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2.4 Strategic Priority Two: Connect


  • Extend national reach and engagement, increasing the number and diversity of Australians who engage with the Library’s collections.
  • Provide great onsite and digital experiences that delight, inspire and nourish Australians’ curiosity about the nation’s past, present and future.

ACTIONS 2018-19

  • Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Library’s iconic building, engaging Australians with their national library and its potential to enrich their lives and communities.

The Library continued to mark the 50th anniversary of its building—an Australian Parthenon built in the New Classicism style. Opened in August 1968, the Library was the first permanent national building within the Parliamentary Triangle and still stands tall alongside other national institutions that have followed, welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors through its doors every year.

A focus of the anniversary was connecting with new audiences, both onsite and online. A highlight was the enormously successful open day, held on Sunday 12 August and attracting 8,500 visitors. The event was a genuine ‘open house’, with activities on every floor and visitors enjoying collection viewings, lightning talks, a treasure hunt, film screenings and a festival atmosphere in the Library forecourt. The behind-the-scenes tours of collection areas, stacks, preservation and digitisation areas and exhibitions were in high demand, with all 60 tours booked to capacity. The open day, the first held in almost 20 years, demonstrated the affection and ongoing enthusiasm Australians have for the Library, and the special place it has in Canberra’s cultural landscape.

Online activities throughout the year continued to tell the story of the Library’s building, collection and people. The Trove 50 Favourite Things blog highlighted treasures from Trove, while @NLA50ppl offered vignettes about 50 staff, volunteers, Library Fellows and other users. The Stacks of Stories digital series presented five lively episodes about Library services. The impact of online activities and enhanced live streaming and recording of onsite events— amplified via a growing social media profile—is building a strong, vibrant dialogue with online audiences, raising awareness of Library services among younger people and expanding the community of support across the country.

In 2018–19, the Library welcomed 574,318 onsite visitors, with over 18.79 million online engagements.

  • Open a major exhibition, Cook and the Pacific, drawing on the Library’s collections, as well as those at other national and international institutions.

The subject and the richness of the objects made this a do-not-miss for my family. The welcome messages from indigenous peoples was inspirational. I simply felt I could not go in until I had listened to every word. I felt I was being spoken to. The navigation theme was a fascinating piece of cross- cultural exchange.

It was such a great exhibition—well curated and items were described and put in context. And at a time when there is much controversy over the ‘discovery’ of Australia, the tone of the exhibition was not triumphant—but put Cook and his achievements in context, with proper respect for other people in the Pacific.

Visitors to Cook and the Pacific

The Cook and the Pacific exhibition opened on 22 September 2018 and attracted 80,000 visitors in almost five months. Timed to coincide with the 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook’s departure from Plymouth on the HMB Endeavour in 1768, Cook and the Pacific told stories of exploration, contact and encounter.

In 2017–18, the Library was allocated funding of $4.63 million over four years (2017–21) for activities relating to the 250th anniversary of Cook’s Pacific voyages. The funding supported the Cook and the Pacific exhibition and the development of the Horizons and Reflections: Endeavour 250 digital platform (see page 26).

The exhibition centred on the theme of Pacific encounters, presenting a dual narrative from the perspectives of the British voyagers and the First Nations peoples they met. It showcased the Library’s own rich collection, including the Endeavour journal, letterbooks from all three journeys and works of art by voyage artists. The Library was able to negotiate loans of highly significant material from the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the United States of America as well as domestic loans from over a dozen Australian cultural collections. Funding also helped deliver a suite of public programs—including the Language Keepers: Preserving the Indigenous Languages of the Pacific conference (see page 27), the Taste of the Pacific family day and the Echoes of Cook seminar—innovative multimedia displays, educational resources through the Digital Classroom (see page 28), a travelling banner display and the immersive animation Beauty Rich and Rare, exploring the legacy of botanist, and the Endeavour’s naturalist, Sir Joseph Banks.

To ensure the exhibition and associated events were inclusive and authentic, the Library contacted the First Nations communities represented in the exhibition, including traditional custodians in Canberra, Cooktown, Sydney, Ulladulla, Tasmania and Cape York, as well as in French Polynesia, Hawaii, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Easter Island, Tonga, Nootka Sound (Canada) and Kamchatka (Siberia). This led to Indigenous and Pacific people generously providing advice on exhibition objects and being filmed for multimedia displays, including a rousing ‘welcome to country’ video message at the entrance. The exhibition was a valuable opportunity for deepening skills and experience in engaging with Indigenous and culturally diverse communities. These relationships continue to grow, including through the digital repatriation to communities of collection material featured in the exhibition.

Satisfaction with the exhibition was high; there were over 500 positive media items, and 93 per cent of visitors rated it ‘above average’ or ‘excellent’. Feedback confirmed that it had provided a safe space for Australians to explore important and difficult issues. The exhibition also brought in new audiences; 18 per cent of respondents were first-time visitors to the Library and almost all respondents (91 per cent) stated that they intended to return.

  • With the National Museum of Australia and Australian National Maritime Museum, deliver a digital platform to support access to national collections and community engagement around the 250th anniversary of James Cook’s first Pacific voyage.

