Extend national reach and engagement, increasing the number and diversity of Australians who engage with the Library’s collections.
Curate engaging onsite and digital experiences that delight, inspire and nourish Australians’ curiosity about the nation’s past, present and future.
In 1768, British explorer, surveyor, navigator and cartographer James Cook set sail on HMB Endeavour to conduct scientific research in the Pacific region. In 2017–18, the Australian Government funded the Library to conduct a four‑year program of work to mark the 250th anniversary of James Cook’s voyage.
Horizons and Reflections: Endeavour 250 was created as a digital platform to tell stories of exploration, contact and encounter. The Library drew on expertise and collections from its own and partner institutions to develop the material, in collaboration with the Australian National Maritime Museum and the National Museum of Australia.
In 2019, the Australian Government changed the scope of the project—there was a desire to build a broader public-information website that covers the full package of 250th anniversary activities and events. Therefore, on 1 November 2019, all responsibility for developing, hosting and maintaining the website was transferred to the then Department of Communications and the Arts.
The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications released the Endeavour250 website on 29 April 2020: endeavour250.gov.au.
In 2018, the Library launched an ambitious philanthropic plan to raise $30 million over ten years to digitise more of the Library’s superb collections and support the fellowships and scholarships program.
In 2019–20, the Library further developed its philanthropic capacity by investing in a new philanthropy team within the Office of the Director-General. The philanthropy team will work with supporters to realise the Library’s vision of sharing our most important, impactful and unique collections online, providing access for all Australians.
The Library is grateful for generous support of its digitisation program. Funds from Principal Patron Jane Hemstritch have enabled our largest philanthropically supported digitisation project to date. We also received philanthropic support that will assist us to preserve and digitise the papers of iconic poet A. B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson and digitise all Australian Jewish newspapers. Work on these digitisation projects will commence in 2020–21.
The Library’s philanthropic efforts to support its digitisation program have been assisted by Australian Government funding of $10 million over four years to digitise significant items from the national collection, beginning with the personal archives of two instrumental figures in Australia’s history—General Sir John Monash and Sir Robert Menzies.
General Sir John Monash—polymath, prolific correspondent, engineer, avid collector and effective military strategist—amassed a personal collection of some 280 boxes of archival material over his lifetime. It contains diaries; photographs; plans for the Iona estate—his home in Melbourne; ephemera from travels; and correspondence, including that from the First World War, and Gallipoli in particular. Over 160 boxes from this personal archive have been digitised and are now accessible to all Australians through Trove. Digitisation of the archive continues. The historically rich letter-books will be preserved and available online by the end of 2020.
Scoping and planning for digitisation of the personal archives of Australia’s longest-serving prime minister, Sir Robert Menzies, is underway. The depth and historical significance of the Menzies archive provides researchers with extraordinary insight into Australia’s political and military past. This vast archive runs to almost 600 boxes. The material has been reviewed and priorities for digitisation have been established. There is a focus on Menzies’ prolific correspondence with world leaders, including Sir Winston Churchill, and negotiations with his own party and the various opposition leaders he faced. Digitisation of this material will commence in 2020–21 and is expected to take some years to complete.
Philanthropy continues to support a range of other Library priorities. Ongoing and generous philanthropic support continues to fund the Kenneth Myer Lecture, the Seymour Lecture in Biography and a range of fellowships and scholarships. We are also grateful to the late Ann Moyal AM for a generous bequest. We expect that funds generously donated by anonymous donors will lead to the appointment of a new curatorial position in 2020–21.
In total, the Library has raised $4.23 million to date, against a two-year target of $4 million and a ten-year target of $30 million.
While acknowledging the likely impact of COVID-19 on giving in the short term, the Library is committed to its long-term philanthropic objective, to maximise the enormous benefit digital access can provide to the Australian community.
Trove is the National Library’s online platform—a single access point that offers Australians the opportunity to discover a huge array of unique Australian content, such as artefacts, curiosities and stories from Australia’s cultural, community and research institutions. It is one of Australia’s most popular online search platforms.
Since the launch of Trove in 2009, public appetite for digital material has grown rapidly, with almost 90 per cent of Trove users seeking digital information. Increasing digital demand was a key driver for directing the Australian Government’s modernisation funding towards enhancing and refreshing the platform.
The rebranded and upgraded platform was officially launched to the public on 26 June 2020 by the Hon. Paul Fletcher MP, Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, who also announced a further eight million dollars in funding over two years, to support ongoing development of Trove. The refreshed site aims to connect with a broad cross-section of Australian society, including younger Australians and diverse communities.
