History of Libraries Australia

Judith Baskin and Maggie Bond using the Australian Bibliographic Network, 1982
Image courtesy ACT Heritage Library and Fairfax Syndication; photographer Jane Reid

Our beginnings: planning a national shared cataloguing network

In the mid-1970s the National Library of Australia began to plan the establishment of a new resource for Australia’s libraries—the country’s first national shared cataloguing network.

The thinking behind a shared cataloguing network was simple. Instead of every library cataloguing every item in their collection, each item would be catalogued just once—into a single computerised database. Other libraries could then copy the catalogue record, saving time and money.

The Australian Bibliographic Network (ABN)

The Australian Bibliographic Network (ABN) was formed on 2 November 1981 by the coming together of six Australian libraries. Members of the network contributed catalogue records to the Australian National Bibliographic Database, which all members could then access. At a time when the Internet was non-existent, businesses communicated by fax, and catalogue cards and microfiche catalogues were king in libraries across the country, a computerised network of this kind was revolutionary.


The National Library of Australia moved to a new system, Kinetica, in 1999. For the first time, users could access the cataloguing using a graphical interface, rather than a text-based one. Kinetica was also Z39.50 compliant, meaning it could interoperate with other library systems. By then, over 1000 libraries belonged to Australia’s library network and almost 30 million items were available on the Australian National Bibliographic Database.

Libraries Australia is born

Kinetica was redeveloped into Libraries Australia in 2005. A number of new modules were created, enabling more effective cataloguing, searching and interlibrary lending. The following year, Libraries Australia launched a free search service which could be used by members of the public. 

In 2007, Libraries Australia entered into a major agreement with global library cooperative OCLC. Data contributed to the Australian National Bibliographic Database now flows through to OCLC WorldCat, the largest online public access catalogue in the world, exposing the collections of Libraries Australia members globally.

In 2008, Libraries Australia’s free search service was replaced by Trove, further exposing Australian collections to the public. 

Today, Libraries Australia is made up of a network over 1200 Australian libraries and provides access to more than 31 million bibliographic records.

From July 2019

Libraries Australia will operate as Trove Collaborative Services from July 2019.  All existing Libraries Australia services will continue together with a suite of new services.

Libraries Australia timeline: 1970s to today