The National Library is embarking on a major staff restructure, with the Asian Collections Reading Room set to close and overseas collecting reduced.
There will be no reduction in jobs under the restructure, but Director-General of the library Marie-Louise Ayres didn't say how many existing roles would be changed and if more contractors would be brought in.
The library's average staffing level cap has been slashed by about 50 people over the past six years, and its budget has been felt the strain of continual efficiency dividends.
Dr Ayres wouldn't confirm if the restructure was related to cuts under the efficiency dividend, but said the library had managed its finances well.
"However, ongoing financial sustainability for the library is a challenge. The library's digital innovation-combined with its need to care for a heritage building and provision of new physical storage facilities-will draw heavily on future budgets.
"It's been 20 years since there was a significant restructure at the National Library," Dr Ayres said.
"Today, the library is looking at how to allocate its resources across the many facets of its business to deliver national services that create maximum value for the Australian people."
Dr Ayes said the library needed to redesign the way work is organised to reflect the changing operating environment.
"While the library's mission has long been to collect, connect and collaborate, the ways in which we have carried out that mission have changed dramatically.
"The digital era has seen creative and research practices, knowledge production and community expectations fundamentally reshaped through the opportunities new technologies offer."
While it is unclear exactly how roles will be changed, the library does intend to reduce overseas collecting, but will maintain a focus on Indonesia, China and the Pacific.
Dr Ayres confirmed the Asian Reading Room would close, continuing "reading room consolidations" over the past 10 years, but said it wasn't decided when this would happen.
"Access to Asian collections and specialised reference staff will continue, but will move to the Main Reading Room and Special Collections Reading Room as is the case for all other special collections - Manuscripts, Oral History, Maps, Rare Books and Music," Dr Ayres said.
"As a result, this will extend the hours of service available to users of the Asian collections."
Staff are being consulted over the changes, for which there is no set timeline and the details of which haven't been finalised. Dr Ayres said she expected the new structure would be put in place in the first half of 2020.
While the library hasn't publicly acknowledged the role of funding cuts in the current plans, the institution has had to contend with increasing demands to digitise its collection and upkeep of the heritage building. Extra funding allocations from the government have been tied to specific projects.
Professor Edward Aspinall, from the Australian National University and president of the Asian Studies Association of Australia, said the prospect of the restructure was worrying.
"We're very fearful that this precious history provided by the foresight and planning of past generations will be undermined as a result of the budget restraint that the library experiences."
Professor Aspinall said the library risked its collections degrading in quality and usefulness for scholars of Asia.
"We fear that these wonderful collections, particularly those from Japan and Korea and mainland southeast Asian countries like Myanmar and Thailand will simply become stale.
"There's no suggestion the library will discard existing collections, but to be useful it needs to be a living thing and continually kept updated and supported by staff with the specialist language skills to understand the collections and guide readers to the source they're seeking."