Help

Where do I start? What do I look for first? Am I even in the right place? Starting your research is always a bit confusing, but we can help out. Have a look at the tips on this page for how to start your research using our website.

Starting your research on the website

Find out what type of collections the Library has and how you can access them on the website.

What can I do online?

On this site you can:

What do we have?

Audio books - Emails - Photographs - Oral Histories - Books - Websites - Music Scores - Rare Books and Fine Printing - Magazines - Journals - Letters - Diaries - Paintings - Posters - Catalogues - Government Publications - Cartoons - Pamphlets - Cards - Minute Books - Speeches - Scrapbooks - Advertising - Sketches - Maps - Children’s books

What don’t we have?

We have artworks that document places, people, and events. We don’t have abstract artworks.

We mainly collect material about New Zealand or created in New Zealand. You might have to visit your public library for the latest bestseller!

We have a few objects (like Katherine Mansfield’s typewriter) but we don’t typically collect things like furniture, sculpture, or fabrics.

We have some manuscripts by politicians and other public figures, but for official government archives you'll want to visit Archives New Zealand, or your local institution.

We have a lot of books and serials at the National Library building, but you can’t take any of them away. If you want to borrow any of our published collections, you can interloan them through your local library or ask if we can make a copy for you.

Searching the collections

Searching our collections can be as simple or complex as you like. Enter some keywords into the search box and browse or filter your results, or use the advanced search to build a more detailed query.

Searching on the National Library website

Not sure how the search options work on the National Library of New Zealand website? Have a look at this video for some great tips.

Embedded content: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fx93LeZNbk&feature=youtu.be
  • Transcript

    Visual

    National Library logo and url natlib.govt.nz

    Audio

    Music plays


    Visual

    People entering the National Library building on Molesworth St, Wellington

    Audio

    Haere mai and welcome to the National Library and Alexander Turnbull Library


    Visual

    The National Library website landing page. The cursor selects the ‘Collections’ tab, then scrolls down the Collections page, before clicking on the National Library Catalogue link.

    Audio

    At the Library we have two distinct collections. First we have a published collection, which includes a copy of almost everything published
    in Aotearoa New Zealand.


    Visual

    The National Library catalogue. The cursor clicks in the search box.

    Audio

    This includes books, magazines, newspapers, sound recordings, maps, web-sites and much more. These items are all listed in The National Library of New Zealand Catalogue.

    We also have a collection of unpublished items, including manuscripts, diaries, letters, drawings, oral histories and more.


    Visual

    The National Library website Collections page. The cursor clicks on the Tiaki link and is taken to the homepage for the Alexander Turnbull Library catalogue for unpublished collections page. The cursor clicks in the Title search box.

    Audio

    These items are all listed in Tiaki, the Alexander Turnbull Library's catalogue for unpublished collections.


    Visual

    The National Library catalogue homepage. The cursor clicks on the collection search drop-down menu and selects Index New Zealand.

    Audio

    As well as these two catalogues, we also have several other databases.


    Visual

    The National Library catalogue. The cursor clicks on the collection search drop-down menu and selects Index New Zealand.

    Audio

    including Index New Zealand which contains abstracts and descriptions of articles from New Zealand magazines and newspapers.

    Visual

    The Papers Past webpage.

    Audio

    And Papers Past which is a text-searchable database of digitised newspapers, magazines, letters, and more.


    Visual

    The National Library website landing page. The cursor clicks on the magnifying glass search icon. The search box drops down. The cursor clicks on more search options.

    Audio

    If you want to search all of these databases at once, so you can find everything that we have on your chosen topic the best place to start is by using the search
    function on our website.

    You can do a basic search, and advanced search options are available by clicking on More search options.


    Visual

    A page of search results for the term birds, the cursor scrolls down the page demonstrating the various filter options. The cursor then clicks on the view gallery tab at the top of the page.

    Audio

    Once you have done your initial search you will notice a whole lot of filters become available on the left. You can click on these to filter your results by
    specific criteria, including format, date range, subject and others.


    Visual

    A page of search results the term bird, displayed in gallery view. The cursor clicks on the gallery view tab which shows the search results as images. The cursor scrolls down the page. The cursor clicks.

    Audio

    You will also notice some tabs along the top. These allow you to view your search results in other ways including a gallery-style view of digitised images,
    and also a map view.

    Once you have found something that you are interested in, you can click on it to view a fuller record.


    Visual

    A catalogue record for an image of huia birds including a larger version of the image. The cursor scrolls down the page to demonstrate the extra metadata. The cursor clicks on the See Original Record button. A tiaki catalogue record for the same image.

