Collection development policy – Australian collecting

CDP - Foreword

The National Library of Australia’s collections are its finest achievement. They have been built over the years since 1901 when the Library was established as the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library. The National Library Act 1960 provides the Library with a mandate to build a national collection of library material, including a comprehensive collection of library material relating to Australia and the Australian people. The collections include books, journals, web sites, maps, printed music, pictures, manuscripts, and oral history recordings. The collections are predominantly in print form but include a substantial amount of microform material and a growing amount of content in electronic form.

The Library’s collections are a national asset available for use by the Australian people. Together with the collections of other Australian libraries, they underpin national resource sharing, facilitated by the Libraries Australia service.

The Library regularly evaluates the collection policy against changing circumstances. We welcome comment about the directions set out in this document.

Jan Fullerton Director-General


CDP - Introduction

1.1 The present collections of the National Library of Australia, which was established as the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library in 1901, are built on several great formed collections relating to Australia and the Pacific, among them those of Edward Augustus Petherick (1847–1917), Sir John Alexander Ferguson (1881–1969) and Sir Rex de Charembac Nan Kivell (1898–1977). The passage of the Copyright Act 1912, containing legal deposit provisions, also laid the basis for a strong collection of Australian publications. The collections of printed material relating to Australia and the Pacific have been supported by the active collecting of maps, music and manuscripts. Pictorial works in the form of paintings, drawings, prints and photographs also constitute an important part of the Australiana collection as do oral history sound recordings.

Aim of the Collection Development Policy

1.2 This collection development policy statement defines the scope and nature of the collecting of Australian materials within the Library with a view to providing:

  • a practical interpretation of the Library’s legal obligations under the National Library Act 1960 with regard to Australian materials;
  • a public statement on its current collecting policies for Australian;
  • a practical guide for the staff of the Library to assist in the selection of library materials; and
  • a guide for other Australian libraries and collecting institutions, to enable a greater degree of cooperation in the development of collections in the national interest.

1.3 Chapters 2-8 outline the nature and scope of Australian collecting, including print publications, electronic resources, manuscripts, oral history and folklore recordings, pictures and dance. The Library has particular strengths in cartographic materials and music and these are described in chapters 9 and 10.

Scope of Collecting

1.4 The collections encompass print publications, original materials and electronic resources. Print publications include monographs, serials, newspapers, ephemera, music scores and sheet music, atlases and sheet maps. Original materials are unpublished and include manuscripts and private archives, pictures, oral history and folklore recordings. Electronic resources include digitised copies of items in the Library’s collection; ‘born digital’ material such as electronic journals, digital images, oral history recordings and email files; websites which have never existed in print form; commercially published online electronic resources; and physical format electronic material such as CD-ROMs, DVDs and floppy disks.

1.5 In selecting items for the collection, Library staff consider how well the item adheres to the collection development policy. In doing so, they take into account aspects such as the subject area, the geographical coverage, the cost, the physical characteristics of the item, its ongoing need for preservation and its relationship to the existing collection.

1.6 As well as acquiring material to add to its collections, the Library is increasingly providing access to electronic resources to augment the range of information resources available to users. The Library provides links to and subscribes to a number of Australian online indexes, databases, fulltext newspaper and journal services, and Internet sites. Some are freely available to all users wherever they are located while others are restricted by licence conditions and are only available to users in the National Library. These resources complement and at times provide enhanced access to the print collections of the Library. The same principles of selection are followed as for the print collections, and also take into account cost effectiveness and the appropriateness of licence conditions.

Access to Collections

1.7 The Library’s collections are made available for use in a variety of ways. Collection items may be used on the Library premises by anyone who is a registered user of the Library. Items that are particularly rare or valuable, or limited editions, may be subject to use only in a specialist reading room under supervision. In cases where the Library holds both a printed and microfilm copy of a newspaper, serial or monograph, the microfilm copy will be made available.

1.8 Collection items are also lent to other libraries through the Australian interlibrary loan network. Australian monographs may be lent on interlibrary loan except for Australian monographs which are too fragile for loan, belong to one of the Australian formed collections, or are published before 1950 where only one copy is held. The Library purchases second copies of some Australian-published items which it expects to be more heavily used.

1.9 Collection items may be copied in accordance with Australian copyright law. Reproductions of items from the Library’s collections can also be requested by individuals through the Library’s CopiesDirect service

1.10 All material acquired for the Library’s collection is catalogued in conformity with accepted bibliographical standards including the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR2), Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) and Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). Catalogue records are also added to the Australian National Bibliographic Database (ANBD) available through the Libraries Australia service. Users can search the Library’s catalogue online or as part of Libraries Australia

1.11 In order to increase access to its collections the Library routinely digitises materials and makes digital copies. These digitised resources are searchable through the Library’s online catalogue as well as through specialist resource discovery services, and they are delivered via the Library’s website. They include selected books, pictures, maps, sheet music, oral history recordings, selected manuscripts and newspapers.

Preservation of the Collections

1.12 The Library has a statutory obligation to preserve its Australian collections, whatever their format, as part of Australia’s cultural heritage. At the same time the Library exists to provide access to its collections and services from them. Preservation decisions are guided by the Library’s suite of Preservation Policies

1.13 The Library’s prime preservation responsibilities are to its Australian collections and, in general, preservation treatment programs are directed towards them. A key aim of the Library’s preservation program is to maintain and preserve items consistent with their use and significance to the collection. In taking account of user needs and also the Library’s investment in its collections, preventive preservation measures such as appropriate storage, security and handling are routinely employed for all Library collections.

Discard and Retention of Library Material

1.14 As a legal deposit and research library, the National Library does not generally dispose of items in its collections. Disposal usually only occurs if material has deteriorated to such an extent that it is no longer usable and a surrogate copy has been made, or multiple copies of a publication are held.

1.15 Such disposals are made in accordance with the Library’s Guidelines for the Discard and Retention of Library Materia

CDP - Australian collections: general


2.1 The National Library Act 1960, s.6(a) mandates the development of a comprehensive Australian collection, through legal deposit, purchase and donation, in order to fulfil the Library’s national documentary heritage role.

2.2 Australian library materials collected by the Library include:

  • Published print materials (monographs, serials, newspapers, ephemera, music scores and sheet music)2;
  • microforms;
  • manuscripts and private archives;
  • pictures (paintings, drawings, prints, posters and photographs);
  • maps (atlases and sheet maps);
  • oral history and folklore recordings;
  • electronic resources.

2.3 Published sound, film and video recordings are not collected as these are the responsibility of the National Film and Sound Archive.

2.4 Material commercially or privately published in Australia is collected on legal deposit under the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968, s.201. The Act requires all Australian publishers to deposit a copy of library material published in Australia with the Library but the definition of ‘library material’ is currently defined as ‘books, periodicals, newspapers, pamphlets, sheets of letterpress, sheet music, maps, plans, charts and tables’. At the time of publication of this document, other formats such as microforms and electronic resources which today would be regarded as library material needed for scholarship and research are not covered by the Act.

2.5 While government publications are not covered by the legal deposit provisions of the Copyright Act 1968, a variety of directives issued by state and territory governments require their government agencies to deposit publications with the National Library as well as with their state or territory library. The Library aims to collect Commonwealth government publications comprehensively.

2.6 Physical format electronic resources such as CD-ROMs are collected through voluntary deposit arrangements with the publishers or creators of these materials, or through purchase. Freely available publications and websites are selected and, with the permission of the publisher, are copied into PANDORA, Australia's Web Archive. The Library subscribes to a limited number of commercially produced online databases providing access to journal articles and other Australian content.

2.7 Manuscripts, pictures, printed ephemera, microforms and posters are acquired through donation and purchase while oral history and folklore recordings are generally commissioned by the Library. From time to time the Library undertakes special selection projects targeting particular subject areas.

Relations with other Institutions

2.8 In developing its own collections, the Library endeavours to take into account the collecting activities of other collecting institutions interested in Australian materials.

Legal Deposit of Print Publications

2.9 The Library retains its responsibility for collecting material covered by legal deposit except for certain publications which are covered by agreements with state and territory libraries. The Library generally does not collect materials of local community interest only. Responsibility for collecting and preserving this material will rest with the appropriate state or territory library. In some instances, the state or territory libraries may arrange for local collecting institutions, such as public libraries or community studies centres, to play a role in ensuring state-wide coverage of the material.

Online Publications

2.10 In building a national collection of Australian online publications, the Library formally collaborates with the mainland state libraries, the Northern Territory Library and other collecting agencies with responsibility for information in online formats, including the National Film and Sound Archive, the Australian War Memorial, and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. Each partner selects online publications and websites for which they take responsibility, in accordance with their published selection guidelines. They then store and provide access to selected titles (with the publisher’s permission) in PANDORA, Australia's Web Archive, which is maintained centrally at the National Library. The State Library of Tasmania builds and maintains its own archives, Our Digital Island : Preserved Tasmanian Websites and STORS: Long-term storage of Tasmanian electronic documents.

Other Agencies’ Collecting Responsibilities

2.11 The National Archives of Australia is vested with the responsibility for acquiring the records of the Commonwealth Government; the State Archives or Public Record Offices acquire state government records. In areas which might be of interest to both institutions (e.g. private papers of prominent Australian politicians), consultation takes place, at both the Commonwealth and state levels as required, with the result that the records will be collected by the most appropriate institution.

