Overseas, Asian and Pacific collecting

Overseas, Asian and Pacific collecting - Foreword

The National Library of Australia’s overseas collections have been built over many years and make up approximately half of the Library’s total print collection. The Library’s Strategic Directions 2012-14 statement reaffirms the Library’s commitment to continue to “inform Australians about their region and their place in the world through our Asian and other overseas collections.” More broadly, the Library’s strategic direction is to improve the discoverability and accessibility of its collections for all Australians.

The Library’s revised collection development policy for overseas, Asian and Pacific collecting reflects these strategic priorities. As set out in the policy, its overarching principle will be to prefer digital format over print, wherever digital formats are available. The shift to digital form has been under way for some time and reflects our users’ overwhelming preference for the immediate access it affords them to the collection, wherever they may be located.

The Library’s commitment to its Asian and Pacific collections has not changed under the new policy and collecting will continue from and about the countries of the region. Other overseas collecting will be more selective in future and will focus on the Library’s collecting areas of interest: very broadly, the historical, cultural and social aspects of Australia, its development as a nation and its place in the Asia-Pacific region and the wider world. There are a number of reasons for the Library’s greater selectivity in overseas collecting. These include the wide availability of information online that was previously only accessible in libraries, the opportunity to use collaborative networks to provide access to collections, and the need to reduce costs and maintain the overseas acquisitions program within the level of resources available.

The National Library’s overseas and Asia-Pacific collections are a rich national resource for research and study. Our future collecting programs will seek to build a collection that remains relevant and necessary in an era of unparalleled access to information. I believe that the Library’s collections will continue to enable Australians to understand their place in the Asia-Pacific region and the world in the past, present and future.

Anne-Marie Schwirtlich

Director-General

February 2013

Overseas, Asian and Pacific collecting - Introduction

The National Library’s overseas, Asian and Pacific collections make up more than half of its total print holdings. Overseas, Asian and Pacific collecting is an integral part of the Library’s overall national collecting program. The aim of collecting is to build a collection that supports research in subject areas of interest, particularly Australian studies, the study of Asia and the Pacific and selected subjects within the social sciences and humanities.

This policy outlines the principles and general collecting strategy for the Library’s overseas, Asian and Pacific collections.  The Library’s overseas collecting program has historically focused on collecting from non-Asian and Pacific countries such as the US, UK and Europe.  Asian and Pacific collecting has focused on the countries of East Asia, South and Southeast Asia and the Pacific region.

This policy replaces the collection development policy for the overseas and Asian collections published in 2008 as part of the Library’s Collection Development Policy.

Overseas, Asian and Pacific collecting - Collecting in context

The Library’s strategic directions highlight its aim to make the collections more accessible to Australians, wherever they are. The Library will over the next several years transition its overseas collecting program from print to digital form wherever possible, enabling faster and easier access for users. The overwhelming preference of users for digital access and the availability of key resources in digital form enable the Library to make this move and it will be a key principle of future overseas and Asian collecting.  For collecting areas where publishing is not yet in digital form, such as some countries of Asia and the Pacific, print acquisitions will continue.

The background to this move is the great change evident in the print and online publishing world. The web offers a huge diversity of freely available information sources. The early printed collections of the world’s great libraries have been digitised and many are freely accessible in open access archives. At the same time, commercial and academic publishing is transitioning to a largely digital environment with the advent of e-book publishing and the consolidation of e-journal publishing. Collections such as these are far more accessible to the Library’s users than its print holdings. The Library will seek flexible license conditions for its registered users that permit access to digital resources both on- and off-site.

Cost is a factor when building the Library’s collections, regardless of format or subject. Academic publishing continues to increase in quantity and price. Publisher and vendor purchasing models for e-journal and e-book packages are often highly priced with controlled digital rights regimes. These publishing and purchasing models place pressure on the Library’s collection budgets. Future collecting will take into account the purchase cost of acquisitions and the staff resources required to manage the collections.

