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Rehoming 600,000 books from the New Zealand National Library — some common questions answered

September 28th, 2020 By Bill Macnaught

The National Library is halfway through a project to review and rehome 600,000 books from its overseas published collections. Below are answers to some questions we've been asked a number of times during the project.

Will researchers in New Zealand be able to get books on subjects other than New Zealand?

Academic researchers can also use their university library and independent researchers can request books through their local public library. Our project is fully supported by New Zealand University Librarians and by LIANZA, the professional association for librarians in New Zealand. The National Library continues to collect items published overseas in line with our Collections Policy.

Will New Zealand children be able to learn about the rest of the world?

The National Library of New Zealand continues to lend books on any subject to any school in the country. Children are still able to read about the history of other countries and learn about current affairs across the world. We spend NZ$1million per annum on new books published around the world for our Services to Schools lending service.

How important are these books for researchers?

Until the 1990’s these books were regularly borrowed but issues have been in decline and last year only 3,500 of these books were used – less than 1% of the books we’re working hard to rehome. As the work progresses National Library staff are reviewing these books and so far, more than 33,000 titles have been retained because they meet the Library’s collecting plan.

Is the National Library carrying out wholesale destruction of these books?

Not a single book has been destroyed as part of this project and we are doing everything we can to rehome these books including offering them to libraries and community groups. We want these books to be read, not stored in a warehouse where nobody uses them.

Will the knowledge contained in these books disappear forever?

These books are still held in other libraries. Books published in the UK will still be held in the British Library. Books published in Australia will still be held in the National Library of Australia.

Has the National Library been using COVID-19 as a distraction to carry out this project?

We launched our programme publicly in October 2019. We’ve had constructive feedback which has helped to identify books we will keep in our collection. We are still asking researchers to continue working with the National Library to help identify any books in its overseas published collections that should be retained by the Library and to help us find appropriate homes for these books.

Are we being forced to do this as a cost-cutting exercise?

The National Library of New Zealand has been wanting to deaccession these books for many years. In National and State Libraries in other countries it is common practice to remove books that are no longer needed. Because of a recent investment by Government in the future of the National Library we are now able to carry out this project.

More information about the project

To view the principles for retention or deselection document and for the latest up-to-date information on this project please visit our overseas published collections webpage.

Detail of the National Library building with tree beside it.

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