National Library continues to promote scum

It would have been good to say something nice about the new Treasures gallery at the National Library of Australia. But sadly as they in their lack of wisdom have chosen once again to promote the notorious paedophile and misogynist Donald Friend, one cannot.

Why the Library chooses to continue to promote a vile, trivial, and very mediocre artist is unclear. While it does though it deserves nothing but opprobrium.

I am certainly against censorship, and would not ask that the odious writings and drawings of this man be destroyed or hidden, but they did not need to be lavishly published at vast taxpayer cost (unlike any other work) or be now given the status as ‘treasure’.

To quote Kerry Nagara “Why is the protection of artists such as Friend seen as more important than the active protection and prevention of sexually exploited children and minors?” The reason is because Friend abused and raped children in Bali and elsewhere not in Australia, so it’s apparently acceptable, as Nagara says “It’s basic racism that these children don’t count as much as a white child”

NLA and wikileaks, bad cataloguing has consequences

Twitter posts about the NLA

A cataloguer at the NLA, used the LC subject heading ‘Extremist Web sites’ to classify a number of works to do with Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

Wikileaks supporters noticed it –

And, unsurprisingly a large number of people found the use of the term defamatory, given that the heading is normally used for hate/villification web sites. The NLA’s Twitter and Facebook were thus inundated.

Why did it happen?

Let us be sure it was not some conspiracy on the part of the NLA. It was done by a staffer, who didn’t understand the nature of the material.

It is not the intention of this blog to attack an individual cataloguer, as every cataloguer makes mistakes once in a while. But it has been highlighted as it is symptomatic of a wider cataloguing issue at the NLA.

Why are there some cataloguers in the NLA who don’t understand the material that is presented to them – that’s the question, and its one that most current and every ex-NLA staffer knows the answer to. See the post from 30 June.


Mills and Boon in the NLA

One of the authors of this blog, Kristy Fox, interviewed by the Canberra Times on the National Library of Australia’s Mills & Boon collection.

Canberra Times ( article published 22 June 2011

Click on the image to go to the article

National Library at Senate Estimates

Proof Committee Hansard
(Additional Estimates)
[10.35 pm]

National Library of Australia
CHAIR—Welcome, Dr Cathro. Do you have an opening statement?
Dr Cathro—No.
Senator TROOD—Dr Cathro, I understand that the library has appointed a new director-general. Can you
tell the committee when that director-general will take up her position?
Dr Cathro—Yes. Her name is Anne-Marie Schwirtlich. She will be taking up the position on Friday, 11 March.
Senator TROOD—What state will she find the library’s budget in for 2011-12 when she takes up her position?
Dr Cathro—Since the last estimates committee the corporate management group of the library has made
decisions about the 2011-12 budget. We are in quite a tight situation with our budget. We will be reducing staff
numbers. We have to respond to not only the efficiency dividend and the estimated three per cent increase in
employee expenses, subject to the enterprise agreement, but also our need to invest in digital library
infrastructure. Taking those things into account, we have had to make significant reductions in operational
lines in our budget. In addition to reducing staff we will naturally be reducing a number of services.
Senator TROOD—At this stage do you know how many staff you may have to reduce?
Dr Cathro—If you take as your baseline the second half of 2010, where we averaged 444 staff, we will be reducing next financial year by 17 staff.
Senator TROOD—Is the efficiency dividend contributing to that difficulty? How much of a difficulty is it contributing?
Dr Cathro—The efficiency dividend—if you put it in dollars terms—in the current financial year, I think my advice is its value is $684,000. That is part of what we have to take into account.
Senator TROOD—Have you decided how you are going to lose the staff at this stage?
Dr Cathro—Our aim is to entirely reduce staff through attrition. We have a turnover of around 10 per cent or 11 per cent per year. Management believes that it is possible to overwhelmingly deal with the reductions
through attrition and through then redeploying staff laterally into the priority positions, leaving the lesser priority positions vacant.
Senator TROOD—Does the loss of these staff involve the closing down of any programs or parts of the library’s activities?
Dr Cathro—Yes, there are a couple of examples I could give you. There is what we call retrospective cataloguing of the collection; that is, cataloguing material acquired in the past but not adequately catalogued.
That effort will be reduced. We will be reducing our level of newspaper digitisation and relying more on external funding for that activity. We had an online reference service—I can ask a librarian—that we ran
collaboratively with the state libraries. That service has now ceased. We will be increasing significantly the charges that we impose on other libraries for interlibrary loans. They are just examples of some of the budget measures. We are also making significant reductions in travel and other supplier expenses.
Senator TROOD—We do not have much time and I would like to explore these matters a little more fully but perhaps, just finally, can you briefly outline the challenge that you are facing from the digitisation revolution that we are facing?
Dr Cathro—We believe that if we are going to properly document 21st century Australia we have to collect information in digital form. We have so far built quite a rich and complex set of digital collections both
through digitising and through collecting what we call born digital information. But many of the systems we have to manage this are now 10 years old. They need replacement. We are going to invest—we feel we have
to—in some essential minimum activity in the next four years to replace those systems. In fact, that is one area where we will actually be increasing staff, to work on the replacement of those essential digital management systems. We do aspire to digitise more of our collection in the longer term. But to date I think we have only digitised about two per cent of our collection after 10 years of effort.
Senator TROOD—Two per cent?
Dr Cathro—Yes.
Senator TROOD—I would like to ask more questions, but unfortunately we do not have any more time.
Senator HUMPHRIES—The then Acting Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services a couple of weeks ago, in commenting on the lack of space in this building, said that the Parliamentary Library could be forced to move some of its research archives to the National Library. Where would you put them?
Dr Cathro—I was contacted by the Parliamentary Librarian, who suggested that the interpretation of that report should not be relied on. I can only say that we are due to run out of physical space some time in 2014, so that would be a problem for us.
CHAIR—Thank you for appearing before us.

