The NLA is preparing to abolish its 2016 curatorial mission in favour of one that is more directly focused on Australia and the Pacific and singles out China and (in a more limited capacity) Indonesia for continued curatorial support. While the move is presumably aimed at managing the negative pressure from its ever-dwindling funds, the NLA’s senior management has more or less sidelined the academic community in its drastic move.
The move does not bode well for the NLA’s future importance to Asian studies. To truly understand, for example, China’s role in regional matters without access to materials from (among others) Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, is impossible. And while the library still holds an extensive collection of materials on, for example, Japan’s colonial rule, North Korea, and the arts — the library’s value to Korean Studies as a whole is now in risk of diminishing fast. While it continues to subscribe to a number of digital Korean resources, they are very limited in scope. In order to guarantee the best possible digital databases are selected to sustain the competitiveness of Australia’s research, consultation with regional specialists and peer institutes domestically and abroad is vital. The KSAA would be very keen to provide a list of preferred databases, one that we would hope would be reviewed periodically in consultation.
As President of the KSAA, I have formally endorsed a letter outlining our concerns by Prof. Ed Aspinall, the President of the ASAA, sent to the NLA on 22 May. If you wish to also express your concern for the future of this important institution to Korean Studies, please sign the petition here.