The greatest strengths of the Library’s collections are, broadly, the social sciences, history, politics and society, with a particular emphasis on these topics in the countries of Asia and the Pacific.  These subject areas will continue to define collecting in the future and are described further in section 6 below. The general commitment to the Library’s Asian and Pacific collecting will not diminish, but other overseas collecting will be more selective in future. There are a number of reasons for this. These include the wide availability of information online, the costs of maintaining an overseas acquisitions program and the opportunity to use collaborative networks to build collections.

Overseas, Asian and Pacific collecting - General direction of collecting

The Library’s future overseas, Asian and Pacific collecting program will seek to build a collection that remains relevant and necessary in an era of unparalleled access to information.  There will be a focus on resources that underpin research and contribute to the research process.  The Library takes a broad view of what ‘research’ is for its many users. The world of academic research, for example, includes not only single discipline-based research but multidisciplinary research and problem- or issues-based study. Family history research makes up a sizeable proportion of the in-depth use of the Library’s historical collections. There are also Library users who find what they need from the Library’s eresource databases or from free web resources and do not seek in-depth interaction with the collections. Library collecting will take these diverse needs into account.

Creating a collection that remains relevant and necessary to research will require the Library to hold collections with an element of ‘specialness’, not available elsewhere.  This collecting direction is most relevant in priority collecting areas where there is existing strength, such as contextual works on Australia’s history and development, or resources relating to the Asia Pacific region.  Publications collected will include the documentary and primary source publishing that is already a strong feature of the Library collections. 

Within the scope of the Library’s overall geographic and subject collecting priorities, this collecting will include, where available, published sources across all formats such as maps, newspapers, official publications, statistics, reference works, electoral data, contemporary accounts, pictorial works, music, personal narratives, ephemera and websites. These materials are the building blocks of research and will enable the Library to create a collection that remains useful for research in years to come.

Overseas, Asian and Pacific collecting - Collecting scope and principles

The scope of overseas and Asian collecting covers monographs, maps, serials and newspapers as core content, whether in digital, print or microform format. Collecting for some Asian countries may also include multimedia, pictorial works, ephemera and websites, acquired on a selective basis.

By ‘collecting’ or ‘acquiring’ is meant a deliberate decision to obtain a copy of an item for the Library’s collection or to provide access to content hosted on a website, such as aggregated ejournals, commercial ebooks or freely available online content. Either way, the collected content is described by a Library catalogue record for the item or groups of items.

All collecting whether purchased, free or donated content will be guided by the Overseas Collecting Policy and matched to the level of resources available.

Digital format will be preferred whenever it is available and where it meets the Library’s core criteria for access to digital content. The Library’s principles for access to digital content are described in further detail below. Access to the print collections remains unchanged.

4.1. Principles for access to ebooks and monographic e-resources

Ebooks and monographic e-resources (such as collections of digitised books) will generally be acquired as Library assets and made available indefinitely.  The Library will accept vendor permanent access arrangements to achieve this or, with the appropriate permissions, archive content in its own system.

Remote access to ebooks will be provided wherever possible for registered Library users within Australia. Ebook content will be downloadable to user devices where the Library has permission to allow this. In acquiring new ebook content, open ebook standards such as EPUB will be preferred.

Gratis ebooks made freely available on the web that are required for the collection will be collected and archived with the permission of the publisher or copyright holder when they can be located.  Where the work is deemed to be an orphan work, the Library will take a risk management approach and may opt to acquire the item without permission. The Library will generally not link to a website in lieu of acquiring a gratis ebook.

4.2 Principles for access to e-journals

The Library will seek to provide access to journals in digital form rather than print. Where a journal is available in both print and digital format, digital access will be preferred to a print subscription. E-journals will be purchased either by direct subscription for single titles, through a vendor or as part of an aggregated journal article database. The Library will seek to avoid excessive title duplication between different aggregated journal article databases.

Print journal titles will only be acquired where there is no digital access alternative and where the content is deemed high priority, such as titles relating to Australia or published in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Library does not commit to providing perpetual access to current e-journal content.

