Marie-Louise Ayres, National Library of Australia
Trove is an embedded part of the Australian information and culture landscapes. Described as indispensable, transformative and revolutionary, Trove has moved from experimental project to ongoing service with a rapidly growing content and user base. Independent and National Library of Australia research is yielding new insights into Trove’s role in generating new knowledge, fostering social inclusion, and in developing communities of interest.
However, our understanding of how Trove fits into the international cultural collections discovery service landscape is less developed. While Trove has undoubtedly led this field, it is by no means alone. In the last six years, comparable national or trans-national services have emerged including Europeana, DigitalNZ, and the Digital Public Library of America.
None of these services are exact analogues of Trove, and this paper will draw out the similarities, differences and overlaps across a number of domains: mission; content; service; user engagement; governance; and supporting business models.
Based on the knowledge developed over five years of developing and maintaining Trove, a literature search and interviews with the leaders of Trove’s ‘sibling’ services, this paper will critically examine the service’s different partnership and business models, and consider the ways in which those individual differences reflect divergent policy and social contexts.
The paper will extend beyond this analysis to ask what social, economic and policy contexts – what community values – influenced the scope, shape and flavor of each of these services. What national and trans-national identities are being invoked or modified through these services?
What government, community or private mandates generated and facilitated their development? What conditions favoured or hindered development or may do so in the future?
What are the likely future impacts of the business models underlying each service, with their varying levels of public and private funding? What do these similarities and differences mean in terms of shared directions for work across the portals? Will there be further convergence of purpose and approach? Is it possible that global topics of interest, such as climate change and the movement of peoples across the globe will stimulate cross-portal work?
This paper addresses a ‘big discovery issue’, by exploring the ways in which the framing of discovery ‘problems’ and ‘solutions’ is heavily influenced by local social, policy, political, cultural and professional factors. Discovery services are like any other cultural assemblage – inevitably shaped by the environments in which they arise. Understanding these differences is essential as the profession moves beyond national to transnational data sharing relationships.
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