In this article ...
In late 2022, the National Library of Australia's (NLA) Trove service had greater public attention on its funding. And a #fundTrove campaign was organised by parts of the library and history industries. Although superficially similar, this was quite different to the original organic #fundTrove campaign of 2016. Both sought to engage the general public and were largely via social media.
In 2022-23 the public's general (but erroneous) impression seemed to be that there was one funding source – a Commonwealth government bucket of money specifically marked "Trove". The 2022-23 campaign relied overly on the public's emotional response to the threat of losing "beloved Trove". The campaign lacked good information on Trove income, expenditure and performance. It also used incorrect information carried by media, seemingly sourced from an "internal Library document" and repeated throughout.
The campaign shifted from #FundTrove to #SaveTrove. A further shift to "fully fund Trove" (including a parliamentary petition) was not accompanied by any definition. Was it operational funding only? A digitisation blank cheque? A replacement of existing funding from Trove partners such as state libraries?
NLA-Trove is mostly a numeric "black box". We can't look inside. We aren't privy to details of funding, expenditure and performance. So I have used what information is readily available.
Note: sources for quotations are referenced in the timeline below.
In September 2022, before the current Trove campaign started, there was NLA's roof leak. Building issues are a side issue to this article, but it began an ongoing narrative of "decades of government neglect" (Canberra Times, 3 September 2022). This theme was picked up a fortnight later – "funding cuts over the past decade" (Arrow, Bongiorno - SMH).
I looked at NLA's published figures and didn't see that pattern. (See chart of annual variation in government funding of NLA. Click to enlarge.)
The following week, ABC News reported NLA Director-General Ayres as saying "the library was unable to keep accommodating its growing collection or digitise its archives. Since 2017, the NLA had not received any funds for these archives, including the popular online service Trove". This may have been accepted by readers, though some would likely have recalled the 2020 Trove funding announcement in particular. The online article remained uncorrected after the follow-up interview in which Ayres said "until 2017 we hadn't had a single dollar." This article would have compounded public misunderstanding.
Three months later, on 22 December 2022, an article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age (my emphasis):
Federal funding for the National Library of Australia's digital resource, Trove, runs out in six months and without additional government support the popular archive could cease operations from next July. The beloved platform receives more than 22 million visits each year ...
An internal library document, seen by this masthead and prepared before the federal election, sets out three possible funding scenarios and their implications for the valuable digital resource accessed by researchers and genealogists across the country. In one scenario, the Library would cease providing the service if no dedicated long-term funding was allocated to Trove after June.
Funding of between $7 to $10 million annually, would allow the Library to maintain its service with no improvements or expansion of its information pool. A more substantial funding injection of between $50 and $100 million could make Trove a world-leading platform ...
A spokesperson for the library said it required ongoing funding. "The library council will consider all available options for Trove's future in the first half of 2023 ... It has ruled out a pay-for-view scheme ... 'We are in active discussions with government about funding required to maintain Trove and other library services. These negotiations are budget-in-confidence, and we will not be providing any further comment.'
Here were red flags. First, there was no journalistic questioning of the internal document's status, nor motives for "leaking". Second, there was no straightforward fact-check on the highlighted performance figure (readily available from NLA annual reports). This number was years out of date – before the implementation of "new Trove" – and given there'd been a 50% decline in this principal measure over the last two years, it was flattering. Third, the "more substantial" (read "ambit") funding bid was to make Trove "world-leading" – a status it previously enjoyed.
From the 2011 annual report: "Trove received the 2011 'Excellence in eGovernment' Award as the most outstanding government IT initiative across federal, state and local government from 62 nominations. Trove also won the award for the best initiative in the Service Delivery Category." So what went wrong?
Why is Trove, in the opinion of NLA's internal document, no longer "a world-leading platform"?
Seven weeks before the SMH-Age article, NLA released its annual report for 2021-22. I noted Trove visits were only 12.6 million in the year to 30 June 2022. That was a 50% decline from 25.3 million two years earlier – when the "new Trove" was launched. I blog posted this observation. (See my chart. Click to enlarge.)
The previous year, 2020-21, had reported 17.9 million Trove sessions (a 29% decline over twelve months) and was accompanied by a note: "Session count was affected by redesign of the Trove website and Google re-indexing." There was some elaboration, including the statement, "This issue has been remedied." But the decline had continued in 2021-22 and these explanations were omitted entirely from that annual report.
