Ask a Librarian Service Guidelines

Guidelines to help you understand what levels of support to expect from Library staff.

Version: 1.0
Approved by: Executive Committee
Owner/sponsor: Executive Director, Library & Information Services
Branch contact: Coordinator, Information & Access
Record no: 6002
Date approved: 09/09/2020
Next review: 09/09/2022


The State Library of NSW supports you to find information in a variety of ways through our information and research service - Ask a Librarian. These guidelines are designed to help you understand what levels of support to expect from our staff.

Key principles

This document is underpinned by the National and State Libraries Australasia (NSLA) Service Guidelines: Information and research services at NSLA libraries.

Target audience

Library readers, visitors, researchers and staff.

Operational requirements

Depending on the nature of the enquiry, the Ask a Librarian Service provides:

  • a suggested research strategy or guidance on the most appropriate books, electronic resources, original materials and other information sources for you to do your own research
  • information researched by our librarians to respond to your enquiry.

When self-help tools and resources do not guide you to the information you need, support is provided through a range of channels which include:

  • Online request form
  • Face to face at service desks
  • Phone - (02) 9273 1414
  • Online Library Chat
  • Post:   
    Ask a Librarian Service
    State Library of New South Wales 
    1 Shakespeare Place
    Sydney NSW 2000

What we are able to do initially

  • If you visit the Library and ask us for assistance, we will advise you on a research strategy, support you to use finding tools effectively and suggest appropriate resources.
  • If you contact us by phone or online chat, we are generally able to spend up to 10 minutes advising on the most appropriate information resources to guide you in your search.
  • If your enquiry cannot be answered in a short time frame, you may be referred to our online Ask a Librarian request form.
  • You may also be referred to another information provider if that is most appropriate.

Online Ask a Librarian request form

This service is provided for:

  • New South Wales residents or
  • Anyone wishing to access information relating to the jurisdiction of this library (New South Wales) or
  • Anyone wishing to access information which is unique to our collections.

What we provide:

  • Up to 1 hour of research on each enquiry. We may spend more time on enquiries which require researching materials unique to our library.
  • A maximum of 6 enquiries per reader per calendar year.

Response time:

  • We will provide a response within 7 working days. 
  • For enquiries which require researching materials unique to our library, we may negotiate a longer response time with you. 

Advanced requests for special collections

  • To request original material or rare printed material before you visit, use the Access to Special Collections Request form. This form can also be used to arrange an appointment to view supervised use material or to access unprocessed or restricted material. See our Access to Special Collections Policy for more information.
  • We will provide a response to these requests within 5 working days.

Borrowing from the Library

  • Some items in the collection can be borrowed by making a request through your public, academic or work library. See our Interlibrary Lending Policy for more information.

Requests for copies and images

Requests for transcriptions of items

  • We do not offer transcriptions of items but we can provide details of a notice in a newspaper including the number of people listed and their names.
  • If you would like an exact copy of an item please submit your request through the Document Supply Service.

Extensive or ongoing research

Student enquiries

We will help by suggesting search strategies and relevant resources that you can use.

Your feedback

We encourage you to provide feedback regarding the Ask a Librarian Service to assist us in the development of our services.


  • Managers and supervisors are responsible for managing processes relevant to the service standards outlined in this document and communicating these guidelines to staff and readers.
  • Staff are responsible for understanding and complying with these guidelines.

Key related legislation and policy

Most relevant legislation

  • Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)
  • Library Act 1939
  • Library Regulation 2018
  • Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998

Related and/or most relevant State Library and government policies