1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2003  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/01/2003   
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Contents >> Culture and Recreation >> Libraries and archives


The main activities of libraries are the acquisition, collection, organisation, conservation and loan of library materials such as books, magazines, manuscripts, musical scores, maps and prints.

The National Library of Australia is Australia's largest library. It was established as a separate entity in 1960 by the National Library Act 1960 (Cwlth). This library, which was formerly known as the Commonwealth National Library, grew out of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library which was established in 1901. The National Library builds and maintains a national collection of Australian library materials and provides an effective gateway to national and international sources of information. It acquires Australian printed material (monographs, serials, maps, music, photographs and pictures), using the legal deposit provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 (Cwlth), and other formats and materials, through purchase or voluntary deposit. In recent years the National Library's web site has become a primary means of information service delivery for both on-site and off-site users.

Public Lending Right (PLR)

PLR is a cultural program of the Commonwealth Government which is administered by the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. It makes payments to eligible Australian book creators and publishers on the basis that income is lost from the availability of their books for loan in public lending libraries. It also supports the enrichment of Australian culture by encouraging the growth and development of Australian writing and publishing. Australia is one of 15 countries operating a PLR program.

Some 8,500 book creators and their publishers received PLR payments in 2001-02, totalling almost $5.9m. The PLR rates of payment under the current PLR scheme are $1.30 per copy of each eligible book for creators and 32.5 cents per copy of each eligible book for publishers.

A complement of the PLR is the Educational Lending Right (ELR) program. This came into effect under the Commonwealth Government's Book Industry Assistance Plan, which was funded from 2000-01 to 2003-04. An annual survey of the book stock of a representative sample of educational libraries (including school, Technical and Further Education (TAFE) and university libraries) is used to determine payments. In 2001-02, some 6,890 book creators and publishers received ELR payments totalling $8.37m.

Library attendance

The 1999 Survey of Attendance at Selected Cultural and Sporting Events and Venues provides data on persons aged 15 years and over who attended a national, state or local government library at least once in the 12 months prior to interview in April 1999. Table 12.9 shows that 38.1% of the Australian population aged 15 and over (almost 5.7 million people) attended one of these libraries at least once during the 12 months. In 1995 the attendance rate was 38.4% (5.4 million people).


Attendance rate(c)

Age group (years)
65 and over
Main English-speaking countries
Other countries

(a) Attendance at least once in the 12 months prior to interview in April 1999.
(b) National, state or local government library only.
(c) The number of people who attended, expressed as a percentage of the number of people in that population group.

Source: Attendance at Selected Cultural Venues, Australia, April 1999 (4114.0).


The primary function of archives is the permanent preservation of records which are unique because of their administrative, financial, legal, research, cultural or other information value. The records are generally no longer required for the conduct of current activities by government agencies, non-government organisations or individuals. While much archival work is an adjunct to other activity, a growing number of archival bodies employ specialist staff to serve the legal, administrative and research needs of individuals and organisations and are funded by governments and private sources.

The National Archives of Australia (NAA) is the Commonwealth organisation which promotes reliable record keeping and maintains a visible, accessible and known archival collection, in the interests of accountable government and for the benefit of the community. There are NAA offices and reading rooms in all states and territories. The national headquarters in Canberra also houses the Treasures Gallery, the Exhibitions Gallery and the Federation Gallery. Constructed as part of the Centenary of Federation in 2001, the Federation Gallery houses Australia's original 'birth certificates' including the Constitution and Queen Victoria's Royal Commission of Assent. The National Archives administers the legislative framework for Commonwealth records management (including arrangements for the disposal of records), maintains information systems, provides appropriate custody and preservation arrangements (including archival storage) and makes records available under the relevant legislation. Records covered by the Archives Act 1983 (Cwlth) occur in all formats including files, index cards, architectural models, photographs, films, video tapes and electronic media. The National Archives curates touring exhibitions, produces publications based on its collections, and presents education and events programs. The database 'RecordSearch' and many of the record keeping publications and reference guides are now online. The National Archives also maintains the 'Documenting a Democracy' web site which presents the founding documents of democratic governments in Australia.

In addition, each state and territory government maintains its own archives and provides for public access to records, and archives have been established by some churches, business corporations, universities and city councils. The Australian War Memorial collects private material concerning Australians at war, and it is also custodian of certain official Commonwealth records relating to war or warlike operations. ScreenSound Australia collects cultural material relevant to the film and sound media. Other corporate and private records continue to be collected by some state archives offices, libraries and universities.

The National Archives maintains a web site entitled 'Archives of Australia', which provides information about archives in Australia and operates as a portal to the web sites of other Australian archival institutions.

Libraries and archives industry

An ABS survey of libraries and archives in respect of 1999-2000 showed that there were 505 local government library organisations with 1,510 library locations, eight national and state library organisations with 26 locations, and eight national and state archive organisations with 27 locations. The libraries held 54.3 million books and other library materials at the end of June 2000, of which 36.4 million were available as lending stock. The total income of the industry in 1999-2000 was $792m, with government funding accounting for 91% ($725m) of the total. For additional information on the libraries industry, see Service industries.

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