The "redesign" reference is to the June 2020 release of "new Trove". My personal experience of Trove2020 (Trove10) was of a much slower and more memory intensive user interface, and consequently I began using Trove less. An April 2022 Trove release resulted in some users with older devices, including mine, being unable to access the Trove interface at all. Obviously these events would have impacted Trove usage. But by how much?
No doubt NLA-Trove has a good suite of performance indicators to analyse factors contributing to the drop off, but they're not released. So six months into "new Trove" I asked NLA if they had performance measures they'd be prepared to share. I also asked for some pretty standard system performance data. My enquiry was still registered as being in their pending tray two years later and I blog posted that this was the case. Without notification my enquiry disappeared from the system in the 8 weeks between the time of that post and preparation of this article. (See Trove enquiry screenshot. Click to enlarge.)
Our understanding of Trove performance depends on the scant data in NLA annual reports: the annual session count plus three other figures that always get an up-arrow of course because they're cumulative.
Back to Google. The "Google re-indexing" explanation of the 2020-21 annual report was repeated by NLA Director-General Marie-Louise Ayres in an interview with Julian Morrow on ABC Radio National on 25 February 2023.
Morrow: "Marie-Louise, I was surprised, I must admit, to read that digital visits in the last reporting period were actually lower than in previous years – why is that?"
Ayres: "Yeah look, there's a few explanations but what I'll actually say Julian is that visits to our digital collections as such haven't actually dropped. So there's always statistics and statistics. One part of it is that Google appears to be indexing less of Trove's content than it used to. So, many people of course who find something in Trove don't start in Trove they start in Google. Look, I was by the shores of Lake George yesterday and we found a plaque about the death of a family in a boating accident in 1958 and of course my husband who's with me Googles about the accident. You know what's the first thing he's taken to? He's taken from Google to stories about about the death of those people in Trove. So making sure that we can get our content as much of it indexed by Google as possible is important but they're a big multinational company and even a national institution doesn't have a lot of sway with them so that's work in progress."
The anecdote is of no statistical significance (a sample size of one) and somewhat undermines the Google blaming anyway.
Ayres' statement of "work in progress" appears at odds with the 2020-21 annual report: "This issue has been remedied." If however it really has not been fixed after nearly 3 years, and indeed less Trove material is indexed by search engines, that's a problem. Given discoverability by search engines was a founding principle of Trove, the stated lack of Google indexing is a fundamental issue.
Does NLA-Trove lack analytic capability?
Performance figures were very prominent in Trove's earlier days – such as searches per hour on the main menu, production stats, and time series. Then Trove manager Tim Sherratt's 2015 tweet on departure from NLA showed a wall-mounted monitor displaying a real-time Trove performance dashboard. (Click on embedded tweet to see the whole monitor!)
And so this is it then... Time to leave @TroveAustralia. #unusuallycleandesk #sad pic.twitter.com/6pg823sBJM— Tim Sherratt (@wragge) December 23, 2015
Wouldn't NLA-Trove's analytics have improved since then? NLA's 2019-20 annual report noted: "The Library completed an Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund project that aligned the Library's operations with Australian Cyber Security Centre baseline guidelines, implemented an information security management system and enhanced its analysis and reporting capability."
In a further isolation of Trove content, after the April 2022 release, the Internet Archive (Wayback Machine) was unable to access Trove lists. (See screenshot. Click to enlarge.)
What were the other "few explanations" referred to in Ayres' interview?
She didn't say. But the most obvious candidate is users turning away from the "new Trove". That version brought a slower interface (crashing for some users). A further April 2022 update caused Trove to be unavailable on some older devices. One would expect these factors to adversely impact usage. But only NLA data can confirm.
However one monthly indicator provides a useful impression. A chart of newspaper text corrections (lines per day) shows a steady climb to a peak in May 2020 (4,250,557) – the last full month of "old Trove" – followed by an immediate decline, a smaller but persistent decline with the April 2022 release, and continuing to plateau at about 40% below the peak. (Source: Text correction hall of fame https://trove.nla.gov.au/landing/community/hallOfFame.) (See my graph. Click to enlarge.)
Text correction figures aren't completely reliable due to some user gaming for "hall of fame" ranking (e.g., "TheWorldsGreatestTroveCorrector". Also https://www.nla.gov.au/freedom-of-information-disclosure-log). One perhaps gets an insight by using figures from annual reports and taking a ratio of corrections to sessions. This shows a dramatic increase in the last two years. (See my chart. Click to enlarge.)
Is this due to increased user gaming, fewer non-correcting sessions? Only NLA data can confirm. The simple measure of dropping the Hall of Fame would remove the incentive for gaming.