The site features a persistent Acknowledgement of Country, a First Nations portal and other features to create a culturally safe place that will deepen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement. The Library worked with the La Perouse Aboriginal Community (Sydney) and Cherbourg’s Ration Shed Museum (Cherbourg, Queensland) which undertook testing and consultation throughout the project.
User experience has been enhanced by the addition of browse trails, optimised access for mobile phone browsing, a curated visual experience and the ability to form collaborative lists that allow the community, including families, teachers and students, to research together in new ways.
An essential element of the project was the development of a brand that accurately reflects the collective and collaborative nature of Trove. The brand will strengthen the public perception of Trove as a hub of digital content supported by hundreds of Australian organisations. A new Trove Partners logo, together with additional features, highlight Partner relationships and content across the website.
Additional features specifically directed at the Partner community include a Partner Learning Hub, built using the Moodle Learning Management System, and a password-protected dashboard that provides Partners with collection analysis and insights into how their collections are being used. Collection Feature functionality enables Partners to curate items from their collection around a particular theme, such as a local event or exhibition.
The National Library of Australia is committed to deepening engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We develop inclusive collections, services and relationships to ensure First Nations perspectives are reflected as a priority and to ensure a culturally safe place to access these collections.
A key step toward deepening our engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was the development of the Library’s Reconciliation Action Plan. Working closely with Reconciliation Australia, a final Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan has been approved to commence in July 2020. While this is the first Reconciliation Action Plan in the Library’s history, the higher Innovate level recognises that the Library has been on this journey for some years.
To assist in strengthening relationships with Indigenous communities and expanding understanding of Indigenous culture, an Indigenous Engagement section has been established under the Library’s new structure. A director of Indigenous engagement is in place to lead activities in this area and develop a longer-term plan for engaging with communities.
Over the spring and summer months of 2019–20, the Library presented Story Time: Australian Children’s Literature—an exhibition of Australian children’s literature from the colonial period through to the present day. The exhibition gave families the opportunity to explore the imaginative and magical worlds created by some of Australia’s favourite writers and illustrators, through books, manuscripts, illustrations, children’s toys and ephemera.
The exhibition featured modern classics by Shaun Tan, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Jeannie Baker, Mem Fox, Bronwyn Bancroft, Robert Ingpen and Emily Rodda, as well as treasured characters Blinky Bill, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Mothball the wombat, Mr Chicken, the Green Sheep and many more. The exhibition was supported by a companion book, Storytime Stars, and public programs offering opportunities to engage with writers and illustrators. The exhibition attracted close to 45,000 visitors. It was presented in association with the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature.
To complement the exhibition, the Library’s 2019 Ray Mathew Lecture was delivered by acclaimed children’s author and Australian Children’s Laureate (2018–2019) Morris Gleitzman. The lecture, ‘Stories Create Our Future’, reached an online audience of over 20,000 people.
The 2019 Kenneth Myer Lecture, supported by The Myer Foundation and presented in Canberra and Melbourne, was delivered by journalist Peter Greste. The lecture was titled ‘Press Freedom in Australia and Why It Is in Crisis’. The 2019 Seymour Biography Lecture, supported by Dr John Seymour and Mrs Heather Seymour AO, was presented by Professor Judith Brett. The subject was ‘Public Life, Private Man: Writing the Biography of Alfred Deakin’. Both of these lectures also reached significant online audiences.
Continuing in its role to support research and associated technologies, in September 2019, the Library hosted the Australian and New Zealand Maps conference 'Mapping in Action'. The conference showcased research utilising historical maps and current geospatial data visualisation. Discussion topics included mapping linguistic properties of Indigenous place names, Pacific cultural practice and marine protection archaeology. The event attracted 130 participants from Australia and New Zealand.
In September 2019, the Library launched an enhanced eResources portal that provides readers with a modern interface and improved functionality to search full-text journal articles and ebooks across databases and platforms. Following the upgrade, use of the Library’s eResources grew significantly each month, peaking in May 2020 with 50,000 uses that month.
Participation in Canberra’s Enlighten Festival in early March 2020 gave us an opportunity to extend audience reach through our digital offerings. In addition to a soundscape drawn from the Library’s oral history collection, a video of the projections displayed on the Library building was shared online and experienced by many more Australians.
