National Library of Australia

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National Library of Australia
NLA logo.png
Agency overview
Formed 1960
Preceding Agency Commonwealth Parliamentary Library
Jurisdiction Government of Australia
Headquarters Canberra, ACT, Australia
Employees 479 (2010–11)
Annual budget A$62.9 million (2011–12)
Agency executive Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, Director-General
Parent agency Attorney-General's Department (Australia)
National Library of Australia
National Library of Australia as viewed from Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra

The National Library of Australia is the largest reference library of Australia, responsible under the terms of the National Library Act for "maintaining and developing a national collection of library material, including a comprehensive collection of library material relating to Australia and the Australian people." In 2012–2013, the National Library collection comprised 6,496,772 items, and an additional 15,506 metres of manuscript material.[1]


The National Library of Australia, while formally established by the passage of the National Library Act 1960, had been functioning as a National Library rather than strictly a Parliamentary Library, almost since its inception.

In 1901 a Commonwealth Parliamentary Library was established to serve the newly formed Federal Parliament of Australia. From its inception the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library was driven to development of a truly national collection. In 1907 the Joint Parliamentary Library Committee under the Chairmanship of the Speaker, Sir Frederick Holder defined the objective of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library in the following words:

The Library Committee is keeping before it the ideal of building up, for the time when Parliament shall be established in the Federal Capital, a great Public Library on the lines of the world-famed Library of Congress at Washington; such a library, indeed, as shall be worthy of the Australian Nation; the home of the literature, not of a State, or of a period, but of the world, and of all time.[2]

The present library building was opened in 1968. The building was designed by the architectural firm of Bunning and Madden. The foyer is decorated in marble, with stained glass windows by Leonard French and three tapestries by Mathieu Matégot.[3]


In 2012–2013 the Library collection comprised 6,496,772 items, with an estimated additional 2,325,900 items held in the manuscripts collection.[1] The Library's collections of Australiana have developed into the nation's single most important resource of materials recording the Australian cultural heritage. Australian writers, editors and illustrators are actively sought and well represented—whether published in Australia or overseas.

The Library’s collection includes all formats of material, from books, journals, websites and manuscripts to pictures, photographs, maps, music, oral history recordings, manuscript papers and ephemera.[4]

Approximately 92.1% of the Library's collection has been catalogued[1] and is discoverable through the online catalogue.[5]

The Library has digitized over 174,000 items from its collection[6] (the 100,000th being and, where possible, delivers these directly across the Internet. The Library is a world leader in digital preservation techniques,[7] and maintains an Internet-accessible archive of selected Australian websites called the Pandora Archive.

Australian & General Collection[edit]

The Library collects material produced by Australians, for Australians or about the Australian experience in all formats—not just printed works—books, serials, newspapers, maps, posters, music and printed ephemera—but also online publications and unpublished material such as manuscripts, pictures and oral histories. The Library has particular collection strengths in the performing arts, including dance.

The Library's considerable collections of general overseas and rare book materials, as well as world-class Asian and Pacific collections which augment the Australiana collections. The print collections are further supported by extensive microform holdings.

The Library also maintains the National Reserve Braille Collection.

Asian Collections[edit]

The Library houses the largest and most actively developing research resource on Asia in Australia, and the largest Asian language collections in the Southern hemisphere, with over half a million volumes in the collection, as well as extensive online and electronic resources. The Library collects resources about all Asian countries in Western languages extensively, and resources in the following Asian languages: Burmese, Chinese, Persian, Indonesian, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Manchu, Mongolian, Thai, Timorese, and Vietnamese.

The Library has acquired a number of important Western and Asian language scholarly collections from researchers and bibliophiles. These collections include:

The Asian Collections are searchable via the National Library's catalogue.[12]

Pictures and Manuscripts[edit]

Discussion of the acquisition and preservation process of Joan Blaeu's Archipelagus Orientalis (1663) by the National Library (2013)

The National Library holds an extensive collection of pictures and manuscripts. The manuscript collection contains about 26 million separate items, covering in excess of 10,492 meters of shelf space (ACA Australian Archival Statistics, 1998). The collection relates predominantly to Australia, but there are also important holdings relating to Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and the Pacific. The collection also holds a number of European and Asian manuscript collections or single items have been received as part of formed book collections.