A #FundTrove campaign (seemingly) developed after the pre-Christmas SMH-Age article, though the rapid response suggests it was already in the pipeline. Here I consider the conduct of the campaign and a question of ethics. Issues of the "leaked" NLA document and fact-checking have already been discussed above.
How did the campaign evolve? The day following the SMH-Age article, the Professional Historians Association (Victoria & Tasmania) moved to a war footing:
We're not gunna take it! Troops are rallying to keep Trove @nlagovau alive and well and expanding. @ProfHistAus @pha_nsw @phaqld @Historians_WA #historytribe https://t.co/R8E23NcWt4— Professional Historians Association (Vic & Tas) (@PHAVicTas) December 22, 2022
Less combative was the Australian Library and Information Association on 1 January: "The National Library of Australia (NLA) only has funding to run Trove until July 2023. Without further funding the Library will be unable to maintain Trove as the service we know and love. If that happens then people would no longer be able to use Trove to search the collections ... Trove is facing a funding crisis. This is why it is so important that we come together as a community to support Trove and advocate for the funding it needs to continue its work."
Petitions were organised, the most prominent being a parliamentary one on 26 January to "fully fund Trove".
Meanwhile some were waiting on the Government's imminently expected arts policy. "A new National Cultural Policy" was released on 9 February 2023. Some searched the document for "Trove" and were outraged at finding nothing. However it included the statement "The Government will continue to support our National Collecting Institutions to provide broad public access to their collections, including support for digitisation." The campaign rolled on the very next day.
A few industry and professional associations seemed to be acting, understandably, in their members' interests: money for a library and sources for historians. But not all were engaged and there were differing energies.
The campaign to save Trove is moving along and your advocacy team is working hard behind the scenes. Find the latest info on our website. A couple of images to remind you why we need Trove. https://t.co/7b1QBE8Z7x#SaveTrove @ProfHistAus @phaqld @pha_nsw @Historians_WA pic.twitter.com/vg923kg1wl— Professional Historians Association (Vic & Tas) (@PHAVicTas) February 11, 2023
The public was not well informed on the subject of NLA and Trove funding and I wonder how much the campaign organisers were. For most of the campaign there was a lack of awareness that more than 4 years previously NLA had introduced Trove Collaborative Services (TCS) as "cost recovery". Since then it had brought an average $3.8 million (extra above Commonwealth government) funding for Trove. It comes from Trove partners such as state libraries. (See chart of NLA income from TCS, government funding & other sources. Click to enlarge.)
In an information-poor context, public leveraging relied on the emotional. The campaign drew on Trove's "love" bank. The public lacked good information on the existing funding and how NLA had made use of it. There was misleading information about Trove performance (even quoted in petitions). The main parliamentary petition's "full funding" wasn't defined – who would and wouldn't be paying for what?
Given that context, one is justified in questioning the ethics of this campaign – in particular in enlisting support from a not well-informed public.
But what about #FundTrove 2016 (in which I participated)? Was there anything different?
And, yes, we're going to talk about "love".
Trove (at least on Twitter @TroveAustralia) often invites followers to declare their "love".
In earlier years I thought "I Love Trove" was a suitable slogan to increase awareness of a great new resource. I also saw Trove as transparent, welcoming to suggestions of improvement and responsive. At the time I almost felt like part of a wider Trove team; I felt too that "Trove Loved Us".
At the moment the relationship is out of balance. I'd rather we moved on from calling it "love". Trove is a system, a service, even a section in a government agency.
Now we can talk about money!
Finally, to discuss funding one needs to talk dollars. How much Trove funding does NLA receive and what form does it take? I didn't find any detailed breakdown of income and expenditure. Only broad figures seem publicly available. I deal individually with each source.
(Chart summarising annual Trove-related funding – see following notes for source descriptions. Click to enlarge.)
Commonwealth funding for National Library of Australia comes under one grab bag "Outcome 1: Enhanced learning, knowledge creation, enjoyment and understanding of Australian life and society by providing access to a national collection of library material". This is a single amount and includes Trove to an extent. However publicly available accounts don't identify Trove as a distinct cost centre. NLA's annual reports are also presented this way.
Under the Public Service Modernisation Fund, NLA was allocated an additional special purpose $16.4m over four years for critical infrastructure (including Trove) and digitisation. In the absence of other information I have spread this evenly in the chart over the four years. I note the 2017-18 NLA Annual Report indicates this funding increased that year, so the final figures may have been different.