Welcome to the new Director General of the NLA

Anne-Marie Schwirtlich photo
The NEW Director-General of the National Library has been announced – Anne-Marie Schwirtlich.

Here is the bio from the National Archives:

Anne-Marie Schwirtlich was born in Bombay, India. She spent the majority of her childhood there, attending the Presentation Convent in Kodaikanal. She migrated to Australia in 1972 and attended Turramurra High School in Sydney. She graduated from Macquarie University with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons).
Anne-Marie Schwirtlich joined the Public Service in 1978 and worked in various departments including the National Archives, National Library and the Australian War Memorial. During this time she also graduated from the University of New South Wales with a Diploma in Archives Administration.
She was appointed Acting Director-General of the National Archives after the retirement of George Nichols in October 2000. She left the Archives in 2003 to take up the position State Librarian and CEO of the State Library of Victoria.

Anne-Marie has had a recognisably successful period at the helm of the SLV, which has seen offsite and onsite visitor numbers grow appreciably. A few years back the SLV21: creating a library for the 21st Century: a strategic plan set out her corporate vision, one which we could say was based on how the NLA was doing things. It might be the case therefore that no great changes in direction are planned. This would be a mistake.
The National Library in recent years has been responsible for many excellent technical innovations, such as PANDORA, , Picture Australia, Libraries Australia and laterly, Trove, but it has not for the most part politically or philosophically led the Australian library community. There is a vacant leadership role which requires filling, let us hope the new DG seizes the opportunities that this position entails. The Library community needs a leader who can advocate and engage on behalf of all libraries on the wider media, political and academic stage.

And here is the Press Release

The Hon Simon Crean MP

Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government
Minister for the Arts
11 February, 2010

New Director-General to lead the National Library

Arts Minister Simon Crean today announced the appointment of Anne-Marie Schwirtlich as Director-General of the National Library of Australia.

The appointment for a five-year term comes at a crucial time as the National Library is embracing and utilising digital technology for collection and storage of key cultural material.

“I look forward to working with Ms Schwirtlich and the Library’s Council as the National Library implements its transition into the digital age,” Mr Crean said.

“The role of the National Library has never been more important.

“With Ms Schwirtlich’s appointment the National Library will be well placed to realise the opportunities of new technology and the National Broadband Network, while developing the Library’s role as a highly valued centre for learning, knowledge creation, enjoyment and understanding of Australian life and society.

“I pay tribute to Ms Jan Fullerton, who led the library with distinction for 11 years until her retirement in November 2010,” Mr Crean said.

The Chair of the Council of the National Library, The Hon Chief Justice James Spigelman AC said Ms Schwirtlich would maintain the Library as an internationally respected reference and cultural centre.”

