History and achievements

Over the past 45 years, NSLA has expanded from the State Librarians Council, with its initial focus on lobbying for funding, to an organisation supporting a wide range of collaborative initiatives, both between member libraries in Australia and New Zealand and with other organisations in the cultural sector.

July 2021

The National Library of New Zealand re-instated its membership from 1 July 2021. The 2021-2022 business plan will reflect a cross-Tasman focus.


At its November 2017 meeting, NSLA addressed its long-term business model with the approval of its Strategic Plan 2018-2020 and a re-shaping of its membership.

NSLA moved into its next phase with a focus on Australian constituents and stakeholders, recognised by a renaming to 'National and State Libraries Australia'. The strong bilateral relationship with the National Library of New Zealand continued to identify and address regional issues. 

Strategic plan 2020-2023

NSLA's current strategic plan focuses on three priorities:

  • shared digital systems for effective delivery of national collections and programs
  • strengthening community identity by ensuring that our collections reach and reflect the full diversity of our population
  • building cultural and intellectual capital by developing a strong evidence base for the library sector, and sharing our expertise as a trusted voice in national policy.

2006 – 2017

The first meeting of National and State Libraries Australasia was held at the State Library of Western Australia in September 2006. The following year, NSLA members announced their intention to increase their work together to accelerate change in their libraries, with particular emphasis on new digital services, processes and infrastructure. This announcement was The Big Bang: Creating the new library universe. It articulated key concepts that still resonate, including: digital is mainstream; no job will be unchanged; experimentation and risk are necessary; and some things we have always done, we will no longer do.

2015 – 2017 Leading Collaboration 

Leading Collaboration, NSLA’s plan for 2015-2017, focused on two strategies:

  1. Shared solutions – working together to maximise efficiency, innovation and sustainability
  2. Communication and influence – using our influence to remove barriers to access to collections, represent the rights of library users, and strengthen the library sector 

Achievements during Leading Collaboration included:

  • presenting a range of training programs, seminars and workshops to increase awareness and capability in NSLA libraries in areas including digital preservation; data management, use and analysis; digital forensics; eresources licensing; and, heritage collections
  • undertaking policy, business and governance planning, and technical scoping for a collaborative approach to legal deposit of digital materials in Australia, to be launched in 2019 as the National edeposit service (NED)
  • delivering the Right Wrongs digital production commemorating fifty years since the 1967 federal referendum on Indigenous citizenship, in partnership with the ABC and AIATSIS
  • launching a toolkit to support a case study approach to calculating the cost of copyright compliance and advocated for copyright reform
  • presenting Linked up, Loud and Literate, a series of seminars focusing on libraries' role in digital citizenship, and issued a strategy for dynamic collaboration between government and libraries to enable citizens to access and use increasingly online-only public services
  • delivering Born Digital 2016, a five-day media campaign that explored questions around collecting and preserving digital content
  • promoting collaboration in the library and GLAM sectors in Australia and New Zealand, including contributing to the development of a national GLAM digital access framework, toolkit and regional workshops
  • optimising standard data collection to monitor trends, benchmark, and improve visitor services 
  • establishing communities of practice in areas of strategic importance to share knowledge and insights, to build relationships between specialists in our network and to foster shared practice and innovation
  • providing submissions or comment to government inquiries and consultations on issues including copyright, the National Broadband Network, open government and national infrastructure.

2007 – 2014 Re-imagining Libraries

The Big Bang was reflected by NSLA’s Re-imagining Libraries strategic plans 2008-2011 and 2012-2016, which were built on three priorities: 

  1. one library
  2. accessible content
  3. enabling people. 

This strategic framework underpinned an effective and integrated collaboration involving hundreds of staff. Notable achievements during Re-imagining Libraries included:

  • creation of detailed tools to assess organisational capability for digital preservation and skills 
  • endorsement of policies and guidelines for working with Indigenous communities, supporting Indigenous language collections and partnerships, and working with culturally sensitive materials
  • development, launch and continuous improvement of the Trove national discovery service, led by the National Library of Australia
  • establishing the NSLA eResources Consortium for joint purchasing for subscription databases
  • submissions to more than 50 government and related inquiries on issues including copyright, digital access, heritage strategies, literacy, Indigenous information, and education
  • advancing the library sector through research, benchmarking and best practice projects for collection formats and specialist functions, including collection storage, community created content, online delivery, maps, large picture collections and archival collections
  • building community capacity through public seminars and specialist workshops on disaster preparedness for cultural organisations, digital collecting, heritage collections, valuing pictures and archives, information services, and the role of libraries in community learning.

1992 – 2006 Council of Australian State Libraries (CASL)

CASL provided a forum for cooperation for many projects. Notable successes include: 

  • Picture Australia, with its cross-sectoral partnerships involving archives, galleries and museums
  • the Australian Pictorial Thesaurus project
  • the Distributed National Collection agreement in 1993
  • the National Plan for Newspapers
  • Document Delivery pricing agreements
  • travelling exhibitions, especially those that were part of the Towards Federation 2001 program; 
  • national collecting level standards
  • CASL Consortium for the joint purchasing of online databases
  • the AskNow online virtual reference service. 

The National Library of New Zealand began attending CASL meetings as an observer in November 2003 and became a member in January 2005. To more closely reflect the membership of the organisation, CASL agreed on a new name: National and State Libraries Australasia. 

1990 – 1992 State Libraries Council

In 1990 the organisation changed its name to the State Libraries Council with an expanded membership that included the chief executives of the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory Library and Information Services, and the National Library of Australia. 

1973 – 1990 State Librarians Council

The State Librarians Council first met in March 1973 in response to a perceived need for a new peak body that would be more effective in lobbying for aid and consideration by the Commonwealth Government. The meeting included the state librarians from New South Wales, Western Australian, South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland and Victoria. The Northern Territory joined in 1980, ACT in 1987 and the National Library of Australia, first as an observer, and then a member, from 1986 onwards.