For NLA, one purpose of the Public Service Modernisation Fund was to support "longer lead times and more gradual transition to new business models, which require Commonwealth, state and local agencies to invest in the Trove infrastructure". The resulting Trove Collaborative Services (TCS) commenced in 2018-19. (It was remodelled from the earlier "Digital Business project" which was not separately recorded in annual report accounts.)
On 26 June 2020, the day of launching "new Trove", the then minister announced "an additional $8 million in funding over the next two years to support the ongoing development of Trove."
What was the impact of the 2020 extra government funding on NLA's plan? Did it hinder transition to Trove Collaborative Services? Did it go mainly to extra digitisation? We don't know details, although the latest budget attributed "expand and deepen content in Trove" to this funding, suggesting digitisation may have been the emphasis.
NLA has probably become overly dependent on Trove for its "love" and perhaps funding. (See chart of Trove* mentions in annual reports. *Australian Newspapers digitisation/service pre-2010. Click to enlarge.)
From at least 2020 NLA-Trove has delivered an unsatisfactory public user interface and been opaque with performance. "Love" can be a shield against accountability (on issues such as functionality, discoverability and accessibility).
These are management issues, not funding ones. This is not solved by any specific quantum of taxpayer money, but more by a change of culture. It's all do-able.
The following select timeline focusses on Trove funding (and related performance). First is a summary timeline which just contains links to entries in the detail timeline. You click links of just scroll down. Emphasis in text is mine.
Quote/Comment: "Trove received the 2011 'Excellence in eGovernment' Award as the most outstanding government IT initiative across federal, state and local government from 62 nominations. Trove also won the award for the best initiative in the Service Delivery Category."
Source: Tim Sherratt
Quote/Comment: Features large monitor showing Trove performance dashboard.
Source: ABC Radio Canberra
Quote/Comment: Leaked NLA all-staff email. Trove not mentioned.
Source: Canberra Times
Quote/Comment: "The library will also cease aggregating content in Trove from museums and universities unless it is fully funded to do so." [State Libraries not covered by this limitation – separately funded.]
Source: Tim Sherratt
Quote/Comment: "... it's time for Trove to be appropriately funded. Not as an add-on, or a 'nice to have', but as key component in our cultural landscape ... So #fundTrove." [Sherratt was Trove manager up to December 2015.]
Quote/Comment: "The Library has been the sole funder of Trove's infrastructure since it began in 2009 and, as Trove's content and user bases grow, sustaining the service and keeping it vibrant and responsive to community expectations pose increasing challenges ... the success of this national digitisation project is a shared one; contributors such as libraries have funded 40 per cent of Trove's total digitised newspaper content ... The Library has severely curtailed its internal digitisation program and will focus on externally funded digitisation."
Source: Department of Finance
Quote/Comment: "Finance led the work to allocate the government's $500 million investment through the Public Service Modernisation Fund. Initiatives were announced in the 2017-18 Budget with funding allocated over three years."
Quote/Comment: "In the 2017-16 Mid Year Economic and Fiscal OutlookDecember, the Government announced $20.4 million from the Public Service Modernisation Fund to the National Library of Australia (NLA) and the Australian War Memorial: $16.4 million over four years from 2016-17 to the NLA for 'digitisation of material and upgrade of critical infrastructure for its Trove digital information resource and to upgrade other critical infrastructure'."
Quote/Comment: "[NLA] Council was therefore delighted that, in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook Statement of 2016-17, the Government announced that the Library would receive $16.4 million from the Public Service Modernisation Fund over four financial years. "This funding will assist the Library to invest further in its digital infrastructure, recommence digitising its collections, resume adding a broad array of library, research, museum and archive collections to Trove and enhance access to its own collections. The funding also supports longer lead times and more gradual transition to new business models, which require Commonwealth, state and local agencies to invest in the Trove infrastructure they use to enhance access to their own collections. "Council is mindful that this funding is both finite and for specific purposes, and maintains a close interest in the implementation of the Modernisation program. Council's focus is on maximising the business benefits of the funding while simultaneously planning to maintain the Library's capability when the funding concludes."
Quote/Comment: "The MYEFO of December 2016 provided '$16.4 million over four years from 2016-17 to the NLA for digitisation of material and upgrade of critical infrastructure for its Trove digital information resource and to upgrade other critical infrastructure': MYEFO, p. 140. The PBS for 2017-18 noted that $2.6 million 'will be used for the digitisation of library collection material and the upgrade of critical infrastructure': PBS, p. 196."
Quote/Comment: "Mindful that Modernisation funding is finite, Council is closely monitoring the development of new business models aimed at increasing co-investment in Trove from partner institutions."