“Ms Schwirtlich has worked in national and state cultural institutions, including Arts Victoria, the National Archives of Australia and the Australian War Memorial and has a deep knowledge of the National Library and its challenges,” Mr Spigelman said.

“Most recently Ms Schwirtlich has been CEO and State Librarian at the State Library of Victoria, and brings a wealth of relevant experience to this new role,” Mr Spigelman said.
Ms Schwirtlich said she was looking forward to the challenge of the new role.

“The National Library of Australia is a leader in the international cultural sector. The role of libraries in this digital age has never been more important, and I look forward to the work of positioning the Library to serve Australians now and in the long term,” Ms Schwirtlich said.

Ms Schwirtlich will take up the appointment in March.

UPDATE: Listen to an interview with the National Library’s new Director General on ABC (radio) Canberra here and hear what she has to say about her appointment and the way forward.

NLA Christmas Party video – Puttin’ on the Writs

Once again the NLA staff have produced a wonderful dance routine, as part of its Christmas party celebrations.

The theme this time is ‘Puttin’ on the Writs’ and as you will be able to see the video gives a vivid portrayal of the hoops that copyright law forces librarians to go through.

Retrieval at the NLA

Retrieval will take our audience on a weaving journey deep into the stack of the National Library. It will be an expedition into our collective past. A cyclical journey of deposit and retrieval ensues – of stories past and stories to come.

See the ABC report and video at:

Get tickets from:

See the video blogs of the journey at:

National Library at Senate Estimates – PANDORA!

Proof Committee Hansard
(Supplementary Budget Estimates)

