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CDNLAO Newsletter

No. 91, March 2018

Special topic: Education and Training

Moving to Digital: Virtual Customer Engagement at the National Library of Australia

By Cathy Pilgrim, Assistant Director-General, Executive and Public Programs, National Library of Australia


1. Introduction

Libraries Australia is a member-based collaborative service managed within the National Library of Australia (NLA). Approximately 1,200 organisations are members of Libraries Australia, comprising around 2,200 libraries from every library sector located in every Australian state and territory. Libraries Australia manages the Australian National Bibliographic Database (ANBD), Australia’s national union catalogue.

2. A New Virtual Approach to Libraries Australia Member Events

Libraries Australia has run an annual one-day Forum for many years, featuring presentations on topics of interest to the member community. Libraries Australia decided to try a new approach to member engagement in 2016-2017, and went ‘virtual’, offering a series of six one-hour webinars aimed at practitioners and frontline managers. The new format was called "Libraries Australia: The Summer Sessions". The series included four keynote presentations covering library linked data and resource sharing, and two practitioner presentations on manipulation and management of library metadata using MarcEdit.

< Libraries Australia: The Summer Sessions >

The Summer Sessions were delivered using WebEx® Event Centre, an internet-based web conferencing platform. The webinars featured eminent international speakers who gave live presentations across seven time zones. Presenters connected from the United States and United Kingdom, and attendees joined from every state and territory in Australia, and New Zealand.

All Libraries Australia staff were involved in aspects of presenting the Summer Sessions. This built technical skill and capacity for staff, none of whom had previously been involved in broadcasting online presentations on this scale. Participants were offered testing opportunities to allow them to become familiar with the webinar platform prior to each event. In this way, the webinar series assisted the Libraries Australia community to increase personal and technical capabilities beyond the content of the webinars themselves. As with any web conferencing solution, success is dependent on good internet infrastructure, which was achieved even in rural and remote areas.

Overall, The Summer Sessions were a great success. Libraries Australia members responded extremely positively to the new event format. It was particularly popular with members in regional and remote locations, and small libraries, who can find it challenging to travel to larger events. Many members also liked the one-hour presentations, which were scheduled more easily into their workday than a longer presentation. They also liked being able to register only for those sessions of interest to them. The 341 individual participants represented almost a 50% increase in attendance over the previous 3 years. Over 65% attended more than one presentation in the series, with 526 total webinar connections.

< Libraries Australia Member Event Participation 2006-2017 >

3. Virtual Customer Engagement at the National Library of Australia

After trialling WebEx® for the Summer Sessions, the NLA now uses the Zoom® web conferencing platform, which is popular with both presenters and participants for its ease of use. Libraries Australia has held several more online member events with this new platform, including a virtual town hall meeting and a tour of the newly launched Libraries Australia website (

< Summer Sessions Participants >

4. Conclusion

Before the Summer Sessions, the NLA had limited experience with virtual events. Building on this initial success, virtual customer engagement is being explored across many areas within the NLA, both for small-scale meetings and consultations, as well as larger events. With the shift to virtual delivery, the NLA has moved to modern, inclusive and affordable customer engagement, which is proving effective for the Library and popular with participants.

Copyright (C) 2018 National Library of Australia