Close message
Skip to content

National Library of New Zealand Collections Policy

1. Preamble

The National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, was established by legislation in 1965, and collecting is core to its purpose and functions. This Collections Policy outlines the scope of the National Library collections and its mandate for collecting. This document is the first major revision to the Collections Policy since 2003.

The National Library (the Library) exists because New Zealand needs:

  • Trusted experts to ensure New Zealand’s knowledge assets, documentary cultural record and taonga are collected, protected and made available with integrity and care across time
  • Literate citizens, recognising national leadership is required to foster the literacy skills (both print and digital) crucial for building a strong and prosperous nation
  • Leadership of national information solutions that enable knowledge networks, promote collaborative effort and produce economies of scale
  • Knowledge to be used and created to support research and innovation, and enable New Zealand to be competitive in the global economy
  • Equitable access to information, enabling all to access, contribute and re-use ideas and knowledge essential for participation in the cultural and economic life of New Zealand.

The Library operates within both a national and international network of libraries and other collecting institutions and repositories. The environment is one of rapid change, particularly with regard to information technology and digital collections.

The Alexander Turnbull Library forms part of the Library, and was established in 1920 from the 1918 bequest by Alexander Horsburgh Turnbull, and preserves and protects the Crown’s analogue and digital research collections of documentary heritage and tāonga.

The Library is New Zealand’s legal deposit library and retained this responsibility when the Parliamentary Library separated from the National Library in 1985. Under its legislative mandate the Library collects both print and digital publications. In the digital environment it is not practical to collect everything which is in scope for legal deposit.

At the same time, the digital environment provides opportunities to connect New Zealanders to the content and information that is important to their lives, which have been collected, maintained or made available in other parts of the international library network.

2. Scope

The Library has three distinct collections, created and maintained for distinct purposes. This policy covers decision on the acquisition and retention for all three collections.

The research collections are maintained permanently by the Library. The collections contain both published and unpublished digital and physical items, particularly in the fields of New Zealand, Pacific studies and rare books. The research collections are developed and maintained because of their value in supporting current and emerging research needs, as well as anticipated needs of future generations of New Zealanders. One copy of items collected under legal deposit is included in the research collections.

The General Collections of published items from both New Zealand and overseas cover subject areas that support current information needs of New Zealanders. They are developed and maintained because of their utility value and are therefore able to be borrowed and accessed throughout the New Zealand library network. One copy of physical format items collected under legal deposit is included in the general collections. The collections also provide access to selected overseas publications online.

The Schools Collection supports the development of young New Zealanders as engaged readers and digitally literate learners.

This policy does not cover:

  • Metadata aggregations that bring together collections from different institutions, for example, Digital NZ, Te Puna Services, FindNZ articles.
  • The services that provide management, kaitiaki, conservation, access and use of the collections. These services are covered by other policies, see section 6.

3. Mandate

The mandate for the Collections Policy is established by the National Library of New Zealand (Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa) Act 2003, in the following clauses:

7. Purpose of National Library

The purpose of the National Library is to enrich the cultural and economic life of New Zealand and its interchanges with other nations by, as appropriate, -

a) collecting, preserving and protecting documents, particularly those relating to New Zealand, and making them accessible for all the people of New Zealand, in a manner consistent with their status as documentary heritage and taonga;

b) supplementing and furthering the work of other libraries in New Zealand; and

c) working collaboratively with other institutions having similar purposes, including those forming part of the international library community.

The mandate for the implementation of this Collections Policy is provided by the following clauses of the National Library of New Zealand (Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa) Act 2003:

9. Functions and powers of National Librarian

The functions of the National Librarian, in achieving the purpose of the National Library, are –

a) to develop and maintain national collections of documents, including a comprehensive collection of documents relating to New Zealand the people of New Zealand, and

b) to make the collections and resources of the National Library accessible in a manner and subject to conditions that the Minister determines, in order to provide for the most advantageous use of those collections and resources, and

c) to provide other services, including access to information resources, and bibliographical and school services, as the Minister thinks fit

d) to promote co-operation in library matters with authorities and other persons in New Zealand and elsewhere


12. Purposes of Alexander Turnbull Library

The purposes of the Alexander Turnbull Library are –

a) to preserve, protect, develop and make accessible for all the people of New Zealand the collections of that Library in perpetuity and in a manner consistent with their status as documentary heritage and taonga; and

b) to develop the research collections and the services of the Alexander Turnbull Library, particularly in the fields of New Zealand and Pacific studies and rare books; and

c) to develop and maintain a comprehensive collections of documents relating to New Zealand and the people of New Zealand.