4.3 Principles for access to newspapers

The Library will seek to provide access to overseas newspapers in digital form. Print or microform newspapers will only be acquired where there is no digital access alternative and where the content is deemed high priority, such as Asia-Pacific newspapers.

Newspapers made available in digital form will fall into two broad categories. A number of current world newspaper titles will be made available for immediate consumption as sources of news but will not be collected as archival sources for research. No commitment is made to maintaining perpetual access to these titles.

Some overseas newspapers will be collected and retained as primary sources for research. These titles will relate to high priority countries such as Asia and the Pacific or cover historical periods or collecting areas of interest.

Where a newspaper title is in a high priority collecting area it will be provided in a full page format, whether in digital, microform or print. The availability of selected newspaper content in an article database is not considered to be a full page replica.

Where multiple versions of a high priority newspaper in page replica format are available, the Library will commit to permanent retention of at least one of them. Priority will be given to first digital, then microform and lastly print versions of newspapers, depending on availability and cost.  The Library will not maintain duplicate holdings of page replica newspaper formats.

4.4 Principles for access to websites

The Library will archive a very small number of websites in collecting areas of interest, chiefly Asia-Pacific-related topics. They will be gathered as curated collections on topical themes. They will be archived either through a third party provider or using the Library’s system.

Overseas, Asian and Pacific collecting - Overseas collecting (excluding Asia and the Pacific)

The Library’s overseas (non-Asian and Pacific) collecting program focuses on the broad subject areas of history, culture and society. Within this general scope, collecting is further prioritised according to geographic, subject and content priorities.

Digital publishing will be preferred and collecting will be more selective than in the past.

5.1. Australian-related collecting

The Library will acquire overseas-published materials that relate to Australia and its territories. These include publications about Australia published overseas, publications by Australians published overseas and translations, in languages other than English, of works by Australian authors.

A further aim of Australian-related overseas collecting is to acquire materials that provide a contextual understanding of Australia’s history, society and development, from exploration and discovery to the present day.  Collecting areas of interest fall within the broad areas of the social sciences and humanities and will include topics such as:

  • European discovery and cognition of terra Australis
  • works on indigenous and first nation peoples
  • the historical British and European institutions, ideas and influences that created Australia during the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. Topics covered include but are not limited to politics and political ideas, economic history, religion, social issues, music, popular culture, everyday life
  • war and conflicts involving Australia
  • Australia’s humanitarian, defence and cultural engagements
  • migration to and from Australia
  • Australia in the world economy
  • contributions by Australians to the arts, science and sport.

Digital collecting in this area will include ebooks, ejournals and resources for historical research such as archival databases, newspapers and family history resources. As noted in section 3, in the key area of Australian-related collecting the Library will emphasise the acquisition of primary and archival sources in subject areas of interest.

5.2. General collecting: the wider world

The Library will selectively acquire English language publications intended to provide a contextual understanding of general issues and topics affecting Australia in the wider world. Collecting areas of interest will broadly fall within the subject areas of history, society and culture and take in current publishing in selected subjects that provide interpretation and analysis of global issues, current events and social trends affecting Australia. These include but are not limited to works on politics, history, government, international relations, the environment, energy and resources, the world economy, trade, the movement of peoples, demographic change, health trends, social issues. There will be discretion to acquire works on new trends and developments as they emerge over time.

Research level works and trade publications will be acquired that treat subjects at an academic or advanced level. There will be a preference for works that analyse the social aspects of a subject and present subjects in a broad context.

Much of this collecting will be in digital form, where available, and will be subject to the principles outlined in sections 3 and 4 above. It will include ebooks, ejournals and aggregated journal article databases and reference works.

5.3 Rare and antiquarian collecting

The Library may occasionally acquire rare or antiquarian print publications. Retrospective collecting such as this will be highly selective. In making acquisition decisions the Library will take into account the extensive and free availability of early imprints in open access archives. The Library will generally only acquire rare and antiquarian items in high priority collecting areas which are not available elsewhere in digital format and which are not already represented in the collection. They may be collected for their value as an artefact, such as for exhibition or for the study of print culture, or have significant provenance.

