How does the Library use donations to its collections?

The diversity and depth of the Library's Australian Special Collections owes much to the generous donations of individuals and organisations. Donations help build and enrich the Library’s collections and ensure the nation’s creativity, research and stories are preserved for the benefit of all Australians today and for the future.

Research

The Library’s special collections are developed to support research and study across a range of subject areas, primarily in the areas of the humanities and social sciences, but also in areas as diverse as economics, criminology, and environmental studies. They document the people, places and events which make up our history; give insights into issues not on the public record and reveal creative processes.

The Library’s special collections are extensively used to support publications, interpretation of historic places and sites, and on websites, radio, film and television productions.

Online discovery

On acquisition, all donations to the Library’s collections are described and listed on the Library’s catalogue, which is accessible online through the Library’s website, the Australian National Bibliographic Database (ANBD), and Trove, the Library’s national discovery service.

Onsite access

Material donated or deposited with us is, subject to the donor’s advice, made available for public consultation under secure and supervised access in our reading rooms as soon as it has been processed. We aim to make all our collections as accessible as possible while respecting the intellectual property, moral rights, cultural sensitivities and privacy of donors, creators and subjects.

Donors are able to set the terms of access and use for their collection material by completing a Rights Agreement. The Library has a range of methods for managing collections or items that contain sensitive or restricted material.

Exhibition and publication

The special collections are heavily used for exhibitions at the Library and as loans to museums and galleries around Australia and overseas. Many donations, and the stories of their creators and collectors, feature in the Library’s Treasures gallery, temporary exhibitions, public programs and publications.

The selection of collection material for exhibition is at the discretion of the Library, and unless where material is specifically acquired for an exhibition, we are unable to guarantee the display of donated material.

Digitisation and copying

Donations are selectively digitized in accordance with the Library’s annual digitisation workplan.  Preference is normally given to rare or fragile material at risk of deterioration, and high demand items or collections. Where permitted by the donor and copyright provisions, copies of special collection material may be requested through the Library’s Copies Direct service.

Preservation

As part of the care and safeguarding of the Library’s collections, all collection material is stored in secure repositories with optimum environmental conditions for long term preservation. Where required, collections undergo rehousing and treatment by the Library’s skilled conservators and bookbinders. The aim of this work is to stabilise fragile or damaged items without compromising their historical, aesthetic or cultural integrity.

Acknowledgment

At the discretion of the donor, donations may be acknowledged on the Library’s catalogue by name or organization.

How are donation offers assessed by the Library?

Acceptance of donations is guided by our Collection Development Policy, which outlines the collecting interests, scope and priorities of each of the Library’s collection areas. Assessment of the offer may also include consideration of the material’s research value, national significance, the Library’s existing holdings and the potential preservation and storage costs. 

We are always pleased to consider material for donation to the Library’s collections. All offers are registered in our acquisitions database for appraisal by specialist staff in each collection area.

You will be advised in writing of the outcome of the Library’s assessment. If your offer is accepted, Library staff will assist you in making arrangements for the transfer of the material to the Library.

Conditions of acceptance

As a general principle, the Library prefers that no unnecessary restrictions on access are imposed by the donor, however in exceptional cases special conditions may be negotiated at the discretion of the collection manager. Donors are able to specify terms for the access and use of their material in the Library’s Rights Agreement at the point of acquisition.

All donations of collection material to the Library are permanent gifts. We are not able to accept donations of collection material on a permanent loan or loan for copy basis.

How to make an offer

Online: Offers or enquiries regarding donations may be submitted online by making a collection offer. Once submitted, you will receive an acknowledgement email and a tracking number to monitor the progress of your offer.

By mail: Please complete and return the Library’s Collection Offer form and post it to: Acquisitions team, Pictures & Manuscripts Branch, National Library of Australia, Parkes Place, Canberra ACT 2600. Please do not post any collection material with your form.

If you would prefer to talk with a staff member about your material first, please make an appointment prior to your visit as we are unable to accept material in our Reading Rooms.

If you have material which you think may be of interest to the Library, we would be happy to advise you about the best and most appropriate home for it. If we are unable to accept your donation offer, we may be able to refer you to an appropriate State, Territory, university or regional library or museum.

Although we are unable to accept all offers we receive, we are always grateful for the opportunity to consider them.

Does the Library accept donations on the spot?

Please contact the Library prior to sending or delivering any material offered for donation. If you wish to meet with a Library staff member to discuss your donation, please contact the Library on 02 6262 1259 or email specialcollections@nla.gov.au to make an appointment prior to your visit.

Any unsolicited material received by the Library will be assessed against the Collection Development Policy. Items not selected may be offered to another library or discarded. Where requested by the donor, any unwanted material will be returned.

What other institutions might be interested in my donation?

Australian state and territory libraries are responsible for collecting their state’s unique documentary heritage resources. Records that were received, created or kept by government agencies are collected by the National Archives of Australia, which has responsibility for the custody and control of Commonwealth Government records.

Apart from Libraries, there are many other collecting institutions you may like to consider, such as university archives, performing arts collections, corporate or church archives and museums.

If you have material which you think may be of interest to the Library, we would be happy to advise you about the best and most appropriate home for it. Should we be unable to accept your donation offer, we may be able to refer you to an appropriate State, Territory, university or regional library, archive or museum.

A contacts list of state libraries and other specialist collecting institutions can be found here.

Need more information?

You can contact us by calling 02 6262 1259 or submitting a collection offer or enquiry online