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.