Overseas resources are selectively collected, reflecting the Library’s commitment to inform and enhance Australians’ understanding of their region and their place in the world.

Collecting material from and about Indonesia, China and the Pacific (including Timor-Leste) is the Library’s next highest priority after its Australian collecting. This reflects Australia’s strategic interests and geographical position within this region.

The Library selectively acquires or provides access to publications from the rest of the world that offer an understanding of global issues, current events and topics affecting Australia, including material about First Nations Australian presence and European exploration from colonisation to the present day. The focus is broadly on the social sciences and resources that contextualise Australia’s history and politics, culture and society.

The Library collects or provides access in digital form wherever possible. This reflects the growth of readily available digital resources, including digitised materials, as well as changes in the cost of maintaining an overseas collection.

The Library does not collect narrowly with the aim of supporting particular scholarly interests, but aims to build collections useful to a broad cross-section of the community. The Library’s constrained resources mean that it can no longer build, maintain or provide access to collections that align exclusively with the needs of academic researchers and students; it expects universities to meet these obligations.

The Library’s rich overseas collections shed light and context on developments in Australia and on Australian engagement in the wider world. Australia-related overseas collecting focuses on materials that contextualise Australia’s history, society, arts and culture, politics and the economy, from exploration and discovery to the present day. Collecting includes topics such as:

  • European discovery and exploration of the region
  • First Nations Australians
  • the historical British and European institutions, ideas and influences that created Australia during the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Topics covered include but are not limited to politics and political ideas, economic history, religion, social issues, music and the arts, popular culture and everyday life
  • wars and conflicts involving Australia
  • Australia’s humanitarian, defence and cultural engagements
  • migration and diaspora
  • aspects of the global economy relevant to Australia
  • aspects of art and culture relevant to Australia.

Representative and Selective Collecting

The Library primarily builds its overseas collections on a selective basis, but aims to achieve representative or comprehensive coverage in selected areas and topics, especially in priority areas of collecting.

Topics and areas of specialty for in-depth collection take into consideration:

  • current priorities identified in the Library’s Collecting Strategy
  • relevance of material to understanding Australian culture, life or society
  • relevance of material to understanding social, political and cultural developments that provide context for Australia.

Overseas material is often acquired through contractual arrangements, where Library suppliers are requested to supply all relevant materials. These arrangements are based upon the principles outlined in this policy. In some cases, formed and special collections may be acquired where they significantly enhance research.

While the majority of overseas collecting is contemporary, retrospective materials are acquired to enhance under-represented topics and build research depth.

Collecting Priorities

The principles above outline the specific priorities for collecting in the Asia-Pacific region and from the rest of the world. The Library no longer purchases for ownership and preservation of overseas materials where it can provide sustained digital access and eResources through arrangements with vendors.

Individual country collecting is subject to change, according to social or political factors, changes in research focus and Library priorities and resources. The principles set out the range of criteria used to balance priorities and acquisition decisions, including ease, cost and sustainability of access to specialist resources and vendors.

Asia-Pacific Region

Definition and Scope

The Library’s focus is collecting from Indonesia, China and areas of the Pacific (including Timor-Leste). The scope of collecting covers monographs, maps, serials and newspapers with a preference for digital format. Collecting may also include multimedia, pictorial works, ephemera and websites, acquired on a selective basis.


The Library’s Asia-Pacific collecting program builds collections for Australians to gain an understanding of their region and place in the world.

Subject areas fall within the broad areas of society, politics and culture with a focus on works that provide interpretation and analysis of issues, current events and social trends. Research level works and trade publications are acquired that treat subjects at an advanced or academic level. Such works may include social and cultural issues, political science, government and foreign relations.

Collecting Intent

The principle for acquisition is whether a work or collection provides context for a broader understanding of a country and its place in the modern world socially, culturally or politically. Collecting is also open to interdisciplinary topics that may not be easily categorised but that relate to one or more aspects of interest.



The Library’s Indonesian Collection is one of the strongest contemporary research collections in the world, built over 30 years via an acquisitions office in Jakarta. Publications documenting relations between the central government and the regions, including ethnic minorities, are acquired.

Of particular focus are sources that document elections and the democratic process since 1999. These include election ephemera, posters, pamphlets and realia. A representative selection of the literature of Indonesia is acquired, emphasising the modern period and including popular as well as literary fiction. Works on and in minority languages are acquired where available. Collecting on culture and the arts focuses on traditional forms that document indigenous groups and cultural heritage. Materials documenting popular culture and topical issues are selectively acquired. This includes selective web archiving in areas of interest. This material is added to the Internet Archive, rather than being retained as part of the Australian Web Archive.


The Library’s Chinese collection is a rich source of information on the history, culture and current affairs of China.

Collecting focuses on the modern era, after 1911, with an emphasis on contemporary material. Significant works about earlier periods of China’s history that provide context to the modern period may also be acquired. Collecting areas of interest are China’s minority and indigenous groups, popular culture and topical issues including the relationships mainland China has with its territories. A representative sample of works on Chinese culture and the arts is acquired.

Resources providing background and commentary on China’s relations with the wider world are collected both in Chinese languages and English.

The Pacific Region

The Library prioritises countries in Melanesia, focusing on Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia, as well as Timor-Leste. A strong emphasis is given to collecting of material from Papua New Guinea, reflecting Australia’s historical links with that country, geographical proximity and important economic and development relationships.

