For those who may not be able to visit us here at the National Library, have you been wondering how can you make the most of the resources available online to further your work or follow your general creative literature curiosity?

If you are interested in research for creative writing or literary scholarship, the National Library is always open online and is an invaluable repository to explore!

The National Library of Australia building in Canberra

Loui Seselja, National Library of Australia Building, External View, Canberra, 1999,

The key to our collections 

If you are an Australian resident, you will find that the key to our collections is a National Library card. This card allows you to access a select group of our online resources from home via our eResources service.

If you haven’t used eResources before, read our guide eResources at the National Library, which provides you with the basic information you need to make the most of this service. Alternatively, take a look at our eResources for scholarly research webinar. Although the library card provides you with access to our eResources service, it is worth remembering that not everything in the Library collections is available to read online. Much of our collection, including manuscripts, pictures, books, journals and newspapers, is only available in physical form and can only be read in our reading rooms. When you are next able to visit us, your library card can be used to request this material via our online catalogue. If you can’t get to our building at all, you can still access some materials via interlibrary loan and document supply services.

Selected eResources for literary research 

Once you have received your library card and read our guide on eResources at the National Library, you are ready to access the more than 200 licensed online services available to offsite users.  

With such choice, we know it can be tricky to find the sources that can best help with your literary research. Your choice of resource depends on what you’re researching. Is it background for a novel? Context for a review or author biography? Scholarly literary research?

Browsing the category list, which can be found under the Browse eResources tab (see below), is a great place to start to find the best resource for your literary purposes. There is a general category for arts and humanities, as well as a more specific literature sub-category.

Some key resources include:

  • Austlit: The Australian Literature Resource: The authoritative source for information on Australian authors and their works, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and storytellers, children and young adult authors and authors from multicultural backgrounds.
  • Australian Book Review Online: Since 1961, the ABRhas been publishing reviews, essays, commentaries, interviews and new creative writing from around Australia. Online content includes a mix of full-text and index back to 1977. The complete print edition is available at the National Library to view in our reading rooms.

Context and background for original works

If you are considering writing a work of fiction, or in the depths of writing one, you will need to look broadly for background colour and authenticity, so consider the resources listed in the eResources category for Newspapers and Media.

Here you can provide key historical and cultural context. Some titles include:

  • The Illustrated London News Historical Archive, 1842–2003: Over the course of its history, this newspaper reported on all the great events of the day, including wars, royalty, social events, science and exploration. Its distinguished contributors included Rudyard Kipling, Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie
  • The Times Literary Supplement Historical Archive, 1902–2014: One of the most comprehensive literary publications of the 20th and 21st centuries, this paper includes reviews of literature, theatre, cinema, music and exhibitions and writing by some of the most significant and influential writers and critics
  • Australia New Zealand Reference Centre Plus: This source includes the full text of leading Australian and New Zealand newspapers and periodicals, newswires and reference books, as well as biographies and an image collection of more than a million photos, maps and flags.

Philippa Poole Researching for Her First Book, The Diaries of Ethel Turner,

Accurate research for an original work requires identifying culturally specific information. As an example, if researching the history of women or the LGBTQIA+ movement, both in Australia and overseas, try the following databases, available via eResources:

  • Gerritsen Collection: Women’s History Online, 1543–1945
  • Archives of Sexuality and Gender: LGBTQ History and Culture since 1940
  • Archives of Sexuality and Gender: International Perspectives on LGBTQ Activism and Culture.

Finally, don’t forget the key free resources available. Among other subject areas covered, two that include content useful for researching significant Australian historical figures are:

Freely available digitised material

Although many of our online resources require a National Library card to unlock them, our catalogue contains links to much freely available digitised material.

By clicking on the link to the Online Versions in the catalogue record, as shown in the following example, you can explore the writers of Australia’s past.

Some examples of the resources available to researchers include the following titles:

A.T. Bolton, Portrait of Thea Astley, 1987,

Learning more

This is just a taste of the wealth of material you can unlock on our website.

If you are looking for more detailed information to help you understand and access our collections and services, explore our:

You can also send us an enquiry via our Ask a Librarian service – we won't do the research for you, but we can provide research tips and strategies to point you in the right direction!

The final step

If all your research results in a publication, don’t forget to send us a copy. This will ensure that your treasured piece is preserved for future generations to enjoy and maybe use for their own research!