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 We will go on collecting published and unpublished analog and digital collection items.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]

Archive don’t decommission

The Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy that directs government agencies on conforming to the WCAG 2.0 is available now at:

This easy decision table workflow gives some guidance.
workflow for an agency to determine whether content should be upgraded to WCAG 2.0 or be archived

However it also is a bit of a worry, with the option to Archive or Decommission. The temptation for many agencies confronted with upgrading their content to conform to the new requirements (even though they do not have to conform under Single A until end 2012) will be to decommission the website.

Before doing so they hopefully will abide by this AGIMO advice.

Options for retaining public access to out of date web content:

  • preserving key electronic resources in the National Library of Australia’s Pandora Web Archive;
  • creating a publicly accessible archive for out of date web content, on their websites (e.g. AGIMO Archive); or
  • publishing information on how to obtain out of date content that is no longer available through their websites.

and this:

AFDA requirement that also states that:

Publications produced only in an electronic format on an agency’s public website – Retain as national archives

Agencies should understand that a publication is anything published, a publication is not just those types of electronic documents that conform to a print type (such as e-book, e-journal) but includes any public (therefore published) web content and therefore should be retained.

That retention is best served not just by the content being stored on a disk in the agency (and at the NAA) but also by retaining it in an online archive (whether institutional or PANDORA).

Too often web publications are deemed no longer relevant and decommissioned and removed from websites and thus lost from public access. Before decommissioning and removing content, web managers should make an effort to check whether the content is safely held elsewhere (IA, PANDORA) and if not, arrange for archival.

Forgotten Australians

The National Library has a leading role to reflect, inform and in some cases commemorate upon issues and debates in Australia. On the 16th November the Australian government delivered its second national apology, this time to the Forgotten Australians (Child Migrants and Australians in institutional care  (1920s-1970s)).

New technologies are now playing a greater role in allowing librarians to provide better access and improved multi-dimensional content to Library collections. The National Library in this instance has collected a range of resources on this issue in multiple media formats, including sound, video and text.  These are available in the PANDORA online collection at:

The Library is also seeking further testimony of the Forgotten Australians via its website at: