The functions of the Library are set out in of the National Library Act 1960 (section 6). They are:
- to maintain and develop a national collection of library material, including a comprehensive collection of library material relating to Australia and the Australian people
- to make library material in the national collection available to such persons and institutions, and in such manner and subject to such conditions, as the Council determines, with a view to the most advantageous use of that collection in the national interest
- to make available such other services in relation to library matters and library material (including bibliographical services) as the Council thinks fit and, in particular, services for the purposes of:
- the library of the Parliament
- the authorities of the Commonwealth
- the Territories
- the Agencies (within the meaning of the Public Service Act 1999)
- to cooperate in library matters (including the advancement of library science) with authorities or persons, whether in Australia or elsewhere, concerned with library matters.
The Library is one of several agencies within the Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport portfolio with responsibilities for collecting Australian cultural heritage materials and making them available to the Australian public. The Library was part of the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio until 14 December 2012. The Minister for the Arts, the Hon. Simon Crean MP, has responsibility for the Library. The affairs of the Library are conducted by the National Library Council, with the Director-General as the executive officer.