2.12 The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies comprehensively collects published works that deal predominantly with Indigenous Australians, and works published by, or in the languages of, these groups. Original material from or supporting research funded by the Institute and materials relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies are collected and promoted. The Library aims to acquire published material dealing with all issues pertaining to Indigenous Australians and consults with the Institute on the acquisition of original materials that fall within its area of interest, largely manuscript or pictorial items (e.g. photographs). The Library regularly transfers duplicate copies of relevant books and ephemera to the Institute.

2.13 The National Gallery of Australia collects in the area of fine art, including Australian art. The Library acquires Australian pictorial materials for their historical and documentary value and if there are items of mutual interest on offer from private collectors or dealers, consultation takes place.

2.14 The Australian War Memorial develops and maintains a national collection of material relating to Australia’s participation in wars and wartime operations. The Library consults with the War Memorial in respect of the acquisition of manuscripts, pictorial works, ephemera and cartographic material relating to conflicts in which Australians have taken part.

2.15 The National Film and Sound Archive is responsible for collecting and preserving the output of Australian film production, sound recordings, radio broadcast materials and other media. From 2004 responsibility for developing the National Film and Video Lending Collection was transferred from the Library to the National Film and Sound Archive.

2.16 The National Museum of Australia collects objects conveying the history of Australia and its people.

2.17 The National Maritime Museum collects in the area of Australian shipping and the Library consults on offers of mutual interest especially in the non-book field (e.g. manuscripts or collections of photographs).

2.18 The Noel Butlin Archives Centre of the Australian National University has long been the repository for business, trade union and employer organisation records. The Library does not collect in these fields by agreement with the University.

2.19 The National Portrait Gallery features portraits of the people who have shaped Australia, ranging from historical figures to contemporary icons. Works include paintings, photographs, sculptures, cartoons, drawings, ceramics and textiles.

2.20 Further details of the National Library’s relations with other institutions can be found in chapters relating to specific materials.

2 Australian published print materials are defined as:

  • items published in Australia and its territories, or
  • items published overseas with either Australian authorship (whether the author was born in Australia, is a temporary resident in Australia, or is an expatriate), or
  • items published overseas of which the subject is wholly or substantially Australian.

CDP - Australian printed materials


3.1 This section of the policy covers the following types of material:

  • monographs;
  • serials;
  • newspapers;
  • microforms;
  • ephemera;
  • posters.


3.2 Australian printed materials in all languages and scripts are acquired.


3.3 Several large formed collections relating to the early history of Australia and the Pacific provide the foundation of the Australian printed collections. These include general collections such as the Ferguson, Rex Nan Kivell and Petherick collections, and specialised collections such as the Mathews collection on Australian ornithology.

3.4 The Library has continued to build on these collections by the identification and purchase of out of print items and the acquisition of material on legal deposit. The first legal deposit provisions were contained in the Copyright Act 1912, although a lack of resources prevented the Library from fully exploiting the provisions of the Act until the 1950s. The Library’s broad collecting intention is to continue to collect most of the printed material covered by the legal deposit provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 or by the various arrangements applying to government publications.

3.5 The result is a comprehensive, though not exhaustive, collection of material capable of supporting in-depth research in Australian studies. The Library cooperates with other institutions to ensure material it does not collect is collected and preserved elsewhere in the country. It also takes into account the collecting intentions of the state and territory libraries as outlined in their collecting policies, and those of other collecting institutions with an interest in Australian printed materials (see para 2.9 ).

3.6 The overriding consideration for the inclusion of an item in the Library’s collection is always the information content of a publication. Material which originates outside mainstream publishing, no matter how slight or ephemeral or where it is published, is collected if it is considered to have research value now or in the future. A significant proportion of the literature concerning issues of public debate and associated with groups and movements which characterise current trends in Australian society falls into this category.

3.7 The Library acquires at least one copy of Australian printed material published overseas. These publications are identified through library selection activities and by the Library’s overseas suppliers.

Collecting Guidelines for Specific Categories of Printed Material

3.8 Australian commercial and government publications form the central part of the Australian print collections.

3.9 There are some categories of printed material for which there are specific collecting guidelines. These categories and guidelines are outlined in the remainder of chapter 3. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list and it does not represent the full range of Australian publishing; rather it represents the categories of published material which, in the opinion of Library selection staff, most need clarification in terms of the Library’s collecting intentions. Any category not covered here is taken into the collections subject to meeting the Library’s collecting policy. While providing an indication of the Library’s general collecting intentions in the areas covered, the guidelines are subject to individual judgement which continues to play an important and desirable part in the selection process. These criteria are applied to the acquisition of material from all sources, whether commercial, private or government.


3.10 Representative samples of advertising and promotional material are retained as ephemera, and the same selection guidelines as for ephemera are applied (see paras 3.16 - 3.18 ). Emphasis is given to material that provides illustrations of products, descriptive information and prices, and that is representative of various sales techniques and hyperbole. An attempt is made to cover a wide range of products and services representing, for instance, the domestic marketplace, and the retail, manufacturing, leisure and transportation industries.

Artists’ Books

3.11 Artists’ books are acquired selectively as examples of the art and craft of book production. The Library aims to collect artists’ books from as wide a range of artists as is possible.

Calendars and Diaries

3.12 Calendars and appointment diaries with a particular topic, such as political or social issues, artists, or hobbies (often illustrated through photographs), are collected selectively in order to reflect changing social preoccupations or interests as documented by this area of publishing. Diaries which contain no information other than that usually associated with a diary, such as significant calendar events, mathematical information and other facts and figures, are considered to be items of stationery and are not collected.

Educational Curriculum Materials

3.13 The Library collects the publishing output of commercial publishers and university presses specialising in educational materials. The Library comprehensively collects the publications of Commonwealth government bodies, and national organisations and associations active in educational matters. Research papers and items of general interest and applicability, published by tertiary institutions or specific departments within them, are collected comprehensively.

3.14 The Library does not routinely collect material in the following categories:

  • state based curricula and course materials published by state and territory government bodies or by non-government educational authorities;
  • secondary and tertiary examination papers;
  • classroom educational materials such as study notes, teaching aids, workbooks, resource material, course guides, blackline masters, activity sheets and ‘fill-in’ publications;
  • custom publishing (texts created for a specific course at a specific institution).

On a periodic basis the Library acquires a small representative sample of these materials for the collection.

Embargoed and Restricted Access Publications

3.15 Embargoed and restricted access publications are subject to legal deposit and the Library pursues acquisition of such material with the publisher. Access conditions are negotiated on a case-by-case basis, with the aim of minimising restrictions in the interest of facilitating use of the publications. However, publications which need to be held permanently on restricted access are not usually collected by the Library.


3.16 Publications of fewer than five pages are generally treated as ephemera (subject to the considerations outlined) and may include booklets, leaflets, handbills, invitations, brochures, programs and cards. Such material forms a documentary record of aspects of Australian social life and culture that falls outside traditional sources collected by libraries, but which can nevertheless significantly enrich a view of the past. The Library maintains a selective collection of ephemeral material in the categories described. In common with the broad approach already described, the focus in acquiring ephemeral material is generally national, while material relating specifically to local matters is not collected.

3.17 An item that is accepted for acquisition should include a significant amount of factual or descriptive information, significant visual elements such as design, logos, portraiture, etc. or be an outstanding example of its type.

3.18 The major categories and subject areas of ephemera acquired are:

  • performing arts material, including programs. This is collected in sufficient depth to give a broad, representative coverage of the history of significant Australian theatre, music, dance and allied performing arts;
  • federal election ephemera;
  • the book publishing and information trade, including Australian associations and councils of the book trade, book publishers and dealers, awards, auctions, etc.;
  • material concerned with issues of public debate and associated with groups and movements which characterise current trends in Australian society, e.g. socio-medical issues, political movements and social groups;
  • material relating to geographic areas or describing places of historic interest if it has significant information content, e.g. travel brochures, local area guides;
  • material associated with specific events of national significance, e.g. major national commemorations and national sporting events and topical issues of the day;
  • trade catalogues including advertising material and representative samples showing the nature of products and services available in Australia over a period;
  • realia, artefacts and three-dimensional objects (e.g. coasters, matchboxes, badges, models) where the item is associated with a category of material for which collecting is comprehensive, and where it contains information not readily expressed elsewhere.

Family History and Genealogy

3.19 Family history and genealogy publications containing substantial information of research value and documentary interest are collected. The Library does not acquire graphic representations of family trees, unless accompanied by substantial published text. Newsletters that are mainly of an administrative or social nature and primarily of interest to the society or group producing them are not collected.

Government Publications

3.20 The Library collects Commonwealth government publications comprehensively. State and territory government publications are generally collected comprehensively.

3.21 Publications produced by local government authorities are not generally acquired unless they include significant information content of interest to the broader community.

Limited Editions

3.22 Limited editions of published works are subject to legal deposit and the Library pursues acquisition of these with the publisher. In some circumstances, depending on the number of copies produced and the cost, the Library may purchase limited edition publications.

Materials for People with Disabilities

3.23 Printed materials for people with disabilities are acquired under the Commonwealth legal deposit provisions. This material currently falls into two categories — large print books and mixed media kits — which contain both print and non-print material and which are designed for people with disabilities. Material which falls outside the current legal deposit provisions, such as braille books or audio books, is not actively acquired.

