The National Library of Australia’s overseas collections have been built over many years and make up approximately half of the Library’s total print collection. The Library’s Strategic Directions 2012-14 statement reaffirms the Library’s commitment to continue to “inform Australians about their region and their place in the world through our Asian and other overseas collections.” More broadly, the Library’s strategic direction is to improve the discoverability and accessibility of its collections for all Australians.
The Library’s revised collection development policy for overseas, Asian and Pacific collecting reflects these strategic priorities. As set out in the policy, its overarching principle will be to prefer digital format over print, wherever digital formats are available. The shift to digital form has been under way for some time and reflects our users’ overwhelming preference for the immediate access it affords them to the collection, wherever they may be located.
The Library’s commitment to its Asian and Pacific collections has not changed under the new policy and collecting will continue from and about the countries of the region. Other overseas collecting will be more selective in future and will focus on the Library’s collecting areas of interest: very broadly, the historical, cultural and social aspects of Australia, its development as a nation and its place in the Asia-Pacific region and the wider world. There are a number of reasons for the Library’s greater selectivity in overseas collecting. These include the wide availability of information online that was previously only accessible in libraries, the opportunity to use collaborative networks to provide access to collections, and the need to reduce costs and maintain the overseas acquisitions program within the level of resources available.
The National Library’s overseas and Asia-Pacific collections are a rich national resource for research and study. Our future collecting programs will seek to build a collection that remains relevant and necessary in an era of unparalleled access to information. I believe that the Library’s collections will continue to enable Australians to understand their place in the Asia-Pacific region and the world in the past, present and future.