An arial view f the Naitonal Library of Australia showing the orange temporary protective roof and white cylinders where work is currently being done.

Unique and rare collections unavailable due to building works and wet weather

The National Library of Australia is home to some of the most unique documents in Australian history.

In 2020, the roof of our building was significantly damaged by hail. Building works to replace the roof commenced in February 2022 and will continue until approximately August 2023.

The Library has been attempting to maintain access to the unique collections stored in secure and climate-controlled stacks on Level 4 of the building – the Library’s top floor. Our builders have worked with Library staff to try to ensure the Level 4 collection is protected while the roof, and parts of our ageing heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) systems, are being replaced. This involves a combination of protective measures on the roof itself, wrapping entire compactus units in waterproof material, and continuously monitoring conditions on level 4 to address issues. However, a combination of latent building conditions and recent wet weather has made it impossible to avoid all leaks into the Level 4 stack areas, and we have experienced water damage to collections. To date, no unique collection materials have been lost due to water damage. Some collection items have been replaced, and others are being treated by expert conservators.

The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast increased rainfall over Spring and Summer. Given this combination of conditions, having considered all available options, and with no other collection storage space available, the Library and its Council has made the difficult decision to completely close access to the Level 4 stacks until late March 2023. This will enable us to protect the collection from the risk of adverse weather events, allowing us to discharge our long-term stewardship responsibilities over these precious collections. Our Level 4 collections include close to half of our irreplaceable manuscripts collections, and our Asian rare books.

Temporary closures of some collection stacks in other areas of the Library are needed to maintain collection safety while the HVAC replacement works are in progress. Most of these closures are of shorter duration.

Collection material stored in other parts of the Parkes building, and at our three offsite repositories will still be available for use. Members of the public can request material via our catalogue (eCallslips), and our Copies Direct service, or request information via our Ask a Librarian service, and will be advised if requested material can be retrieved or digitised.

We understand that this decision will cause significant inconvenience and delays in coming months. We greatly regret impacts on the researchers and readers it is our privilege to serve. However, this is a decision we must make for the long-term protection of a collection that is truly a national treasure.


Georgia McDonald
Assistant Director (A/g), Communications and Marketing, National Library of Australia
Phone: 02 6262 1156
Mobile: 0401 226 697