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CDNLAO Newsletter

No. 88, April 2017

Special topic: Collaboration with other institutions

National Library of Australia - Collaborative partnerships and activities

By Aileen Weir, Director, Digital Business, National Library of Australia

The National Library of Australia has a long history of collaborating with other organisations and collecting institutions, both within the library sector and beyond. As a member of National and State Libraries Australasia (NSLA), the National Library has been in a formal relationship with State and Territory libraries across the country since 1973, with the National Library of New Zealand joining in 2005. NSLA has been an effective and productive coalition and can point to many achievements reaching back to the establishment of the Australian Bibliographic Network in 1981. Libraries Australia, as it is known today, aggregates the holdings of over 1100 member libraries across all sectors and hosts 30 million bibliographic records.

The PANDORA web archive is another long-standing service that has collaboration at its core. Recognising the impermanence of web content, the National Library established PANDORA in 1996 to capture major Australian websites and online publications for posterity. The Library was soon joined by State and Territory libraries, the National Film and Sound Archive, the Australian War Memorial and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, all curating, collecting and contributing web content. Ahead of its time when it was established twenty years ago, PANDORA is now a mature archive whose significance was recognised in August 2004 when it was inscribed on the Australian Register for the ‘Memory of the World’

Another collaborative initiative that has grown and evolved since its inception is the Australian Newspaper Plan (ANPlan). NSLA established ANPlan in 1992 to coordinate the collection and preservation of the country’s newspapers on microfilm and add newspaper holdings to the national bibliographic database. After years of building and managing this distributed national collection on microfilm, ANPlan shifted attention to digitisation. In 2008, the National Library launched the Australian Newspapers beta site, providing online access to significant Australian newspapers titles from every jurisdiction.

Without doubt, however, the most notable collective achievement of Australian libraries and collecting institutions is Trove. Under the leadership of the National Library of Australia, Trove was launched in 2008 as a single portal to the digitised content and metadata held in a range of discovery services including Libraries Australia, the PANDORA web archive and digitised newspapers. Nine years later, Trove is the fourth most visited Australian government website, is used by 57,000 users a day on average and provides access to over 500 million resources. Trove showcases the material held in Australian libraries, archives, galleries and museums by enabling users to search across the metadata as well as access and view items that have been digitised. The Trove Application Programming Interface (API) released in 2012 enables developers to enhance, repurpose and manipulate content. Members of the public are encouraged to improve the accuracy of the digitised content by correcting transcription errors created by the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. This crowdsourcing initiative has proven to be very popular and has generated a strong sense of public ownership and loyalty to the service.


< Trove >

Trove has become the flagship for Australian cultural collections, a trustworthy, reliable and authoritative gateway that gives unprecedented exposure to the country's documentary heritage. The staff who work on Trove have established strong professional networks both across the country and with comparable services around the world including Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America and DigitalNZ. The significance of Trove to Australia's national research infrastructure is beginning to receive government recognition. In December 2016, the Australian Commonwealth Department of Education and Training released its Draft 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap which explicitly recognises Trove's national significance, the digital capability it demonstrates and its potential to strengthen and facilitate research, particularly in the humanities and social sciences. The final Roadmap is expected in early 2017.

Australian library collecting reached a new level in February 2016 when the federal government passed an amendment to the Copyright Act extending the National Library's right to acquire and make accessible born-digital publications under legal deposit. Over the last five years, the National Library has been preparing for this exciting development by building the infrastructure and systems to efficiently collect, manage, preserve and deliver e-content to users. Legal deposit of digital publications is not unique to the federal level of government, with some state legislation also making provisions for e-deposit. The scale of collecting and the efficiencies to be gained for both libraries and publishers, all point towards adopting a collaborative approach. It makes good economic sense to join forces, eliminate duplication and invest in a single national access point that builds on the existing National Library infrastructure. To explore what would be required, NSLA members established a National Digital Deposit Network (NDDN) steering group last year and this work is now underway.


< Feb 2016 - Australia passed legislation enabling the National Library to
acquire born-digital publications under legal deposit >

The cultural sector in Australia has regularly joined forces and pooled resources to achieve common goals. As GLAM Peak, the peak representative bodies of galleries, libraries, archives and museums recently commissioned a series of case studies, framework and online toolkit designed to help smaller cultural organisations unlock their collections and make them discoverable and available to everyone. The National Library of Australia understands that collaborative partnerships working for mutual benefit make sense given the rising costs of the technical infrastructure and the cross-institutional efficiencies to be gained in the digital world.


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