For every $1 invested, special libraries return more than $5-worth of value to their organisation – and that’s a conservative estimate according to independent economists (SGS Economics and Planning).
Government libraries and their qualified staff provide an invaluable service which is often invisible to many senior executives. Yet the SES is familiar with evidence-based policy, decision-support, due diligence, mainstreaming of emerging issues, and the need for organisational efficiencies that are all enhanced and supported by services provided by a government library. Where libraries have senior executive visibility, the partnership can yield hugely beneficial outcomes across the whole Department.
The Australian Library and Information Association, CEO Sue McKerracher says “Not only are government libraries a notable asset for their Department staff, they also support digital transformation and assist with public access to information about government policy and services.”
In this context, it is good to hear from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Secretary Frances Adamson about the important work her library does and how it adds value to the Department in many vital ways.
Can you tell us about the department’s library and the role it plays in your organisation?
The Department of Foreign Affairs has had a library for many years. The library joined the Diplomatic Academy, the Department’s learning and development hub, in December 2017. This is an appropriate home given the important role the library plays in helping us broaden our understanding of the global community. Our library – as with all of Australia’s government libraries – is a trusted and important source of information. The library’s skilled information professionals certainly save us a great deal of time in information gathering. The library’s range of current and historical information is invaluable to our Department’s work in the international sphere.
What role does the library play in government policy making?
I believe the real strength of our library is in enhancing the capabilities of staff and supporting their role in providing accurate and timely information and advice to government. In turn, this helps inform our foreign policy and development assistance program. The contribution of the library to educate, provide evidence and to generate thinking about issues is highly valued across all facets of the Department’s work. And, of course, this is all driven and supported by experienced, professional librarians.
How has the service provided by government libraries changed over the years?
Of course, the biggest change has been with the move to digital information resources. The Department library was once a large space filled with shelves of books, journals and magazines in boxes. However, given the nature of our Department, with officers spread across the world, it was not always possible physically to visit the library and look for information on the shelf. The library space is much smaller now but just as effective. Having desktop access to the library’s digital information has been a real boon to staff across the Department, whether they be in Australia or abroad. The ability to access information from our desktops, irrespective of location, is very important.
How do you see the role of government libraries changing moving forward?
From my perspective, I think government libraries will always be a trusted source of information and research upon which we can rely. Libraries are drivers of thinking and reflection. Looking ahead, I see government libraries working more closely with different sections within a Department in a key partnership model. Government libraries are moving away from just being a repository of information to being an active participant across all facets of a Department’s work. Government libraries can also act as a bridge to bring different parts of a Department together through shared research and policy interests. This collaborative brokering becomes more important the larger a Department becomes.
Lastly, I think government libraries will play a much stronger role in a Department’s learning and development. As I said before, enhancing staff capabilities is an important function for government libraries. The Department library, being part of the Diplomatic Academy, is already providing a range of valuable services to the training and learning initiatives provided to all Department staff, and indeed, to the broader public service. In this way, the library becomes an active player in the global work of the Department in helping make Australia stronger, safer and more prosperous by promoting and protecting our interests and contributing to global stability and growth.
More examples of how special libraries are contributing to their organisations’ goals were published by the Australian Library and Information Association earlier this year and can be downloaded from the website.
For more information about government libraries, contact [email protected].