Every month the reading rooms here at the National Library of Australia are visited by thousands of people wishing to access our collections and services.  Whilst many of them are experienced researchers, many are also just starting out on their research journey. You may be one of them.

Whatever stage you are at, whether you live in Canberra, reside interstate and want to access our resources from home, or are simply planning your future visit, the following tips will help you make the most of your valuable time at the National Library of Australia. (Please note that these tips are mostly in relation to our general collections of published material. Tips for accessing and using special collections can be found in our guide to Using the Special Collections Reading Room.)

And the best part about it is, you can do all this before you leave home.  So sit down, open your laptop, tablet, PC or phone; connect to the National Library website and start preparing for your visit.

Father Joseph at the computer, Tarrawarra Abbey, Yarra Glen, Victoria, April 2013

David Roberts (1954- ), Father Joseph at the computer, Tarrawarra Abbey, Yarra Glen, Victoria, April 2013nla.cat-vn6534944

  • Firstly, check our Opening Hours. It may also be useful to check the requirements if you are planning to visit a specific reading room.  Making sure we are open when you want to conduct your research is essential to getting off to a great start. Remember we are not open on public holidays. Social distancing guidelines are also still in effect in our building, so please see our COVIDSafe page for the latest details.
  • Remember to get a Library card. Our collections are not available for you to browse on a shelf, so a Library card is the key to requesting collection material.  If you are planning a future visit you can register online and get your card sent to you before you leave home. This can be a great time saver as it allows you to request material and have it waiting for you when you arrive.  Having a Library card also allows you to access the variety of eResources available from outside the Library.  If you are planning to get a Library card when you visit the Library, remember to bring suitable identification.
  • Check our collection delivery times. At last count we held over 10 million collection items, or 261 kilometres of physical material.  Not all of this can be stored onsite and advance notice may be required for particular items. In addition, we don’t deliver material on weekends or evenings, so if you are planning a visit at these times use your library card to have material delivered prior to your arrival.

Retrieving a book from the stack at Hume Warehouse

Loui Seselja (1948- ), Retrieving a book from the stack at Hume Warehouse, Annex of the National Library of Australia, Canberra, 2005nla.cat-vn3585321

  • Check the online catalogue from home to prepare for your research. This will let you know whether our collections contain material which is relevant to your area of study; it may be that you should redirect your research to another library or collecting institution.
  • Check the availability of the collection. Sometimes, items in our collections are unavailable, often because somebody else is using them. By checking the online catalogue in advance, and requesting material before your visit, you can ensure that it will be here waiting for you when you arrive. You can also check the status of your requests by logging onto the catalogue with your Library card; once the item has been delivered to the reading room, it will be listed as “Ready for Collection”. We hold your requests for one week from the date of the request
  • Look at our online research guides and other material. We have developed a number of great resources featuring our collections in particular subject areas. These include our :
  • If you have found that we hold the material you are looking for, consider if you want to copy it.  We have various copying services available in our reading rooms   If you cannot come to Canberra you may want to use our Copies Direct service  or enquire at your local library about getting an interlibrary loan.
  • Read the Code of conduct for readers and visitors and other relevant policies such as Acceptable use of information and communication technology. Reading these will make you aware of what behaviour is expected of our patrons when they are in the Library and using our services and facilities. Remember that food and drink are not allowed in the reading rooms, however you can store these and any large bags in our free lockers.
  • Whilst you are here you will want a break from your research, so check What’s On to find out about the great events and exhibitions at the Library. Free guided tours of our Treasures Gallery have recently recommenced - see our Library tours page for details and booking information.
  • If after doing all these things you are still unsure about any aspect of our services or collections contact the Ask a Librarian service. You can do this by telephone or online. We cannot undertake lengthy or ongoing research but we will make every effort to give you guidance on search strategies and relevant resources to get you started in your research. We may also refer you to your local library or another information provider.

A group of children and librarian at Waratah branch library, Newcastle, New South Wales, 13 September 1948

A group of children and librarian at Waratah branch library, Newcastle, New South Wales, 13 September 1948nla.cat-vn7892125

Remember, when you do make that long planned actual visit to the National Library, our friendly desk staff are always happy to assist you with any questions you may have.