"To ensure that Trove can continue to play a transformative role into the next decade, the Library commenced a multi-year work program to refresh the brand, improve the look and feel of the service, improve discoverability and strengthen Trove's capacity to connect Australians to local and national collections." (27)
Quote/Comment: "Trove Collaborative Services (previously known as the Digital Business project) is the new service model for Libraries Australia members and Trove partners. It aims to continue providing Libraries Australia services while extending the membership model to the Trove platform, which has assumed a central role in the library, research and cultural heritage sectors. In doing so, the Library is establishing a more collaborative and financially sustainable approach to Trove for all contributing organisations ...
"The Library is committed to maintaining free access to Trove for all Australians. The Library's Trove Collaborative Services initiative established a co-investment membership model which will support the Trove platform and other library services previously provided under Libraries Australia. The Library has put in place the governance and business model for Trove Collaborative Services and the first stage will commence in 2019-20."
"With sophisticated re-coding of metadata, collections are also accessible through four entrance points - via finding aids, the Library catalogue, Trove
or search engines - further enhancing discoverability." (21)
Quote/Comment: NLA promotes the launch of a new Trove version; notes "culmination of a four-year modernisation and digitisation project" and welcomes "announcement by the Federal Government that it will provide an additional $8 million in funding over the next two years to support the ongoing development of Trove."
Source: Responsible Minister
Quote/Comment: "The Morrison Government will provide an additional $8 million for the National Library of Australia over the next two years to support the ongoing development of Australia's digital heritage portal, Trove."
Source: Various authors
Quote/Comment: Trove sessions: 25.32 million. "A much larger collaboration, made possible through the Australian Government's $16.4 million Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, saw the Library's 1,000 Trove Partners participate actively in the first major refresh in Trove's 11-year history. The refreshed site was launched on 26 June 2020 by the Hon. Paul Fletcher MP, Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, who also announced a further $8 million in funding over two years to support ongoing development of Trove ... "The Library's philanthropic efforts to support its digitisation program have been assisted by Australian Government funding of $10 million over four years to digitise significant items from the national collection ... "The Library completed an Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund project that aligned the Library's operations with Australian Cyber Security Centre baseline guidelines, implemented an information security management system and enhanced its analysis and reporting capability. "The Trove Collaborative Services (TCS) funding model provides own-source revenue, and the Library aims to transition to a full cost-recovery program over time ... Revenue streams generated through the transition to the TCS model have met expectations to date. "As part of the 2016 Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, the Library was provided $16.4 million in funding over four years from the Public Service Modernisation Fund to support innovation, productivity improvements and efficiency. More than three-quarters of the funding was used to deliver: a significantly refreshed Trove website and branding; underlying digital infrastructure, including upgrades to the Library's cybersecurity capability; a new user management system; and a massive increase in available digital content ... Modernisation funding also allowed the Library to complete a critical and long-overdue upgrade to financial software,"
Source: David Coombe
Quote/Comment: 6 months into "new Trove" I asked NLA what performance figures it had. I also asked for some pretty standard figures. The request was still in someone's pending tray 2 years later and I blog posted this on 4/1/23. The support request disappeared from the system in the 8 weeks between the time of that post and the preparation of this article (28/2/23).
Trove support request RSref148794
Quote/Comment: Trove sessions: 17.9 million. "Session count was affected by redesign of the Trove website and Google re-indexing."
"A decrease in Australian usage of the Library's websites and other online engagements with the Library largely reflects a reduction in reported Trove usage, partly attributable to less automated traffic being recorded (such as search engine crawler bot activity) as well as a technical issue that meant that some content was not 'findable' through Google searches for part of the year. This issue has been remedied."
Quote/Comment: Trove sessions: 12.6 million. (No further explanation for drop.)
"It has enormous digital reach, with more than 22 million visitors a year from all parts of our society." (Chair's Report, 2)
"The Library continues to advocate strongly for investment to underpin its ongoing viability but is facing a funding shortfall from 1 July 2023 when several short-term government funding measures totalling approximately $14 million will lapse." (47)
Source: Canberra Times
Quote/Comment: [Source: my paper copy, p.12. Building matters are a side issue to Trove funding.] "Convenor of the Archives Liberation Front, Gideon Haigh, blamed decades of government neglect, incompetence and philistinism ... Professor Peter Stanley [said] 'The NLA's roof saga has gone on for years, unfixed by a library management which focuses on gathering e-clicks rather than supporting serious research. It is a scandal, incompetence at the library's highest levels.'"
Source: Arrow, Bongiorno (Sydney Morning Herald)
Quote/Comment: "Our national cultural institutions are threadbare, worn thin by decades of funding cuts, reductions in staff, and disintegrating buildings. They no longer have sufficient staffing and funds either to preserve, or to make accessible, the collections that they maintain on behalf of us all. Labor's introduction of so-called 'efficiency dividends' in the late 1980s laid the foundations for the present crisis, but the Coalition inflicted deeper funding cuts over the past decade ... This month, the National Library of Australia has announced that to undertake essential maintenance works on its roof, which was damaged by hail in early 2020, it will have to suspend access to all its special-collections materials - mainly unique manuscripts - for more than six months."
Source: ABC Radio Canberra
Quote/Comment: "Canberra's top museums and galleries say they cannot afford to fix their ageing buildings and are pleading for financial aid in next month's federal budget. An advocacy group representing the cultural institutions said about $800 million was needed to repair the facilities, which include places like the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) and the National Library of Australia (NLA). Katie Russell, the national director of the Australian Museums and Galleries Association, said the funding was needed urgently to undo a decade of 'utter neglect'... The library's director-general, Marie-Louise Ayres, said ... the library was unable to keep accommodating its growing collection or digitise its archives. Since 2017, the NLA had not received any funds for these archives, including the popular online service Trove, she said."
[The reported statement was incorrect. Ayre's review in the 2019-2020 annual report of funding of $16.4 million and $8 million over 6 years. The online article remains uncorrected even though in the follow-up interview Ayres said "until 2017 we hadn't had a single dollar"...]
Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20221008041910/https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-09-23/national-institutions-desperate-for-more-funds/101468894
Source: ABC Radio Canberra
Quote/Comment: NLA Director-General Marie-Louise Ayres in an interview with Ross Solly on ABC Radio Canberra on 23 September 2022. (Time in the recording noted.)
02:55 "And the fourth issue I would say is that, unlike many other parts of Government, until very recently there's been no or little funding for digital transformation of our services for citizens. So as your listeners would know, the National Library started digital services more than 20 years ago, including the beloved Trove, but until 2017 we hadn't had a single dollar to make that digital transformation happen."
Source: Sydney Morning Herald / The Age (Linda Morris)
Quote/Comment: "Federal funding for the National Library of Australia's digital resource, Trove, runs out in six months and without additional government support the popular archive could cease operations from next July. The beloved platform receives more than 22 million visits each year ... The National Library of Australia, the country's repository of the published word, is facing a $13 million or 21 per cent cut to its operations budget from July 2023 when federal budget support for Trove ends...
"An internal library document, seen by this masthead and prepared before the federal election, sets out three possible funding scenarios and their implications for the valuable digital resource accessed by researchers and genealogists across the country. In one scenario, the Library would cease providing the service if no dedicated long-term funding was allocated to Trove after June.
"Funding of between $7 to $10 million annually, would allow the Library to maintain its service with no improvements or expansion of its information pool. A more substantial funding injection of between $50 and $100 million could make Trove a world-leading platform within a relatively modest timeframe.
"A spokesperson for the library said it required ongoing funding. "The library council will consider all available options for Trove's future in the first half of 2023, when the government funding position beyond June 30, 2023 is clearer, they said. It has ruled out a pay-for-view scheme... 'We are in active discussions with government about funding required to maintain Trove and other library services. These negotiations are budget-in-confidence, and we will not be providing any further comment.'"
Source: Various authors
Source: ABC Radio National
Quote/Comment: NLA Director-General Marie-Louise Ayres in an interview with Sarah Dingle (ABCRN) on ABC Radio National on 23 Decembery 2022. (Time in the recording noted.)
5:29 ABCRN: I understand that one of the options you're looking at is getting rid of Trove. Is that correct?
Ayres: Well, look, we will be looking at every available avenue to maintain a service that's used by millions of Australians, so our National Library Council wil be considering all of those options in the first half of next year ... [but] without additional funding from Government the Trove we know and love simply cannot be sustained ...
ABCRN: So what will happen to all the stuff that you've already digitised in Trove, will you keep it, will you simply stop the public being able to access it, or will it all go?
Ayres: We certainly retain all our digitised and born-digital content. It's our job to make that accessible for the very long term and that means we have to preserve all of that content, so evern if we do have to wind back access to parts of that collection, the collection will not be lost ... Government is well aware of the issue and they also know how loved and how used Trove is ... We look forward to [the Government's National Cultural] policy coming out in January and we anticipate that the role of Australia's national cultural institutions will be a big part of that policy ...
