VALA Award for Crisis Response 2020

The joint recipients of the 2020 VALA Award for Crisis Response are:

  • State Library of New South Wales – The Diary Files


  • State Library Queensland – ANZAC Stories

VALA congratulates both recipients for their commendable nominations.

State Library of New South Wales – The Diary Files

COVID-19 presents the important challenge of recording the experiences of Australians across the span of the pandemic. The Diary Files, developed in partnership with ABC Radio Sydney, is a community driven platform, built by the State Library of NSW’s DX Lab to collect the stories, poems, lyrics, thoughts and reflections of the people of NSW and beyond. Designed to preserve the everyday experiences of Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Diary Files are intended to be preserved permanently and be accessed by future researchers looking back on the emotional impacts from 2020. The platform was built for anyone to access, with people asked to capture their thoughts around the strict isolation to the gradual easing of social distancing rules to the return to school and to where we are today.

Contributing writers from across Australia connected with each other through common experiences and attitudes. The Files provided a safe place for students, poets and writers who wanted to share their story of isolation, concern, home-schooling, song lyrics and poetry. With over 1000 diverse entries, from across the state, the platform proved to be a popular place for people to reach out, particularly young people. The Library built relationships with new audiences including in regional NSW and Western Sydney. The oldest writer was 102 and the youngest just 4 years old.

State Library Queensland – ANZAC Stories

ANZAC Stories was developed as an online response to commemorate ANZAC Day and to promote content available at State Library of Queensland when ANZAC Day events were cancelled due to COVID-19. The Library commissioned Alkira Software to develop a voice-activated application to allow Queenslanders to request a poppy be left on their behalf at ANZAC Square Memorial Galleries via their smartphone or device. The service also offered the opportunity to listen to The Last Post, stories of past and present serving members of the armed forces, from State Library’s collections, and observe a minute silence.

Developed in four weeks, ANZAC Stories responded to the inability for thousands of Queenslanders to commemorate those who served, and an opportunity to explore the potential for voice activation to be more than a simple transaction. People from all over Australia, as well as the USA, NZ and the UK requested poppies. The option to request an email with a photograph of ‘your poppy’ in the Memorial Galleries allowed the Library to connect with new users and engagement has continued post-ANZAC Day, reinvigorated as part of 75th Anniversary of Victory in the Pacific and Remembrance Day.



Representing VALA, Katie Haden presents the 2020 VALA Award for Crisis Response Award to Anna Raunik from SLQLD.




We wish to acknowledge some of the other institutions who submitted entries:

  • Eastern Regional Libraries Corporation – “Click for Home Delivery”

Providing an ongoing service that would lift community spirit in challenging times, Eastern Regional Libraries ‘Click for Home Delivery’ service utilised Australia Post and other services such as SupportPal and OptimoRoute to deliver books, DVDs and other items to its members homes. Achieving 80+ deliveries (almost 800 items) per van per day, ERL has managed to deliver over 70,000 items to members since April, giving staff a great sense of purpose and pride as they rose to the challenge of providing meaningful services to its communities whilst keeping members supported and connected.

  • Geelong Regional Library Corporation – Passion, Pivot, Platform

The Geelong Regional Library Corporation’s submission explored the GRLC response to the challenge of the COVID-19 crisis through implementing lean and quick investment in the technology scaffolding to enable working (and learning) from home, delivery of new services to the community and a more inclusive communications platform.

  • State Library Victoria – Think Tank Project

The Think Tank Project was an initiative to support 123 staff and 40 Library volunteers to engage with meaningful work from home during the long periods the Library was closed. Think Tanks Projects included State Library Victoria on Wikipedia, Image Metadata Updating, Trove Text Correction and Photographing the Pandemic. The diversity of work offered through the Think Tank projects kept staff and volunteers engaged with the Library, provided a distraction from life during the Pandemic and contributed significantly towards their wellbeing.

  • Yarra Plenty Regional Library – Caring Calls Project

The aims of Yarra Plenty Regional Library’s Caring Call Project were to provide senior members with access to their local community information, assistance to access YPRL resources at home, and, to reduce social isolation for this vulnerable group of people during the COVID-19 crisis. YPRL also wanted to maintain a connection to the library for this community group who are among its most regular visitors. YPRL staff called every library member over the age of 70 to check in amid Victoria’s COVID lockdown, making 7000 calls.