1. Introduction

The National Library of Australia has been digitising its collection in all formats since the early 2000s and is a leader in the Australian library sector in digitisation, as well as in the discovery and delivery of digitised content on the collaborative Trove service. The long-term preservation of digital master files created is an integral part of the digitisation processes. The Library works actively with external funding organisations to grow the corpus of digitised content for research, knowledge creation and enjoyment by Australians.

2. Policy Aims

This policy aims to provide a statement of the Library’s current approach to digitisation. It covers all digitisation activities undertaken by Library staff as well as external providers under contract to the Library.

Policy drivers for digitisation are:

  • Access to the Library’s collection - The National Library Act (1960) gives the Library a mandate to collect documentary resources for the nation and make them accessible. This is supported by the strategic priority in the Library’s Corporate Plan to connect communities with their national collections.
  • Preservation of the Library’s collection - The National Library Act (1960) also stipulates that the Library is to ensure its collection is preserved. Digitisation is used as the prime preservation copying approach by the Library to capture at risk material, as well as reduce manual handling of vulnerable material.
  • Access to national collections - Working with other libraries and partner organisations, the Library digitises library material in other libraries’ and organisations’ collections to enable online access to those collections. Collaboration in library matters is stipulated in the National Library Act (1960) and constitutes a strategic priority for the Library in its Corporate Plan.

3. Definitions

Digitisation Conversion of analogue information into digital form
Preservation copying Creation of preservation masters and surrogates to the appropriate digitisation standards for preservation purposes

4. Policy statement

Collection digitisation for both access and preservation purposes supports the National Library’s endeavours to fulfil its mandate to ensure documentary resources can be used and enjoyed by all Australians. The digitisation process starts with selecting collection material taking into account factors including description, preservation, rights and online usability, with a close adherence to international best practices and standards. Physical material is digitised once to an appropriate standard, to create a faithful representation of the original item. For analogue sound and audio-visual recordings, the maximum amount of signal is extracted and encoded to preservation standard formats. As for digital sound and audio-visual recordings on format-specific carriers (e.g. compact disc or digital audio tape), content is extracted and transcoded to preservation compliant formats.

In addition, the Library invests in digital library systems and infrastructure that manage the digitised objects from creation to long-term preservation, and allow users to access and interact with the digitised content on innovative discovery and delivery platforms.

When digitising and delivering digitised content, the Library respects the rights of content owners and creators as well as cultural sensitivities. Digitisation is a key strategy in enabling the Library to provide culturally appropriate access to Indigenous collection material as well as to repatriate material to traditional knowledge holders and communities. Working closely and respectfully with First Australians is the critical element.

To ensure a steady growth of the digitised corpus on Trove, the Library welcomes donations and partnerships through which the wider community from all sectors can nominate and fund collection material for digitisation. These include working with the commercial sector guided by common principles among the national and state and territory library sector. Opportunities for working together with Australian libraries who are already Trove Partners are especially encouraged. The Library is implementing a new fundraising strategy under the Treasured Voices initiative to significantly increase its digitisation output.

The Library offers digitisation on demand services to individuals via the Library’s Copies Direct service. Material digitised will be retained for public access as much as possible.

5. Key roles and responsibilities

Collection Strategy Group Approval of the Collection Digitisation Policy and general oversight of the digitisation program
Assistant Director-General, Collaboration Branch Broad responsibility for the implementation of the Policy
Director, Digitisation and Document Delivery Section Operational responsibility for the implementation of the Policy
Digitisation Committee Operational oversight of the digitisation program and Policy

6. Key outcome(s) and output(s)

KPIs measuring the digitisation output and the usage of digitised content for selected collection material are reported to senior management under the Library’s corporate governance framework

The digitisation output for specific projects are reported to external digitisation partners as required.

7. Implementation process

The Collection Digitisation Policy will be implemented through the digitisation activities carried out in the Library, mainly by the Digitisation and Document Delivery Section.

8. Revision

This policy is reviewed every two years.

9. References and related documents

The following documents and/or legislation were considered when developing this policy

  • National Library Act (1960)
  • National Library of Australia Corporate Plan (2019-2023)
  • Preservation Policy
  • Digital Preservation Policy
  • NSLA Principles for public and private digitisation partnerships (June 2019)