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2.6 Capability

This section reports against the Library’s capabilities as detailed in its Corporate Plan 2018–19 (which covers the period 2018–19 to 2021–22). It outlines this year’s achievements towards the four-year goals in each capability category.


The Library’s Workplace and Workforce Strategic Plan guides initiatives in workforce management, including capability development. The plan aligns with, and enacts, the strategic people priorities outlined in the Corporate Plan. In 2018–19, there was a focus on renewing foundation processes and optimising systems to support effective people management across a range of functions. Activity centred around staff engagement, recruitment, performance management, and further embedding work health and safety culture and practice.

The Library has a highly skilled workforce, and capability is further developed through experiential learning supplemented by structured online or face-to- face workshop-style learning. In 2018, the Library successfully facilitated a cross-institutional mentoring program with seven participating institutions through which participants developed strong networks and interpersonal skills.

The Library encourages staff to seek out temporary assignments towards delivering major programs to develop project-management skills and increase exposure to different areas of the organisation. Library staff also work closely with a range of external stakeholders and business partners to deliver national services-building capability within the Library and partner organisations.

A key focus in 2018–19 was the ongoing development of organisational capacity in liaising with Indigenous communities through skills-based learning and on-the-job engagement. A Library senior manager also participated in the Jawun APS Secondment Program during May and June 2019, working with the La Perouse community in Sydney. This was the first time the Library has participated in this program.


In 2018–19, the Library focused on the safety, maintenance and upgrade of facilities within its heritage-listed building and addressing collection storage limitations.

The heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system is an integral component of the Library’s operations. It ensures appropriate conditions for our collections and a comfortable environment for up to 1,000 staff and members of the public who occupy the building each day. Library staff finalised the HVAC masterplan and its technical documentation for the first major upgrade of the system in almost 20 years. The Library contracted an engineering firm to design the upgraded system and supervise construction. The design was completed in June 2019 and work will commence in 2019–20 once the Library has secured an independent cost estimate and procured construction services.

This year, the Library identified an increased risk of exposure from remnant asbestos in its plant rooms and ceiling space. Following extensive testing and assessment, the Facilities team, in consultation with the Emergency Planning and Business Continuity Committee, commenced an asbestos removal and remediation program. The program began over the Christmas–New Year shutdown and continued in April 2019. The federal Budget allocated $1 million to continue this project in 2019–20.

The Library’s collection storage areas in its main building in Parkes and offsite facilities in Hume are reaching capacity; the Library will soon have little or no usable growth space for the majority of its collections. With this impending deadline in mind, the Library appointed a property consultant to evaluate existing offsite facilities and assess costs for future offsite storage options.


The Library has a proven track record of developing highly innovative library systems. This year, it drew upon its experience and capabilities to successfully deliver the Australian Web Archive and the National edeposit service. The Library also progressed its technology roadmap by migrating email, office and collaboration tools to the cloud, improving availability, productivity and security. The Library’s incremental approach aligns with the Australian Government’s Secure Cloud Strategy and is independently assessed by cloud service specialists. Consultants also confirmed that the Library’s technology expenditure has been prudent, executing a low-cost, fit-for-purpose technology strategy that prioritises digital service delivery and innovation.

The Library invested in preventative and risk mitigation strategies to minimise threats and damage from increasing cybersecurity attacks. This year, the Library strengthened systems, security policies and procedures, and trained staff in cybersecurity awareness to encourage them to actively monitor systems.

Modernisation funding also supported early investigations into artificial intelligence. The Library has identified and prototyped opportunities for applying machine learning, machine vision and natural language processing to Library workflows. The Library will pursue these promising initiatives as resources become available.


The Library took an active leadership role and extended practical assistance to the library, cultural heritage and research sectors. Through the Trove Modernisation Program, the Library is developing an even stronger, more collaborative national platform for showcasing the distributed national collection. The Library is recognised as a global leader in digital innovation and participates in international and regional forums and communities of practice, often advocating on behalf of all Australian libraries.

The Library also contributes to public forums and reviews, drawing on its experience to help guide new policies (see Parliamentary Committees and Government Inquiries, page 53).


The National Library contributes to government priorities and the public good by increasing economic, social and intellectual wellbeing, with its onsite and digital services supporting research, education, creativity and cultural enrichment.

Recognising the importance of the Library’s digital services, the Australian Government provided $16.4 million from 2016–17 to 2019–20 through the Public Service Modernisation Fund. In 2018–19, the funding supported the Trove Modernisation Program, the digitisation of significant collections (including the Australian Joint Copying Project and Parliamentary Papers), the improvement of discovery tools, the refresh of the NLA website and the implementation of cybersecurity measures.

In the 2019–20 Budget, the Australian Government provided seed funding of $10 million over four years to support the Treasured Voices philanthropy campaign, including to help leverage private support for digitisation projects. This demonstrates the government’s strong support for the Library’s goal to digitise more collections and boost online access.


In 2018–19, the Library made significant progress towards establishing collaborative cost-recovery models. It also implemented a philanthropy strategy focused on giving the Australian public greater digital access to the Library’s unique and rare collections, as well as research fellowships.

The Library is committed to maintaining free access to Trove for all Australians. The Library’s Trove Collaborative Services initiative established a co-investment membership model which will support the Trove platform and other library services previously provided under Libraries Australia. The Library has put in place the governance and business model for Trove Collaborative Services and the first stage will commence in 2019–20.

The Library also reviewed other cost-recovery mechanisms, such as Copies Direct, to establish more sustainable, accurately costed revenue streams.

For the past decade, the Library’s approach to raising funds to support its activities has focused on community giving for the preservation and digitation of its collections; philanthropic support for research fellowships; and sponsorships for major exhibitions. With modest resourcing, this approach yielded, on average, $1 million annually. Council and executive leadership recognised the need for a review of this approach and undertook a strategic fundraising review in early 2018. This identified significant potential for the Library to inspire and galvanise the Australian philanthropic community and increase philanthropic support. In 2018–19, the Library worked with a consultant to implement a ten-year philanthropy strategy with an ambitious new approach. In its first year, the Library developed a compelling ‘case for support’ for the Treasured Voices campaign, and put in place best practice philanthropy processes.


In 2018–19, the Library continued to demonstrate its commitment to sound enterprise risk management. It appointed a risk and governance adviser to ensure closer oversight and compliance and began a comprehensive review of its enterprise risk management framework.

During the reporting period, the Library adopted a low appetite for risk around the security and safety of its collections; the health and safety of its workforce and visitors; the continuity of its onsite services; the availability of its digital services; and its legislative and regulatory obligations. The Library is open to innovation and reform that drives greater community access to, and engagement with, collections. We continue to monitor and manage key risks relating to our three strategic priorities, as well as organisational viability and capability requirements.