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2.3 Strategic Priority One: Collect


  • Build a comprehensive collection of Australian publications so that Australians—now and in the future—can participate fully in the creative and knowledge economies, using Australian content.
  • Build a rich collection of Australian pictures, manuscripts and oral histories, enlivening the national story with the unique voices and viewpoints of individuals and organisations.
  • Collect works from overseas, particularly Asia and the Pacific, that enrich the Australian community’s understanding of its place in the region.

ACTIONS 2019-20

The Library’s physical collection extends to some 10 million items in various
formats, and the collection continues to increase despite a rapid transition
from print to digital. The Library has 279 kilometres of shelving, which is
rapidly reaching capacity. If the Library’s collecting program stays on its
current trajectory, a further two to three shelf kilometres of physical storage
will be required every year for at least the next one to two decades.

The collection is housed in the Library’s iconic heritage building in Parkes,
Canberra, and three offsite storage facilities: the Hume repository, which is
owned by the Library; the Hume annex, which is leased by the Library; and
the Mitchell facility, which is a recently acquired six-year sublease with the
National Archives of Australia. Physical storage capacity at Parkes and the
two Hume sites will be exhausted by 2025, and the sublease with the Archives
expires in January 2026, with no option to extend. The current lease at the
Hume annex expires in June 2025, with potential for extension.

The Library Council has identified the lack of viable long-term storage
solutions as a critical risk to the Library and to the safety and security of
the national collection. With 2025 only a few years away, the Library is
investigating options for long-term offsite storage. A significant investment
will be required to secure an appropriate long-term storage solution, and this
is currently unfunded.

There are significant logistical issues involved in delivering collections from
four locations, and the Library has adjusted its collection delivery standards to
provide the service within available resources.

The Library has relocated 18 shelf kilometres of collection material from the
Library building in Parkes to the Mitchell facility to enable it to replace end-of-life
motorised mobile shelving units. New storage at Parkes will be used for
expected growth in Australian collecting over the next few years.

In 2019, the Library launched the National edeposit (NED) service—a portal
through which publishers can deposit digital material directly into the national
collection. Readers across the nation can now use NED to easily access digital
publications, either through Trove or onsite at the National Library and state
and territory libraries. In the 12 months since NED commenced operation, over
116,000 individual titles, including books, newspapers, magazines, newsletters
and journals have been deposited.

NED is a product of over four years of collaborative work with National and
State Libraries Australia (NSLA) and Australian publishers. It was officially
launched by the Hon. Paul Fletcher MP, Minister for Communications, Cyber
Safety and the Arts, on 16 August 2019. Speaking at the launch, author Peter
Greste summed up the project as ‘mind-boggling in scale’ and ‘incredibly
powerful in its potential’. NED’s innovation was recognised through its
selection as a finalist in the 2019 Australian Government Digital Awards.

More than 9,000 publishers have responded positively to the service.
Publisher agreements for NED provide scope to expand digital access—during
COVID-19, ongoing access to digital legal deposit content was possible
even though national, state and territory libraries were closed to onsite
access. The Library continues to collaborate with member libraries to scope
enhancements, such as a bulk process to support the deposit of newspapers,
magazines and journals.

The Library is committed to capturing the voices that represent a broad cross-section
of Australia’s culturally rich and diverse community. This essential aspect
of collecting often involves long-term projects, as time is needed to develop deep
cultural understanding while working with communities to collect these stories.

In July 2019, Trove launched a First Australians portal. For the first time, the
portal brings together content by, about and of significance to Australia’s
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The portal links to content that
is organised using unique AUSTLANG language codes and the Aboriginal
Biographical Index. The portal was developed by and for Indigenous Australians.
It is managed through the Library’s Indigenous Engagement Section.

As part of the release of the new portal, Trove developed a cultural sensitivity
filter that enables users to choose whether to have culturally sensitive material
depicted or blurred from view. This measure recognises that much material of
significance to First Australians was recorded in disrespectful ways by non-
Indigenous Australians. It enables truth-telling while maintaining Trove as an
accessible space.