3.24 The Library maintains the National Braille Reserve Collection which comprises last known copies of little-used braille books of a scholarly or reference nature. Titles may be of either overseas or Australian origin.


3.25 Microform publications are not currently covered by Commonwealth legal deposit provisions. Material in this format (i.e. microfilm or microfiche) is usually purchased and is acquired according to the same criteria that guide the selection of material in hard copy.

Mixed Media Kits

3.26 The National Library collects mixed media kits containing a print component. However, the non-print components of these kits are not covered by Commonwealth legal deposit provisions.


3.27 The Library collects all Australian newspapers except those which are considered to be the responsibility of the relevant state and territory libraries. The following categories are not collected:

  • those intended primarily for advertising purposes and consisting mainly of advertisements, including real estate papers;
  • newspapers distributed at the suburban and regional levels which consist of generic text that is used for distribution to different communities and towns accompanied by a cover page that localises the newspaper by containing information relevant only to the particular community or town;
  • titles containing predominantly information that is largely of local community interest only in that it concerns local social, sporting and community events and local services information and advertising.

3.28 Generally back issues and retrospective runs of newspapers are only acquired if they are available in microform. In general, the retrospective acquisition of newspapers in microform follows the policy for the acquisition of current titles except that additional factors such as length of coverage, cost, historic and geographical significance, and research value are also taken into consideration. Often the last two factors only become apparent in retrospect.

3.29 The Library is committed to the preservation within Australia of the total output of Australian newspapers and will cooperate with other institutions through the mechanism of the Australian Newspaper Plan (ANPlan) to achieve this. It accepts that it is responsible for preserving national and Australian Capital Territory newspapers in paper and microform formats, and that preservation of local, regional, state and territory newspapers is the responsibility of the appropriate state or territory library.


3.30 The Library does not collect Australian patent specifications. These are available through IP Australia which actively assists access to the specifications.


3.31 Posters are a form of print material collected selectively by the Library. Acquisition is based on deposit, donation and limited purchasing. The Library aims for representation of the subject areas outlined for the collection of ephemera (see para. 3.18), with posters, as a graphic representation of information and opinion (rather than reflecting artistic merit), complementing the print materials.

Retrospective (Out of Print) Material

3.32 The selection and acquisition of retrospective, or out of print, Australian printed material is essential to the enhancement and enrichment of the Library’s collections.

3.33 Priority consideration for acquisition is given to the following categories of material:

  • ‘rare’ Australiana, including material either listed or not listed (and eligible for inclusion) in J.A. Ferguson’s Bibliography of Australia, but not held by the Library;
  • literature on Pacific voyages, and on the major figures involved in the European discovery and exploration of Australasia;
  • imaginative literature of the eighteenth century and earlier, dealing with the unknown ‘South Land’ or ‘Terra Australis incognita’;
  • Australian imprints in scope for the collection, but which are not held. This includes material published prior to the operation of legal deposit, as well as published material which may have eluded the legal deposit net, such as pamphlet literature, material from private presses and small publishers, limited editions and important ephemeral items. Where such items come to the Library’s attention, and if they meet the collecting criteria for current material outlined, they are acquired by purchase or donation;
  • overseas imprints of publications by Australians or substantially about Australia.


3.34 Serials are publications consisting of a number of parts issued in sequence and linked by a common title. Usually each part bears an issue number and/or date. Serials are intended to continue indefinitely, and include magazines, newsletters, annual reports, yearbooks, directories, and journals. The Library collects most Australian serials except those that fall into the following categories:

  • publicationsconsisting primarily of advertising, promotional or product information;
  • special interest newsletters issued by local churches, clubs, hobby groups, amateur societies, sporting groups, community service organisations, schools, etc. These are considered to be more appropriately held within state or territory library collections;
  • material of an administrative or social nature dealing with and directed to members of an organisation below the state or territory level, e.g. staff newsletters of branches of state or territory government departments, banks, corporate bodies and associations;
  • company interim or quarterly financial statements or prospectuses. Annual reports of publicly listed companies are collected;
  • annual reports of local government authorities (except for capital city CBDs), regional health services, schools, university departments or faculties;
  • media releases;
  • regional phone/business directories. The standard nationally produced phone directories are collected.


3.35 Theses originating from Australian institutions of higher education are not generally collected. However, the Library will, on a very selective basis, acquire higher degree theses that complement existing Library collections and are not accessible through the Australasian Digital Theses Program. The Library also selectively acquires higher degree theses about or by Australians originating in overseas institutions, which meet the criteria set out in this policy.

CDP - Australian electronic resources

4.1 Australian information is published in a variety of electronic formats:


4.2 Physical format electronic resources are those that are published on a physical carrier and include videos CD-ROMs, DVDs and VCDs.

4.3 Online electronic resources are available via the Internet. They include both "born digital" material that has been produced directly online (e.g. websites, e-journals and databases), and also digitised versions of print resources that have been scanned to create an electronic copy.

4.4 Other resources that are created in digital form, such as digital images, email collections, and sound recordings are collected if in scope according to the guidelines for the type of resource, outlined in this policy.


Physical Format Electronic Resources

4.5 Pending Commonwealth legal deposit legislation for electronic publications, the Library negotiates with publishers and creators to acquire these resources selectively through either voluntary deposit or purchase. Unlike the policy for online publications (see paras 4.7 - 4.16), these resources are collected comprehensively, with the exception of juvenile and classroom material. In these cases representative samples will be collected with emphasis on publications with a strong Australian theme and where the subject is covered in some depth.

4.6 Where both print and physical format electronic versions of a publication exist, the Library collects the print version.

Online Resources

4.7 The Library collects and preserves selected Australian online resources in PANDORA, Australia’s Web Archive. It does so in collaboration with the mainland state and territory libraries, the National Film and Sound Archive, the Australian War Memorial and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. Each participating agency selects and archives online publications that meet its own selection guidelines.

4.8 With the permission of publishers, the Library copies online resources and places the copy in the Archive. In selecting online resources for the Archive, the Library aims for a representative collection of online publishing, selected in accordance with Guidelines for the Selection of Online Australian Publications Intended for Preservation by the National Library of Australia.

4.9 Broadly, the guidelines state that the Library collects and preserves online resources which are of social, political, cultural, scientific or economic significance or relevance to Australia or are created by an Australian author. Factors such as authoritative content, research value, topicality or interest as an innovative or outstanding example of its type, are factors in the selection process. The Library usually does not collect online resources where there is an exact print equivalent, which is collected instead.

4.10 The Library gives priority to collecting online Commonwealth and ACT government publications for which it takes primary responsibility. Responsibility for collecting state and Northern Territory online government publications is accepted by the relevant state and Northern Territory libraries, which contribute them to the PANDORA Archive. (The State Library of Tasmania maintains its own web archives.)

4.11 Priority is also given to online conference proceedings and e-journals.

4.12 Sampling is used to collect many other types of online publications such as blogs, promotional sites, organisational websites and vanity publishing.

4.13 Since July 2005, the Library has supplemented the selective PANDORA Archive with an annual whole domain harvest of the Australian web. In the absence of legal deposit provisions for online publications and due to copyright limitations, access to these resources will be limited.

4.14 In addition to collecting online publications for the PANDORA Archive, the Library subscribes to a limited number of commercially produced online databases providing access to journal articles and other Australian content.

4.15 The Library has an active digitisation program which focuses on creating new and permanent digital copies of Australian pictures, maps, sheet music, oral history and folklore recordings, selected manuscript items and newspapers from its own collections. The content of the digitisation program is regularly reviewed and selection is guided by the Library’s Digitisation Policy.

4.16 The Library also provides access through its Catalogue to the output of other significant digitisation programs in Australia, such as the Scholarly Electronic Text and Image Service (SETIS) from the University of Sydney Library.

CDP - Manuscripts


5.1 The Library collects manuscripts, archival records and other unpublished textual materials which form part of the documentary record of Australian history and society and which will meet the documentation, research, publication and exhibition needs of the Australian research community.


5.2 In the context of library collections, manuscripts comprise handwritten, typescript, electronic and other forms of unpublished textual records. They can be acquired as: (i) single items, such as a letter or a diary; (ii) organic or archival collections, i.e. papers created and acquired by an individual, family or organisation in the course of their day-to-day activities; (iii) artificial or non-organic collections, i.e. documents acquired deliberately by a collector on account of their research or aesthetic interest, or their historical association.

5.3 The historical or evidential value of organic collections, which make up the bulk of the Library’s manuscript collection, derives not only from the information contained in the individual items but also from the context, including the physical connections that existed between some or all of the items. Collections are, therefore, generally kept by the Library as they were used during their active life and arranged and described in this order. Collections may contain a variety of records including pamphlets, issues of journals, leaflets, maps and other printed items and also photographs, sound recordings and objects. To preserve context it is important to keep these items together in their original order and relationships: the integrity of the whole collection is more important than the format of the items within it.


5.4 The manuscript collection currently contains over 2 million items (an item being a file or volume), amounting to more than 13 000 shelf metres. It relates predominantly to Australia, but there are also some important Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Pacific manuscripts acquired as a result of Australia’s close relations with these countries and regions. A number of European and Asian manuscripts or collections have been acquired, nearly always as part of formed book collections.

