1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2005  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 21/01/2005   
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Contents >> Culture and recreation >> Libraries and archives


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

The National Library of Australia (NLA) is the country's largest reference library. The NLA's role is to ensure that documentary resources of national significance relating to Australia and the Australian people, as well as significant non-Australian library materials, are collected, preserved and made accessible either through the Library itself or through collaborative arrangements with other libraries and information providers.

Libraries are increasingly making use of the Internet as a way of enhancing access to information, and the National Library's web site at <http://www.nla.gov.au> is an example of this principle at work. It provides on-line visitors with access to information about more than 5,400 Australian libraries, their collections and services via the Australian Libraries Gateway at <http://www.nla.gov.au/libraries>. Over 1,500 of these libraries are public libraries, mainly operated by local governments. Others include school and university libraries, parliamentary libraries, corporate or business libraries, family history libraries and subject-specific libraries.

Public Lending Right (PLR)

PLR is a cultural program of the Australian Government, first established in 1974 and currently 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. PLR also supports the enrichment of Australian culture by encouraging the growth and development of Australian writing and publishing. Australia is one of 20 countries operating a PLR program.

Some 8,737 book creators and publishers received PLR payments in 2003-04, totalling about $6.5m. The rates of payment under the current PLR scheme are $1.37 per copy of each eligible book for creators and 34.25 cents per copy of each eligible book for publishers.

The Educational Lending Right (ELR) program complements the PLR. ELR came into effect under the Australian Government's Book Industry Assistance Plan in 2000-01, and the program was recently extended to continue until at least 2007-08. An annual survey of the book stock of a representative sample of educational lending libraries (including school, technical and further education (TAFE), and university libraries) is used to determine payments. In 2003-04, some 8,285 book creators and publishers received ELR payments totalling about $10.2m.

Further information on these two programs can be obtained from the web site, <http://www.dcita.gov.au> under the heading 'Grants and Funding'.

Library attendance

The 2002 Survey of Attendance at Selected Cultural Venues and Events, which provides data on people who visited a national, state or local government library, found 42.1% of the persons aged 18 years and over (almost 6.1 million people) attended a library at least once in the 12 months prior to interview (table 12.7). In 1999 the adult attendance rate was 36.8% (5.2 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 2002.
(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 and Events, Australia, 2002 (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.

The National Archives of Australia (NAA) is the organisation which promotes reliable record keeping and maintains a visible and accessible archival collection on behalf of the Australian Government. There are NAA offices and reading rooms in all states and territories, and their national headquarters in Canberra features various public exhibitions such as the Federation Gallery, where Australia's original 'birth certificates', including the Constitution and Queen Victoria's Royal Commission of Assent, are on display.

Archives, as is the case with libraries, are increasingly making use of the Internet to provide access to their records. The 'Archives of Australia' web site, at <http://www.archivenet.gov.au>, provides information about archives in Australia and operates as a portal to the web sites of other Australian archival institutions. These include: the Australian War Memorial, which collects private material concerning Australians at war, and is the custodian of official Commonwealth records relating to war or war-like operations; ScreenSound Australia (which was integrated with the Australian Film Commission in July 2003) which collects cultural material relevant to film and sound media; state and territory government archives; and archives established by churches, business corporations, universities and city councils.

Libraries and archives industry

An ABS survey of public libraries and archives in respect of 1999-2000 showed at the end of June 2000 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.

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