The National Library of Australia holds the largest collection of Indonesian language material in Australia and is a world-class research collection on contemporary Indonesia. The collection has been growing since the mid-1950s, and currently comprises over 200,000 books, 250 newspaper titles, 5,000 serial titles, several thousand reels of microfilm and sheets of microfiche as well as maps and films. 

In 1971, the National Library established an office in the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. Today, this team works collaboratively with colleagues in Canberra to collect material from Jakarta and all the provinces of Indonesia.  

To celebrate Indonesia’s 20th National Book Day on 17 May 2022, the National Library collaborated with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and interviewed Wishnu Hardi, Jakarta Office Manager, and Rebecca Gibbs, Assistant-Director, Acquisitions. 

What does the team in Indonesia do? 

The National Library's Jakarta Office are vital for sourcing and acquiring Indonesian publications that would be difficult to find outside of the country. 

With specialist local knowledge of the Indonesian publishing industry, the team of four use their contacts across the country – including government agencies, universities, and commercial publishers – to acquire new material for the collection. 

'Maintaining a local presence in Jakarta has enabled the National Library to collect primary source material that are unobtainable outside the country,” says Wishnu Hardi, Jakarta Office Manager. 

“The Office acquires Indonesian monographs, serials, newspapers, maps, and ephemera for the National Library of Australia.' 

In Australia, the acquisitions team receive and unbox the materials when they arrive and make sure they are ready for readers to request as soon as they come into the collection.  

‘Each year the team in Jakarta send thousands of new books, journals, and newspapers to Australia. They also support the team in Canberra to catalogue the material and help describe Australia-sourced Indonesian language materials,' says Rebecca Gibbs, Assistant-Director, Acquisitions.

Three brightly coloured book covers in Indonesian arranged on a black backdrop
Contemporary publications from the Indonesian collection at the National Library of Australia

Tell us about the Indonesian collection... 

The strength of the National Library’s Indonesian collection lies in the volume of contemporary publications.  

'The main subject strengths are in the social sciences and humanities, current Indonesian politics and government, development studies, economic policy, and law. Statistical data has also been collected at the national, provincial, and sub-provincial levels,' says Wishnu. 

Most of the material is in the Indonesian language but there are also items in regional languages and in English. 

'Any work written by an Australian, or about Australia but primarily published in Indonesia is added to the collection. This also includes translations. We even have some Mills & Boon books written by Australians and translated for the Indonesian market,' says Rebecca. 

Are there any rare items in the collection? 

The National Library has rare collection of Indonesian ethnographic manuscripts, including a small number of Batak Bark Books. They are beautiful tree-bark manuscripts containing text on magic, divination, and medicine from the Batak tribe. The books were created from strips of flattened bark from the alim tree, folded like a concertina, and bound between wooden covers. These ancient books are exceedingly rare and are not often found in libraries. 

A manuscript made out of tree bark, folded in a long zig zag pattern
Batak Bark Book, n.d., 

How can Indonesian communities access the collection? 

There are several ways to access the National Library’s collections, whether you are in Australia or overseas. 

Digitised collection material can be viewed on Trove. Here you will find newspapers, maps, magazines, photographs and more originating from Indonesia. A great example is Inside Indonesia – a magazine on Indonesian culture, politics, economy, and environment. All issues from 1983 onwards are available in Trove. 

Visitors to Canberra can request collection material via our catalogue and view it in our beautiful reading rooms – you just need to get a library card

For interstate or international readers, if the material you are after is not available through Trove yet, you can request copies through our online copying service Copies Direct. Alternatively, most of the material is also available for loan to other libraries via interlibrary loans