These guidelines summarise the National Library's policy on discarding materials from its print collections.

They are based on two simple principles:

1.The National Library generally does not collect multiple copies of library material, except in the case of Australian monograph material considered to be of high research value and likely to be in high demand, where two copies are acquired: an N or legal deposit copy and an additional NL or lending copy. The Library's overseas printed collection generally consists of only single copies. Additional copies of some Australian publications may also be acquired for the Library's reference collection, and are not intended to be preserved once they outlive their usefulness for this purpose. The nature and development of both the overseas and Australian print collections is governed by the Library's Collection Development Policy.

2. The Library regards itself a research library and as such it will retain, and ensure the long-term availability of any material possessing at least a minimal level of informational integrity, once acquired and fully catalogued.

The overseas print collection

I. Discard practices aimed at ensuring that the overseas print collection is a single-copy collection

The following overseas materials are routinely discarded:

  • duplicates of current monographs
  • duplicates of serial issues received, if the supplier does not require their return
  • sample issues of new serial titles if the title is not selected for the collection, and the supplier does not explicitly request their return
  • unbound issues of a serial when a consolidating bound volume arrives
  • uncumulated issues of an index when a cumulated edition replacing them is acquired
  • loose-leaf materials when replacement update pages arrive
  • second and later copies of periodicals circulated to staff when a complete volume is assembled in the stacks for retention
  • second and later copies used as working copies when these are no longer required, provided the stack copy is still available
  • duplicate reference material originally held at several reading room locations when these are no longer required, provided a stack copy or a copy at another reading room location is still available

Exceptions to the single-copy rule

Multiple copies of overseas materials will be retained where:

  • the additional copy or copies are held in a formed collection, unless disposal arrangements have been negotiated with the donor/vendor;
  • the additional copy or copies are held in a secure stacks area, such as the Rare Books Collection.

The Library may decide or may have decided to acquire, for preservation purposes, microform or facsimile copies of rare or expensive overseas materials. The originals of these will form an additional exception to the single-copy rule and will not be discarded or relocated.

II. Discard of non-duplicate overseas print materials

The following types of material may be evaluated as not containing a sufficient level of informational integrity to be worth retaining for research purposes.

  • serial runs of less than five years or less than half the full life of a serial title, whichever is shorter.  An exception is made when the broken run offers a full or nearly full coverage of an exceptional period in the historical development of the subject or area covered (eg material documenting a period of rapid advance or revolutionary change)
  • broken sets of multivolume works
  • small, unrepresentative samples of subjects or topics otherwise not covered in the collection
  • material in such a deteriorated condition of preservation that it is no longer suitable for use (eg crumbling, illegible, or fused pages, disintegrating binding, absence of identifying title page, etc.)

Where a collection of material is obtained from a donor or vendor, and parts of that collection are not in scope for collecting according to the Collection Development Policy, those items not in scope may be discarded. In cases where a donor is involved, the Library will do this in consultation with the donor.

III. Discard of overseas print materials superseded by another format

The Library routinely discards hard-copy issues of overseas newspapers when copies of the same title and issues are received in microform.

The Library may also discard overseas print materials that have been superseded by an electronic version either freely available or via a Library subscription. This includes hardcopy reference material replaced by electronic services or resources.

IV. Guidelines for overseas print material collected under collecting policies no longer followed

The Library views the outcome of its successful collecting efforts of the past, especially when these were aiming to develop a research level collection, as a continuing national resource for which it assumes responsibility into the foreseeable future, or until such time as a long term national document storage facility or national repository library is established.

On occasion, library material may be relocated to suitable collecting institutions. In order to ensure an equitable decision, such relocation will take place only as the outcome of extended consultation with all interested parties. The purpose of the consultation will always be to ensure the optimal level of access and the best possible conditions of retention for the material involved. The relocated material will generally remain the property of the National Library and will be regarded as being on extended loan. In limited circumstances material may be transferred permanently to another institution.

The Australian print collection

V. Discard practices aimed at ensuring that the Australian print monograph collection is where deemed necessary a two-copy collection (i.e. the N or deposit copy and the NL or lending copy)

These guidelines apply only to Australian material already taken into the collection. Selection guidelines for specific categories of printed and electronic material are provided in the Library's Collection Development Policy. The overriding consideration for the inclusion of an item in the Library's print collections is the information content of the publication.

  • When a third collection copy is identified, then this copy may be discarded. The Legal Deposit copy is always retained with the blanket order (preferred) or purchased copy retained as the lending copy.
  • Duplicate reference material originally held at one or more reading room location when these are no longer required, as long as two collection copies are held in stacks.
  • New non-government monographs deposited with the Library that are superfluous to need are returned to the publisher.

Exceptions to the two-copy rule

More than two copies of Australian material will be retained where:

  • the additional copy or copies are held in a formed collection, unless disposal arrangements have been negotiated with the donor/vendor.
  • the additional copy or copies are held in a secure stacks area, such as the Australian Secure Room.

Both collections

VI. Dispersal of discarded material

Duplicate monographs likely to be of interest may be offered to other Australian libraries or overseas libraries before disposal.

In addition, when considered appropriate for particular categories of material, the Library may offer significant materials discarded from its own collections to other suitable collecting institutions both within Australia and overseas. Where approval is granted by the Assistant Director General, Collections Management, consignments of material may also be offered to charitable organisations for possible re-sale, in preference to being consigned to paper recycling. All such material will be adequately identified as National Library duplicates or cancelled titles.