In 2015–16, the Library’s priorities were:

  • to develop national infrastructure by exploring and transforming provisioning and business models for Libraries Australia in a cloud-dominated library systems environment;
  • to participate in international collaborations that focus on standards and practices that make it easy for people everywhere to find, use and build on its collections;
  • to sustain, with the assistance of the Library’s Council and Foundation Board, the Library’s giving community and develop new approaches to attract personal, philanthropic and commercial giving;
  • to build on sound governance arrangements and effective resource management so that the Australian Government, partners and the community are assured that their investment is well managed;
  • to continue reducing the Library’s energy and waste footprint, carefully assessing the return on investment for each improvement project.

Results Achieved

  • To develop national infrastructure by exploring and transforming provisioning and business models for Libraries Australia in a cloud-dominated library systems environment  

Libraries Australia is a membership-based collaboration that supports the cataloguing and document-delivery workflows of more than 1,200 member libraries. The service operates on a full cost-recovery basis, and the Library continues to find ways to ensure the sustainable delivery of this national service in a rapidly evolving technological environment.

In October 2015, the Library successfully transitioned the Virtual Document eXchange system operating the Libraries Australia Document Delivery service to an environment hosted by the system vendor. This transition enabled Library staff to focus on service delivery to members, while creating a pathway for robust support and more timely system improvements via the platform vendor.

The Library is closely watching the experiences of three international services providing support similar to Libraries Australia as they transition to cloud-based platforms. Scrutiny of outcomes for those services will inform the Library’s deliberations as it considers optimal strategies for future Libraries Australia service delivery.

The development of cloud-based library systems and their implementation in Australian libraries has provided opportunities to improve the coverage and currency of the Australian National Bibliographic Database by facilitating better collection management and exposure by smaller libraries.

The Library has worked with two major international library system vendors (OCLC and Ex Libris) to develop a seamless data contribution mechanism that allows Australian libraries using cloud-based library systems to
contribute data for their library collections to the Australian National Bibliographic Database.

Through this process, 35 university, public, research and special Australian libraries have refreshed information about their collections on Libraries Australia. This has enabled accurate information to be syndicated to Trove, and also to WorldCat, the world’s largest aggregator of bibliographic records.

  • To participate in international collaborations that focus on standards and practices that make it easy for people everywhere to find, use and build on its collections

One of the most important international standards used in the Library’s work every day is the set of cataloguing guidelines and instructions known as Resource Description and Access (RDA), which guides the creation of bibliographic metadata for library materials. The Library is a member of the RDA Board, an international governing body of English-speaking countries that sets strategic directions for the standard. The Library chairs the Australian Committee on Cataloguing and is also a member of the RDA Steering Committee, which is responsible for the development and content of the standard.

This year saw a significant change in the management of the RDA standard as the Board introduced a new internationally oriented governance structure, enabling participation and representation from all countries and all sectors. The benefit of doing this became apparent as RDA developed. As more organisations develop rich and compatible data sets about their holdings, the adoption and promotion of RDA can enable these data to be actively shared across borders and increase the discoverability of collections for the benefit of users everywhere.

The Library is a founding member of the International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC), an international organisation established to improve the tools, standards and best practices of web archiving while promoting international collaboration. Some of the innovative work being done by the Library on web archiving technology through the DLIR program has already attracted the interest of the IIPC community. This led to the offer of funding for the Library’s Web Archiving Manager, Dr Paul Koerbin, to travel to Iceland and present on the Library’s work to a large and influential professional community at the IIPC’s annual conference.

Oral History collections grew through partnerships with universities, mostly via Australian Research Council (ARC) linkage grants, and with other organisations. During 2015, the following multi-year ARC linkage projects drew to a close: New Beats: Mass Redundancies and Career Change in Australian Journalism (60 interviews, led by La Trobe University); the History of Press Photography in Australia (57 interviews, led by the University of Melbourne); Trailblazing Women and the Law (45 interviews, led by the Australian National University); The Past in the Present: Australian Lesbian and Gay Life Stories (60 interviews, led by Macquarie University); and Australian Generations (300 interviews, led by Monash University). 

These collaborations have enabled the Library to collect contemporary social history interviews on a scale otherwise impossible from within Library resources. They have harnessed academic knowledge and institutional expertise and created audio collections of enduring research value. The Library trained interviewers in its leading-edge digital collecting and archiving methodologies to ensure long-term preservation of recordings and facilitate online access to the funded research. 

