Outside funding pays for new Trove content after National Library cuts
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Outside funding pays for new Trove content after National Library cuts

Trove has relied on contributors to pay for the upload of new documents after National Library of Australia funding was cut in the middle of the year.

Museums, universities and galleries, whose content used to be aggregated through the service, have been asked to provide funding if they "wish to expose their collections through Trove" since July 1, the Department of Communications and the Arts told a Senate estimates committee.

The National Library of Australia is supporting Trove's existing infrastructure, but is relying on others to fund expansion of its collection.

The National Library of Australia is supporting Trove's existing infrastructure, but is relying on others to fund expansion of its collection.Credit:Jeffrey Chan

In answers provided to questions on notice from the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications, the department shed light on the effects of efficiency dividends to Canberra-based cultural institutions following the May budget.

In addition to a funding halt on digitisation of the collections, the National Library has closed reading rooms on all public holidays, stopped stack retrieval on Saturdays and curtailed the institution's trade publishing program.

The National Library funded more than 60 per cent of Trove's content, which numbered more than 521 million records in total as of December, from within its budget until the start of July.

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Since then, state and territory libraries and community organisations have been responsible for funding digitisation of new content for the collection.

The library continued to collaborate with the funding organisations to add to the Trove collection and funds its existing infrastructure, but stopped aggregating metadata from universities, museums, galleries, archives, historical societies and other organisations.

"The library ceased this activity on the basis that it is reasonable to seek membership or other fees from third party organisations benefiting from inclusion of their collections in Trove," the department's response said.

"The library ceased library-funded digitisation on the basis that contributor funding will ensure that content continues to grow."

The department still expected about 1.5 million new pages to be added to the collection by the end of the current financial year.

It said use of the service had not dropped, but resources were "not available" to evaluate the cultural impact of the funding changes to Trove.

Reductions of about $1.46 million in operating funding and $246,000 in capital funding are expected to be reached by 2019-20 through the efficiency dividend.

Trove's future was in doubt both before and after the federal budget this year amid the efficiency dividends and cuts to the National Library.

Funding became an election issue in mid-June, when Labor promised to invest $3 million every year for four years to guarantee Trove's future if it won the federal poll.

Canberra MP Gai Brodtmann said the cuts had forced the library to turn Trove "into a business that only preserves the stories of those who are able to pay for it".

"Cutting a national institution's budget hurts more than just the institution itself," she said.

"It impacts on the economy of Canberra, on the people of Canberra, and on the role of Canberra as the nation's capital and our national story."

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Elsewhere in Canberra, the National Gallery of Australia closed NGA Contemporary and two food and drink outlets due to the efficiency dividend.

At Old Parliament House, the research library, fellowships and summer scholarships to study Australian prime ministers has been discontinued, while the Australian Prime Ministers Centre has moved to an online-only format.