    Audio

    This will include a bit more information about the item. If you then decide you would like to view or listen to this item. If you then decide you would like to view or listen to this item you will need to open the record in its native
    database by clicking See original record.


    Visual

    The collections page of National Library website. The cursor clicks on the Ask a Librarian icon. The contact details section of the National Library website.

    Audio

    If you have any questions or need help, please contact us by clicking Ask a Librarian or by phoning 0800 474 300.


    Visual

    National Library logo and natlib.govt.nz

    Audio

    Sound of static.


    Any errors with the transcript, let us know and we'll fix them: digital-services@dia.govt.nz

Transcript

Visual

National Library logo and url natlib.govt.nz

Audio

Music plays


Visual

People entering the National Library building on Molesworth St, Wellington

Audio

Haere mai and welcome to the National Library and Alexander Turnbull Library


Visual

The National Library website landing page. The cursor selects the ‘Collections’ tab, then scrolls down the Collections page, before clicking on the National Library Catalogue link.

Audio

At the Library we have two distinct collections. First we have a published collection, which includes a copy of almost everything published
in Aotearoa New Zealand.


Visual

The National Library catalogue. The cursor clicks in the search box.

Audio

This includes books, magazines, newspapers, sound recordings, maps, web-sites and much more. These items are all listed in The National Library of New Zealand Catalogue.

We also have a collection of unpublished items, including manuscripts, diaries, letters, drawings, oral histories and more.


Visual

The National Library website Collections page. The cursor clicks on the Tiaki link and is taken to the homepage for the Alexander Turnbull Library catalogue for unpublished collections page. The cursor clicks in the Title search box.

Audio

These items are all listed in Tiaki, the Alexander Turnbull Library's catalogue for unpublished collections.


Visual

The National Library catalogue homepage. The cursor clicks on the collection search drop-down menu and selects Index New Zealand.

Audio

As well as these two catalogues, we also have several other databases.


Visual

The National Library catalogue. The cursor clicks on the collection search drop-down menu and selects Index New Zealand.

Audio

including Index New Zealand which contains abstracts and descriptions of articles from New Zealand magazines and newspapers.

Visual

The Papers Past webpage.

Audio

And Papers Past which is a text-searchable database of digitised newspapers, magazines, letters, and more.


Visual

The National Library website landing page. The cursor clicks on the magnifying glass search icon. The search box drops down. The cursor clicks on more search options.

Audio

If you want to search all of these databases at once, so you can find everything that we have on your chosen topic the best place to start is by using the search
function on our website.

You can do a basic search, and advanced search options are available by clicking on More search options.


Visual

A page of search results for the term birds, the cursor scrolls down the page demonstrating the various filter options. The cursor then clicks on the view gallery tab at the top of the page.

Audio

Once you have done your initial search you will notice a whole lot of filters become available on the left. You can click on these to filter your results by
specific criteria, including format, date range, subject and others.


Visual

A page of search results the term bird, displayed in gallery view. The cursor clicks on the gallery view tab which shows the search results as images. The cursor scrolls down the page. The cursor clicks.

Audio

You will also notice some tabs along the top. These allow you to view your search results in other ways including a gallery-style view of digitised images,
and also a map view.

Once you have found something that you are interested in, you can click on it to view a fuller record.


Visual

A catalogue record for an image of huia birds including a larger version of the image. The cursor scrolls down the page to demonstrate the extra metadata. The cursor clicks on the See Original Record button. A tiaki catalogue record for the same image.

Audio

This will include a bit more information about the item. If you then decide you would like to view or listen to this item. If you then decide you would like to view or listen to this item you will need to open the record in its native
database by clicking See original record.


Visual

The collections page of National Library website. The cursor clicks on the Ask a Librarian icon. The contact details section of the National Library website.

Audio

If you have any questions or need help, please contact us by clicking Ask a Librarian or by phoning 0800 474 300.


Visual

National Library logo and natlib.govt.nz

Audio

Sound of static.


Any errors with the transcript, let us know and we'll fix them: digital-services@dia.govt.nz


Search keywords

Enter your keywords in the search box separated by spaces: Taranaki 1900

The search engine will look for item records which contain all the keywords you enter.

If your search results list is too big and too general, try using more specific keywords to get a smaller more focused set of results. Or, if you get no results, try using a single more general keyword.

To look for item records which contain either but not necessarily both your keywords, use OR. This must be in capitals: Taranaki OR Egmont

To exclude terms, use NOT: Taranaki NOT tourism

To look for an exact phrase, enter quotes around your keywords: "taranaki regional council"

Using filters to narrow your search results

You can narrow down your search using the filters displayed next to the list of search results. When you apply a filter, only results which have that property will be shown.

The filter options which are displayed also help you to assess the whole set of results (not just the first page) at a glance.