Privileged access to the Library’s digital management and audio delivery systems has enabled researchers to mine, synthesise and analyse content in new ways across large numbers of interviews. The Library’s infrastructure and tools helped researchers create new knowledge and research outcomes much faster than was previously possible: for example, in the rapid publication of a book by Macquarie University academics arising from the interviews recording the life experiences of gay men and lesbians. 

‘The Library’s infrastructure and tools are changing paradigms for the use of oral history sources, akin to the transformations in research achieved through newspaper digitisation.’

National and State Libraries Australasia—leading collaboration

The National Library, Australia’s state and territory libraries and the National Library of New Zealand collaborate closely, under the aegis of National and State Libraries Australasia (NSLA), to share solutions, to represent the rights of library users and to remove barriers that hamper collecting and providing access. NSLA collaborates to build a comprehensive national collection, to make it accessible to all Australians and to do so in ways that deliver value, share benefits and strengthen relationships. NSLA’s strategic direction is set by the chief executives of member libraries who meet three times a year. NSLA achieves its ambitions through project groups and communities of practice, whose members are drawn from the staff of NSLA libraries.

Over the year, project groups focus on advancing collective thinking and approaches to copyright; building capabilities in the preservation of digital collections; strengthening the skills required to operate in the digital world; evaluating and purchasing published eresources; effectively managing heritage collections; serving Indigenous people and stewarding Indigenous collections; and developing approaches to improving literacy and learning.

Communities of practice focus on benchmarking and exploring areas of common concern in areas such as Communications and Marketing, Corporate Services, Funding and Sponsorship, Public Libraries, Storage, Trove and Visitor Experience. 

While the Library is an active participant in most, and leads several, of these groups, it has been deeply involved in NSLA’s investigation of the feasibility of shared digital infrastructure for all published Australian digital material: digital books, journals, newspapers, maps, music and Australian websites. Our collective goal is to achieve simplicity and certainty for publishers, a more comprehensive collection available through all NSLA members to Australians and significant efficiencies across NSLA libraries.


Australian generations 

The Australian Generations Oral History Project has been the largest, most innovative and most complex of the Library’s Oral History collaborations. It addressed intergenerational dynamics and the impact of dramatic social, technological and environmental changes on the experiences and attitudes of successive generations. 

The project encompassed 300 life history audio interviews (1,221 hours) across generations from 1920 to 1989, now securely archived at the Library and subject to shared rights and access conditions as agreed by each participant and institution. The project has shaped the creation, preservation and use of historical evidence; highlighted how digital technologies are transforming the interaction between historians and their sources and audiences; and tested the methodological and ethical responsibilities negotiated by partners across archives, radio and academia. 

From inception, the project was designed to transform, test and use, as well as test governance of, the Library’s online audio delivery system. Through shared access to its data and Content Management System, researchers have been able to mine content in new ways. In March 2016, Australian Historical Studies devoted a special themed issue to examining the methodological and technical innovations of the project. The forthcoming book from the project will use the interview data to explore a range of themes in Australian social and cultural history and will enable online readers to listen to extracts directly from the Library’s website.


  • To sustain, with the assistance of the Library’s Council and Foundation Board, the Library’s giving community and develop new approaches to attract personal, philanthropic and commercial giving

In 2015, the Library expanded, refreshed and relaunched its program of fellowships and scholarships, replacing the former Harold White Fellowships, which had supported over 150 research fellows since 1983. This philanthropy enabled the Library to broaden the scope of the fellowships, offer increased levels of financial assistance to fellows and revise guidelines to better address issues of equity, access and merit. Six funded National Library of Australia Fellowships for sustained advanced research were created, each supported by individuals, consortia or trust funding. Two Creative Arts Fellowships, one funded by the Friends of the National Library of Australia Inc., the second by a bequest, were established to assist artists and writers to create new work, creatively using or inspired by the collections. The inaugural round for the 2016 National Library of Australia Fellowships attracted a remarkable field of 147 high-quality applicants, from which seven fellows were selected (including two Honorary Fellowships and one funded by the Library). The Creative Arts Fellowships attracted 82 applicants, with the panel noting the exceptionally high quality of applicants and the range, originality and depth of projects across disparate art forms. 