The Library’s past investment in digital infrastructure meant that, at the outbreak of COVID-19, it was well positioned to continue its service delivery in an online environment. As lockdown restrictions were implemented and families began homeschooling, use of the Library’s Digital Classroom increased dramatically, to the point where it had tripled the previous year’s usage. New content, including the online modules 'Participation and Protest' and 'Cook: Legend and Legacy', met the high demand for remote learning tools.
The Library has been streaming onsite events to an online audience for some time. As restrictions increased from March as a result of COVID-19, the Library was able to use its experience in this area to transition efficiently to a digital‑only outreach program. New digital content was created, curated and released weekly during autumn and winter, and in 2019–20 reached a national audience of 340,486.
In 2019–20, several National Library Fellowship lectures were delivered to onsite and digital audiences. Research topics by fellowship and scholarship recipients this year included children’s engagement with urban nature; love in China from the 1950s to the present; R.G. Casey and the Bengal famine of 1943; the history of advice to women; Burbang (a work of immersive dancetheatre); Scottish-Australian musical traditions in the early nineteenth century; and the idea of Asia in world politics. The Library also offered several webinars, including ‘Family History’, ‘Getting Started at the Library’, ‘How to Find and Date Photographs’ and ‘Tracing the History of Your House’, which were aimed at building online research skills. There was a significant increase in webinar attendance during the lockdown, with the 500-place sessions consistently booked out. Learning webinars also attracted higher-than-usual engagement from rural and remote parts of Australia, with one in three participants attending from regional areas.
Digital programs took viewers behind the scenes to engage with the Library’s treasures and explore Australian stories. Audiences were also encouraged to participate in online discussion about their experiences during the pandemic. On 10 April 2020, the Library premiered an online digital event, 'This Is History', with historians Dr Chris Wallace and Professor Frank Bongiorno AM. The two speakers discussed the importance of documenting everyday life during irregular times. The event proved to be popular and rapidly achieved over 30,000 views. Since the event, the Library has received many comments and messages from its audience about how they are keeping, or plan to keep, a journal of their pandemic experiences or encourage their children or grandchildren to do so.
While the Library’s front doors were closed for ten weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic, social media provided an essential communication channel to keep readers and researchers updated on Library activities. The Library used social media to promote online services, webinars and Digital Classroom, and to engage our audience with online events. Viewers were able to tune in to events and webinars long after the initial broadcast, and all of the Library’s video content was popular. This activity extended the Library’s national reach; many of the webinar participants were first-time users of Library services.
PERFORMANCE MEASURES FOR CONNECT
Table 2.4 Number of online engagements 2019-20 Note: This performance measure is 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 online engagements with the Library in 2019–20 was similar to 2018–19. In 2019–20, the Library collated geographical locations of Australian users for the following digital services: the catalogue, the National Library website (nla.gov.au), digital collections, eResources, Trove Collaborative Services and Trove. The data show that 75 per cent of users were from New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Regional and remote communities were well represented. Trove and digital collections services accounted for 89 per cent of digital access services.
Table 2.5 Number of onsite engagements 2019-20 Note: This performance measure is from the 2019-20 Corporate Plan
In 2019–20 there were 212,956 onsite engagements with the Library. This is a reduction of 52.9 per cent when compared with the previous year. While a reduction was anticipated as a result of programming changes and the conclusion of activities marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Library building in 2018, and the very successful Cook and the Pacific exhibition, for the first six months of the year engagements were tracking well against targets. Visitors responded positively to the exhibition Story Time: Australian Children’s Literature, which was on display from August through to mid-February, aligning with activities such as Children’s Book Week and the announcement of Ursula Dubosarsky as the Australian Children’s Laureate in February. Onsite learning programs were also drawing consistent attendance. From late November, however, environmental factors, including smoke from coastal bushfires, saw visitation diminish significantly over the summer and some events were cancelled, including a family day. The State of Emergency caused by the fires across the region slowed interstate visitation through January and February in particular. From 23 March, the Library was closed to the public in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and all onsite public programs ceased from 17 March. Resources were focused on digital programming for the remainder of the financial year, resulting in high levels of engagement with Digital Classroom and curated digital events.
Table 2.6 Percentage increase in use of the digital collection 2019-20 Note: This measure is from the 2019–20 Corporate Plan. In 2019–20, the Library’s online digital collections were accessed for 10.89 million sessions. This a 12 per cent increase on the previous year (9.72 million). Contributing to this steady increase are outcomes from the Trove Modernisation project and optimisation of external search functions. The increase validates the Library’s investments in its digital library infrastructure, with more Australians able to discover and use its rich collections from their home, school or workplace.