Overseas, Asian and Pacific collecting - Asian and Pacific collecting

Collecting about and from the countries of Asia and the Pacific is the Library’s highest collecting priority after its foundation Australian collecting responsibilities. Asian and Pacific collecting aims to build collections that enable Australians to learn about, study in depth and understand the Asia-Pacific region.

There are two elements of the Library’s Asia Pacific collecting program. The first comprises acquisition of western language works on Asia and the Pacific published outside the region. The second comprises acquisition of Asian language and Pacific publications direct from the countries of the region.

6.1 Parameters of Asian and Pacific collecting

Geographic scope

The general scope of Asian and Pacific collecting is the countries of East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific:

  • East Asia  - China, Japan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea, and Taiwan
  • Southeast Asia  - Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam
  • South Asia - India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and to a lesser extent Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives (works acquired in English language only)
  • The Pacific countries of Melanesia (Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, New Caledonia) and to a lesser extent the countries of Polynesia and Micronesia.

The Library does not generally collect from the countries of West Asia or Central Asia, with the exception of cartographic materials, Australian-related works and a small number of publications in English.

Time period

The time period of most interest is the modern era, from the 19th century onwards.

Language and source of collecting

Works published in the countries of Asia and the Pacific will be acquired in the language of the country of publication and will usually be sourced from the country of publication.

Works about Asia and the Pacific published in western countries will generally be acquired in English.  A small number of works will be acquired in Dutch relating to Indonesia, and French relating to the French Pacific territories.

6.2 Scope and principles of Asian and Pacific collecting

Subject areas collected will fall within the broad areas of history, culture and society and will take in works that provide interpretation and analysis of Asia-Pacific-related issues, current events and social trends. Research level works and trade publications will be acquired that treat subjects at an advanced or academic level. The principle for acquisition is whether the work provides context for a broader understanding of a country, its development in the modern era and its place in the modern world, whether historically, culturally or politically.  Collecting will be open to interdisciplinary topics that may not be easily categorised but that relate to one or more aspects of interest.

The digital access principles outlined in section 4 will apply to digital publishing about and from Asia and the Pacific. It is expected that much western language collecting will be in digital form. Digital access to Asian language resources will be provided where it is available and in scope for collecting.  Print will remain the format of collecting for countries where digital publishing is not yet established.

Retrospective collecting of rare or antiquarian items will be highly selective and limited to items considered to have significant primary source value for research in collecting areas of interest.

6.3. Works about Asia and the Pacific

Collecting of works about the Asia Pacific region will cover current publishing of research-level works published mainly in the US and UK about Asia and the Pacific as a subject of study.

Subject areas collected will include:

  • Australia's relations with countries of Asia and the Pacific
  • History, politics, government, economy, culture, environment, social issues and modern life in countries of the Asia-Pacific region
  • Intra-regional concerns - social, economic, political, historical

Within the scope of these priorities, collecting will also include, where appropriate and available, published primary sources such as official publications, statistics, reference works, maps, contemporary accounts, pictorial works and personal narratives, as outlined in section 3.

6.4. Works published in Asia

The focus of collecting from the countries of Asia is to build a collection capable of supporting in-depth research. The Library has a special collecting focus on the countries of China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Indonesia. The following collecting parameters apply equally to these countries.

Materials acquired will include research-level books, journals, newspapers, government publications and published primary sources that provide information supporting research and study, whether in print or digital form. Collecting focuses on history, politics and culture. The highest priority historical period for each country is the modern era, however that is respectively defined for each country.

Works documenting popular culture and topical issues are acquired.  Literary works by acknowledged authors are acquired, including English language translations where available.

Australian-related publications, including works by Australians or about Australia, are actively sought.

Works on the pure and applied sciences are not collected. Works on modern linguistics are not acquired. National series Asian language cartographic works are collected where these are available.

The Library will from time to time archive selected Asian and Pacific websites on specific topics and themes relating to its collecting interests. These will supplement existing collecting and in some cases substitute for it where no other documentary sources are available.

