Operating context

The Library is respected as a national and international leader in the sector. We create public value by increasing economic, social and intellectual wellbeing.

We contribute to government priorities, including:

  • a cohesive and inclusive society
  • a strong digital economy
  • excellence in research and the arts
  • protection of cultural heritage
  • public access to, and participation in, arts and culture in Australia.

Everything we do is guided by our organisational values. We are:

  • respectful and inclusive
  • responsive to individual and community needs
  • ambitious, and internationally recognised for our digital innovation
  • tenacious, pursuing priorities over the very long term
  • accountable for the community’s investment in our work.

External environment

External factors influence the Library’s operating environment and have a significant impact on our operations. This has been clearly demonstrated in the first half of 2020. We are strengthening our preparedness and capacity to adjust and respond to environmental shocks.

Forces and trends in our external operating environment that strongly influence our work include the following factors.

Changing Australian society and economy, especially in relation to:

  • the dynamism of production environments for new creative works and knowledge
  • the inherent complexity of capturing these works for posterity
  • the diversity of the Australian population
  • an increasing hunger for high-quality Australian content, available to all
  • the inevitable economic adjustments resulting from COVID-19.

Technology expansion and disruption, particularly the need to sustain the skills and infrastructure to manage, preserve and provide access to Australia’s digital culture and to non- Australian resources available from overseas providers. This will require significant investment and sustainable new national partnerships.

Cyber threats and the need for robust cybersecurity systems to mitigate the risk of cyberattacks.

Natural environmental forces, especially:

  • the consequences and ongoing risks of climate change for our collections and communities
  • the impacts of pandemics on the safety of our patrons, our staff, and our ability to serve.

Public trust in institutions, which has declined in recent years. The need for authentic and trusted sources of information is now critical to our understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. The Library is pursuing increased use of, and engagement with, the collection, which must be authentic, perpetual, reusable and accessible to all Australians.

The Library continues to work proactively to mitigate the negative impact of these factors and to respond to the opportunities that external disruptions and trends can provide. We have varying levels of influence over external factors and how we respond to them.

Library span of influence over environmental factors

Greater influence

  • Collecting policies and practices
  • Attributes of our national collection— significance, uniqueness, social impact, cultural value
  • Investment and governance models underpinning collaborative services
  • Investment priorities within our funding envelope
  • Compliance with statutory obligations

Partial influence

  • Volume and complexity of incoming unpublished content
  • Collecting activities that are conducted in partnership with others
  • Relationships with partners and stakeholders
  • Own-source revenue inflows via cost-recovery and philanthropy activities
  • Volume and type of content that is digitised
  • Collaboration with Australian research and education sector
  • Contribution and value to government and the community

Lesser influence

  • Volume of incoming Australian published works
  • Volume, speed and variety of emerging content forms in scope for the collection
  • Changes to goals and priorities of National and State Libraries Australia and other partners
  • Impacts of COVID-19—budget impacts, economic impacts affecting revenue flows, and changed service expectations
  • Constrained fiscal environment and budget allocation

The Library has a leadership position that is unique among Australian cultural institutions and in the international context.Cooperation

Over the last four decades, we have collaborated with libraries across all states and territories and all levels of government. In the last two decades we have led the way in:

  • exposing diverse and growing digital collections managed and delivered online by galleries, libraries, archives and museums; Australian state and territory government departments; and research repositories
  • acquiring, preserving and enabling access to born-digital publications—books, journals, music, maps, websites— in partnership with state and territory libraries
  • digitising, managing and delivering textual materials— newspapers, books, journals, gazettes—at scale.

In addition, the Library’s collaborative services enable readers and researchers to locate and request copies of non- Australian resources held by international libraries.

The Library’s cooperative approach goes far beyond networks, knowledge sharing and shared policies. We actively pursue co-investment partnerships to deliver effective national solutions in an environment of increasing content volume, greater audience demand, constrained resources and new digital technologies. These partnerships are resulting in changing models of stewardship and responsibility for different parts of the national collection.

As a highly trusted provider of historical and contemporary resources, the Library makes a major contribution to research, education, digital and data literacy agendas. We take a lead role in research infrastructure discussions relating to cultural collections, and are committed to working with partners to provide access to large-scale digital collections for data-intensive research. Developing consistent standards, workable governance and up-front investment have been successful strategies to date. However, as the Library sits outside the research sector and its funding frameworks, our ability to take this work forward is entirely dependent on decisions the sector makes about where and how its investments should be focused.

Organisational capability

The Library’s workforce and technology capabilities enable us to deliver on our mission to collect, connect and collaborate in a dynamic environment.

We steward an iconic heritage-listed building which serves both as a repository for our massive collection asset and as the delivery hub for our onsite and online services. Sustaining the building is essential to sustaining our core mission.

The Library’s Information Technology Strategic Plan and Technology Roadmap are keys to achieving our ambition to deliver a twenty-first-century digital library for Australians, to sustain our digital operations and to ensure that our technology infrastructure and capability is responsive, sustainable and affordable, trusted and secure, resilient and highly reliable.

Our workforce is highly skilled, with deep sector knowledge and specialist skills. Its demographic character broadly reflects that of the wider Australian Public Service, but with a slightly older age profile, a higher proportion of women (including 66 per cent of senior executive staff), and a higher proportion of people who identify as having a disability or as being from a non-English-speaking background. Of our staff, 3.3 per cent identify as Indigenous Australian.

Financial resources

We acknowledge the heightened national and global economic uncertainty caused by COVID-19 and the impact that this may have on the Library’s annual budget and external revenue streams. We seek to secure ongoing financial sustainability to maintain critical national infrastructure, fund digital innovation, care for the Library’s heritage building and provide new physical storage solutions.

The Library is serving a growing and increasingly diverse community, and simultaneously collecting from a richer and technically more complex field of documentary heritage. This is increasingly difficult with base appropriation declining over many years. We continue to make difficult service reduction decisions in some areas, as well as striving to achieve efficiency in all that we do.

We remain committed to our ambitious philanthropy campaign to increase the percentage of our collection that is available online. However, we will need to source new revenue streams if we are to continue to deliver national services. Maintaining Trove in a context of decreasing ongoing appropriation and limited opportunities to achieve full cost recovery through partnerships remains a challenge.

Reduced funding for partner institutions, expected to be exacerbated as a result of COVID-19, affects the Library’s ability to continue to support services. Over the course of this plan, we will continue working with organisations that see value in using our digital collecting, digitisation and delivery capability, ensuring that charges reflect the costs of storing, managing and delivering content over the very long term.

We face significant risks in meeting our responsibility to care for a significant Commonwealth asset―the Library’s $1.3 billion collection―if resourcing is not secured. In addition to the Commonwealth-heritage-listed main building, the Library leases or owns three collection repositories, all of which are nearing capacity. Securing funding for a purpose-built storage facility to meet significant storage needs from 2025 is a critical action in this plan. Within the life of this plan, the Library needs to either secure additional physical storage or explore other options for how to accommodate its growing physical collection. Equally important is the continuing challenge of sourcing funding for significant capital works that remain partially funded. These include replacement of the Library’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, which has reached the end of its life.