By Vicki McDonald, State Librarian and CEO, State Library of Queensland
What a year to turn one.
This time last year, the National edeposit service (NED) was being officially launched in Canberra by the Hon. Paul Fletcher MP. It was rightly celebrated as a world-first collaboration between Australia’s national, state and territory libraries (the nine members of NSLA) to collect, preserve and provide access to Australian publications under legal deposit legislation.
Electronic publications deposited in NED can be big or small, professional, amateur, fiction, non-fiction, commercial, government or community-based. NED does not discriminate. It was built to ensure that current and future generations have access to our national digital documentary heritage – a collection that reflects the diversity of our population.
Twelve months on, we have seen the extraordinary result of 9,500 publishers depositing in NED to form a collection of over 120,400 publications for posterity. And we’ve only just begun.
The year that was
We could not have known one year ago how fortuitous was the timing for a completely online service, offering remote access for libraries, publishers and readers alike.
As our libraries have all grappled with sudden changes to business models, staffing, collection formats, and modes of delivery in response to Covid-19, NED has powered on, collecting a wide range of publications that already tell a rich and moving story of a year unlike any other in living memory.
In a short space of time between 2019 and 2020, Australians have endured a hellish bushfire season, months of smoke and storms, and finally a global pandemic that has completely disrupted our lives. There are stories of tragedy and of community cohesion in all of this. There are datasets, graphs and government reports, such as the Queensland Government’s Queensland Bushfires Review. There are photographs and artworks, essays and novels. There are community newsletters such as the Palm Island Voice, pictured above celebrating the election of a new council in April this year with Coronavirus response the first item on the agenda.
These publications are documented and preserved in NED.
Next steps for NED
Earlier this year, NSLA libraries celebrated the 100,000th deposit in NED – an edition of the Blue Mountains Gazette with the heading ‘Anzac isolation’. It told the story of veterans in New South Wales finding ways to participate in Anzac commemorations from their own homes.
Since then, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has forced a large number of regional newspapers to switch from paper-based publishing to digital-only. We are working hard right now to build better mechanisms in NED for media publishers who need to deposit electronic files in bulk on a regular basis.
This is one among a number of major service enhancements planned and underway to make sure that the NED service works as smoothly as possible for publishers. Through NED, NSLA libraries aim to help publishers to meet their legal deposit obligations with the minimum possible effort, while providing more equitable access to publications across Australia according to publisher-nominated conditions, and doing the work of digital preservation in the long term.
The publications collected in NED in its very first year illustrate powerfully the reason for its existence. The Australian story is itself made up of thousands of stories, millions of voices recorded in countless ways. These are stories that we will need to visit and revisit, now and for generations to come, if we are to understand who we are and where we are going.
We must collect our digital heritage even as we are creating it.