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CDNLAO Newsletter

No. 90, December 2017

Special topic: Digitization and digital services

Digitisation and Digital Activities at the National Library of Australia

By National Library of Australia

Trove : preserving the national digital memory

Trove is the digital library service of the National Library of Australia (NLA). Receiving on average over sixty thousand visits per day, and the Australian government’s fourth most visited website, Trove has grown rapidly to become an indispensable component of the nation’s cultural and research infrastructure. Trove is the gateway to the NLA’s digital collections—digitised newspapers, journals, books, pictures, manuscripts, maps and music as well as a rapidly growing born digital collection. Trove also expands the national collection beyond the Library’s four walls, by enabling discovery of over a thousand research, cultural heritage and community organisations’ collections across Australia alongside its own collection material. It welcomes in all who want to engage with the digital resources on Trove—researching, building and creating as well as enriching them.

Building the foundations: the NLA’s award-winning digital library infrastructure

The foundations of the NLA’s virtual library have been carefully lain over the past years. In June 2017, the NLA successfully completed its Digital Library Infrastructure Replacement Program. The significance of this achievement was recognised on October 27, when the Library was awarded Australian Project of the Year by the Australian Institute of Project Management. The program ensured that systems can scale to meet expected levels of collecting, support new content types and meet digital preservation requirements. It has enabled the NLA to collect and manage its digital collections securely and accountably, delivering innovative new services that improve national reach and draw in new audiences and improve productivity for collecting and collection management areas using a more sustainable IT infrastructure. The NLA now has flexible systems to support outsourced and mass scale digitisation projects.

Building the collection: digitisation at the NLA

Underlying the popularity of Trove has been the access it provides to a significant and growing digitised collection. With over 1,300 of the estimated 7,700 Australian newspapers ever published now represented, this collection continues to be the most heavily used and widely known collection within Trove. While most of these newspapers are English-language titles, the National Library is increasingly looking at expanding its community language newspapers collection to reflect the diversity of languages represented in the national newspaper publishing output.

One of the elements underlying the success of the NLA’s Australian newspapers digitisation program has been its collaboration with partners. These include the state and territory libraries who have a long history of working with the NLA through the Australian Newspaper Plan. The NLA has now worked with over one hundred digitisation partners—libraries, historical societies, universities, schools, businesses, local councils, faith, cultural and community groups—as well as individuals to digitise specific newspapers.

The NLA’s relatively new journals digitisation program is founded on the NLA’s experience with the mass digitisation of newspapers. Beautiful viewers designed for this content have been developed. The colour digitised journal images can be viewed in a ‘book mode’ with page turning functionality. Deep zoom capability enables page images to be examined in detail and tiled thumbnails allow pages within a volume or volumes within a title to be browsed. Searchable text derived through running optical character recognition (OCR) software over all page images can be displayed alongside the page images. Article headings provide a table of contents with links to the articles within a journal.

< Searchable text derived through running optical character recognition (OCR) software over page images displayed alongside the journal page images . Journal article headings provide a table of contents with links to the articles within a journal. >

The NLA digitises collection material in a variety of other formats. At the end of June 2017, a total of 271,969 collection items (consisting of 1,859,805 images) had been digitised. This includes pictorial material, maps, printed music, manuscripts, books and serials, but excludes newspapers. In addition, 21 million pages of newspapers and 1.1 million pages of government gazettes had been digitised and made accessible on Trove. With its digital library infrastructure improvements in place, a developing partnership model and the assistance of Modernisation funding from the Australian government, the NLA is poised to deliver an ambitious program of significant new digitised content over the coming years.

< Number of items in the National Library’s digital collections by collection format, as of 30 June 2017. >


The NLA’s updated digital library infrastructure has delivered efficient, scalable and streamlined systems to enable the NLA to meet collecting, digitisation, preservation and access requirements over the next decade. The NLA’s digitisation program and digital activities have been pursued collaboratively with Australia’s state and territory libraries and with a host of other library and non-library organisations who partner with Trove. The NLA’s reach now extends far beyond its physical location and the collections it provides access to represent a geographically dispersed community. The community engages with the NLA’s collections and enriches them for future patrons.

Copyright (C) 2017 National Library of Australia