5.5 While many significant eighteenth and nineteenth century manuscripts are held, the greatest strength dates from the 1890s onwards, reflecting the Federation movement and Australia’s development as a nation. Although single items, such as a diary or a literary manuscript, are often acquired, the collection consists predominantly of archives of individuals and families and of national non-governmental organisations. There is great strength in many fields, particularly maritime exploration, politics, public administration, literature and the performing arts, including classical music, dance and theatre. In varying degrees, strengths have also developed in areas such as exploration (including Australian involvement in the Antarctic), the pastoral industry, diplomacy, journalism, law, the women’s movement, economics, tertiary education, historiography, publishing, the visual arts, librarianship and religion.

5.6 In addition to original manuscripts, the Library holds about 40 000 reels of microfilm of manuscripts and archival records. They were mostly acquired overseas and are primarily of Australian and Pacific interest. They include materials copied in the United Kingdom and Ireland by the Australian Joint Copying Project (1948–93) and records of Pacific interest filmed by the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau.

5.7 The collection has been assembled primarily to meet the need of historians and other researchers for primary source material relating to Australia and the surrounding region. The largest group of users are academics, postgraduate students, independent scholars and writers. Some items have been acquired largely for their symbolic value and are seen and admired through exhibitions and publications.

5.8 The Library gives the highest priority to collecting, firstly, personal papers of Australians who have achieved national standing and, secondly, the records of major organisations operating at the national and coordination or ‘peak body’ level. It does not confine itself to any particular subject fields, although, in collecting both personal papers and organisational records the Library seeks to build on existing strengths. While the national standing of the individuals or bodies is a major factor, the Library always assesses the value of the papers themselves as historical evidence and their ability to support extended research in different branches of scholarship. In all cases, the Library prefers that personal papers are transferred to the Library appropriately arranged, housed and with documentation sufficient to provide initial description prior to full arrangement and description.

5.9 The Library identifies areas of importance in Australian life that are inadequately documented, such as popular culture or multiculturalism. It tries to remedy those weaknesses by seeking papers from people or organisations that have been prominent in those areas at the national level.

5.10 Much of the acquisition activity concentrates on locating and preserving sources on aspects of contemporary Australian life. At the same time the Library is alert to opportunities to acquire earlier material. Papers dating from the first century of European settlement often relate entirely to a single town, district or colony and in such instances they are more appropriately housed in a state or local library. The Library, however, has an interest in acquiring manuscripts that document movements or events of a national character, such as maritime discovery, free immigration, the gold rushes, race relations and Federation.

5.11 In collecting manuscripts and archives that document such movements, the Library is not restricted to material written by or associated with famous names. The writers of diaries kept on immigrant voyages did not usually achieve any national or even local standing, but the papers they created are a valuable source on large-scale emigration to Australia. Similarly, in seeking to document major social movements in modern times, the first concern is with the historical value of the papers rather than the fame or otherwise of the individuals who created them. Papers relating to the conservation movement, multiculturalism or republicanism, for instance, are sought if they provide extensive and broad documentation of these movements. In each case, care is taken to distinguish between papers that essentially deal with activities at a local level and those that relate to policies, programs, debates or changes at the national level.

5.12 The Library is increasingly selective in seeking or accepting organisational records. It firstly considers the likely value of the material for academic and independent researchers. Secondly, it gives priority to bodies that exercise considerable power and influence at the national level and which are wide-ranging in the scope of their activities, such as political parties, multiple interest groups and major peak bodies. Thirdly, it gives attention to organisational records that relate closely to holdings of personal papers. Finally, special consideration is given to the records of organisations that have become defunct or have no staff able to care for them. The Library accepts organisational records only if these have been arranged and described by the organisation prior to transfer to the Library.

5.13 These priorities in the area of organisational archives need to be qualified in two respects. In accordance with the 1961 agreement with the Australian National University Archives Program (Noel Butlin Archives Centre), the Library does not collect or accept certain categories of organisational records, namely, those of companies, employer associations and trade unions. The Library encourages large organisations, which generate records on a huge scale, to make their own arrangements for the preservation of their records, preferably by employing professional archivists.

5.14 The Library continues to collect manuscripts that document the role of Canberra as the national capital and seat of government. In the past, records relating to local activities in the Australian Capital Territory and the surrounding region were acquired, but they are now referred to the ACT Heritage Library.

5.15 Increasingly, organisations and individuals are creating archives in digital or audiovisual forms. The Library is selective in accepting born digital records such as emails, electronic documents and databases, and audiovisual records such as cassettes, CDs, videotape and DVDs for permanent preservation.

5.16 The Library continues to acquire microfilm copies of unpublished records held in other libraries and archives in Australia and overseas. Priority is given to filming or obtaining film of records of Australian and Pacific interest that have hitherto been entirely or largely inaccessible to researchers in Australia. The Library sometimes acquires commercially available microfilms of non-Australian archives and manuscripts that are likely to be of value to a considerable number of Australian historians and other researchers.

Access to the Collections

5.17 Manuscripts and archival materials are unique and irreplaceable. They are frequently fragile and can be easily damaged. For these reasons, they should only be handled in conditions designed to ensure their long-term survival and accessibility.

5.18 Provided there are no preservation risks or copyright restrictions, copies of manuscripts can be made by readers or for readers within the Library or from offsite. Copies are also lent to other libraries. Some of the most heavily used items and collections have been microfilmed and copies of the film can be purchased or borrowed by other libraries. The Library is also digitising some of its most important manuscript collections, making them accessible to any users via the Internet.

Relations with other Institutions

5.19 Manuscripts are unique and are often of interest to more than one institution. Some collections could justifiably be housed in any of several institutions. In such cases the Library takes into account the collecting interests of other Australian libraries and archives, giving consideration to collection strengths and the need to maintain the integrity of collections. It also assesses the likely research value of particular collections on offer, recognising that in a large country some research will be hampered if the collecting of manuscripts is either too centralised or too decentralised.

5.20 The National Archives of Australia and the various state and territory archival authorities have statutory responsibilities in relation to government records. Other national institutions, such as the Australian War Memorial, the National Film and Sound Archive, and the Australian National University Archives (Noel Butlin Archives Centre) concentrate in their collecting on specific subject areas. State and territory libraries, and also some regional libraries and archives, have a strong interest in a wide range of manuscripts and private archives generated in or relating to their respective states, territories or regions.

CDP - Oral history and folklore recordings


6.1 In accordance with its national heritage responsibilities, the Library records and collects oral history interviews with Australians of national standing, social history interviews which document the experiences and encounters of everyday life, and field recordings of Australian folklore.


6.2 Oral history materials may be defined as interviews recorded by specialist interviewers (‘oral historians’) with selected interviewees who speak from personal experience on subjects of historical interest. Such interviews are usually recorded in audio format, i.e. as sound recordings, and may also be transcribed. At the Library, sound recording equipment is also used to collect Australian folklore. In this context, folklore (‘traditional expressive culture’) includes songs, music, tales and stories, customs, beliefs, forms of speech and other forms of cultural expression learned orally, by imitation or in performance, i.e. without formal or institutional instruction.


6.3 The Library began acquiring interviews and other recordings in the 1950s. At first, these were acquired from external sources. In 1970 it introduced its own interviewing program, contracting interviewers and occasionally using members of staff. The primary objective of the oral history program was to supplement the Library’s holdings of contemporary personal papers. Consequently, the collection is strongest in the fields of politics, public administration, literature, the performing and visual arts, the history of Indigenous Australians, intellectual life, multiculturalism, science, journalism, law, religion, environmentalism and conservation. Other significant areas include diplomacy, tertiary education, historiography, music, industry and commerce, employment and labour relations, communications, technology, librarianship and sport. The interviewees are almost all Australians, including many migrants. Some interviews have been recorded with expatriate Australians, mainly in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The Library continues to acquire a limited amount of material from external sources.

6.4 In the 1980s, the Library began to broaden its collecting activities by initiating or supporting oral history projects aimed at recording particular aspects of Australian social history. Some projects have concentrated on specific periods, events or phenomena, such as life in Australia in 1938, the 2003 Canberra bushfires, the whaling industry in Western Australia and HIV-AIDS. Others have focussed on the experiences of particular groups, including trade unionists, the unemployed, ethnic communities, members of religious orders and rural women. Recent collecting in the field of multiculturalism includes interviews with members of the Chinese, Greek, Polish, Maltese, Vietnamese and Khmer communities. Key project partners have included the Commonwealth Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, the Commonwealth Department of Health, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the State Library of Western Australia, the State Library of South Australia, the Chinese Australian Museum, the Powerhouse Museum and the NSW Labor Council. The most recent and remarkable of these partnerships is the Bringing Them Home Oral History Project (1998–2002): a project specially funded by the Commonwealth Government which contains over 300 interviews with Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons involved in the process of child separation. Social history projects help to ensure that recordings are made with persons whose lives are not well documented and who may therefore be marginalised or 'left out' of Australian history.

