1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2004  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/02/2004   
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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 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, including e-publications, through purchase or voluntary deposit. The National Library's web site at <http://www.nla.gov.au> is a primary means of information service delivery for on-site and off-site users, both nationally and internationally. Libraries are increasingly making use of the Internet as a way of reducing geographic location as an inhibitor to gaining access to information.

Public Lending Right (PLR)

PLR is a cultural program of the Australian Government, which is administered by the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA). 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 15 countries operating a PLR program. Further information on this program can be obtained from the web site, <http://www.dcita.gov.au/lendingrights>.

Some 8,703 book creators and their publishers received PLR payments in 2002-03, totalling almost $6.3m. The PLR rates of payment under the current PLR scheme are $1.34 per copy of each eligible book for creators and 33.5 cents per copy of each eligible book for publishers.

The Educational Lending Right (ELR) program complements the PLR. ELR 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 lending libraries (including school, Technical and Further Education (TAFE) and university libraries) is used to determine payments. In 2002-03, some 7,594 book creators and publishers received ELR payments totalling $9.3m.

Library attendance

The 2002 Survey of Attendance at Selected Cultural Venues and Events provides data on people aged 18 years and over who attended a national, state or local government library at least once in the 12 months prior to interview. Table 12.9 shows that 42.1% of the Australian population aged 18 and over (almost 6.1 million people) attended one of these libraries at least once during the 12 months. 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. 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 NAA 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 paper, digital and audio-visual. The database 'RecordSearch' and many of the record keeping publications and reference guides are now on-line and can be accessed through the NAA web site at <http://www.naa.gov.au>. The NAA also maintains the 'Documenting a Democracy' web site, <http://www.foundingdocs.gov.au>, which presents the founding documents of democratic governments in Australia, and the 'Australia's Prime Ministers' web site, <http://www.primeministers.naa.gov.au>, which operates as a portal to archival institutions holding prime ministerial records.

In addition, each state and territory government maintains its own archives and provides for public access to records. Archives have also 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 the 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 'Archives of Australia' web site, <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.

Libraries and archives industry

An ABS survey of libraries and archives in respect of 1999-2000 showed that, 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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