Source: Jones, Verhoeven (The Conversation)
Quote/Comment: "... The service boasts more than 22 million visits per year ... Australia's national collecting institutions have been hobbled by funding cuts and debilitating efficiency dividends for decades, with the some of the deepest cuts occurring in the years since Trove was launched ... we might ask why Trove is yet again the part of the library that ends up terminal. There is no suggestion that without additional funding the library's catalogue will be shut down, or the shelves sold and the books kept on the floor, or the oral history collection deleted to save on server space..."
Source: David Coombe
Quote/Comment: 23/12/2022 11:57 @mikejones @bestqualitycrab Good questions. Fact check "boasts more than 22 million visits" - not any more - there's been a 50% usage decline (not commented on by NLA). Bad news ignored. Trove love (and now again fear) pumped up. I provide some numbers and look for informed debate on the future of Trove. NLA is not delivering. I think it needs an external review. (See my posts for some data.) #SaveTrove #FundTrove #TroveAU #NationalLibraryAU #Trove
Source: Australian Library and Information Association
Quote/Comment: "The risk. The National Library of Australia (NLA) only has funding to run Trove until July 2023. Without further funding the Library will be unable to maintain Trove as the service we know and love. If that happens then people would no longer be able to use Trove to search the collections ... Trove is facing a funding crisis. This is why it is so important that we come together as a community to support Trove and advocate for the funding it needs to continue its work." [Lists ways individuals could "help support Trove" including petition EN4747.]
Source: Coombe, Jones
Quote/Comment: In public social media exchange with @firstname.lastname@example.org (copy @email@example.com) in reference to The Conversation article.
2023-01-03 13:01 Coombe: @bestqualitycrab @mikejones Your article still has Trove usage figures badly wrong. It's not "more than 22 million" sessions annually. This metric is available in NLA annual reports and could have easily been fact checked. Released late October by NLA the latest figure is 12.6 million - a 50% crash in 2 years since the release of "new Trove". But no comment from NLA. I have no doubt political realism will see Trove further funded. What we also need is a review into NLA's recent management of Trove. I give actual usage figures and graphs in earlier posts. #TroveAU #NationalLibraryAU #ReviewTrove [screenshot annual report graphic]
Jones: @david_coombe_cbr @bestqualitycrab Hi David. Thank you for your comments on this, both when the article was published and again today. The NLA still claims this number in places, but I acknowledge that the way this figure is presented is potentially misleading and we should have been more careful. I have requested this sentence be edited to clarify this in the article, but The Conversation offices closed for Christmas shortly after our piece was published, and will not reopen until 10 Jan.
Coombe: @mikejones @bestqualitycrab What do you think about the real figures?
Jones: @david_coombe_cbr @bestqualitycrab They certainly warrant discussion but I would like to see more detail. There is mention in one annual report that the largest drop has been in international visitors, so I would want a breakdown. Also worth noting that e.g. the number of lines of text corrected has continued to rise so I want to know what people are doing there, not just how many - what are people engaging with and for how long?
Coombe: @mikejones @bestqualitycrab what do you know about the reliability of the text correction figures?
Jones: @david_coombe_cbr @bestqualitycrab I'm taking them at face value from the annual report. As noted, there is a discussion here worth having, but based on more detail than is currently publicly available. More broadly, I don't think any of this invalidates the argument we are making in our article. But I'm definitely curious about what lies behind all these numbers.
Coombe: @mikejones @bestqualitycrab the text correction stats are gamed and have been for years
Jones: @david_coombe_cbr @bestqualitycrab do you have evidence for that?
Coombe: @mikejones @bestqualitycrab yes
Coombe: @mikejones @bestqualitycrab The "lines of text corrected has continued to rise" because NLA publishes the cumulative figure. It will always rise.
Jones: @david_coombe_cbr @bestqualitycrab that being the case, it's interesting that the number of text corrections per year has only declined 15%. That is still a significant drop in the two years since the redesign, and is perhaps a more interesting decline to investigate as it speaks to a change in people's active engagement with a key feature of the platform.
Coombe: @mikejones @bestqualitycrab It depends of course on what periods you compare. May 2020 (last full month of old Trove) to May 2022 shows 37% decline, but as I've said, the figures are a bit rubbery due to some gaming of the system.
Jones: @david_coombe_cbr @bestqualitycrab where are you getting the month by month figures from?