6.5 A similar cultural concern underlies the Library’s folklore collecting program. The folklore collection has been developed over many years by acquiring formed collections and by contracting experienced collectors to carry out fieldwork. In this way, the Library has developed the most significant collection of its type in Australia, containing original recordings made by many of Australia’s best-known folklorists including John Meredith, Alan Scott, Peter Parkhill and Rob Willis. The collection also includes the Wattle Archive, which forms the basis of the Wattle Recording Company’s historic traditional releases. Folklore recordings have been conducted for the Library in all Australian states and territories. Holdings are strongest in the area of traditional Australian music and song (‘the Anglo-Celtic tradition’). Nevertheless, a significant amount of material has been recorded from Indigenous Australian performers; and many recordings have been made with performers or informants who have migrated to Australia from countries such as Germany, Italy, France, Crete, Greece, Holland, Poland, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Syria, Lebanon, Malta, Laos, India, Samoa, China and Vietnam.

6.6 The collection contains some significant original sound recordings acquired by the Library through its manuscript and music collections. Materials received through the manuscript collection include tapes of political speeches, poets reading their own works, taped diaries, letter-tapes and taped drafts of literary works. Materials received through the music collection include the collections of leading composers such as Don Banks, Larry Sitsky and Keith Humble.

6.7 The collection contains a limited number of historical broadcasts, public addresses, occasional lectures, talks, conferences and seminar proceedings. Holdings in these areas are not extensive. Earlier materials, such as the historical broadcasts, were acquired before the development of a formal collection development policy. Later materials, such as conferences and seminars, are chiefly recordings of significant Library functions or events. They are acquired very selectively, according to their cultural and historical significance.

6.8 At present, the entire collection consists of some 38 000 hours of original material. It is growing at a rate of approximately 800 hours each year.

6.9 In its future development of the collection, the Library continues to seek a balance between biographical interviews with Australians of national standing, interviews that document aspects of Australian social history and recordings that document aspects of Australian folklore.

6.10 The Library’s program to record oral history interviews with distinguished Australians complements the acquisition activities of its other Australian special collections. The Oral History Program’s chief objective is to build on existing collection strengths. At the same time, it will record some interviews in other important areas of Australian life. The program specialises in recording historically focused, wide-ranging interviews, with an emphasis on frank communication and original content. In some cases, follow-up interviews are recorded at later stages of an individual’s life and career.

6.11 In the field of social history, the Library regularly collaborates on approved projects with community groups and specialist organisations. By undertaking oral history interviewing projects relating to important social movements, issues or events, the Library adds to the range of original source materials available to scholars and other researchers. Frequently, conventional records and reports will require supplementation if valuable information about the past is not to be lost or overlooked.

6.12 Subject areas where the social history collection has depth and which the Library continues to develop include: the effects of increasing urbanisation, changing work and employment practices, recreational activities and other aspects of popular culture, generational differences, environmentalism, the impact of globalisation, Indigenous Australian issues, immigration, refugees, and the feminist movement.

6.13 The Library continues to collect a range of folklore material reflecting Australia’s regional differences and ethnic diversity. Field collectors working in areas of relevance and importance to the Library’s collection carry out particular projects, in some cases in collaboration with other libraries, archives, galleries, museums and research institutions. In this area of collecting, the Library seeks to document aspects of Australia’s contemporary folklore as well as its rich folk heritage.

6.14 Sound recordings that form part of manuscript and music collections will continue to be housed in the oral history and folklore collection. The Library considers acquiring such sound recordings from other sources, provided they are of high significance to its collections and that such acquisitions are made within a framework of consultation between collecting institutions.

Access to the Collection

6.15 Information about those recordings that have been catalogued is available from the Library's Online Catalogue. Currently incoming acquisitions are catalogued and retrospective recordings are catalogued according to agreed priorities. Recordings and transcripts are available for use according to conditions of access determined by the interviewee.

6.16 Use of recordings is dependent on whether an access copy has been made. The Library aims to produce preservation and access copies of all new acquisitions. Older material that has not yet been made accessible has been prioritised and is receiving preservation and cataloguing attention. Because of the nature of this material and emerging technologies, material may become unplayable unless action is taken within a relatively short time frame. Priorities for this type of material take account of the condition of the material, the information value of its contents, and current and anticipated demand for access.

6.17 Priority for preservation and access copying is normally given to material considered to be the most significant.

6.18 Although sound recordings are considered to be the primary documents of oral history, transcripts have long provided a convenient way for researchers to gain access to their contents. The Library’s current transcribing policy is to prepare transcripts of all interviews with Australians of national standing, and transcripts of most interviews in the field of social history. All transcripts are prepared as verbatim records of interview. Editing is limited to correcting any mistakes in the text. While a significant number of interviews acquired in earlier years have not been transcribed because of resource constraints, the Library has dramatically enhanced access to current recordings by requiring interviewers to supply time-coded summaries of all incoming interviews.

6.19 Subject to access conditions determined by interviewees, recordings and transcripts can be accessed at the Library or supplied to researchers on interlibrary loan. Increasingly, copies of transcripts are available in electronic format. Digital delivery of audio materials is being implemented.

Relations with other Institutions and Individuals

6.20 In developing its oral history collection, the Library occasionally acquires interviews from other institutions or individuals. The value of oral history material depends heavily on the interviewing and technical skills of interviewers, as well as their subject expertise and the quality of their recording equipment. Many interviewers in the research community use recording media that have short life expectancies. When considering the acquisition of such recordings, the Library critically assesses the quality of the interviews, the physical condition of the recordings and the adequacy of documentation. Recordings it decides to acquire are transferred to digital storage. The Library does not necessarily undertake transcribing due to the high costs of this activity. All decisions to acquire interviews from external sources are measured against existing Library priorities and the relative significance of the materials being offered.

6.21 As resources are limited, the National Library can only carry out a relatively small number of interviews in any one year. It is frequently unable to take up suggestions of possible interviewees, even though it is likely that the recorded reminiscences of the people concerned would fill gaps in the documentary record. The policy of the Library is therefore to cooperate directly with projects it considers a priority; to encourage societies, professional organisations and community groups to initiate their own oral history projects; and to supply information on the technical standards followed by the Library. In cases where the Library does agree to act as a project partner, costs and skills are usually shared, with the Library contributing technical expertise, recording equipment, blank recording media, archival preservation of original materials, cataloguing and storage.

6.22 At the national level the Library cooperates closely, in particular with the National Film and Sound Archive. The Library also consults regularly with the National Museum of Australia, the National Archives of Australia, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, and the Australian War Memorial. The State Libraries of New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia have active oral history programs and the National Library consults with them, both to avoid unnecessary duplication and, when appropriate, to undertake particular interviews jointly. The logistical problems of interviewing throughout Australia make it strategically effective to use specialist interviewers engaged locally, for example by state libraries, rather than send Canberra-based interviewers on extended field trips. On occasion, the Library collaborates on projects proposed by other libraries, archives, museums and regional research institutions, where such projects are able to demonstrate national significance. Unlike other unpublished materials, once sound recordings have been archivally preserved, they can be easily duplicated (provided interviewees have given their permission) and, as a general principle, it is recommended that copies of recordings be housed in more than one institution.

6.23 In determining levels of cooperation with other institutions, the Library keeps in mind its overall policy of interviewing individuals of national standing and recording interviews about major social trends and developments. Many oral history projects are focused on local communities or the history of particular companies, schools, churches, societies, clubs or other bodies. The Library does not usually participate in such projects, apart from providing some general advice.

CDP - Pictures


7.1 As part of its national heritage responsibilities, the Library collects pictures which will meet the needs of researchers, publishers and exhibition curators for visual documentation of Australian history and society.


7.2 In collecting pictures that document Australian history and society, the Library focuses on people, places and events located on the Australian continent and its territories, and on the activities of Australians overseas, especially in Antarctica and Papua New Guinea. For the period up to the mid-nineteenth century, the geographical focus is broader, encompassing European exploration of the South Pacific and the departure of convicts and settlers from Great Britain.

7.3 The Library collects pictures in a wide range of formats, including:

  • oil paintings, watercolours, drawings executed by pencil, chalk or crayon, sketchbooks and cartoons;
  • engravings, etchings, woodcuts, lithographs, aquatints, mezzotints, screenprinted posters and other prints;
  • photographs in black and white or colour in all formats, including digital photographs;
  • postcards.

7.4 The Library acquires published posters as part of the collection of Australian printed materials (see para 3.31); the posters are housed with the pictures collection for ease of storage and handling. With the exception of nineteenth-century illustrated Australian newspapers, illustrated books and serials do not form part of the pictures collection.

7.5 Although the Library has collected three dimensional objects in the past, they are no longer a major focus of the Library’s collecting. Objects with a high level of visual content, such as board games, are acquired selectively. Other objects are occasionally accepted as part of a multi-format collection, or because they have a strong relationship with material already held by the Library. The Library acquires portrait busts on the rare occasions when other visual representations are not available.


7.6 Since its early years the Library has collected pictures as part of its effort to preserve documentary records of Australia and its people. The collection of about 47 000 paintings, drawings and prints mainly dates from the second half of the eighteenth century until the end of the nineteenth century. The collection of over 600 000 photographs dates from the invention of photography in the mid-nineteenth century until the present. In more recent years, digital images have been collected in accordance with collecting policy guidelines for pictures.

7.7 The pictures collection contains many items of great aesthetic value. In selecting for acquisition, however, the Library chooses pictures primarily for documentary or historical content, rather than purely for artistic merit. Preference is consequently given to pictures that represent their subject matter with accuracy and detail. The Library prefers the particular to the general, with greater value being placed on works that can be precisely dated and where the people or places that appear in them can be identified.

