We need your help! The National Library of Australia decided drastically to reduce its users' access to material on Asia and the wider world, by terminating collecting of material published outside Australia on Japan, Korea (North and South) and Mainland Southeast Asia and potentially also slashing collecting of material on China, Indonesia and the Pacific. From now on, the focus will be on material by Australia about Australians - too bad about the rest of world (see attached).
We need people who care about this to raise their voices urgently - even if (particularly if!) you are not an Asia specialist.
The National Library has one of the world's great collections of Asia-related material, carefully built up and curated over many decades. This sustains Australia's engagement with Asia. It is why our universities have been able to attract top ranking students and scholars of Asia from around the world, and been able to impart knowledge of Asia to the Australians who become public servants, diplomats, business people, journalists, school teachers and other professionals.
The Library's plan was drawn up with hardly any public consultation. Scholars of Asia got wind of it, and asked for further information, but were given only bland and uninformative bureaucratese. The Library's plan was then sent to the President of the Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, with a window of less that 2 weeks to provide a response. The letter from the Library's Director General made it clear that, although the ASAA's views would 'be communicated to the Council', the Library had already made up their minds and had no intention of being influenced by anything that was communicated to them. I attach the Library Council's rationale at the bottom of this email. They have apparently decided, without consultation, that 'our community' does not need to know much about Asia, and that countries like Japan, Korea and Vietnam do not figure in 'Australia's highest strategic interests'.
This drastic policy change needs to be seen in the context of situation where many Australian universities have severely cut back their Asia-relating collecting, arguing that users can rely on the National Library's collection instead.
If you, like me, are appalled, please sign this online petition - https://www.megaphone.org.au/petitions/petition-to-the-director-general-national-library-of-australia - and please urgently contact your member of parliament, and the following people:
1. Senator the Hon Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs, email email@example.com, tel. (02) 6277 7500
2. Senator the Hon Penny Wong, tel. (02) 6277 3874 email form - https://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Contact_Senator_or_Member?MPID=00AOU
3. Senator The Hon Linda Reynolds, Minister for Defence, (02) 6277 7800, email form https://www.lindareynolds.com.au/contact/
4. Any others you can think of. (Email followed by phone call works best).
Very many thanks for reading this message. I'd be very grateful if you could share these concerns with others. and thank you so much for your support!
Best wishes from
Emeritus Professor, ANU
PS The Library Council's rationale for slashing the Asia collections, as explained by the Library's Director General:
The Council "confirmed that they are unwilling to reduce any part of our Australian collecting to continue to support overseas collecting, that we must ensure our Australian collections reflect our community, that we must build a collection useful to and used by a wide cross-section of the audience, and that we must take Australia’s highest strategic interests into account when deciding what – if any – overseas collecting we can resource into the future."