Lower priority is given to the countries of Polynesia and Micronesia. Works about Hawaii are generally not collected, although the Library acquires Hawaiian-origin publishing on the Asia-Pacific region. The Library does not aim to duplicate the well-established collecting programs of the National Library of New Zealand and libraries in Hawaii that have strengths in Polynesia and Micronesia.

Collecting from the Pacific focuses on politics, foreign relations, economics, social and cultural issues along with a representative selection of works on the languages and literatures of the region. Works documenting popular culture and topical issues in the region are acquired. Resources are predominantly in English or French, with selected acquisition in the vernacular languages of the region.

The Library has taken an active interest in developing a research-level collection on Timor-Leste. The Library acquires commercially and non-commercially published books and journals, newspapers, government publications, maps and a broad range of materials representative of Timorese society and current affairs.


The Library works with other collecting institutions within Australia and abroad to ensure the continuing availability of Pacific resources in library collections. The Library holds over 40,000 reels of microfilm of manuscripts and archival records, mostly acquired overseas and primarily of Australian and Pacific interest. In addition to materials copied in the United Kingdom and Ireland by the Australian Joint Copying Project (1948–1993), records of Pacific interest continue to be digitised by the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau and acquired cooperatively. The bureau copies archives, manuscripts and rare printed material relating to the Pacific Islands to ensure preservation, and forms the most extensive collection of non-government primary documentation on the Pacific Islands available to researchers.

The Wider World

Definition and Scope

Collecting from the wider world builds on the Library’s existing strengths in the social sciences, focuses on English-language materials and prioritises digital formats and access where appropriate.

The Library aims to develop breadth and depth in the Library’s research collections, informed by, and responsive to, current and emerging research trends, as well as the anticipated needs of future generations of Australians.


The Library selectively acquires or provides access to publications that offer an understanding of global issues, current events and topics affecting Australia, and geographical regions where Australia’s national, economic and strategic interests are clearly articulated, including material that documents

the history of Australia’s First Nations and European colonisation to the present day. The aim is to develop the strongest possible collection for the broadest cross-section of Australian society.

Collecting Intent

Collecting focus broadly falls across history, society and culture, acquiring current publishing that provides interpretation and analysis of global issues, current events and social trends affecting Australia. These include but are not limited to works on politics, history, government, international relations, the environment, energy and resources, the world economy, trade, the movement of peoples, demographic change, health trends, social issues, music and the arts. The Library exercises discretion to acquire works on new trends and developments as they emerge over time.

Research-level works and trade publications that treat subjects at an academic or advanced level are acquired. There will be a preference for works that analyse the social aspects of a subject and present subjects in a broad context.


The Library’s current resourcing environment necessitates reduction in collecting of overseas materials outside the identified priorities and countries.

Collecting from the wider world provides context for broader understanding of a country’s development, in particular works supporting research into Australia’s relationships within the region. This may include but is not restricted to:

  • all aspects of the Australia–New Zealand relationship, and Antarctica . The Library’s collecting interests in New Zealand are linked to the two countries’ shared history of exploration and discovery, political institutions, economic development and relationships with indigenous peoples
  • Japan’s post Second World War development and connections with Australia
  • contemporary strategic and regional issues relating to Korea
  • material from South-East Asia, especially commentary on indigenous populations and social trends. Countries of interest include Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos, with less focus on Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam
  • English-language works on subjects of topical interest to Australia and all aspects of Australia’s relationships with countries of the South Asian.

When overseas resources are freely available online, the Library will support access rather than take responsibility for long-term stewardship of these materials.

Principles for Access to Overseas Published Ebooks and Archive Databases

Ebooks and archive databases (such as collections of digitised books) are generally acquired as Library assets and made available indefinitely. The Library will accept vendor permanent access arrangements to achieve this or, with the appropriate permissions, archive content in its own system.

Remote access to ebooks will be provided wherever possible for registered Library users within Australia. Ebook content is downloadable to user devices where the Library has licence permission to allow this.

Gratis ebooks made freely available on the web are collected and archived with the permission of the publisher or copyright holder, when they can be located. Where the work is deemed to be an orphan work, the Library will take a risk management approach and may opt to acquire the item without permission. The Library will generally not link to a website in lieu of acquiring a gratis ebook.

Principles for Access to Electronic Journals

The Library seeks to provide access to journals in digital form rather than print. Where a journal is available in both print and digital format, digital access will be preferred to a print subscription. Electronic journals will be purchased either by direct subscription for single titles, through a vendor or as part of an aggregated journal article database if available. The Library prefers access via its current aggregator services over individual subscriptions to reduce duplication, acknowledging the presence of embargo periods in the current material becoming available. The Library will seek to avoid excessive title duplication between different aggregated journal article databases.

Print journal titles will only be acquired where there is no digital access alternative and where the content is deemed high priority, such as titles relating to Australia or, on a selective basis, published in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Library does not commit to providing perpetual access to current electronic journal content.

Principles for Access to Newspapers

The Library seeks to provide access to selected overseas newspapers in digital form, generally via an aggregated subscription database. No commitment is made to maintaining perpetual access to these titles. Print or microform newspapers will only be acquired where there is no digital access alternative and where the content is deemed to be of high priority, such as some Asia-Pacific newspapers.

Some overseas newspapers are collected and retained as primary sources for research. These titles relate to high priority countries in Asia and the Pacific, or cover historical periods or collecting areas of interest. The Library intends to reduce duplication of overseas newspaper content in various formats.