7.8 Most works acquired are representational, with the overall aim of documenting the major themes, events, and social and environmental changes in Australian history. Non-representational works may be acquired where:

  • the works reveal the social, cultural and ideological preconceptions and assumptions of Australian artists and photographers, especially those who have had some influence on the way that Australians look at their country or people;
  • the works represent the viewpoints of significant groups within Australian society;
  • the works have been central to an event or public debate: e.g. a manipulated photograph which figured in a national controversy.

7.9 In documenting Australian history and society, the Library collects pictures that record the arrival of Europeans in Australia and their first impressions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

7.10 Other subjects that the Library seeks to document in pictures include industry, agriculture and land management, the built environment, transport, technology, working and living conditions, religion, migration, Australia’s multicultural society, travel, leisure, the performing arts, political and public events.

7.11 In collecting pictures of the natural environment, the Library focuses on the first European impressions of Australian landscapes, flora and fauna, and on works that show the changes that have been made to particular landscapes and ecosystems. For the post-colonial period the Library collects paintings or photographs of flora and fauna or works that depict generalised Australian landscapes only where the paintings or photographs have influenced, or reflect significant attitudes of, the Australian people, such as photographs used in publicity campaigns by the Conservation movement.

7.12 The Library continues to give high priority to portraits, collecting portraits of Australians of national significance as well as portraits of individuals and groups who are not necessarily well-known but who are representative of different occupations or of various social, racial or cultural aspects of Australian life.

7.13 The Library attempts to collect portraits of significant creators represented in the Library’s manuscript collection and of significant interviewees in the oral history and folklore recordings collection. The Library also collects portraits of significant Australians who may not be well-represented in the Library’s other special collections – lawyers are one example.

7.14 In assessing whether the subject of a portrait is of national significance the Library considers the extent to which the subject is known beyond their field, and the extent to which they are likely to sustain public interest and achieve historical importance. Portraits are preferably dated and, with major figures, a range of portraits is often sought taken at different times of their lives. Where only one portrait of a subject is collected, preference is given to a portrait that depicts the subject at a significant time during their life and career. Portraits are generally acquired as photographs, and should provide an authentic record of the physical appearance of the subject. Portraits in other media, ranging from oils to cartoons, are acquired where the artist has captured a significant attitude to the subject.

7.15 The Library collects portraits of individuals or groups which represent aspects of Australian life and which contribute to the social record of the time. These portraits indicate something about the lives, attitudes or customs of the individuals portrayed or depict individuals within a context which has social significance. Pictures are collected of members of cultural, ethnic, language, gender, age and occupational groups. In documenting groups, the Library aims to reflect the diversity of Australian society through selecting pictures of members of smaller groups, such as women in non-traditional occupations, as well as of larger groups, such as older persons. Pictures of people in groups are particularly valuable where they depict group activities or suggest clues about the social composition and relationships of the groups.

7.16 The Library continues to collect on a highly selective basis pictures relating to people, places and events in other countries, especially Papua New Guinea, the South Pacific, South-East Asia and the Antarctic. In almost all cases they are collected because they directly or indirectly document the activities of Australians in those countries.

7.17 In selecting pictures, the Library gives consideration to their relationship with other National Library collections, especially the manuscript and oral history and folklore recordings collections.

7.18 The Library acquires works for the pictures collection through purchase, donation, copying of items with the owner’s permission, and commission. Since the main costs associated with collecting — the costs of cataloguing, digitising, preserving, storing and retrieving — are independent of the method of acquisition, the Library applies the same level of selectivity to donations as to purchased works. Commissions are given to photographers to record events or themes where pictures are not readily available, or where gaps in the collection are identified.

7.19 In seeking or accepting works, the Library considers the work’s suitability for long-term preservation, and the potential cost of reformatting works that are on unstable media. For these reasons, preference is given to archivally-processed black and white photographic prints rather than colour prints; to black and white negatives and transparencies rather than colour negatives and transparencies; to glass and polyester negatives rather than acetate and nitrate negatives; and to digital files over digitally-derived prints. When acquiring images as digital files, the Library gives preference to formats that have sufficient resolution to allow reproduction at publication quality, and that are either uncompressed or have lossless compression.

7.20 In selecting pictures for acquisition, the Library gives preference to pictures that are accompanied by captions of sufficient detail to provide researchers with an indication of the topic, place and date of the picture, and the names of significant people.

7.21 The Library undertakes reviews to ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of particular parts of the collection and maintains desiderata lists. On the basis of the findings, efforts are then made to fill important gaps and to strengthen certain areas by seeking pictures held by individuals and organisations, by arranging the copying of works, and by commissioning photographs.

7.22 The Library acquires pictures with the intention of retaining them forever. Pictures collection items are de-accessioned only in rare circumstances. For example, photographic negatives from the mid-twentieth century on acetate stock may be de-accessioned if they have degenerated to a state where their content is unrecognisable. Where feasible, a high-quality copy of de-accessioned material is retained.

Access to the Collections

7.23 The Library gives high priority to making its collections readily accessible. New picture acquisitions are made available through the Library’s Catalogue database which contains digitised images and bibliographic records, and through combined databases, such as PictureAustralia to which the Library contributes. When negotiating acquisitions of pictures that are still in copyright, the Library seeks permission to digitise the pictures for access through these Internet-based services.

Relations with other Institutions

7.24 7.24 The Library recognises that some categories of documentary pictures are of special relevance for other Commonwealth collecting institutions. Thus material relating primarily to Australian participation in armed conflicts is usually referred to the Australian War Memorial. Posters and film stills and other pictures which document the Australian film, video, sound or broadcasting industries are referred to the National Film and Sound Archive. The Library recognises that the Australian National Maritime Museum is the prime repository for pictures of Australian maritime history, and while the Library has considerable strengths in pictures of ships and shipping in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it will refer most offers in this subject area to the National Maritime Museum. The Library continues to acquire portraits of documentary and research value, maintaining a close working relationship with the National Portrait Gallery to ensure collecting policies are complementary.

7.25 The policies and activities of other collecting institutions, particularly state and regional libraries, also have a bearing on the Library's collecting priorities and procedures. In acquiring pictures of Australian places, the Library focuses on pictures that document themes of national significance, such as transport, urban development or agriculture, and does not seek to document comprehensively all major towns or regions.

7.26 The Library seeks to make effective use of public money by consultation with other public institutions. Duplication of images (in the case of prints and photographs) is sometimes justified in order to meet the needs of researchers, but generally an effort is made to ensure that collections complement each other.

7.27 In acquiring works by Australian Indigenous artists, the Library adheres to the Indigenous Australian Art Charter of Principles for Publicly Funded Collecting Institutions (49.3 kb)

CDP - Maps


8.1 The Library collects Australian and overseas cartographic materials which form part of the documentary record of Australia and reflect its relationship to the rest of the world. The map collection supports documentation, research and the communication of ideas through publications and exhibitions. The Library’s map collection is used by a variety of people for the study of history, genealogy, geography, agriculture, town planning, environmental studies, market research, industry and for legal and defence purposes.


8.2 Cartographic information is held in a range of formats including sheet maps, charts, atlases, gazetteers, aerial and remote sensing images, globes, and electronic spatial data on CD-ROM, disk and in databases held by map publishers. This subject division also covers literature related to the science and art of map production.

Collecting: Australian

8.3 Since its early years the Library has collected cartographic materials as part of its effort to preserve the documentary record of Australia and its people. Particular emphasis has been placed on acquiring the printed maps and atlases produced by Commonwealth and state mapping authorities and publishers in the commercial and private sectors. Topographic maps and a wide range of thematic maps covering subjects such as land tenure, navigation, electoral boundaries, geology, transport, tourism and administrative divisions have also been acquired.

8.4 The Library has a rich collection of early maps of Australia prior to 1900 and of world and regional maps displaying the development of cartographic knowledge of Australia from earliest times, based on the foundation Ferguson, Tooley and Nan Kivell collections. The Library continues to collect significant maps recording early European exploration in the southern hemisphere, surveying and mapping of the Australian continent, and all aspects of settlement and land use.

8.5 A large collection of aerial photography, numbering around 800 000 prints, covering most of Australia, dating from 1928 to 1988, Antarctica, Papua New Guinea and parts of Indonesia has been donated by Commonwealth mapping agencies. The collection complements published mapping and supports research in fields such as geology, heritage and environmental studies. Commonwealth aerial photography continues to be sought as it forms the basis for the topographic mapping of Australia. Satellite imagery catalogues have been acquired with the Australian Centre for Remote Sensing (ACRES) remaining the principal repository in Australia for satellite imagery.

8.6 Most Australian maps are received in accordance with legal deposit provisions under the Copyright Act 1968. The Library also seeks material published overseas about Australia. Very ephemeral cartographic material, such as small pamphlet-sized sheets giving directions to a single tourist destination, is collected selectively. Manuscript maps, while rare, are occasionally acquired.

8.7 The Library continues to acquire maps retrospectively, paying attention to significant gaps in the collection particularly relating to the development of roads and other transport links, urbanisation, land ownership and environmental changes.