In 2019–20, the Library progressed several oral history projects on
materials important to Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse
communities, including:

  • Walking Together. The Oral History of Reconciliation 2000 is a joint project between the Library and Reconciliation Australia that documents the movement for reconciliation in Australia since 2000.
  • Norfolk Island Oral History Project. This is the largest oral history project ever conducted on Norfolk Island. It is co-funded with the Norfolk Island Office of the Administrator. For more information about this project, seepage 19.
  • Cocos Malay oral histories. As part of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Community Project, a series of interviews in both English and Cocos Malay have captured the island’s unique dialect, and gather experiences of life and culture on these remote islands of approximately 600 residents
  • interviews with Sister Josephine Mitchell. For over 30 years, Sister Josephine Mitchell worked in Timor Leste, teaching children to read and write in the main language of the region―Tetun, a Malayo-Polynesian language influenced by Portuguese. In her interviews, Sister Mitchell outlined the significance of this language to the region.
  • interviews with Douglas Gautier AM. Douglas Gautier was artistic director and CEO of the Adelaide Festival and long-time resident in Asia. The interviews were amongst content recorded for the Australia–China Council oral history project.
  • Folklore collections. Our collection now includes interviews with Antonio Penayo, who discusses the culture and performs the music of Paraguay, and Tamer Tarik Taskaya, who discusses Turkish culture and music in Australia.

The Library has also continued to collect other significant materials relating to
Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse communities, including:

  • a selection of zines by Indigenous creators, collected with assistance from organisers of a zine fair held in Alice Springs
  • photographs of Phillip Jin Jairs’ funeral in Port Keats, Northern Territory (2019). This photographic series was purchased from the photographer, Darren Clark. It documents the funeral of Aboriginal Australian man Phillip Jin Jairs—the father-in-law of Mr Clark’s adopted sister. The collection includes images of relatives in mourning, the procession of the ceremony, elements of the Catholic service and mourners in traditional dress
  • portraits of Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter (2009). These two black-and white photographs were purchased from Tobias Titz. Roach and Hunter were both forcibly removed from their families as young children. Their music, in performances across Australia and elsewhere, captured the spirit of the Stolen Generations. Their comments on language, music and reconciliation were etched into the emulsion of the negatives and are reproduced in the photographs.

In addition, the Library has engaged an Indigenous interviewer to assist in
capturing First Nations oral histories.

The Library has long had a focus on developing and nurturing professionals
in the sector. For example, the Indigenous Graduate Program provides
opportunities for sharing knowledge and hands-on application of skills
and training across a range of projects. The 2019 graduates worked on
Strengthening the National Collection of Australian Indigenous Contemporary
Publications—a dedicated project to deepen understanding of the Library’s
Indigenous collections. The project was highly commended by the Australian
Public Service Commission.

* This figure counts all deposited items, including individual issues of magazines and journals.


In 2019–20, the Library developed its new Collecting Strategy and Collection
Development Policy 2020–21 to 2023–24. The strategy and policy will guide
the Library’s collecting over the next four years. The Council of the National
Library of Australia endorsed the strategy and policy in April 2020, and they
will be implemented from 1 July 2020.

The new strategy and policy demonstrate the Library’s commitment to ensuring
that its collection reflects the diversity of the Australian community, across the
fullest possible variety of documentary heritage formats, and to preserving and
providing access to this national heritage in perpetuity. They make clear that the
Library’s first responsibility, as outlined in the National Library Act 1960, is to
develop a comprehensive collection relating to Australia and the Australian people.
The Library will continue to collect resources by Australians or about Australia,
published or created in Australia or overseas, in physical and digital formats.

The level of overseas collecting has been decreasing for several decades,
and due to the Library’s increased responsibilities for collecting born-digital
Australiana, making our Australian collections accessible to the wider
community, significant changes in availability of international resources,
and resource constraints, this long-term trend will continue. The Library will
selectively acquire or provide access to overseas publications that offer an
understanding of global issues, current events and topics affecting Australia
and geographic regions where Australia’s national, economic and strategic
interests are clearly articulated. The Library will continue its curatorial focus on
China, Indonesia and the Pacific. The extent to which this collecting continues
will be dictated by evidence of collection use and available resources.

The Library’s Asian collections have been carefully built over decades, and
they will continue to be available for use through the Library’s Main and
Special Collections reading rooms. The Library offers specialist assistance
in using the Asian collections, as it does for other special collections.
Researchers may also request copies of the Library’s Asian collections
(subject to copyright and other restrictions) through the Library’s Document
Delivery and Copies Direct services.

