This policy describes the reader services the Library provides and how staff are expected to deliver them.

Our aim is to ensure Australians have access to a national collection of library material to enhance learning, knowledge creation, enjoyment and understanding of Australian life and society.

We will meet our users’ needs for rapid and easy access to our collections and other information resources. We will support the research needs of Australians wherever they are, and those people seeking information about Australia, through our reference-enquiry and document-delivery services.

Policy statement

The National Library is a public research library. We provide access to rich Australian and international collections through the general and special collections reading rooms. People who cannot visit the Library building are offered support in a variety of ways through information and research services. This includes online access to digitised content, eResources, research guides and learning materials, and document delivery services. Skilled staff are available to assist individuals finding and getting the information they require when visiting the reading rooms and through our phone and online reference services.

In providing information and research services, our staff are guided by the Information and Research Services Principles for the National and State Libraries of Australia, the National Library’s Service Charter and the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct.

This policy is based on the service guidelines for Information and Research Services at National and State Libraries Australasia libraries. It is designed to help you understand what levels of support to expect from our staff.

Information and research services

The National Library supports you to find information in a variety of ways through our information and research services. When self-help tools and resources do not guide you to the information you need, our Ask a Librarian service provides assistance through a range of channels, including:

  • face to face in reading rooms
  • telephone
  • online form/email
  • letter
  • appointments with a librarian or curator.

What we are able to do initially

If you visit our Library and ask us for assistance, we will advise on a research strategy, support you to use research tools effectively and suggest appropriate resources.

If you telephone the National Library, we are able to spend up to 10 minutes advising on the most appropriate information resources to guide your research.

If your enquiry cannot be answered in a short time frame, you may be referred to our research enquiry service. You may also be referred to another information provider if that is appropriate.

What we undertake as a research enquiry

Enquiries that cannot be responded to in a short timeframe may be referred to our research enquiry service.

Depending on the nature of the enquiry, this extended service provides:

  • guidance on the most appropriate information resources for you to continue with your research independently
  • details of resources librarians have consulted to respond to your enquiry.

We provide this service for:

  • all Australian residents
  • anyone wishing to access information relating to Australia
  • anyone wishing to access information which is unique to our collections.

When information needs cannot be satisfied within service guidelines, we may provide you with further avenues of research. You may also be referred to a state or territory library, to your closest public, school or tertiary library, or to another information provider.

When contacting us, please provide the necessary information relating to your enquiry in an accurate and concise manner.

What we provide

  • Up to one hour of research on most enquiries. We may spend more time on enquiries which require researching materials unique to the National Library. 

Our response time

For enquiries which require researching materials unique to our Library, we may spend more time and negotiate a longer response time with you.

Requests for copies and images

Requests for digital and print copies of specific items held by the Library, where all details are known (e.g. industrial awards, death/funeral notices, newspaper or journal articles, pictures and manuscript material) should be sent to the Copies Direct service. More information about Copies Direct, including costs, delivery options and copyright, is available on our website.

If the details of the items are not known, our Ask a Librarian service can assist you with the research before you request copies.

The National Library requests that you inform us if you wish to publish a copy of an item from our rare and unique collections. If you wish to use one of our digitised collection items for a purpose other than research or study, or you have previously ordered a copy and now wish to advise a change of use, we ask that you declare your intention to publish.


When responding to enquiries, reasonable and diligent efforts are made within our service guidelines to obtain accurate information from authoritative sources, including online databases. Information is provided in adherence with copyright legislation and, unless specifically stated in writing, there is no attempt at analysis.

Our Book a Librarian consultation service

Appointments of up to one hour with a librarian or curator can be booked if you require personalised professional guidance about

  • resources in the Library's collection that are relevant to your research
  • research strategies and methodologies suitable for your specific research.

The appointment may be by phone or in person at the Library and should be booked in advance.

What we are not able to provide

  • lengthy or ongoing research, e.g. prolonged family history or newspaper searches or searches through the manuscripts collection
  • extended research assistance to people overseas asking for information that is readily available in their own country
  • information from collection resources with access restrictions
  • answers to lists of questions for quizzes or competitions
  • detailed assistance with school assignments
  • searches for missing persons
  • valuations
  • legal and medical advice.

In these instances, we may give you guidance on search strategies and relevant resources to get you started in your research or refer you to your local library or another information provider.

To ensure we can assist everyone seeking our assistance in a timely fashion, we reserve the right to either limit the number of responses we provide to repeat enquiries from the same person or the time spent (maximum 6 hours' research per person per calendar year), if required.

What we ask of you

As a public research library, we are committed to providing a respectful, safe and peaceful environment for readers and staff to study and work and to protect our collections for posterity. We require you to adhere to the National Library Regulations, the Library’s Acceptable Use of Information and Communication Technology Policy, the Food and Drink in Public Areas Policy and our Code of Conduct for Readers and Visitors.


The Library is committed to the continuous improvement of services and facilities, and values your feedback. We encourage you to use the user feedback forms available online and in the reading rooms.

Key roles and responsibilities

Managers and supervisors are responsible for managing processes relevant to the service standards outlined in this document and for communicating this policy to staff and readers.

Library staff are responsible for understanding and complying with this policy.


This policy will be reviewed in 2024 and remains in effect until replaced.

References and related documents

The following documents were considered when developing this policy:

Most relevant legislation: