No. 89, August 2017
< Dr Marie-Louise Ayres, Director-General, National Library of Australia >
Many CDNL-AO colleagues will have enjoyed meeting Anne-Marie Schwirtlich AM, Director-General of the National Library of Australia from 2011 to her retirement on 1 March 2017. Dr Marie-Louise Ayres – previously Assistant Director-General, National Collections Access at the Library – was appointed Director-General for a 5 year term from 2 March 2017.
Marie-Louise obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of New England (UNE), focusing on women writers. Marie-Louise completed the Honours component of her degree at the Australian National University (ANU), basing her thesis on another woman writer, Emily Dickinson. In 1989 Marie-Louise embarked on a scholarship PhD on Australian women poets. She chose as her subjects Rosemary Dobson (who became a close friend), Dorothy Green, Dorothy Hewett, and J S Harry. During her PhD studies, Marie-Louise lectured, tutored and researched in many aspects of Australian literature. While she enjoyed the people aspects of academia – especially teaching – she also realised that she was not suited to the loneliness of research life. Serendipitously, her doctoral supervisor made an introduction which saw her apply for and win a position at the University of New South Wales (Canberra campus) library, which had strong special collections focused on Australian literature. She remained there for eight years, building a significant archive of contemporary Australian literature, and leading the development of AustLit, a ground-breaking online database which was the world's first implementation of Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR).
In early 2002 Marie-Louise took up a position at the National Library of Australia, delivering the online Music Australia service, which was successfully launched in 2004. Marie-Louise was appointed Assistant Curator of the Manuscripts section in 2005, then Curator of Manuscripts in 2006, before assuming broader responsibilities as Senior Curator, Pictures and Manuscripts, in 2010. In 2011, Marie-Louise became head of the Library's Resource Sharing Division, later renamed National Collections Access. The Library's digital services – including Trove – formed part of her portfolio.
Marie-Louise recognises the challenges posed by the current climate of restrained government expenditure. Prominent among her priorities over the next few years is the further enhancement and expansion of the Library's digital infrastructure, visible to the world via Trove. She is naturally delighted with the Australian Government's decision – in late 2016 – to provide additional funding for the National Library's digital endeavours.
Marie-Louise loves every aspect of the Library's work and considers herself privileged to have been part of the institution's management team for five years under Anne-Marie's leadership. She attributes the Library's success to its talented and committed staff, and its exceptional Library workplace culture and values, nurtured over a long period. She considers herself fortunate to be at the helm of the Library for celebrations in 2018: the 50th anniversary of the Library building; and an associated major exhibition on Captain James Cook and his Pacific voyages, the first of which began in August 1768, near 250 years ago.
CDNL-AO – a perspective from a newcomer
The May 2017 CDNL-AO meeting in Beijing was not my first CDNL-AO – the Library hosted the 2014 meeting, and I was fortunate to meet many participants over social engagements at the time – but it was my first as Director-General of the National Library of Australia. It was also my first ever visit to China, so very exciting for me. Our hosts – the National Library of China – did a wonderful job of welcoming all delegates, and giving us a tantalising taste of the richness of China's culture, and the work of the National Library.
For me, the meeting was a great opportunity to be inspired by colleagues building bridges between their collections and their communities in many different ways. And for seeing that – although the pace of change can be slow in our professions, and especially for members working within extremely constrained resource environments – change does happen. I came back able to report that automation of catalogue data is increasing, that digitisation is on the increase, and that a number of libraries in the region are pressing ahead with RDA implement. Most importantly, I made some great new friends and learned so much about many successful initiatives in the region!
Copyright (C) 2017 National Library of Australia