The 2016 fellows have fulfilled expectations of outstanding research, creation of new knowledge from and about the collections, inspirational public events and strong media presence, as well as deep engagement with the Library, including Council, donors and staff. In reporting to Council and through media, fellows have become outstanding ambassadors and advocates for the Library’s collections and services.

Advancing understanding and knowledge

‘In a challenging budgetary environment, the NLA has delivered one of the most significant turnarounds I’ve ever seen and positioned Australia well for advancing our understanding of Australia and knowledge more generally. 

The response from the researcher community has been overwhelming, with applications tripling for the new program and the quality among the best in Australia and the world … It was an exhausting but rewarding job knowing that, even beyond the superlative scholars selected, we’ve exposed hundreds to the wealth of the collection. We have no doubt many of them will by hook or by crook find their way to being able to access this national asset. 

We can expect some of the most significant research coming out of Australia in the next couple of years will have been seeded by this program. I cannot congratulate—and thank—the NLA and its staff enough for what they’ve done for Australian knowledge with this turnaround.’

Professor Kent Anderson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Western Australia, and a member of the Fellowships Advisory Committee, August 2015


  • To build on sound governance arrangements and effective resource management so that the Australian Government, partners and the community are assured that their investment is well managed  

The Library has continued to refine governance arrangements and corporate structures to gain efficiencies and best meet corporate objectives and accountability requirements. Consultative mechanisms include, for example, a Corporate Management Forum, which consists of senior executives from agencies in the Arts portfolio and representatives from a small number of non-portfolio agencies. The forum considers a range of corporate issues, including human resource management, financial management, procurement, risk, and IT and facilities management, with a view to achieving economies of scale, sharing experiences and encouraging better practice. The forum met four times during 2015–16. 

Major long-term initiatives, such as the Celestial Empire exhibition and Reading Room Integration Project, have been successfully completed and the DLIR program is on track for completion in 2016–17. Efficiency targets set by government for 2015–16 have been met and the Library has in train initiatives to meet the targets for 2016–17. Consistent with previous years, no compliance issues of any significance were identified for 2015–16.

In December 2015, work was completed on the Reading Room Integration Project. This milestone marks the culmination of a significant project for the Library and completes an important component of the Library’s Strategic Building Master Plan. The project has improved and modernised the public spaces in keeping with a twenty-first-century national library, and builds on the achievement of the Treasures and Exhibition galleries and improvements to the Main Reading Room completed in 2012.

During 2015–16, a range of other capital expenditure building projects was undertaken, including installation of new energy-efficient lighting and controls in the Treasures and Exhibition galleries, fire corridors, plant rooms and lift lobbies.

The Library has a dedicated workforce plan that identifies people priorities and workforce development initiatives. A new plan took effect from 1 July 2015, developed to support initiatives in the Library’s Corporate Plan 2015–2019 and to build on leadership capability, digital confidence and career sustainability.

In 2015–16, in line with the government’s Protective Security Policy Framework and Information Security Manual, a three-point IT security strategy of People, Policy and Enforcement was implemented. To address this, the Library released updated IT security policies and conducted IT security awareness seminars to inform staff of the updates to these policies. Security assessments for new IT systems and major system updates were successfully completed.

As more staff use mobile devices to assist in their work, Mobile Device Management was implemented to allow secure access to corporate resources from these devices.

As a result of implementing the three-point strategy, over the course of 2015–16 there were no cyber security incidents of any consequence.

  • To continue reducing the Library’s energy and waste footprint, carefully assessing the return on investment for each improvement project

The review of climate control parameters for collection storage areas to ensure the building plant and equipment operate at optimal efficiency has continued. Further seasonal trials were conducted throughout the year to test our ability to continue to reduce energy usage in collection storage areas while maintaining appropriate conditions. 

The sustainability program at the Library has been very successful in reducing energy and water usage, and waste to landfill. It has also garnered a great deal of staff engagement and support, and entrenched systems, processes and thinking are now in place to ensure energy usage is minimised and sustainable practices are adopted.

Reducing the energy and waste footprint

In comparison with the previous year, the Library has reduced electricity consumption by 1 per cent to 5.6 million kWh and decreased gas consumption by 6 per cent to 4 million MJ. Water usage was 12,600 KL a reduction of 9 per cent.

Waste to landfill was 19 per cent of total waste in 2015–16, a reduction of 1 per cent to 37,090 kg compared with the previous year.

Paper consumption has reduced by 9 per cent to 5,500 kg compared with the previous year.