National Library of Australia

The National Library of Australia (NLA) is the largest reference library in 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 2012–13, the National Library collection comprised 6,496,772 items, and an additional 15,506 metres (50,873 ft) of manuscript material.[3] It is located in Parkes, Canberra, ACT.[6]

National Library of Australia
Established23 March 1961 (1961-03-23)
Reference to legal mandateNational Library Act 1960
LocationCanberra, ACT
Coordinates35.296379°S 149.129448°E / -35.296379; 149.129448
Items collectedBooks, magazines, pictures, photographs, maps, sheet music, manuscripts, websites
Size6.93 million items
Criteria for collectionPublications made available to the Australian public
Legal depositDigital and hard-copy Australian published materials
Other information
BudgetA$57,800,000 (2015–16)
DirectorMarie-Louise Ayres
Staff400 (2016)
Commonwealth Heritage List
Official nameNational Library of Australia and Surrounds, Parkes Pl, Parkes, ACT, Australia
TypeListed place
CriteriaA., D., E., F., G., H.
Designated22 June 2004
Reference no.105470
Designed byBunning and Madden
Architectural styleLate Twentieth Century Stripped Classical
References: [1][2][3][4][5]
National Library of Australia as viewed from Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra
The original National Library building on Kings Avenue, Canberra, was designed by Edward Henderson. Originally intended to be several wings, only one wing was completed and was demolished in 1968. Now the site of the Edmund Barton Building.


The National Library of Australia, while formally established by the passage of the National Library Act 1960 (Cth), 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 William 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.[7]

The present library building was opened on 15 August 1968 by Prime Minister John Gorton.[8][9] The building was designed by the architectural firm of Bunning and Madden in the Late Twentieth Century Stripped Classical style. The foyer is decorated in marble, with stained-glass windows by Leonard French and three tapestries by Mathieu Matégot.[10] The building was listed on the Australian Commonwealth Heritage List on 22 June 2004.[5]


In 2012–13 the Library collection comprised 6,496,772 items, with an estimated additional 2,325,900 items held in the manuscripts collection.[3] 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.[11]

Approximately 92.1% of the Library's collection has been catalogued[3] and is discoverable through the online catalogue.[12]

The Library has digitized over 174,000 items from its collection[13] (the 100,000th being "Feeding cotton seed to sheep, Bourke, New South Wales")[14] and, where possible, delivers these directly across the Internet. The Library is a world leader in digital preservation techniques,[15] and maintains an Internet-accessible archive of selected Australian websites called the Pandora Archive.

Australian & General Collection

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. A core Australiana collection is that of John A. Ferguson.[16] 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

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:

  • Australian Buddhist Library Collection
  • Braga Collection (Portuguese in Asia)[17]
  • Claasz Collection (Sri Lanka)[18]
  • Coedes Collection (Indo-China)[19]
  • London Missionary Society Collection (China)
  • Luce Collection (Burma)
  • McLaren-Human Collection (Korea)[20]
  • Otley Beyer Collection (Philippines)
  • Sakakibara Collection (Japan)
  • Sang Ye Collection (China)
  • Simon Collection (East Asia)
  • Harold S. Williams Collection (Japan)

The Asian Collections are searchable via the National Library's catalogue.[21]

Pictures and manuscripts

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 HM Bark Endeavour, inscribed on the Memory of the World[22] 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.[23][24]

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.[25]

Media represented in the collection include photographs, drawings, watercolours, oils, lithographs, engravings, etchings and sculpture/busts.[26]

Reading rooms

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 Newspaper & Family History zone on the ground floor, Special Collections Reading Room on the 1st floor, and Asian Collections on level 3.


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.

  • Australian National Bibliographic Database[27] (ANBD) and offers free access through the Libraries Australia[28] subscription based service which is also operated by the NLA. It is used for reference, collection development, cataloguing and interlibrary lending.
  • Prepublication Data Service,[29] ISSNs and ISMNs for Australian publishers.
  • PANDORA, Australia's Web Archive. A 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.
  • Trove, online library database aggregator

The National Library of Australia maintains a catalogue of the resources in its own collection which are available to the general public.