Coombe: @mikejones @bestqualitycrab Monthly Trove stats available at: Text correction hall of fame - https://trove.nla.gov.au/landing/community/hallOfFame. Take with salt ;-)
2023-01-04 15:36 Jones: @david_coombe_cbr @bestqualitycrab thanks David, will take a look
Source: Jones, Verhoeven
Quote/Comment: This article observes "The '22 million visits' claim appears ... [in] the Chair's report that opens the NLA's 2021-2022 Annual Report" - an error I hadn't previously noticed. It quotes a paragraph from NLA's 2020-21 annual report (27) regarding the "Google problem" but omits the critical line immediately following: "This issue has been remedied."
"With so many variables involved, there's one publicly available figure that is potentially more interesting. Here are the number of lines of text corrected by Trove users shown alongside session/visit numbers." [I had corresponded publicly on social media with Mike Jones regarding Trove statistics, including that text correction counts were gamed. Interestingly the accompanying chart shows a deviation in trend between corrections and sessions. The deviation may in fact be due to user gaming of the statistics rather than increased efficiency of text correctors.]
Source: Mr Peter Symons, Principal Petitioner
Quote/Comment: "Currently, funding for Trove expires in July 2023 ... We therefore ask the House to fully fund Trove ..." [There is no further description of what full funding means.]
Source: Australian Government
Quote/Comment: "The Government will continue to support our National Collecting Institutions to provide broad public access to their collections, including support for digitisation."
Source: Professional Historians Association (Victoria & Tasmania)
Quote/Comment: [Member Peter Symons' change.org and parliamentary petitions.] "Professional Historians Australia supported by PHA (Vic & Tas) Advocacy Subcommittee is preparing a call to action for members to save Trove, stay tuned for further information in your inbox." Web site: https://www.phavic.org.au/news-items/2023/2/10/pha-vic-amp-tas-members-trove-petition-tabled-in-the-senate
Source: Professional Historians Australia
Quote/Comment: "The National Library of Australia (NLA) only has funding for Trove through to July 2023. Without further funding, NLA will no longer be able to maintain Trove and the service that we have come to rely on will cease. This will be a catastrophic loss that will have immeasurable consequences ..."
Source: Professional Historians Association (Victoria & Tasmania)
Quote/Comment: "Professional Historians Australia dispatched a Call to Action to members around the nation and encourage you to share with your networks, friends and family."
Source: ABC Radio National
Quote/Comment: NLA Director-General Marie-Louise Ayres in an interview with Julian Morrow (ABCRN) on ABC Radio National on 25 February 2023. (Time in the recording noted.)
06:15 ABCRN: ... the library is facing a funding shortfall from July this year because $14m worth of short term government funding lapses ... what was it used for?"
Ayres: ... maintain Trove ... digitisation ... essential building works ... it's not just Trove, it's everything we do ... has been underpinned by short-term funding over the last few years.
ABCRN: What is the Lbrary's funding mix? ...
Ayres: For example, libraries around Australia pay a membership fee to use library services underneath Trove - that brings between 3.5 and 4 million dollars of revenue in. We've always worked with partners ... other libraries and institutions who pay us to digitise content ... Ayres: To maintain Trove in its current form ... [requires] $10m per year - that's not to add more content in, its to keep the machines ... [and people] running ... So, baseline, around about $10m requirement on top of our partner funding ... 1
6:10 ABCRN: Marie-Louise, I was surprised, I must admit, to read that digital visits in the last reporting period were actually lower than in previous years - why is that?
Ayres: Yeah look, there's a few explanations but what I'll actually say Julian is that visits to our digital collections as such haven't actually dropped. So there's always statistics and statistics. One part of it is that Google appears to be indexing less of Trove's content than it used to. So, many people of course who find something in Trove don't start in Trove they start in Google. Look, I was by the shores of Lake George yesterday and we found a plaque about the death of a family in a boating accident in 1958 and of course my husband who's with me Googles about the accident. You know what's the first thing he's taken to? He's taken from Google to stories about about the death of those people in Trove. So making sure that we can get our content as much of it indexed by Google as possible is important but they're a big multinational company and even a national institution doesn't have a lot of sway with them so that's work in progress.
19:50 ABCRN: What's your relationship with the Treasurer like? ...
Ayres: Our relationship with Government is very cordial ... I have met with our minister, Tony Burke about our needs and I believe that our immediate needs at least are very well understood ...
David Coombe, original 3 March 2023, updated 9 Mar 2023 15:46. | text copyright (except where indicated)
CITE THIS: David Coombe, 2023, NLA Trove - Funding, Performance and #FundTrove Campaign, accessed dd mmm yyyy, <https://coombe.id.au/blog/TroveFundingAndMore.htm>