The principle for selection of works published in Asia is whether the work provides additional context for a broader understanding of the country, its relations in the region and its development up to the modern era, whether historically, culturally or politically. There will be discretion to acquire works on new trends and developments as they emerge over time. It is noted that much modern research is interdisciplinary and inter-country in nature. The Library’s collecting will be open to the acquisition of sources which support interdisciplinary study, document issues that cross borders and set future research directions.

Overseas, Asian and Pacific collecting - Asian collecting

7.1 China

The highest priority historical period is the modern era after 1911. Significant works on earlier periods of China’s history which provide context to the modern period are also acquired. Works on political science, government, foreign relations, economics, law, education, social issues, geography and travel are acquired. There are extensive holdings of Chinese series (cong shu) and provincial yearbooks which are added to as new volumes are issued.

A representative sample of works on Chinese culture and the arts is acquired. Collecting areas of interest are China’s minority and indigenous groups, popular culture, topical issues and everyday life history. 

7.2 Japan

The highest priority historical period is the post-Meiji era (1868 onwards), including works on Japan’s development as a modern power in the early twentieth century, imperial expansion, military conflicts and Japan’s development as a nation in the postwar period. Works documenting Japan’s early relations with the West and foreign settlement in Japan are also acquired.

Works on Japanese politics, government, foreign relations, economics, law, education, social issues, geography and travel are acquired. The Library is a selective depository library for Japanese government publications supplied by the National Diet Library of Japan.

Collecting areas of interest are popular culture, topical issues and works documenting social movements and relations between citizens and government. 

A representative sample of works on Japanese literature and the visual arts is also acquired.

7.3 Korea

The Library collects works from and about both the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The highest priority collecting area is contemporary history, covering the period of Japanese occupation (1910 to 1945) onwards. Attention is given to the history of relations between north and south Korea and regional strategic issues. Works on political science, government, foreign relations, economics, law, education, social issues, geography and travel are acquired.

Current works from North Korea are acquired where possible, noting restrictions on supply.

7.4 South-East Asia (excluding Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, East Timor)

Collecting from South-East Asia is strongest for Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and East Timor, which are dealt with separately below. Collecting from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam takes place at a lower level.

As with other countries of the East Asian region, collecting focuses on the modern history and contemporary societies and cultures of South-East Asia. This includes early history, periods of colonial occupation, the post World War Two period and inter-regional developments to the present day.

Works on political science, government, foreign relations, economics, law, education, social issues and development issues are acquired. Government publications are selectively acquired.

Works on culture and the arts in South-East Asia are selectively acquired, with a lesser emphasis on works on religion and philosophy where this provides context to broader social trends.

7.5 Indonesia

The Library’s Indonesian collection is one of the best contemporary research collections in the world, built by over thirty years collecting from an acquisitions office in Jakarta. The main collecting areas of interest are government and politics, the social sciences, economics, statistics, law, education, social issues and development issues. Publications documenting relations between the central government and the regions, including ethnic minorities, are acquired.

A particular area of collecting interest is published sources documenting elections and the democratic process since 1999. These include election ephemera, posters, pamphlets and realia.

A representative selection of works on the literatures of Indonesia is acquired, emphasising the modern period and including popular as well as literary fiction. Works on and in minority languages are acquired where available. Collecting on culture and the arts focuses on traditional forms that document indigenous groups and cultural heritage. Works on non-traditional modern artists and movements in Indonesia are generally not collected.

Materials documenting popular culture and topical issues are selectively acquired.  This includes selective web archiving in areas of interest.

7.6 East Timor

The Library has taken an active interest in developing a research level collection on East Timor. The Library acquires commercially and non-commercially published books and journals, newspapers, government publications, maps and a broad range of materials representative of East Timorese society and current affairs.

Publications from East Timor are acquired almost exclusively through institutional and personal contacts as this country lacks an established book trade, and publishing output is small. For this reason, publications available in any languages will be acquired. Publications in the English and Tetum languages are generally preferred.