8.8 Electronic spatial data, either on CD-ROM or DVD-ROM is acquired selectively with the software necessary to provide access to the data. Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) products and databases that are intended for use in the creation of maps, and which require additional software to run, are not collected. The Library will negotiate with data creators and map producers to ensure ongoing archiving and the future access to spatial data and products. Spatial data published on websites which are identified as significant for future research is being archived in PANDORA, Australia’s Web Archive. Geospatial Positioning System or Global Positioning System (GPS) products and databases intended for use with mobile navigational devices, for tracking, location and other synchronous and positional application are not collected.

8.9 Catalogues, gazetteers and guides to all forms of Australian cartographic materials, whether in digital or conventional forms, are also acquired.

Collecting: Overseas

8.10 With over 500 000 sheet maps and a similar number of aerial photographs, the Library’s overseas map collection is the largest and most diverse in the country. Overseas maps are important, not just as resources depicting geographical areas, but as material carrying a wide range of subject information such as census and tourism data. The overseas component is received by donation and purchase.

8.11 The overseas map collection is extensive in its geographical coverage, chronological range and variety. A large collection of current and retrospective single sheets and topographic map series is enhanced by a variety of thematic maps. Current and retrospective world and national atlases and a range of thematic atlases are collected. A small sample of current and retrospective globes of the world and celestial bodies is held. Reference works such as gazetteers have been collected in depth. With the collection consisting largely of government mapping, the Library has placed emphasis on the acquisition of the major topographical series for areas of special importance to Australia for geographic, economic, strategic and cultural reasons. The existing collection is particularly strong in maps of the United Kingdom, Europe, Asia and the Pacific.

8.12 The Library continues to develop and expand its collection of overseas maps for those countries and regions to which it has assigned a high collecting priority. Thus, the major emphasis is placed on East Asia, South-East Asia, South Asia, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific. The Library attempts to obtain a wide selection of current and retrospective general and thematic atlases, single and series topographical maps and thematic maps. It is envisaged that for many of these countries, cartographic information will mainly be obtained in paper-based formats although some increase in electronic availability is likely.

8.13 While material from the United Kingdom and Europe is increasingly available in electronic form, the Library will continue to collect printed maps from these areas so that information is available and accessible in both formats. For all other countries of the world, the Library will seek the acquisition of major general atlases of each country, single and series topographical maps, important thematic maps, and street maps of the capital or major cities.

8.14 The Library purchases rare maps only where these are relevant to the history, discovery and exploration of Australia.

8.15 Remote sensing imagery in published form is collected when other cartographic information cannot be acquired.

8.16 A wide selection of gazetteers from all over the world continues to be acquired to serve as a key reference adjunct to the cartographic collection. Many gazetteers are now accessible on the Internet via links from the Library’s website.

8.17 Selected monographs and serials on cartography are acquired to provide a professional context for the management and operation of the collection and, in the long term, a representative record of developments in this subject field.

Access to the Collections

8.18 Information about the Library’s map collection is available through the catalogue at sheet level for Australian maps and overseas single maps and at collection level for overseas maps in series, where the collection has been catalogued. Indexes are available through the Map Reading Room for both Australian and overseas series maps. Map staff also provide assistance to the uncatalogued collection.

8.19 Access to the Library's map collections is being progressively made available online through bibliographic records and digitised images. Over 6,000 maps have been digitised, with priority given to early (pre-1900) world, Pacific region and Australian maps. Selective modern maps are also scanned.

8.20 Modern maps and atlases may be photocopied or made available on interlibrary loan ,subject to preservation risk and copyright. Rare maps and atlases are not loaned or photocopied but digital scans can be provided. All of the collection is available for onsite use though the Map Reading Room.

8.21 Digital spatial data in hard format (i.e. CD-ROM or floppy disk) is available only through the Map Reading Room.

Relations with other Institutions

8.22 The Library maintains the strong relationships that have been built up over the years with map publishers — particularly state, territory and Commonwealth governments, as well as the state libraries and the National Archives of Australia. Such relationships have proved beneficial in providing access to collections or material not available through normal commercial and/or deposit channels.

CDP - Music


9.1 The Library comprehensively collects music and music-related materials that form part of the documentary record of Australian culture, as part of the Library’s national heritage responsibilities. Collecting includes published and unpublished music, personal and organisational papers, archival sound recordings of folklore, oral histories, pictures and ephemera documenting compositional and performance history, as well as materials that support research and study of music.

9.2 The aim is to provide access to music and music-related information for all Australians, as well as to meet the specific needs of the musical and research communities.


9.3 ‘Australian music’ is defined as music created by Australians, or published in Australia, or associated with Australia by explicit Australian performance or subject reference. ‘Creators’ encompass composers, authors, librettists, arrangers, transcribers, editors, performers and illustrators who have musical, intellectual or textual responsibility. ‘Australian creators’ include those who were born or who have resided permanently in Australia, or who have continued to be recognised as Australian although residence in Australia has not been continuous, or who have been identified through work in Australia as Australian.

9.4 ‘Printed music’ includes all types of ‘notated music’ published in scores, parts, anthologies, commentaries published with printed music, song and hymn books, as well as music represented by other media when such media forms an integral component of a notated music publication. ‘Notated music’ may appear in the following formats: print, facsimile, electronic (online, multimedia and digital), microform, braille, as well as in unpublished forms.

9.5 The Library collects books and serials related to music, primary source music collections and music information in accordance with the collection policy for print material.

9.6 The Library collects original materials related to music in any other format, e.g. pictures, ephemera, manuscript and oral history, in accordance with the collection policy for original materials.

9.7 The Library archives Australian music websites and digital music files and electronic publications as part of its ongoing commitment to archiving and preserving Australian content in electronic form, in accordance with the collection policy for electronic publishing.

9.8 The Library collects archival sound and audiovisual recordings with supporting textual material but does not actively collect commercially distributed sound or audiovisual recordings, except where these form part of a musician’s personal archive.

Collecting: Australian

9.9 The Library has the largest research collection of music in Australia. Its strengths are in retrospective and contemporary Australiana, including sheet music, published and unpublished scores, and archival sound recordings of folk song and dance traditions in Australia.

9.10 In addition to the acquisition of individual published musical works, the Library holds and acquires major formed music collections. Formed music collections, which may contain both Australian and overseas music, are collected where they exemplify and reveal Australian musical creativity or the broader relationship of music to Australian culture, including music performance history. In some cases, formed collections may remain open for further material to be added by the collector if the collector continues to collect material for inclusion in the formed collection.

9.11 Extensive personal papers and music manuscripts of Australia’s most significant composers and internationally or nationally recognised musical performers, scholars, critics and entrepreneurs are also actively collected by the Library’s Manuscript Section. These collections include a wide range of correspondence, diaries, ephemera, personal papers and music sketches and autographs, as well as archival and published sound and audiovisual recordings where these represent an integral part of the musician’s creative life. Other manuscript collections document the history of musical organisations and musical life in Australia. Pictures, portraits, programs, posters, tickets and other materials, held in the Prompt and pictures collections, document the history of Australian music, musicians and musical culture. Archival sound recordings and oral histories are collected to document the intangible musical heritage of Australia across a range of musical traditions, including folklore and vernacular music.

Australian Published Music

9.12 All types and styles of Australian printed music are collected: e.g. popular, classical, folk, church, dance, educational, film, children’s, multicultural, Indigenous, jazz, band, instrumental, vocal and choral, theoretical and didactic, electronic.

9.13 Music published in Australia is subject to legal deposit provisions of the Copyright Act 1968. In addition to the copy deposited under the legal deposit provisions, the Library normally acquires a second copy of current Australian printed music, except for music published in Australia under licence from an overseas publisher, with no Australian association otherwise. The Library actively seeks to acquire one copy of retrospective music items to fill gaps in the existing music collection. One copy of current Australian musical works, published in facsimile score by the Australian Music Centre (AMC) under licence with Australian composers, is acquired primarily for the purposes of research and preservation.

9.14 Music published outside Australia that has an Australian association is also actively sought. This normally includes two copies of:

  • music by Australian creators published overseas;
  • music published overseas that is illustrated by Australian artists;
  • music that has been performed by an Australian where the association of the performer to the music is stated explicitly on the publication, or where the musician is significantly represented elsewhere in the Library’s collections.

One copy is sought of music that is published overseas and which contains no evidence of Australian content but is distributed in Australia by Australian agents.

Australian Digital Music

9.15 Digital music files are being both produced and collected by the Library, in response to changing modes of publishing, archiving and disseminating music. The Library’s development of its digital music collection aims to make available digital copies of Australian music held in the Library’s own music and related collections and to support the cooperative digitisation and delivery of items by other Australian institutions.

9.16 The Library also seeks to collect Australian ‘digital music publications’ which are collected in accordance with the Australian printed music selection criteria and definitions. These include:

  • digital music scores made available as digital music files on the Web, on disk or in equivalent or emerging formats. This does not refer to additional media or electronic components that are included as part of a notated music work that has been published as a printed score and/or parts set;
  • music websites, where these meet the PANDORA selection criteria.

9.17 Mixed media publications, which combine components of music in both printed and electronic forms, are actively collected (normally two copies), and the electronic component will be digitally preserved where possible. In cases where printed and electronic equivalents are available, both forms are collected.

