The National Library of Australia deserves better than this.
This is a backwards step that encourages a return to siloed, hard-to-find resources – not just for Australians, but for a growing worldwide cohort of supporters.
For the last year and a half, I was working to help support the collection and preservation of public policy research for a digital repository called Australian Policy Online (APO) based at Swinburne University of Technology.
The Australian National Innovation and Science Agenda is one of the many resources catalogued at APO. Being exposed to national agendas like this one has made me highly aware that a government that cannot support a significant service like Trove is not a government that supports innovation.
The National Innovation and Science Agenda states that innovation is:
…not just about new ideas, products and business models; innovation is also about creating a culture where we embrace risk, move quickly to back good ideas and learn from mistakes.
In December 2015 I was able to visit the Trove headquarters at the National Library of Australia. I got to see innovative projects being created with passion, dedication, and buckets of enthusiasm by a very small team more than willing to look outside the box when faced with inevitable digital challenges. Challenges that arise when you attempt to aggregate digital content from many disparate cultural sources and systems.
Tim Sherratt points to the value of Trove as being not just a portal, but a platform:
Portals are for visiting, platforms are for building on. All those hundreds of aggregated collections, all those millions of digitised newspaper articles are available in a form computers can understand via an API (Application Programming Interface). That means clever developers, innovative industries, hackers and tinkerers can take Trove’s data and BUILD NEW THINGS. BOOM! Ideas have to start somewhere, and Trove offers plenty to play with.
This lack of support from our political leadership signals a crisis for our nation’s knowledge workers. It will make access to information even harder for those in remote cities and towns, or those who are disadvantaged by social status. It will mean that some of our brightest minds who use the technical capabilities of Trove to improve society will be hampered.
If our government – our leaders – do not recognise the invaluable gateway to knowledge that Trove is, we must make some noise as cultural heroes and make them realise that knowledge is power, and those of us who can wield it will not go out without a fight.