The State Library of New South Wales is the premier library for the people of New South Wales, Australia. The Library’s extraordinary collections document the heritage of Australia and Oceania and are one of the State’s most valuable assets. By building, preserving and delivering its collections, including today’s born digital materials, the Library enables Australians to interrogate our past and imagine our future.
The State Library of New South Wales is a large reference and research library open to the public. It is the oldest library in Australia, being the first established in New South Wales (now a state of Australia) in 1826. The library is located on the corner of Macquarie Street, Sydney and Shakespeare Place, adjacent to the Domain and the Royal Botanic Gardens. The library is a member of the National and State Libraries Australasia (NSLA) consortium.
The State Reference Library contains a comprehensive and diverse collection of Australian and international research material. A number of specialist services are located within the State Reference Library, including the legal information service established in 1990, a drug and alcohol information service and a family history research service. The library contains over 5 million items including more than 2 million books, 1.2 million microforms, 1.1 million photographs, as well as newspapers, maps, architectural plans, manuscripts and other items. It is part of the PANDORA web archiving project of the National Library of Australia and also collects born digital material.
As well as being a general purpose reference and research library, it contains many historically significant collections dating from the European colonisation of Australia, including nine of the eleven surviving First Fleet journals, accounts from Australian explorers and other pioneers, paintings and sketches, and many other historical records. These are held in the Australiana research collections known as the Mitchell Library (named for David Scott Mitchell, first collector of Australiana) which is continually being added to and the Dixson Library (named after Sir William Dixson), Dixson’s personal collection which is not added to. Both are housed within the State Library precinct. The collections grow through purchase, other acquisitions of material and legal deposit for all books published in New South Wales.
Computer cataloguing commenced in the early 1980s for books, and in 1992 for pictures and manuscripts. A large cataloguing backlog of material without an electronic record prompted the library’s successful 2008 application for government funding to create over one million electronic catalogue records. The library subscribes to electronic databases which are accessible for cardholders via the catalogue.The digitisation of the papers of Sir Joseph Banks, completed in 1997, was the first digitisation project of original manuscripts undertaken by the library. It was followed by further digitisation of manuscript and picture collections including the papers of Matthew Flinders, the Hood collection of photographs by Sam Hood and son Ted Hood, and the Holtermann Collection of images of the NSW goldfields of the 1860s and 1870s, which is now listed on the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register. Digitised images of items from the library’s collection are available in the catalogue, and some are also available through thematic online exhibitions. In 2012 the library received State Government funding to digitise 12 million pages from its collection, including newspapers, manuscripts, pictures and books.
Access to the library reading rooms and galleries is free. There are a range of services that are accessible via a library card including remote access to electronic resources for NSW residents, access to books and other material from storage, and bookings for onsite study rooms. The library hosts free exhibitions, both from its own collections and from other organisations such as World Press Photo.