Tuesday, 1 March 2016

TROVE: "over 374,419,217 books, articles, images, historic newspapers, maps, music, archives, datasets and more"*: the library community's greatest contribution at risk

*The quote in the title comes from a great article here.

I need to start by declaring an almost obsessive fascination with Trove - the National Library of Australia's magnificent contribution to librarianship, scholarship and research for our nation.  My view is that it is the single greatest contribution to cultural heritage produced in Australia in the last decade.  It utilises inputs from many different sources and makes them available to the serious researcher and the general community in a simple to use, engaging way.

This resource is transforming both the work of serious academics, wishing to study Australian history and culture and the curious amateur who wants to know more about their family's history somewhere in Australia.  Don't take my word for it; look at these testimonies: Internationally and locally . There are heaps of other articles I could point to that speak eloquently about how Trove has changed the face of Australian research.

Personally I have curiously looked up family members from previous generations, who I've heard about but want to know more details of their lives.  It is a truly addictive, fun place to find out so much!!

I'd recommend you search by your family surname and various towns you know families have lived in & see what you can discover!!  As an Australian of German descent, it is interesting/disturbing to see how my forebears dealt with wars and prejudice in Australia.   While some family members were fighting for Australia, at the same time others were having their haystacks burnt & their cattle poisoned because they had a German surname.  Interesting & perhaps slightly relevant in our current race charged debates!!

Why am I talking about Trove?  Well sadly the continual ingest of new content into Trove is under threat because of ongoing cuts to the budget of the National Library of Australia (NLA). These annual cuts have been in place for a number of years, but have now gone beyond "trimming the fat" to hacking at the bone of what is one of our national treasures!

The NLA built Trove using its existing, recurrent grant funding - by scrimping and saving to deliver on a magnificent vision.  The NLA management - both past and present - are to be congratulated for their vision and persistence to deliver this nationally significant research tool.  It is truly sensational & has something for everyone.

I am aware that for a number of years there have been annual cuts to the real value of the NLA budget.  These cuts have largely been absorbed internally, impacting on various levels of service quality, but largely hidden from view to the average library user.  However, these ongoing annual cuts have finally reached a point where they are directly impacting on the capacity of the NLA to support the legitimate role of Trove to continue to ingest and make available new and interesting content without direct additional funding support. 

The issues for Trove and the library & research communities are more eloquently explained by various people herehere, here or here.  

While I am not advocating any particular course of action, you may wish to consider the call of the #fundTrove campaign on Twitter and consider how you can contribute to the ongoing national, public campaign regarding the value of what I consider to be a wonderful national treasure.