The Australian manuscript collections date from the period of maritime exploration and settlement in the 18th century until the present, with the greatest area of strength dating from the 1890s onwards. The collection includes a large number of outstanding single items, such as the 14th century Chertsey Cartulary, the journal of James Cook on the HM Bark Endeavour, inscribed on the Memory of the World[13] Register in 2001, the diaries of Robert O'Hara Burke and William John Wills from the Burke and Wills expedition, and Charles Kingsford Smith's and Charles Ulm's log of the Southern Cross.

A wide range of individuals and families are represented in the collection, with special strength in the fields of politics, public administration, diplomacy, theatre, art, literature, the pastoral industry and religion. Examples are the papers of Alfred Deakin, Sir John Latham, Sir Keith Murdoch, Sir Hans Heysen, Sir John Monash, Vance Palmer and Nettie Palmer, A.D. Hope, Manning Clark, David Williamson, W.M. Hughes, Sir Robert Menzies, Sir William McMahon, Lord Casey, Geoffrey Dutton, Peter Sculthorpe, Daisy Bates, Jessie Street, and Eddie Mabo and James Cook both of whose papers were inscribed on UNESCO's Memory of the World Programme Register in 2001.[14][15]

The Library has also acquired the records of many national non-governmental organisations. They include the records of the Federal Secretariats of the Liberal party, the A.L.P, the Democrats, the R.S.L., the Australian Inland Mission, the Australian Union of Students, The Australian Ballet, the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust, the Australian Institute of Urban Studies, Australian Industries Protection League, the Australian Conservation Foundation, and the Australian Council of National Trusts. Finally, the Library holds about 37,000 reels of microfilm of manuscripts and archival records, mostly acquired overseas and predominantly of Australian and Pacific interest.

The National Library’s Pictures collection focuses on Australian people, places and events, from European exploration of the South Pacific to contemporary events. Art works and photographs are acquired primarily for their informational value, and for their importance as historical documents.[16]

Media represented in the collection include photographs, drawings, watercolours, oils, lithographs, engravings, etchings and sculpture/busts.[17]

Reading rooms[edit]

The large National Library building is home to various reading rooms and collections. On the ground floor is the Main Reading Room—this is where the bulk of the Library's Internet access terminals are located, and where wireless internet access is available. Services are also delivered on-site from the Petherick Reading Room (for advanced readers) on the ground floor; the Newspaper & Microforms and Map Reading Rooms on the lower-ground floor, Manuscripts and Pictures on level 2, and Asian Collections on level 3. Limited space is also available for readers at the Hume Annexe.


The National Library of Australia hosts the Australian National Bibliographic Database[18] (ANBD) and offers free access through the Libraries Australia[19] Search service. The Library also provides Cataloguing-in-Publication (CiP)[20] details, ISSNs and ISMNs for Australian publishers.

Collaborative resource discovery services[edit]

The National Library of Australia provides a national leadership role in developing and managing collaborative online services with the Australian library community, making it easier for users to find and access information resources at the national level. With the development of Trove, many of the National Library of Australia's resource discovery services have been integrated into the Trove service.


Trove is a search engine to locate resources about Australia and Australians, which reaches many locations otherwise unavailable to external search engines.[21] It is a centralised national service built with the collaboration of major libraries of Australia.[22] In coming years all National Library of Australia's resource discovery services will be integrated with Trove.

