by Francesca Beddie
On 22 February the Sydney Morning Herald ran a story saying ‘the National Library of Australia has launched a major review of services, with key programs to be curtailed or cancelled amid staff cuts, as management struggles to deal with the Turnbull government’s efficiency dividend’. It reported that the library expects to shed more than 20 jobs by 30 June with additional redundancies to follow in 2017-18. It will also reduce its international print and online subscriptions.
Users of the library will have noticed that already the library’s opening hours and weekend services have been reduced and that it has been making great efforts to find alternative funding sources. For example this year it managed to reinstate a fellowship program, having raised $700,000 in philanthropic support.
There is no doubt that the library has done great things in the digital world and continues to do so. While Trove, the flagship of Australia’s digitisation programs, is currently undergoing a major upgrade, the library’s director general, Ms Schwirtlich, is quoted as saying the library will cease aggregating content from museums and universities unless it is fully funded to do so.
Last July, PHA NSW and ACT member Yvonne Perkins wrote a post on her blog , Stumbling Through History, which made the important point that, while digitisation does help to increase access to the library:
the vast majority of historical items are not digitised and will not be digitised for decades. Access to the physical item will remain vital to research for years to come. Opening hours are a gateway by which information is made more or less open. With less funding comes more restricted access. Historians and digital humanists need to be vocal in their support of the work of libraries and archives. We need to help them demonstrate their value in their quest for better funding. One way to do this is to highlight the collections we use and to tell libraries and archives when we use them in papers and projects.
Yvonne’s post includes a list of the papers presented at the Global Digital Humanities Conference 2015 that referred to Trove. Perhaps PHA members can continue her good work by making sure people (including the NLA Council and your local member) know how much we use archival material and how valuable cultural institutions like the National Library of Australia are for the innovative nation the government wants to create