This policy describes the reader services the Library provides and how staff are expected to deliver them.

Our objective is to ensure Australians have access to a national collection of library material to enhance learning, knowledge creation, enjoyment and understanding of Australian life and society.

We will meet our users’ needs for rapid and easy access to our collections and other information resources. We will support the research needs of Australians wherever they are, and those people seeking information about Australia, through our reference-enquiry and document-delivery services.

Policy statement

The National Library is a public research library. We provide access to our rich Australian and international collections through our general and special collections reading rooms. People who cannot come to the Library can gain access to collections through our document delivery services, or online through our website if the material has been digitised. Internet access is available in the reading rooms for anyone who would like to access the wealth of information on the worldwide web.

The Library aims to provide easy access to our collections and services; our catalogue and electronic resources are available through the internet. To further support user independence, our reader services and curatorial staff develop a range of research guides and basic reader education programs.

Our skilled staff are also available to assist individuals finding and getting the information they require when visiting the reading rooms or through our offsite information and research service. We give priority to assisting Australian residents but will also respond to enquiries from researchers overseas if the question relates to Australia or the Library’s unique collections.

In their provision of reader services, our staff are guided by the Library’s Strategic Directions, the Information and Research Services Principles for the National and State Libraries of Australia, the National Library’s Service Charter and the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct.

This policy is based on the Service Guidelines for Information and Research Services at National and State Libraries Australia Libraries. It is designed to help you understand what levels of support to expect from our staff.

Our information and research services

The National Library supports you to find information in a variety of ways through our information and research services. When self-help tools and resources do not guide you to the information you need, our Ask a Librarian service provides assistance through a range of channels, including:

  • Face to face in reading rooms
  • Telephone
  • Online web-form/email
  • Letters and faxes
  • Appointments with a librarian or curator

What we are able to do initially

If you visit our Library and ask us for assistance, we will advise you on a research strategy, support you to use finding tools effectively and suggest appropriate resources.

If you phone us we are generally able to spend up to 10 minutes advising on the most appropriate information resources to guide you in your search.

If your enquiry cannot be answered in a short time frame, you may be referred to our research enquiry service. You may also be referred to another information provider if that is appropriate.

What we undertake as a research enquiry

Enquiries that cannot be responded to in a short timeframe and email or other written enquiries may be referred to our research enquiry service.

Depending on the nature of the enquiry, this extended service provides:

  • guidance on the most appropriate information resources for you to continue with your own research
  • details of resources librarians have consulted to respond to your enquiry.

We provide this service for:

  • all Australian residents
  • anyone wishing to access information relating to Australia
  • anyone wishing to access information which is unique to our collections.

You may also be referred to a State or Territory library, to your closest public, school or tertiary library, or to another information provider if this is the most appropriate place for you to find the information you need.

When contacting us, please provide the necessary information relating to your enquiry in an accurate and concise manner.

What we provide

  • Up to one hour of research on most enquiries.

We may spend more time on enquiries which require researching materials unique to the National Library. Where copies of documents are required as an outcome of the research, we may provide these at a charge. We will inform you if this is necessary as part of the response process. Information about our copy supply service is online.

Our response time

  • Up to one week for most enquiries.

For enquiries which require researching materials unique to our Library, we may negotiate a longer response time with you.


When responding to enquiries, we make reasonable and diligent efforts within our service guidelines to obtain accurate information from authoritative sources, including online databases. Information is provided in adherence with copyright legislation and, unless specifically stated in writing, there is no attempt at analysis.

Our Book a Librarian consultation service

You may make an appointment of up to one hour with a librarian or curator if you require personalised professional guidance about

  • resources in the Library's collection that are relevant to your research, or
  • research strategies and methodologies suitable for your specific research.

The appointment may be by phone or in person at the Library and should be booked in advance.

What we are not able to provide

  • lengthy or ongoing research, e.g. prolonged family history or newspaper searches or searches through the manuscripts collection
  • extended research assistance to people overseas asking for information that is readily available in their own country
  • information from collection resources with access restrictions
  • answers to lists of questions for quizzes or competitions
  • detailed assistance with school assignments
  • searches for missing persons
  • valuations
  • legal and medical advice.

In these instances, we may give you guidance on search strategies and relevant resources to get you started in your research, or refer you to your local library or another information provider.

To ensure we can assist everyone seeking our assistance in a timely fashion, we reserve the right to limit the number of responses we provide to repeat enquiries from the same person.

What we ask of you

As a public research library, we are committed to providing a safe and peaceful environment for readers and staff to study and work and to protect our collections for posterity. We therefore ask you to adhere to the National Library Regulations, the Library’s Acceptable Use of Information and Communication Technology Policy and our Code of Conduct.


We value your feedback. User Feedback forms are available online and in the reading rooms.

References and related documents

Are there other documents related to this policy?

The following documents are related to this policy: