National Library of Australia

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National Library of Australia
National Library of Australia logo.svg
National Library of Australia, ACT - perspective controlled.jpg
Established23 March 1961;58 years ago (1961-03-23)
Reference to legal mandateNational Library Act 1960
Location Canberra, ACT
Coordinates 35°17′47″S149°07′46″E / 35.296379°S 149.129448°E / -35.296379; 149.129448 Coordinates: 35°17′47″S149°07′46″E / 35.296379°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 deposit Digital and hard-copy Australian published materials
Other information
Budget A$57,800,000 (2015–16)
DirectorMarie-Louise Ayres
Staff400 (2016)
Official nameNational Library of Australia and Surrounds, Parkes Pl, Parkes, ACT, Australia
TypeListed place
Criteria A., D., E., F., G., H.
Designated22 June 2004
Reference no.105470
Designed by Bunning and Madden
Architectural style Late Twentieth Century Stripped Classical
References: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
National Library of Australia as viewed from Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra National Library at Dusk.jpg
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. National Library building, Kings Avenue.jpg
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 (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]

Australia Country in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 26 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide.

Australians nationality

Australians, colloquially known as Aussies, are citizens and nationals of the Commonwealth of Australia, although some dual citizens, expatriates and permanent residents may also claim Australian nationality. Home to people of many different ethnic origins, religious and national origins, the Australian culture and law does not correspond nationality with race or ethnicity, but with citizenship and loyalty to the country. Australia is a multicultural society and has the world's ninth-largest immigrant population, with immigrants accounting for 29% of the population.

Parkes, Australian Capital Territory Suburb of Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

Parkes is an inner southern suburb of the Canberra Central district of Canberra, located within the Australian Capital Territory of Australia. Located south-east of the Canberra central business district, Parkes contains the Parliamentary Triangle and many of the national monuments of Australia's capital city.



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.

National library Library specifically established by the government

A national library is a library established by a government as a country's preeminent repository of information. Unlike public libraries, these rarely allow citizens to borrow books. Often, they include numerous rare, valuable, or significant works. A national library is that library which has the duty of collecting and preserving the literature of the nation within and outside the country. Thus, national libraries are those libraries whose community is the nation at large. Examples include the British Library, and the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris.

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 Parliamentary Library of Australia is the library of the Parliament of Australia, administered by its Department of Parliamentary Services. It provides library services to elected officials, namely members of the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as their staff, parliamentary committees, the Governor-General of Australia, and the staff of parliamentary departments.

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]

John Gorton Australian politician, 19th Prime Minister of Australia

Sir John Grey Gorton was the nineteenth Prime Minister of Australia, in office from 1968 to 1971. He led the Liberal Party during that time, having previously been a long-serving government minister.

Bunning and Madden is an Australian architecture and urban planning firm based in Canberra and Sydney. The firm was founded by Walter Bunning in 1945 in Sydney. The firm's most notable commission was the design of the National Library of Australia and the firm was most prominent between 1955 and 1970s.

Leonard French Australian artist

Leonard William French OBE was an Australian artist, known principally for major stained glass works.


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.


Australiana includes the items, people, places, flora, fauna and events of Australian origins. Anything pertaining to Australian culture, society, geography and ecology can fall under the term Australiana, especially if it is endemic to Australia. Australiana often borrows from Australian Aboriginal culture, or the stereotypical Australian culture of the early 1900s.

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:

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

Pictures and manuscripts

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 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.

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


The Trove logo Trove (NLA website) logo.svg
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. Autumn on Lake Burley Griffin.jpg
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
OrdinalOfficeholderTitleTerm beginTerm endTime in officeNotes
1 Arthur Wadsworth Interim Commonwealth Parliamentary Librarian1901192725–26 years
2 Kenneth Binns CBE Commonwealth Parliamentary Librarian1927194719–20 years
3 Harold Leslie White CBE National Librarian1947197022–23 years
4 Allan Percy Fleming CBE 197019743–4 years
5 George Chandler Director-General197419805–6 years
6 Harrison Bryan AO 198019854–5 years
7 Warren Horton AM 1985199913–14 years
8 Jan Fullerton AO 1999201010–11 years [34] [35]
9 Anne-Marie Schwirtlich 201120175–6 years [36]
10Dr Marie-Louise Ayres 2017present1–2 years [37]

See also

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  37. Director-General and Executive Member Dr Marie-Louise Ayres, National Library of Australia