It is my pleasure to report that over the past year the National Library of Australia has continued to engage, inspire and delight Australians and to build and preserve its collection. The Library’s significant achievements are set out in this report.
For over two decades, the Library has sought extension of the legal deposit provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 (Copyright Act). Including electronic materials in these provisions will ensure that the national collection of material published in Australia is as comprehensive as possible to support research and study. The date 25 June 2015 was notable in the collecting life of the Library as, on that day, the Civil Law and Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 (which contains the amended Copyright Act legal deposit provisions) received its second and third readings in the House of Representatives and was passed into law, completing a journey that began on 29 October 2014 when the Attorney-General introduced the Bill to the Senate for its first reading.
The Library’s ambitious, innovative and complex project to develop the digital infrastructure that will enable it to collect, deliver, preserve and provide long-term access to digital collections continued apace. Given the centrality of the project to the Library’s work and success, Council takes a close interest in its progress and governance. An external quality assurance review in January found that the project was essential and well positioned to continue delivering successfully. The recommendations of the review are being implemented. Council recognises the strong progress made over the year and appreciates the technical, professional and organisational complexity of the project.
On the access front, three things stand out as highlights of the year: the opening of the Special Collections Reading Room and of the expanded Main Reading Room; the continuing growth and success of Trove; and the display of the Rothschild Prayer Book.
On 5 January, the Library welcomed Petherick Readers and researchers working on manuscripts, pictures, oral history, maps and rare printed materials to the new Special Collections Reading Room. On 4 May, a new area within the Main Reading Room was opened, which accommodates researchers using newspapers and microforms and studying family history. Readers expressed their elation with the improved amenity, functionality and aesthetic. The lower ground and ground floors are now the focus as building works refurbish and modernise elements of these areas.
Australians continue to engage deeply with Trove, and to volunteer their own time and knowledge to improve its content. New user registrations, tags and comments increased by 25 per cent, and Trove users curated 30 per cent more content lists than last year. Newspaper text correction continues to be extremely popular, increasing by 25 per cent, in line with the increase in Trove’s newspaper content. This community work is estimated to exceed $27 million in value. The Library is grateful for this valuable contribution from our active Trove users and supporters.
The 2013 evaluation of Trove customer satisfaction revealed that Trove’s reach extended to Australians in regional, rural and remote areas in proportion to population distribution. The Library continues to increase the digital material available on Trove and expects to see this further enhanced with the Digital Library Infrastructure Replacement (DLIR) project.
In May, the Library welcomed to the Treasures Gallery the exquisite Rothschild Prayer Book. Purchased last year by Mr Kerry Stokes AC, the prayer book has rarely been on public display and never in the Southern Hemisphere. We are very grateful to Kerry Stokes for choosing to introduce the prayer book to Australians at the National Library, especially as this has enabled a selection of the Library’s recently conserved medieval and Renaissance manuscripts to be exhibited with it.
Council continued to take a keen interest in the Public Management Reform Agenda and in the proposals for corporate planning for entities such as the Library. Development and discussion of the Library’s Corporate Plan 2015–2019, which was approved at Council’s June meeting, was of particular interest to Council. The Library has also reviewed its approach to measuring its impact, efficiency and effectiveness in order to identify key performance indicators that will best enable it to report on delivery against its new plan and to reflect the requirements of the new reporting agenda.
The 2014–15 Budget introduced the measure, ‘Smaller Government—collection agencies—consolidation of back office functions’. The Library is one of seven collecting agencies affected by this measure, which returns savings to the budget by consolidating payroll, accounts receivable and payable, records management, information technology corporate systems support, and common goods and services purchasing. The implications of shared services are of significant concern to Council given their potential impact on Council’s ability to control the quality and cost of the services, and on the Library’s efficiency and corporate knowledge.
I would like to acknowledge the contribution of my fellow Council members: Mr Thomas Bradley QC, the Hon. Mary Delahunty, Mr John M. Green, Dr Nicholas Gruen, Mr Chris Hayes MP (who resigned from Council on 5 June), Ms Jane Hemstritch, Dr Nonja Peters, Professor Janice Reid AC (whom Council farewelled with much gratitude for her contribution), Senator Zed Seselja and Ms Deborah Thomas.
On behalf of Council, I would like to acknowledge and thank Director-General Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, the Corporate Management Group (CMG) and all the dedicated Library team for their efforts. The continuing work of the Library ensures that all Australians can discover, enjoy, learn and create new knowledge based on a national collection that documents Australian life and society, and our place in the region and the world.