Sorting the search results list

You can sort your results alphabetically by title, by date the collection item was created, or by the date we added a record for the item to the library’s collection. Just use the options at the top of the search results.

Searching effectively

Doing a little planning makes finding the right thing in large collections a lot easier. Take a bit of time to pick out your search terms, and remember that refining your search can give you much more useful results.

How do I come up with good keywords?

Searching with keywords will help you cut out a lot of unhelpful results.

Be specific. Searching for Dunedin will give you a lot of unusable results if you want the seagoing vessel instead of the city. Try Dunedin ship instead.

Combine different kinds of terms. Searching for Auckland will give you thousands of results pages, but Auckland volcano heaphy combines a place, a natural feature, and a person to give you very specific results.

It’s okay to keep searching

There are lots of ways you can refine your search and try again.

Come at your search from different angles. If your ancestor’s name isn’t giving you any results, try the name of the ship they came over on. If a particular event isn’t showing up, or is lost in too many results, search for some of the people involved.

An item may have been catalogued with a different term than the one you are using. If the library you’re looking for doesn’t show up, try libraries or public building.

By looking at the individual results you are getting, you may find more words or phrases that are worth searching. Check the description, subjects, and other object information down the side of the page.

The National Library subscribes to databases of journals and articles that you can use to extend your search when you are working from the Library building.

There are a lot of other places you can go to expand your search beyond what is in the National Library and Alexander Turnbull Library collections.

Family history

New Zealand history

New Zealand content online

  • NZResearch.org has open-access research documents produced at universities, polytechnics, and other research institutions throughout New Zealand
  • DigitalNZ aggregates millions of pieces of digital content from partners around New Zealand, making it easy to find, share, and use.
  • Matapihi lets you search across the digital collections of different New Zealand organisations from one website
  • Find New Zealand Articles provides access to New Zealand content, including material by or about New Zealanders, from a range of New Zealand newspapers and journals
  • New Zealand Electronic Text Centre lets you search and browse an open digital library of New Zealand and Pacific Island documentary heritage material as well as new born-digital work and research from Victoria University
  • Te Ara, the online encyclopedia is a comprehensive guide to New Zealand’s peoples, natural environment, history, culture, economy and society. Also includes the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Favourites

You can select and save a list of items for use by favouriting them.

You can select favourite items these will be available for your current session.

To save favourites permanently sign in and click the save favourites button. You can find your saved favourites in your account under My favourites.

Save an item by clicking the heart icon that appears when you hover over a search result — it works in the regular or gallery view. Or just click the heart next to the item's title on the record page. See below!

How to favourite items.
Saving favourites from the regular search results, gallery search results, and record page.

Using the map

See where in New Zealand our collections relate to by using the View Map tab in your search results.

Embedded content: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1JW5Y_dAik

Some of our unpublished collection items are associated with particular places. See which places they might call home, or pick a location and find out what’s there.

Explore your whakapapa, rohe, or hometown here!

Screenshot of full map interface.
The full map interface, showing search box, the map with clusters, the filter menu, and search results

If you're using Internet Explorer 8 or older, you'll see squares instead of circles – everything's okay!

What can I search through?

Right now, the View Map tab shows you results from a part of the unpublished collections that have New Zealand places associated with their records. More materials will have that information, including overseas places, added as we go.

Start by just entering a search term and hitting Search Collections. On your results page, you’ll see the regular view, listing all of your results, including items that aren’t related to a place. Click the View Map tab to get your results that have location information, arranged on the map.

Zoom and scroll the map to focus on a particular place. Anything associated with it will show up in the right hand column. Locations that are close to each other will get clustered in together, so remember to zoom in if your results don’t seem to be specific enough.

Map with pop up on Lake Waikeremoana
The map view, showing a place name and the number of results for that place

Clicking a cluster or place dot will show the name of place, and your results will change to match what your map shows. Select a place name, and the dot will change to blue, showing the results that match that specific location.

Why are there so many dots?

Even after you’ve selected a place, you’ll probably still see several other dots. This is because collections items are often associated with more than one place. For example, this manuscript has seventeen places on its record, so it gets seventeen dots on the map.

How can I narrow down my results?

Use the menu on the map to filter what you’ve got by date, people, iwi/hapū, or choosing a place from a list. You can take the filters off again by clicking its [x] button in the menu.

Map with popup
The map view, showing results filtered by Ngati Porou, under Iwi/Hapū

How do I see more items?

The bottom of the right-hand column has an Explore more results link, which takes you to the full set of results that match your chosen filters.

I want to start from scratch!

At the top of the right-hand column, you can always hit the New search link, which clears your search term and any filters you were using.