National Library of Australia
Senator HUMPHRIES—I read a little while ago about the concerns that the efficiency dividend was likely to impose on the National Library. They are concerns being expressed by the Community and Public Sector
Union. Could you indicate what the actual effect of the efficiency dividend would be on the National Library in the course of this financial year?
Dr Cathro—Our Director-General, Jan Fullerton, is currently on leave prior to her retirement on 9 November. The impact of the efficiency dividend on the library this year will be similar to what it has been in
the past. First of all, in financial terms, I think a little over $600,000 is the impact. We respond to that by trying to make our work flows more efficient, including introducing automation. We make efficiencies but also make
reductions in either the quality or throughput of services. That will continue this year. We are currently struggling to meet our targets for the processing of our collections, so that results in backlogs, which impact on
users. That is probably the main example of impact.
Senator HUMPHRIES—So what specifically is the effect on the collections or the collecting policy of the library?
Dr Cathro—The efficiency dividend does not impact our collecting policy. We have a policy that, of course, draws from the mandate in our act. We will go on collecting published and unpublished analog and digital collection items. Where we are challenged is cataloguing and processing those collections so that they are accessible promptly by users.
Senator HUMPHRIES—So, what, you might defer processing? Do you digitise routinely the new works coming into the library?
Dr Cathro—Only a small fraction of new works are routinely digitised. A great majority of pictures, for example, are digitised. But, no, our digitisation is very selective.
Senator HUMPHRIES—That is not a product of the efficiency dividend? That is just a question of not having the time and resources to do that?
Dr Cathro—That is right.
Senator HUMPHRIES—I want to ask about the policy of the library to collect election material. I recall many years ago when I was first a candidate receiving a letter from the library asking for election material. Does it collect material from every federal election?
Dr Cathro—This year we made a special effort. I think we wrote to every candidate for the House of Representatives and Senate to collect election ephemera. We have done this in the past but perhaps not on such an extensive basis. In addition, of course, we archive election websites so that they are available for posterity.
Senator HUMPHRIES—And there are about 350 websites that were archived at the 2007 election. Is that right?
Dr Cathro—I do not have that figure with me, Senator. I will have to take that on notice.
Senator HUMPHRIES—How many websites are expected to be archived from the 2010 election?
Dr Cathro—Again, I do not know that number. I would expect it to be similar, but I do not have the numbers with me. I can certainly get them.
Senator HUMPHRIES—Presumably the archiving has already happened since the website in a month is going to be shut down and so on after the election.
Dr Cathro—Exactly. Some types of website archiving have to happen quite promptly before the website disappears.
Senator HUMPHRIES—Could we have a list of all the websites that have been archived from 2007 and from 2010?
Dr Cathro—Just the election related websites?
Senator HUMPHRIES—Just the election related ones, yes.
Dr Cathro—Yes. I can get the list. They are available online in our PANDORA archive for browsing, but we can still get you a list.
Senator HUMPHRIES—Look, if they are available online, we will have a look. Is it easy to identify what is related to each of the elections on the PANDORA website?
Dr Cathro—Sorry?
Senator HUMPHRIES—It is easy to identify from the PANDORA website what relates to—
Dr Cathro—Yes. The election material is quite easy to find and browse.
Senator BERNARDI—Before you continue, I also have a question on the archiving of websites. An organisation that I am involved with received a request to have their website archived. It was not specifically a political campaign website at all but rather about a topical issue. What is the criteria for selecting websites to archive that are in the non-political sphere?
Dr Cathro—Well, we look at the value for research and the extent to which they document the Australian people, historical developments and so on. We actually publish the criteria. It is, however, of necessity a quite selective process. I think over the last 14 years more than about 20,000 different websites have been archived, many of them in multiple snapshots over time. But that is still a very small fraction of the significant websites. As I said, it is research value and the extent to which they sort of document significant developments in Australia and important issues, such as social issues and so on.
Senator BERNARDI—How are the websites identified? Do people refer them to you, or do you have a special section that surfs the web?
Dr Cathro—We have a small team of staff who themselves identify. There is also a suggestion facility on the archive itself where people can make suggestions. We do this collaboratively with the state libraries and some other cultural institutions. So those other agencies themselves are identifying what would be relevant in their sphere.
Senator BERNARDI—You will not hear this very often, I am sure, but I will congratulate you on the diligence of your staff because the nonresponse from our end was followed up continually. So that is something to suggest that your systems are working quite well.
Dr Cathro—Thank you.
Senator BERNARDI—You said that the criteria are published.
Dr Cathro—Yes.
Senator BERNARDI—Is all that available on the internet?
Dr Cathro—It is.
Senator BERNARDI—Do you know where? Is there a straightforward link?
Dr Cathro—I can get the exact address. I think PANDORA is the name of the archive. On its home page I think there is a link to the selection policy.
Senator BERNARDI—That is fine. That is great. That is all I need to know. Thank you.
Senator HUMPHRIES—PANDORA is not run by the National Library, though, is it?
Dr Cathro—Yes, it is.
Senator HUMPHRIES—It is. Okay.
Dr Cathro—As I said, we have collaborating partners as well.
Senator HUMPHRIES—What does it cost, apart from the time taken to download a website? Is there any cost associated with the library downloading a website and storing a website?
Dr Cathro—Yes. There is a small team—I think it is something like five staff; I would have to check on that—so there is the cost of those staff. There are IT support costs as well. I would not like to make an estimate on the run as to what that all typically is.
Senator HUMPHRIES—What I really meant is whether there is any sort of copyright cost in taking a website and putting it in.
Dr Cathro—There is not. This is our selective process. We seek permission from the website publisher. If we do not get permission, we do not make an archived copy. In some cases, the websites have a commercial aspect to them. Users have to pay. So in those cases we reach an agreement with the website publisher to have an embargo period before it is made available. I should have also said that, in addition to that, the library has a non-selective web-archiving approach whereby we try to capture the entire Australian web domain once a year. That is currently in a dark archive, but we hope to make that available to people at some stage in the future.
Senator HUMPHRIES—Lastly, what is the timeframe for selecting a replacement for Ms Fullerton?
Dr Cathro—The selection process is being managed by the department.
Mr Eccles—I can give you an update on that. The applications closed on 11 October, and the panel will be meeting this week to discuss moving forward on those.
Senator HUMPHRIES—Do we have a good field of candidates?
Mr Eccles—That is what we are meeting to discuss, so it would be inappropriate for me to speculate.
Senator HUMPHRIES—Are there any international contenders for that role?
Mr Eccles—Again, it is probably not appropriate for me to go into great detail, partly because I am not sure exactly who has applied. We will know more tomorrow when we sit down and discuss it.
CHAIR—Thank you very much. I thank the officers who have attended from the arts section of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. We will now proceed to the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government. I also thank the minister for his attendance and Mr Eccles and other officers.
[11.10 am]

Jewish Australian culture to be digitised

The State Library of New South Wales with the assistance of the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce plans to digitise the Library’s large collection of Jewish cultural works including; books, journals, ephemera, photographs and oral histories.
The digitization will make this most important collection available online to the world for the first time and show the breadth and depth of the contribution that Jewish people have made to Australia. The collection covers the entire period since European settlement and will no doubt be of tremendous value to researchers. Within the collection are many artefacts of great significance including written and oral testimonies from survivors of the Shoah and a copy of the Schindler List.

