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State Reference Library collection

The State Reference Library collection is an extensive and growing collection of Australian and international books and materials.

What's in the collection

The State Reference Library collection is a diverse and comprehensive collection. It contains Australian and international books, journals, magazines, newspapers and other material including sound recordings, talking books, posters, ephemera, films and a range of databases.

We collect material across different subject areas to complement the Library’s Australiana collections and also to supplement the collections provided by public libraries in New South Wales. We aim to collect material on subjects that have a current and continuing interest in the community.

The collection's key strengths include arts, biography, business, humanities, law and government, library and information science, social sciences and world history. The collection also contains a significant number of rare books and special collections that range from medieval manuscripts to modern private press and artists' books.

The collection contains over 1.5 million bound monograph, serial and newspaper volumes and more than 1 million microfilms and microfiche.

How the collection began

The State Library collections originated with the Australian Subscription Library, established in 1826 as the first Library in New South Wales. In 1869 the NSW Government purchased the Subscription Library’s collection and building, on the corner of Bent and Macquarie Streets. Re-opening in September of that year, as the Sydney Free Public Library, it had a stock of 20,000 volumes including the 1865 bequest of Judge Edward Wise’s early Australiana collections. In 1895, the Free Public Library became known as the Public Library of NSW, later renamed the State Library of NSW in 1975.

Borrowing collection material

The State Reference Library collection is primarily a reference collection. You can borrow some material from the collection through your public, academic or work library. Rare books and special collections material are not able to be borrowed.