31. Notice of requirement for public documents (The Notices which give effect to section 31 of the Act are: The National Library Requirement (Books and Periodicals) Notice 2004 and The National Library Requirement (Electronic Documents) Notice 2006.)

(1) The Minister may, by notice in the Gazette, require a publisher of a public document (other than an Internet document) to give to the National Librarian, at the publisher's own expense, a specified number of copies (not exceeding 3) of—

· (a) the public document in printed form; and

· (b) if the document is an electronic document, the medium that contains the document.

(3) The Minister may, by notice in the Gazette, authorise the National Librarian to make a copy, at any time or times and at his or her discretion, or public documents that are Internet documents in accordance with any terms and conditions as to format, public access, or other matters that are specified in the notice.

4. Principles

The following principles frame the Library’s collection development, and the actions to support these principles are described in the various collecting plans.

Principle 1

Developing breadth and depth in the Library’s research collections requires decisions to be informed by, and responsive to, current and emerging research trends as well as the anticipated needs of future generations of New Zealanders.

Principle 2

Active engagement with iwi, hapū and whānau helps build collections of documentary heritage and tāonga created by Māori and relating to Māori, for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

Principle 3

The Library has an important leadership role in collaborating and coordinating collection related activities across institutional and national boundaries which enables New Zealanders to connect to information important to their lives and to support strong documentary heritage and tāonga collections for all New Zealanders.

Principle 4

Where publications in scope for legal deposit are produced in both physical and digital formats, the Library will move to give preference to collecting born-digital formats. Exceptions may be made in cases where the print version has some special value or where restrictions to the digital version limit New Zealanders’ ability to access these works.

Principle 5

Resources digitised by New Zealand libraries and other institutions and made available to the public on the Internet may be collected by the Library. The Library will work with institutions on a case by case basis to enable this.

Principle 6

The Library takes into account the cost of acquiring, storing, managing, and making accessible collection items when building its collections.

Principle 7

The National Library’s General Collections will increasingly focus on published resources relating to New Zealand and the Pacific, with only selected areas of collecting outside this.

Principle 8

For content in the National Library’s General Collections other than New Zealand and the Pacific focus area, the Library will facilitate access for users in preference to acquiring and owning such content.

Principle 9

The Schools Collection supports the development of young New Zealanders as engaged readers and digitally literate learners by providing resources that support literacy and learning in New Zealand schools.

Principle 10

The Schools Collection allows and complements the creation of online curriculum related resources.

5. Collecting Plans

This Collections Policy is implemented by three-year collecting plans, which cover the wide range of subjects, mandates, or format specific collection areas required to build collections relating to New Zealand, the people of New Zealand, and the Pacific.

The collecting plans provide greater detail on how the principles in this policy are relevant to, and will be implemented, in their specific area, as well as identifing current collecting prioirities. Collecting plans exist for the following areas:

  • Cartography
  • Drawings, Paintings & Prints
  • Manuscripts
  • Music
  • New Zealand and Pacific Published Collections
  • Oral History and Sound
  • Overseas Published Collections
  • Photography
  • Printed Ephemera
  • Rare Books and Fine Printing
  • Schools Collection

6. Related policies

It is assumed that:

  • the development of the collections will be consistent with the Library’s Access Policy (dated May 2003 and currently under revision)
  • access to resources in the collections of the Library will be consistent with the provisions of the Library’s Preservation Policy (dated October 2006)
  • use and reuse of collection items of the Library will be consistent with the principles of the Library’s Use and Reuse Policy (dated March 2014)
  • the application of charges for copying resources in the collections will be consistent with the DIA Pricing Framework
  • the development of the collections will be consistent with the Library’s Kaitiakitanga Policy
  • the collection policy will inform the Digitisation Strategy
  • digital collection items will be preserved in accordance with the Digital Preservation Strategy (dated June 2011, and currently under revision)

7. Sources of acquisition

The Library acquires material for the collections through legal deposit, purchase, donation, and bequest. Strong relationships and collaborative partnerships with content creators and donors, is important to developing the collections.

8. Retention of the collections

The provisions of the National Library Act 2003 relating specifically to collections result in variant retention policies:

  • The Crown must continue to own the research collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library in perpetuity.
  • The National Librarian, with the approval of the Minister, may transfer ownership, custody or use of documents in the General and Schools collections.

9. Compliance

The provision of products and services that support building the National Library’s collections will comply with the requirements of the Copyright Act 1994 and other intellectual property legislation.


Comments and questions on the application of the policy are welcome and should be directed to the Director, Content Services.

11. Review

The policy will be reviewed no later than 5 years from the approval date.

12. Approval

26 October 2015