Managing the digitisation process is librarian Andy Carr, who expects the project to complete over the next three years.

The project will officially launch next year, but you can see some of the work that has been completed so far here.

The National Library of Australia also has a Select Bibliography of Material in the National Library of Australia Relating to Jewish life in Australia at that was compiled by Roxanne Missingham. It has not been updated since 2000 so is not fully comprehensive, but it is still a very good resource. The oral history recording listed will be available online and as digitisation continuously progresses at the NLA many of the other items will also be eventually available online.

The National Archives also has a collection on the Jewish contribution to Australia which can be accessed from here.

In Victoria there is The “Kadimah” National Library which “holds the largest collection of Yiddish books, periodicals, reference, audio and video materials in Australia.”

There is also the Jewish Museum of Australia’s Collection. They have a library also, but it is for use by appointment only.

Goodbye Jan

jan fullerton

Photo Credit - National Library of Australia

It seems a long time since 1999, but looking at a newspaper clipping from the time (below) we might say plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. I am sure the next DG will face the same challenges, let us hope they will surmount them with as much success.

Responding to the possibilities and problems presented by technology would characterise the future, newly appointed director-general of the National Library of Australia Jan Fullerton said yesterday.
Ms Fullerton, who sees her custodianship as a continuation of the work done by former director-general Warren Horton, said technology would directly influence the library’s priorities, because material could now be accessed instead of bought, distribution of material was changing because digitising made it possible to see items that previously could have been accessed only in the library, and it altered how the National Library underpinned the Australian library system.

– National Library Moving With The Times, The Canberra Times, 17 August 1999

Retirement of Jan Fullerton

It was announced on Friday that Jan Fullerton the Director General of the National Library is about to retire after 11 years in that position and after 43 years at the Library.

Jan has been an excellent Director General by any standard and will be very sorely missed by her staff and the Australian and indeed international library world.

Jan throughout her managerial career has always supported her staff taking the lead and rising to the challenge of all new technologies to better serve the Library’s patrons. She created an atmosphere of creative endevour in the Library, that welcomed experimentation and was not afraid of the occasional mistake, and which brought out the best in her staff.

When so many libraries and other institutions waited to see how the Internet and other technologies would develop before making plans, Jan took action. A prime example of this was is in my field PANDORA. Where the Library initially had no idea at first of how to go about preserving the web, but chose rather than wait for a solution from elsewhere to take active steps and by doing, learn.

Another example is Trove, and before that LibrariesAustralia, both of these are and were tremendous successes. But they were successes because they were primarily built in-house. The Library under Jan trusted  its staff to develop and build systems, rather than merely buying in solutions, that generally don’t fit the purpose. These systems as well as PictureAustralia have brought the NLA’s and other libraries collections to Australians wherever they are in what is the most dynamic growth of access to library material since the inception of public libraries.

On a personal level I know how Jan always supported her staff. I recall an occasion when I was standing near Jan for an official photograph with some other foreign and interstate librarians, when one of them made a slightly disparaging comment about the NLA’s photographer, and Jan immediately leapt to the defence of her staffer. It was good to hear this and I knew that from my own experience that she would defend and support all her staff in this way.

I hope that Jan also understood how much she was trusted and respected in turn by her staff.

I, and I am sure all the staff of the NLA, wish Jan a very happy retirement.

Google newspaper search

You do know that there are other Libraries doing newspaper digitisation work, especially the British Library, but our friends Google also have a large amount of digitised newspapers available for searching. They have been digitising for 2 years now and have a strong collection of US newspapers but have many from all over the world as well.
There is one drawback, there does not appear to be a list of the newspapers digitised. But anyway check out the service at:

Here is an interesting little thing from The Age of 1963.

Note the wages!