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The Libraries Board’s leadership and support for the public library network and the State Library continues to see a period of both maintaining current services while also continuing to grow the digital parts of the libraries’ service offerings. 

As custodians of our state’s stories the State Library provides access to unique physical and digital collections, services and public spaces.

Over the past year the Library has continued to grow its physical and digital collections to capture contemporary South Australian stories that can be shared with the community in the future.  Collecting highlights during the year include the acquisition of a significant amount of new material for our existing Holden collection following the closure of the company’s premises at Elizabeth in 2017.  This material will be processed in the coming years with a view to celebrating the South Australian Holden story through a future exhibition.  Another major acquisition in 2019 was the Scott Hicks archive, an extraordinary record of the life and work of one of the most important Australian filmmakers over the last forty years.

The State Library’s engagement activities included the highly successful exhibition, ‘Heroes of the Skies: The Smith brothers and the Great Air Race of 1919’ which shared the amazing story of the England to Australia air race which was won by two of South Australia’s favourite sons, Captain Ross Smith and Lieutenant Keith Smith.  In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Library launched a campaign called Remember my story – COVID-19’, an initiative to collect contemporary material that captures the impact that the pandemic is having on South Australian public life both socially and formally.

The digitised South Australian newspapers made available through the National Library's Trove service reached a major milestone this year with over 50 million page views since the initiative began 10 years ago.  Along with The Advertiser, other popular papers include the Border Watch, Recorder (Port Pirie) and Burra Record.

With funding from the Libraries Board, the State Library procured a Digital Preservation System that will enable our rapidly growing digital collections to be securely preserved for future generations.  The Library’s digital collections consist of over 150 terabytes and includes over 300,000 digitised photographs, oral histories, early South Australian film and video material as well as material on many other forms of media.  All of this content will now be safely transferred to the system to ensure that it will continue to be available in future years. 

The Board provides significant leadership and support for the State’s Public Library Network. Over the last year it supported the delivery of several key reports on the value and importance of public libraries in their local communities.  The Answer is Libraries; the value of public libraries in SA provides an independent analysis of the economic benefits of public libraries.  The research established that the net community benefit of public libraries in South Australia is estimated at $163M. This equates to $95 per capita per year in net community benefits and also means that for every dollar invested in public libraries, $2.80 of benefits are generated for the South Australian community.

An assessment of service quality, benefits and satisfaction with community libraries in SA, established that library attendance provides a range of important benefits to users.  These include enjoyment, wellbeing, connection with community, economic support (through library operating expenditure) and community learning. 

These reports identified the library as a critical nexus in the community, a hub of social and personal connection and growth that plays a key role in community capital and wellbeing.

During the COVID-19 closure of public libraries (March to May) the State-wide OneCard network provided ongoing access for library users.  Although physical collection loans were down by 57% during the period of library closure due to COVID-19, the Network’s Digital Library loans increased significantly which resulted in an overall increase of 1% of total loans during this period, rather than a decline as experienced by other interstate library services.

I commend the Director and his staff on a year of significant achievement.

Bruce Linn AM

Libraries Board of South Australia