The Horizons and Reflections: Endeavour 250 digital platform is the second major component of the Library’s activities relating to the 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook’s first Pacific voyage. The program, supported by Australian Government funding, is being managed by the Library, in partnership with the Australian National Maritime Museum and the National Museum of Australia.

Steady progress has been made on developing the platform, which will feature collection items and film and educational resources from all three institutions that illuminate Cook’s Pacific voyages. The program team and cross-institutional working group have worked to ensure that the platform will be a safe and trusted space in which people can explore the experiences of Indigenous peoples and the Endeavour crews, first contact from ‘both sides of the beach’, and the enduring impact of that period of history. The platform aims to reach many audience groups—children, teachers, Indigenous people, history and culture enthusiasts and the ‘millennial’ age cohort—with an accessible and thoughtful resource that can deepen Australians’ understanding and encourage new perspectives. The platform will be a live resource; new content will be added and an events calendar will allow community groups across Australia to promote related activities.

In 2018–19, the Library oversaw the design and build of the platform and developed its brand and identity. It is finalising content for the planned release in 2020.

  • Develop and implement a Reconciliation Action Plan, reflecting the Library’s sincere commitment to engaging respectfully with the nation’s Indigenous peoples, in spirit and in action.

The National Library of Australia is committed to deepening engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We strive to develop inclusive collections, services and relationships and to ensure First Nations perspectives are reflected throughout. This year, the Library formalised this commitment by developing its first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

The introduction of the RAP follows many other initiatives aimed at deepening engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In 2012, an Indigenous Employment Strategy was implemented to improve the employment, retention and engagement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff. This strategy has helped the Library increase the percentage of Indigenous-identified staff from 0.3 per cent to 2.5 per cent over six years; these staff members have subsequently driven significant improvements to the Library’s Indigenous engagement strategy. In 2018, the Library recruited its first Indigenous Curator and started formulating a consultation framework for engaging with First Nations communities.

In late 2018, a RAP working group was convened which included Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous staff from across the Library as well as a member of the Library Indigenous Network of Knowledge (LINK). The working group is chaired by the Library’s Senior Executive Indigenous Champion, with significant input from the Indigenous Curator. The working group met regularly to map out a set of initiatives to be achieved over two years. The draft RAP was endorsed by the Library’s senior executive and the final plan was submitted to Reconciliation Australia in July 2019.

  • Develop Trove and other services, supporting Australians to engage more deeply with physical and digital collections, and to create and share knowledge for the benefit of their communities.

The Trove Modernisation Program is building a refreshed, more flexible online platform to support Trove’s collaborative partnership model; showcase the ever-increasing volume of digitised material across collection formats; and reach new audiences, including Indigenous people, culturally and linguistically diverse communities and a younger cohort. Supported by Modernisation funding, it is the first major redevelopment of Trove since it began in 2009.

The launch of the revitalised platform is scheduled for 2019–20.

A major achievement in 2018–19 was the development of a new brand identity, with a fresh, contemporary look that will resonate with existing and new users. The brand design reflects Trove’s collaborative profile, and partners will receive guidelines on how it can be applied to their own websites and publicity materials.

Development of a new user interface continued, with a strong focus on enhanced navigation, particularly improving the presentation of various collection format zones (such as those relating to journals and maps). Work began on a designated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander landing page to bring together the growing corpus of Indigenous digitised material, provide enhanced search functions and embed cultural warnings and interpretative information.

To strengthen its relationships with contributing partners, the Library built a dedicated Trove Partner Metrics area which will be released in July 2019. All of Trove’s Collaborative Services Agreement partners will be able to view information about their collection material on Trove, including usage and the status of any digitisation projects. Staff have also refined existing content and relevance rankings to ensure improved discoverability in the new platform, and work is under way to ensure that born-digital publications, being fed through the National edeposit system, are fully searchable within Trove.

The brand design and user interface are underpinned by a comprehensive user-testing program conducted with focus groups in seven metropolitan and regional centres across Australia. Additional focus groups were convened with our identified target audiences.

In March 2019, the Library purchased the proprietary system EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) to replace its ageing public access portal to database and electronic resource products. The EDS knowledge base provides an inventory of the Library’s ebook, ejournal and database holdings and enables users to carry out full-text article-level searches. Staff worked closely with the vendor to customise the user interface and ensure a consistent journey between the catalogue and the new product. This cost-effective system implementation will immediately improve access to eResources (online databases) and deliver benefits to end users.

In January 2019, the Library completed a refresh of the NLA website (nla.gov.au). The new design—including a strong, graphically driven interface— has improved usability with its simplified presentation and increased visibility of digital products such as podcasts, blog posts and research guides.

Strategic Stories

Case Study: Language Keepers Conference

On 9 and 10 February 2019, the Language Keepers: Preserving the Indigenous Languages of the Pacific conference was held at the National Library, with a focus on the work being done by cultural, academic and community organisations to revitalise Indigenous languages of the region. The keynote address, ‘A Voice in the Smoke’, was delivered by author Kim Scott, and there was a wide range of other speakers, including experts and community representatives from across Australia and New Zealand. The Library was delighted that, of the 23 featured speakers, 14 (60 per cent) were Indigenous, and able to speak from a personal, as well as professional, perspective. UNESCO granted the Library permission to promote the conference as a 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages event.