  • National Library of Australia Catalogue[30]


The Trove logo

Trove is an online library database aggregator, a centralised national service built with the collaboration of major libraries of Australia.[31] Trove's most well known feature is the digitised collection of Australian newspapers. By June 2013 over 10 million digitised pages, or 100 million articles were accessible through Trove.[32] Many of the NLA's resource discovery services have been fully integrated with Trove—meaning that several (such as "music Australia", "pictures Australia" and "Australian newspapers") are now accessible only through the site. Others (such as PANDORA and the ANBD) use Trove as their primary means of public access. The service is able to locate resources about Australia and Australians, which reaches many locations otherwise unavailable to external search engines.[33]


The library seen from Lake Burley Griffin in autumn.

The following individuals have been appointed as Director-General or any precedent titles:

Directors-General of the National Library of Australia
Ordinal Officeholder Title Term begin Term end Time in office Notes
1Arthur WadsworthInterim Commonwealth Parliamentary Librarian1901192725–26 years
2Kenneth Binns CBECommonwealth Parliamentary Librarian1927194719–20 years
3Harold Leslie White CBENational Librarian1947197022–23 years
4Allan Percy Fleming CBE197019743–4 years
5George ChandlerDirector-General197419805–6 years
6Harrison Bryan AO198019854–5 years
7Warren Horton AM1985199913–14 years
8Jan Fullerton AO1999201010–11 years[34][35]
9Anne-Marie Schwirtlich201120175–6 years[36]
10Dr Marie-Louise Ayres2017present2–3 years[37]

See also

  • List of national and state libraries
  • Parliamentary Triangle, Canberra
  • Parliamentary Library of Australia


  1. "NATIONAL LIBRARY ACT 1960 - NOTES". Retrieved 31 July 2017.
  2. "NLA Annual Report 2015-2016 | National Library of Australia" (PDF). Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  3. "Collection statistics | National Library of Australia". Retrieved 12 November 2013.
  4. "CDP - How we collect". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
  5. "National Library of Australia and Surrounds, Parkes Pl, Parkes, ACT, Australia (Place ID 105470)". Australian Heritage Database. Department of the Environment. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  6. "Our Building". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  7. "". Retrieved 30 May 2012.
  8. Reid, David; National Library of Australia (1968), Prime Minister John Gorton addressing officials and dignitaries at the opening of the National Library of Australia, Canberra, 15 August 1968, National Library of Australia, retrieved 13 August 2018
  9. National Library of Australia; White, Harold Leslie Sir, 1905-1992 (1968), Publications relating to the opening of the National Library of Australia, 15th August, 1968, retrieved 13 August 2018CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. Sue Ebury (2008). The Many Lives of Kenneth Myer. The Miegunyah Press. p. 319. ISBN 0-522-85546-6.
  11. "National Library of Australia – Our Collections". Retrieved 3 August 2012.
  12. "Catalogue Home | National Library of Australia". Retrieved 12 November 2013.
  13. "National Library Facts and Figures". Retrieved 25 July 2012.
  15. "". Retrieved 30 May 2012.
  16. "Ferguson Collection | National Library of Australia". Retrieved 2 February 2017.
  17. "". 12 December 1984. Retrieved 30 May 2012.
  18. "". Retrieved 30 May 2012.
  19. Coedès Collection, National Library of Australia
  20. "" (PDF). Retrieved 30 May 2012.
  21. Asian collections, National Library of Australia
  22. "". Retrieved 30 May 2012.
  23. "The Mabo Case Manuscripts". UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. 16 May 2008. Retrieved 11 December 2009.
  24. "The Endeavour Journal of James Cook". UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. 16 May 2008. Retrieved 11 December 2009.
  25. "National Library of Australia – Pictures Collection Development Policy". Retrieved 3 August 2012.
  26. "National Library of Australia – Pictures". Retrieved 3 August 2012.
  27. "". 1 October 2007. Retrieved 30 May 2012.
  28. "". Retrieved 30 May 2012.
  29. "Prepublication Data Service | National Library of Australia". Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  30. "Services". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  31. "National Library unveils web-based treasure Trove". ABC News. 28 April 2010.
  32. Facts and figures, National Library of Australia
  33. "". Retrieved 30 May 2012.
  34. "HISTORY OF THE LIBRARY". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 1 April 2015.
  35. "Friends Farewell Jan Fullerton". National Library of Australia. 15 September 2010. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
  36. Library Council Director-General and Executive Member Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, National Library of Australia Archived 27 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine Archived
  37. Director-General and Executive Member Dr Marie-Louise Ayres, National Library of Australia
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