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Using the Library's collections

The Library has a rich and unique set of collections that you're welcome to explore. Here's a handy guide on how to access them.

Getting started

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People looking at a book together

Get a Library card to use the Library’s collections including eresources. With a Library card, you can also use most eresources from anywhere, anytime - you just need to be a New South Wales resident.

Don’t have a Library card but have a NSW public library card? Register your card to get instant access to the Library's eresources.

If you would like to use original material and rare printed material, you will need to get a Special Collections card. Find out more about using the Library's special collections.

You don’t need a Library card to use the collection material that’s on the shelves in the reading rooms.

We’re a reference library so we can't lend to you. But you can borrow some of the Library's books and other collection material through other libraries. Speak to your public, academic or work library about requesting an interlibrary loan.


Where to find material

You can search across most of the Library’s collections using the catalogues. Find books and other collection material such as:

  • ebooks
  • manuscripts
  • maps
  • pictures
  • digitised material.

Search the Library's eresources collection to find online resources such as local and international newspapers, full-text journals and databases.

There’s a small reference collection in the reading rooms that you can browse. You can also search this collection using the catalogue.

Card catalogues and indexes

There are also card catalogues and indexes at the Library. Some aren't searchable online but you can search the State Reference Library card catalogue (scanned card catalogue) online. These catalogues and indexes include annotations that could help with your research.

Visit the Library to search the card catalogues and indexes. Can’t come to the Library? Ask a Librarian.


How to request material

Use your Library card to request books and other collection material. Most material will be ready to collect in 30-45 minutes. Sometimes it can be longer during busy periods.

You can request material up to seven days in advance. Request material at least one hour before the Library closes to use it that day.

Books

You can request books through the catalogue anytime, anywhere.

Other collection material

Complete a stack request slip to request other material from the Library's collections.

Need to request material before you visit? Complete the Access to collections form. We will get back to you within 4 working days.

Original material and rare printed material

With a Special Collections card you can request original material and rare printed material. Complete a stack request slip for each item, box or album.

Need to request material before you visit? Complete the Access to collections form. We will get back to you within 4 working days.

Some material has restrictions and you may need permission or an appointment to use the material. Check the catalogue record and if there are restrictions, complete the Access to collections form. Appointments are between 2 pm and 3 pm, Monday to Friday.

Learn more about using the Library’s special collections.

The Special Collections area opens Monday to Saturday.

Offsite material

When you're at the Library you can request material from offsite by completing the offsite request form.

Need to request material before you visit? You can request some offsite material through the catalogue but for most material, you will need to complete the Access to collections form.

Offsite delivery times

Material requested from offsite will be available after 4 pm the next working day. Deliveries from offsite are not available on weekends and public holidays.


Where to collect material

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Clients standing at collect shelves reading

Pick up most items from the Collect shelves in the Governor Marie Bashir Reading Room.

You may need to collect material from the request desk near the shelves if we need you to use the item in the special materials area. There will be a note on the Collect shelves if this is the case.

Original material and rare printed material

Collect original material and rare printed material from staff in the Special Collections area. The Special Collections area is in the Mitchell Library Reading Room.

You can choose to collect all requested items, including material from the Governor Marie Bashir Reading Room, in the Special Collections area. You will need to have a Special Collections card. Ask staff about updating your collecting preferences.


How to reserve material

Return items back to the Collect shelves to continue to use them for up to seven days. Ask staff at the request desk to reserve material for longer.

Special materials area

Speak to staff at the request desk about reserving material for up to fourteen days.

Special Collections area

Ask staff at the Specials Collections desk about reserving material for up to fourteen days.


How to borrow material

Because the Library is a reference library we can't lend books and other collection material to you. But you can borrow some books and collection material from the Library's collections through your public, academic or work library.

Speak to your public, academic or work library about requesting an interlibrary loan to borrow material. See the Library's Interlibrary Lending Policy to find out what you can borrow.

Using material at other libraries

You can also use material from our collections at the National Library of Australia or at your state library.

​Visit Australian Interlibrary Resource Sharing Code (ILRS) to find out latest pricing to use our material at the national library or your state library.

Contact the National Library of Australia or your state library to arrange an interlibrary loan. See the National and State Libraries Australasia's Collaborative Lending Principles to find out more.

Using other Libraries' material

You can borrow books and other collection material from the National Library of Australia and other state libraries' collections to use here at the Library. Complete a request form at the copying desk in the Governor Marie Bashir Reading Room. You will need to pay when you request the material. Visit Australian Interlibrary Resource Sharing Code (ILRS) to find out the latest fees.


How to access eresources

You can access over 300 eresources, including:

  • local and international newspapers
  • full text journals
  • databases
  • ebooks
  • magazines
  • digital images from our unique heritage collections.

With your Library card, you can also access over 80% of the Library’s eresources from anywhere, anytime - you just need to be a New South Wales resident. If you’re not a NSW resident, you can access the eresources collection at the Library.

Get instant access to the eresources collection with your NSW public library card. Register your card to access most eresources from anywhere, anytime.

Find out more about the eresources collection.

ebooks

Search the Library's catalogue or the eresources collection to find ebooks.

You can read ebooks online or download them to your computer, tablet or mobile device. You can’t download ebooks to Library computers.

You don’t need any additional software to read an ebook online but you do to download an ebook. Install Adobe Digital Editions before you download an ebook to your computer. You can then transfer the ebook to an ereader that supports Adobe Digital Editions.

You can also download an ebook straight to your tablet or mobile device but not to a Kindle. Install the free Bluefire Reader app to read the ebook.

Downloaded ebooks are available to read for up to three weeks.

You can print up to 20% and copy up to 5% of each ebook. These limits apply to both online and downloaded ebooks.

Digital images

We have an ongoing digitisation program to improve access to significant parts of the Library’s extensive collections.

More than 400,000 digital images are available to view and download through the Manuscripts, oral history & pictures catalogue.