The open, supportive forum for this important topic was well received by Indigenous participants and was an opportunity for Library staff and audiences to listen and build their understanding of the challenges facing First Nations peoples. The sharing of knowledge between cultural institutions and Indigenous communities was particularly valuable and has helped establish mutually beneficial relationships.

A total of 118 people attended the conference at the Library, with many more watching online, including a streaming party at Charles Sturt University’s School of Indigenous Australian Studies in Wagga Wagga. The original live streams on the Library’s Facebook page achieved a combined reach of 27,688 viewers, and engagement (views/likes/ comments/shares) with 1,900 viewers. The online audience represented every state and territory, including 10 per cent from the Northern Territory, with a handful of listeners also tuning in from New Zealand, England, Sweden, Thailand, Italy, Singapore, the United States of America and Taiwan.

Edited videos of the conference were added to the Library’s YouTube channel in late February, and were promoted by the Department of Communications and the Arts as part of its 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages activities. The Library’s Facebook page featured the videos in early March; they proved to be a surprise hit in the Pacific region, thanks to being shared by a number of enthusiastic Pacific and Australian research organisations.

Case Study: Connecting Online with Students of All Ages

The Library supports the lifelong learning of all Australians through structured programs to help users navigate their way through its collections and services.

While the Library has presented onsite learning programs for many years, staff have been experimenting with online programs and, in 2018, launched a one-year webinar pilot program. The webinars provide live, interactive video conferences to online audiences, with presenters able to answer questions throughout the session. As only a low bandwidth is required, users can participate via desktop computers, tablets or mobile devices. Importantly, webinars allow staff to offer a diverse range of programs to geographically dispersed audiences.

The program of 13 sessions attracted increasing numbers over time, with a collective audience of 900 people—a 100 per cent increase in attendance compared with equivalent onsite sessions. The webinars engaged with new audiences from every state and territory in Australia, including 22 per cent from regional Australia. Special-interest sessions, such as The Art of Literary Investigation, were very popular and quickly booked out. Other sessions targeted professional librarians and teachers, with a growing number of viewers reporting that they were attending for other work purposes. Webinars have a second life on the Library’s YouTube channel—the popular Trove for Family History resource has been viewed over 2,700 times, and the total suite of videos over 5,800 times.

The Digital Classroom is another online resource being embraced by digital users. Launched in 2015, the program provides curated modules for teachers to use in the classroom. In the past year, the Library expanded its focus from humanities and social sciences to include modules on science, maths, drama and health. With the launch of the senior school Cook and the Pacific module, the Library now offers resources suitable for students from Year 3 through to Year 12. Teachers are enthusiastic about the pedagogical approach of the platform as the inquiry-based resources align with the Australian Curriculum framework and are easily incorporated into their teaching. Library staff regularly engage with the education sector and consult closely with teachers on the development of new modules.

In 2018–19, the Digital Classroom almost doubled its audience reach from 2017–18, with 218,492 visits. This compares with more than 8,000 students participating in the Library’s onsite education programs and validates the Library’s deliberate decision to focus its resources on online education.


Table 2.4 Number of online engagements 2018-19

Performance Measure



Number of online engagements with the Library (million)



Note: This performance measure is from the 2018–19 Portfolio Budget Statements, Program 1.1, Table 2.1.2, page 198; and the 2018–19 Corporate Plan.

In 2018-19, the Library collated geographical locations of Australian users for the following digital services: the catalogue, NLA website (nla.gov.au), digital collections, eResources, Libraries Australia and Trove. Users from New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland accounted for 74 per cent of total engagements, with Trove and the digital collections services accounting for almost 93 per cent of digital services access.

Table 2.5 Number of onsite engagements 2018-19

Performance Measure



Number of onsite engagements with the Library



Note: This performance measure is from the 2018–19 Corporate Plan.

In 2018-19, there were more than 452,000 onsite engagements with the Library. This is 23 per cent above the previous year (366,989). The increase is largely attributed to the large-scale events and activities associated the Library’s open day in August, the Taste of the Pacific family day and other engaging events associated with the Cook and the Pacific exhibition. The exhibition, Inked: Australian Cartoons continued to draw good crowds, as did a strong program of Collections-in-Focus exhibitions in the Treasures Gallery throughout the year. Exhibition visits were up 66 per cent this year (224,499 compared with 135,146 in 2017–18).

Table 2.6 Percentage increase in use of the digital collection 2018-19

Performance Measure

Actual (%)

Target (%)

Increase in use of the digital collection


No target set

Note: This performance measure is from the 2018–19 Corporate Plan.

In 2018-19, there were more than 9.72 million visits to the Library’s online digital collections. This is a 15 per cent increase above the previous year (8.43 million).

This increase validates the Library’s 2012–17 investments in its digital library infrastructure, with more Australians able to discover and use its rich collections from their home, school or workplace.