7.7 Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar

Areas of collecting interest from Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar include government and politics, the social sciences, economics, statistics, law, education, social issues and development issues. A broad range of publications is sought documenting modern society in each of these countries.

Thai collecting has a particular focus on cremation biographies written to memorialise the dead. Publications documenting regional development, ethnic minorities and relations with neighbours are also acquired. Similar materials are sought for Cambodia and Laos.

Materials documenting popular culture and topical issues in each of these countries are selectively acquired.  A particular area of collecting interest is published sources documenting elections and the democratic process in Thailand. These sources include election ephemera, posters, pamphlets, realia and websites.

A representative selection of works on the literatures of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar is acquired. Works on minority languages are acquired. Collecting on culture and the arts focuses on traditional and indigenous cultures and arts rather than contemporary artists and movements in Thailand.

7.8 South Asia

Collecting from South Asia will be at a lower level than for Southeast Asia and will emphasise significant and current social, political, economic and cultural issues in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and other countries of the South Asian region. Works which focus on subjects and topical issues of interest to Australia, and all aspects of Australia’s relations with countries of the South Asian region will be acquired.

Works on relations between the South Asian countries will be acquired. There will be discretion to acquire works on new trends and developments as they emerge over time.

The Library does not collect in the vernacular languages of India. English language publishing is collected and is supplemented by publications on the region published elsewhere in the world.

Overseas, Asian and Pacific collecting - Pacific collecting

The Library’s interest in the Pacific is longstanding and reflects historical, economic and cultural links to countries in Australia’s geographic region.

In its Pacific collecting the Library will give priority to the countries of Melanesia, comprising the islands immediately to the north and northeast of Australia (Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, New Caledonia). A slightly lesser priority is given to the countries of Polynesia and Micronesia.  Works about Hawaii are generally not collected, although the Library will acquire Hawaii-origin publishing on the Asia Pacific region.

A strong emphasis is given to the collecting of material from Papua New Guinea, partly reflecting Australia’s historical links with that country, geographical proximity and an important economic and development relationship.

Collecting from the Pacific focuses on reference works, statistics, legal materials, geography and travel, sociology and social issues, government and public administration, and history and culture. Works on politics, foreign relations, economics and education are acquired and a representative selection of works on the languages and literatures of the region is also sought.  Works documenting popular culture and topical issues in the region are acquired. The Library continues to collect publications from relevant intergovernmental organisations such as the Pacific Regional Environment Programme and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

Works acquired are predominantly in English or French with selected acquisition in the vernacular languages of the region.

Overseas, Asian and Pacific collecting - New Zealand collecting

The Library’s collecting interests in New Zealand are linked to the two countries’ shared history of exploration and discovery, political institutions, economic development and relationships with indigenous peoples.  Collecting will take these ties into account and will selectively add to substantial historical collections.

Collecting will focus on significant current social, political, economic and cultural issues.  Works which focus on subjects and topical issues of interest to Australia, and all aspects of the Australia-New Zealand relationship will be acquired.

The National Library of New Zealand has an active collecting program for the New Zealand imprint as well as an extensive digitisation program. New Zealand publications can be efficiently searched and requested from New Zealand libraries through the Library’s resource sharing service, Libraries Australia. In addition, most New Zealand government publications are freely available online. The Library will take these factors into account when acquiring New Zealand publications.

Overseas, Asian and Pacific collecting - Relations with other institutions

As a member of the National and State Libraries of Australasia (NSLA), the Library is committed to collaborative collection development.  The Library follows the Collaborative Collections Principles endorsed by NSLA.

The Library takes into account the collecting activity of the Australian National University Library when making acquisition decisions for Asian and Pacific materials. There are in-principle collecting agreements for Chinese, Japanese and Korean language materials and Pacific newspapers. The Library has no other agreements with the Australian academic sector regarding current overseas, Asian and Pacific collecting.

The Library is open to working with other collecting institutions within Australia and abroad to ensure the continuing availability of overseas, Asian and Pacific resources in library collections.