One remarkable feature of the search engine is that it allows users to search the database of digitised newspapers from 1803 to 1954 that the National Library of Australia hosts, which are now in the public domain. The newspapers (frequently microfiche or other photographic facsimiles) have been scanned and the text from the articles has been captured by optical character recognition to facilitate easy searching, but it still contains many OCR errors, often due to poor quality facsimiles. The Trove website allows users to correct the text, and users are encouraged to register by setting up a free account. Many users have contributed tens of thousands of corrected lines, and some have contributed millions. Over time this collaborative participation will improve the database's searchability, and allows users to give back to the service. Warwick Cathro, who retired in 2011, as Assistant Director-General, Resource Sharing and Innovation at the National Library was pivotal in the development of Trove.[23]

Libraries Australia[edit]

Libraries Australia[24] is a subscription based resource-sharing service coordinated by the National Library of Australia for Australian libraries and their users. It is used for reference, collection development, cataloguing and interlibrary lending. The heart of Libraries Australia is the Australian National Bibliographic Database (ANBD) which records the location details of over 42 million books, journals, newspapers, pictures, maps and more, which are held in over 800 Australian libraries, including academic, research, national, state, public and special libraries. There are now links to over 700,000 digitised collection items available from Libraries Australia.

Non-subscribers can search Libraries Australia records for free via the Trove discovery service.

Australian Newspapers[edit]

Australian Newspapers[25] is a free online service enabling full-text searching of historic newspaper articles published in each state and territory from the 19th century to 1954, when copyright may apply. The service is managed by the National Library of Australia, in collaboration with the Australian State and Territory libraries.

On 25 July 2008 the Australian Newspapers Beta service was released to the public. The service contains over 3 million articles from 1803 onwards, with more content being added on a regular basis.[26]


PANDORA, Australia's Web Archive, is a growing collection of Australian online publications, established initially by the National Library of Australia in 1996, and now built in collaboration with nine other Australian libraries and cultural collecting organisations.

PANDORA is an acronym that encapsulates its mission: Preserving and Accessing Networked Documentary Resources of Australia.

The purpose of the PANDORA Archive is to collect and provide long-term access to selected online publications and web sites that are about Australia, are by an Australian author on a subject of social, political, cultural, religious, scientific or economic significance and relevance to Australia, or are by an Australian author of recognised authority and make a contribution to international knowledge.

National directors[edit]


The National Library is also a popular recreational and training venue for Canberra's climbing community. The use of roughly cut granite blocks in the construction of the outer walls has created numerous bouldering areas. The eastern most section of the northern wall is notably the most popular, however many other sections are also climbed. The climbing consists long traverse problems with the potential for short eliminates. Climbing of the taller sections of the library is discouraged by the management.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Collection statistics | National Library of Australia". Retrieved 2013-11-12. 
  2. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-05-30. 
  3. ^ Sue Ebury (2008). The Many Lives of Kenneth Myer. The Miegunyah Press. p. 319. ISBN 0-522-85546-6. 
  4. ^ "National Library of Australia – Our Collections". Retrieved 2012-08-03. 
  5. ^ "Catalogue Home | National Library of Australia". Retrieved 2013-11-12. 
  6. ^ "National Library Facts and Figures". Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  7. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-05-30. 
  8. ^ "". 1984-12-12. Retrieved 2012-05-30. 
  9. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-05-30. 
  10. ^[dead link]
  11. ^ "" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-05-30. 
  12. ^[dead link]
  13. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-05-30. 
  14. ^ "The Mabo Case Manuscripts". UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. 16 May 2008. Retrieved 2009-12-11. 
  15. ^ "The Endeavour Journal of James Cook". UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. 16 May 2008. Retrieved 2009-12-11. 
  16. ^ "National Library of Australia – Pictures Collection Development Policy". Retrieved 2012-08-03. 
  17. ^ "National Library of Australia – Pictures". Retrieved 2012-08-03. 
  18. ^ "". 2007-10-01. Retrieved 2012-05-30. 
  19. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-05-30. 
  20. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-05-30. 
  21. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-05-30. 
  22. ^ "National Library unveils web-based treasure Trove". ABC News. 28 April 2010. 
  23. ^ Trove – Cathro, Warwick S. (1948–) Retrieved 16 June 2012
  24. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-05-30. 
  25. ^ "". 1945-05-30. Retrieved 2012-05-30. 
  26. ^ "". 2012-02-17. Retrieved 2012-05-30. 
  27. ^ "Friends Farewell Jan Fullerton". National Library of Australia. 15 September 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-29. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°17′47″S 149°07′46″E / 35.296379°S 149.129448°E / -35.296379; 149.129448