This year, the Library has prioritised collecting that captures the nation’s
memory of two major events that affected the Australian community in late
2019 and early 2020: the 2019–20 bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic. As
bushfires spread across coastal and inland areas during the 2019–20 summer
months, the Library was quick to capture news and information through
the Australian Web Archive (AWA) and to gather ephemeral items recording
information distribution and community sentiment. Newspapers, Twitter
accounts and more than 130 websites, including those of bushfire services,
organisations involved in bushfire research and charities, were collected to
reveal this story. Print publications and oral histories will be collected over time
to capture the breadth of experiences and reflections on the devastating event.

Following the bushfires, the Library’s web archivists began to identify and
collect online material to capture the breaking story of the novel coronavirus
COVID-19. The Library collected over 1,000 online titles, covering Australian
Government information, national news coverage and other sites documenting
community perspectives. The Australian experience will also appear in
publications deposited through NED and the Library's ephemera, oral history
and pictures collections.

One of the Library’s priorities during the COVID-19 pandemic is the collection
of material relating to the Pacific region. Websites from Papua New Guinea,
Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Bougainville have been
added to the COVID-19 material being collected. The Library developed a seed
list of Australian URLs to contribute to the International Internet Preservation
Consortium’s international collection of COVID-19 related web materials, led
by Columbia University and the Internet Archive.

Over the same period, protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement
took place across the country. The Library collected websites and other
material to document this social response.

The Library provided research support to six ongoing Australian Research
Council–funded projects during the year. The Library’s participation as a partner
organisation is predicated on demonstration of each project’s collection building
potential and leveraging of the Library’s technical infrastructure.


Table 2.1 Number of Australian published works collected 2019-20

Note: This performance measure is taken from the 2019-20 Portfolio Budget Statements, Program 1.1, Table 2.1.2, page 200; and the 2019-20 Corporate Plan.

The number of Australian publications collected through legal deposit,
including digital, was 37,168. This is an increase of 22 per cent on the previous
year’s result of 30,454 and 23.9 per cent on the target of 30,000. The target
was exceeded due to the implementation of National edeposit (NED), and
the resulting data migration, through which the Library acquired substantial
backlists of digital legal deposit collections which had not previously formed
part of the Library’s collection. Sixty per cent of Australian published works
collected in 2019–2020 were in digital format, compared to 36 per cent in
digital format in 2018–2019.

Table 2.2 Number of Australian unpublished works collected 2019-20

Note: This measure is from the 2019-20 Corporate Plan

Collection of unpublished works varies from year to year due to the
unpredictable nature of when archives, manuscripts and oral histories become
available. In 2019–20, the Library collected 43,747 Australian unpublished
works, which is in keeping with most years and well above 2017–18 (25,248).
It is a decrease from 2018–19, when the extraordinary acquisition of a
large archival photographic collection enabled the Library to achieve an
exceptionally high figure.

Table 2.3 Number of overseas works collected 2019-20

Note: This performance measure is from the 2019-20 Corporate Plan.

The number of overseas works collected in 2019–20 was down 30.7 per cent
from the previous year's figure of 14,179. Digital items account for
19.25 per cent of the total. The number of items acquired this year has been
significantly impacted by two factors: the COVID-19 environment affecting
production and transfer of overseas receipts; and a decision to more
rigorously apply the relevant Collection Development Policy.

Qualitative Evaluation

Measure: Collection Depth and Breadth Elative to the Needs of Our Researchers

Target Group: Family and Community Historians

In February 2020, the Library conducted a qualitative survey to measure the
Library’s relevance to researchers. The family and community historian group
was identified as a target for the survey because they are active users of a
broad range of the Library’s collections and resources. Family and community
historians use the Library’s collections for a range of research projects,
including personal family histories, self-published works, website content and
journal articles.

Responses to the survey were resoundingly positive. An overwhelming
majority commented that collections are relevant and add significantly to their
research outcomes, and some noted the value of uncovering material of which
they were previously unaware.

The survey also revealed that a large number of researchers are accessing
collections online, with a proportion using both onsite and online services. A
majority are frequent users and many indicate they use the collections weekly.
The survey revealed that community and family history researchers are
also heavy users of other Library research support services, including Ask a
Librarian, online research guides, bibliographies, frequently asked questions
and learning programs.

The survey revealed that family and community historians’ research using the
Library’s collections resulted in a diverse range of products: cemetery tours;
a sporting club history; consultancy reports; geocaches with a local history
theme; podcasts for radio; PhD theses; and submissions to government
projects. Most researchers indicated they would promote the Library to others
in the community.