Music Oral History and Folklore

9.18 Oral histories are recorded where they focus upon Australian composers and performers, music scholars, entrepreneurs or directors who have achieved distinction in the composition and performance of music, in Australia or overseas, or who have contributed significantly to the development of musical life or scholarship in Australia.

9.19 The Library supports an active field and studio archival sound recording program, collecting folk/vernacular music and dance traditions in Australia that often survive with few forms of written documentation. These archival sound recordings aim to capture the breadth and diversity of Australia’s cultural traditions, both past and present, Indigenous and immigrant. They preserve forms of songs and dances handed down and transformed within diverse community settings and also document the social context for music making of various types. The acquisition of printed music also takes account of folklore acquisitions by collecting, where possible, notated folk music and dance sources that complement these oral traditions.

Unpublished Australian Music

9.20 Unpublished Australian music is collected either as part of the archives of Australian musicians, held in the Manuscript collection, or as special collections of Australian musical works or Australian musical organisations. When a special collection primarily contains sets of unpublished scores and parts (e.g. the Symphony Australia collection), these are acquired and managed within the music collection.

Access to the Collections

9.21 The music collection is made available primarily through the Library’s catalogue at individual item level. Some collections are currently accessible only through collection level records; in this case a finding aid or index may be created with a link to the catalogue record. Where printed music is held in manuscript or other collections, these will be identified where possible through a finding aid, with the aim of providing some access through the catalogue.

9.22 The Library is digitising some of its most important music collections, making them accessible through the Library's digital collections and services. Integrated and collaborative access to Australian music resources and information, in multiple formats, is available through MusicAustralia, a service hosted by the Library in cooperation with libraries, archives, and specialist music organisations and distributors throughout Australia.

9.23 The ephemeral nature of printed and unpublished music scores and parts, their often unique or irreplaceable value and the fragile physical condition of some items means that their use and handling generally requires conditions that best ensure long-term survival and accessibility. These materials are made available for use under supervision through the Petherick Reading Room. Provided there are no preservation risks or copyright restrictions, copies of music can be made for readers within the Library or from offsite. Copies are also lent to other libraries. Original materials normally remain within the Library at all times, except where lent for exhibition or special purposes.

9.24 Archival sound recordings can also be listened to within the Petherick Reading Room and a keyboard and computer with music notation software is available to users. Increasingly, the delivery of sound via the web imposes additional requirements on service delivery, including access to speakers/headphones in the reading rooms. Digital delivery of selected Library audio materials is in development.

Relations with other Institutions

9.25 The policies and activities of other collecting institutions, particularly other national cultural institutions, the Australian Music Centre, state and specialist music libraries, all have a bearing on the Library's collecting priorities and procedures in relation to music.

9.26 The Library’s role in acquiring published and unpublished notated music is complemented by the National Film and Sound Archive whose Recorded Sound Strategy aims to collect, preserve and provide access to published recordings and associated historical documentation representing the output of Australia’s diverse recorded sound and radio industries. The National Film and Sound Archive also has particular collection strategies in relation to jazz, Indigenous music, music performance history and convergent audiovisual technologies, and the Library takes account of this when acquiring music, oral history, pictorial, ephemera and manuscript collections related to these areas.

9.27 In relation to sound recordings of folk or traditional music, the Library focuses upon its archival sound recording program rather than published recordings. The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies is the principal repository for field or community recordings of traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander music.

9.28 The Library is also working in partnership with the National Film and Sound Archive to develop mechanisms for integrated discovery access to music resources across multiple formats and to share information about approaches, standards and procedures related to the preservation and delivery of music and audiovisual objects in the digital environment.

9.29 The Library works in close cooperation with the Australian Music Centre (AMC) whose main role is to facilitate and encourage the performance and understanding of music by Australian composers. The Centre reproduces on demand Australian musical works, in performance scores and parts, by a licensing agreement with represented Australian composers. The Library actively acquires Australian Music Centre published material for the purpose of preservation and research, but by agreement refers users to the AMC for lending and performance use of musical items. The Library is also working with the AMC to establish guidelines and methods for collecting, archiving and delivering music scores produced or reproduced in digital form.

9.30 Some state, public and university libraries have specialist music or performing arts sections or branches, whose role is to support musical performance, as well as the research and study of music and public access to music resources in a range of formats. The Library does not duplicate this role of servicing musical performance in the community through the provision of sets and parts, except where it assists through archiving and providing access to unique materials that document creative and performance history in Australia, through agreement with such organisations as Symphony Australia. The library also supports cooperative planning and resource sharing in music by providing a leadership role and specialist curatorial expertise in music, including cooperative strategies for developing and maintaining digital collections.

9.31 Some institutions also have strong interest in acquiring music and original musical materials relating to the creation and performance of Australian music in their region, city or special areas of interest. There is also sometimes overlap between these institutions and performing arts archives. When seeking to acquire a special collection, the Library takes into account the likely research value of particular collections and the collecting interests of other Australian libraries and archives, giving consideration to collection strengths and the need to maintain the integrity of collections.

CDP - Special focus collecting: dance


10.1 The Library has been involved over many years in various externally funded projects to raise awareness of the significance of collecting and preserving dance materials as part of the record of Australian creative life. Dance is one of the major performing arts in Australia in historical, contemporary, Indigenous and multicultural settings and has long formed a highly participative social activity in the community. However, since dance by its nature is not well represented in notated forms, it is necessary to actively encourage the systematic documentation and collection of Australia’s dance culture. For this reason, the Library is committed to a special focus on dance within its oral history and folklore, manuscript, pictures, ephemera and music collection development policies and aims to improve access to national collections and resources through the Australia Dancing web service.


10.2 The Library is building its collection of dance and dance-related materials that form part of the documentary record of Australian culture, as part of the Library’s national heritage responsibilities. The focus of collecting is upon Australian dance resources across a broad spectrum of dance styles, including folk and multicultural dance. The aim is to support the preservation of dance materials and documentation of dance in Australia and to provide access to dance and dance-related information for all Australians, as well as to meet the specific needs of the dance and research communities. The Library actively collects materials that especially preserve and document the synergies and relationships between Australian music, dance, design and theatre.


10.3 ‘Australian dance’ is defined as dance created by Australians and Australian companies in Australia or overseas, or associated with Australia by explicit Australian performance or subject reference. ‘Creators’ encompass choreographers, composers, artistic directors, dancers, designers, production assistants, general managers who have artistic, musical, intellectual, production or managerial responsibilities. ‘Australian creators’ in dance include those who were born or who have resided permanently in Australia, or who have continued to be recognised as Australian although residence in Australia has not been continuous, or who have been identified through work in Australia as Australian.


10.4 The acquisition of Australian dance materials includes personal archives, organisational papers and oral histories of significant dancers, choreographers, and others involved in dance; notated dance scores, archival sound recordings of folk dance music, pictorial material and ephemera documenting dance history and practice; and materials that support research and study of Australian dance. Notated dance scores, published or unpublished, will be acquired according to the same guidelines as printed, manuscript or digital music scores. Overseas materials which exemplify artistic relationships and cultural contexts that inform the development of Australian dance in Australia and overseas, are collected according to the provisions for Overseas Collections (see para.11.1).

Australian Digital Dance Resources

10.5 The Library selects dance websites for archiving via the PANDORA web archive as part of its commitment to the collection of and access to dance resources. The Library supports the cooperative digitisation and delivery of dance resources by other Australian institutions, as well as access to dance information and documentation, delivered through Australia Dancing or the Library’s Ballets Russes website.

10.6 The Library considers the holdings and digital availability of items from other institutions when selecting retrospective items for purchase. The Library does not collect stand-alone audiovisual documentation of Australian dance, except where this forms part of personal or organisational manuscript collections.

Access to the Collections

10.7 Access to the Library’s dance materials is primarily through the Library’s catalogue and through the resource directory on Australia Dancing. Additionally, finding aids are selectively being created to enhance access to dance resources in the ephemera and manuscript collections.

10.8 The Library is digitising some dance collection materials, making them accessible through the Library’s digital collections and services. Integrated and cooperative access to Australian dance resources in multiple formats is available through Australia Dancing.

10.9 Dance materials are often unique and irreplaceable which means that they are delivered for use under supervision through the special collections reading rooms or the Petherick Reading Room. Provided there are no preservation risks or copyright restrictions, copies of dance materials can be made for readers within the Library or from offsite. Original materials normally remain within the Library at all times, except where lent for exhibition or special purposes.

Relations with other Institutions

10.10 The policies and activities of other collecting institutions, particularly the National Film and Sound Archive, the state libraries and performing arts museums or collections, have a bearing on the Library’s collecting priorities and procedures in relation to dance. The Library’s special focus in acquiring dance materials within oral history and folklore, manuscript, pictures, ephemera and music collections, as well as notated dance scores, is complemented by the National Film and Sound Archive which collects Australia’s audiovisual heritage.

10.11 The Library collects archival sound recordings pertaining to Australia’s folk dance heritage as part of its Oral History and Folklore collection. The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies is the principal repository of sound and audiovisual recordings of traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dance. However other Australian Indigenous dance material is collected by the Library in accordance with the provisions of this collection development policy.

10.12 With initial financial assistance from the Australia Council and in partnership with Ausdance, the peak industry body for dance in Australia, and other institutions, the Library has developed integrated web access to dance resources and information in Australia, contemporary and historical, through the portal Australia Dancing.