements and government standards for the comfort of individuals, the protection of the collection and building heritage values. Following receipt of the Minister’s approval to proceed, work commenced in May. 

The Library’s work on building, managing and preserving the collection continued. The Library gave priority to working with the Attorney-General’s Department on preparations to amend the Copyright Act 1968 (Copyright Act) to provide for the legal deposit of electronic resources. The Library is eager to see legislative change achieved in 2014–15 to ensure that the national collection of material published in Australia is comprehensive and best able to serve future research and study needs.

In March, the Library released, in proof-of-concept form, a new web archive service—the Australian Government Web Archive. The archive preserves Commonwealth government websites and online publications, with collecting beginning in 2011. The service complements the Library’s long-established PANDORA archive which makes available, by permission, a range of web material published by individuals and organisations and selected government websites prior to 2011. Development work on the website will continue, particularly to bring it under the Library’s single discovery service, Trove.

With its Audit Committee, the Library Council has taken particular interest in matters concerning the valuation of the Library’s collection and the impact valuation requirements and processes have on the work and resources of the Library. The Council is grateful to the Australian National Audit Office for its assistance in resolving these issues.

The Council has taken a keen interest in the Public Management Reform Agenda and in the proposals for corporate planning for entities such as the Library. The Library’s existing Strategic Directions will serve it well for another year. In June, the Council initiated the process to develop strategic directions for 2015–2019 in preparation for the implementation of the new corporate planning arrangements on 1 July 2015.

I would like to acknowledge the contribution of my fellow Council members: the Hon. Mary Delahunty, Mr John M. Green, Dr Nicholas Gruen, Mr Chris Hayes MP, Ms Jane Hemstritch, Dr Nonja Peters, Professor Janice Reid, Senator Zed Seselja and Ms Deborah Thomas. The Council farewelled the Hon. Dick Adams, Ms Glenys Beauchamp PSM and Senator Gary Humphries in 2013, and thanked all three for their work on Council.

On behalf of Council I would like to acknowledge and extend our appreciation to the Library’s Corporate Management Group led by Director General Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, and to all Library staff. Through their collective efforts and passionate dedication to the Library we are able to achieve our goals. We thank them for their efforts.

Ryan Stokes