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Collecting at the Alexander Turnbull Library

Read an overview of collecting at the Alexander Turnbull Library. We make a commitment to materials we acquire to preserve them in perpetuity and make them discoverable and available for research. This requires us to be selective about what we acquire.

Building the collections

The Alexander Turnbull Library was established in 1920 following Turnbull’s bequest to the nation of his library. It has continued to grow because of the generosity of individuals, whānau and organisations, whose gifts have enriched our collections for the benefit of researchers everywhere.

The Alexander Turnbull Library acquires published and archival or ‘unpublished’ materials. We build our collections primarily through donations, Legal Deposit and purchasing a select amount of material.

Legal Deposit

We also create new documentation through the commissioning of oral history material to support our current collecting priorities. Our collecting focus is primarily on materials relating to New Zealand and the Pacific and rare books and fine printing.

When you offer us items, we consider them in relation to:

  • current collections
  • Library resources
  • Collections policy and current collecting plans
  • current collecting priorities

Collections policy and collecting plans

Talk to us first

Get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss offering your collections to the Library. We cannot accept items without prior consultation with you.

We don't generally accept published material that we already have in the collections. Please check the National Library Catalogue to see if we already have the material you are thinking of offering.

National Library Catalogue

Before sending or bringing materials to the Turnbull Library, donors and vendors should contact the Library. Contact us through our ‘Offer material’ form.

Offer material to the Alexander Turnbull Library form

Anonymous donations are not accepted

We are unable to accept anonymous deposit of materials. Please do not send books, manuscripts or other materials to the Library without consulting with us first. If there is an address we will return the material otherise the material may be disposed of.

Our commitment to material we acquire

The nature of stewarding these collections requires the Library to be selective in what it acquires. We make a commitment to the materials we acquire and make acquisition decisions with the expectation that we will be able to preserve materials in perpetuity and make them discoverable and available for research.

Successful ongoing stewardship of collections requires a mix of initial and ongoing resources, including staff, space, supplies, equipment, and overhead. When considering offers of donation or sale we take into account the total cost of acquiring, storing, managing, and making collection items accessible.

We are unable to accept all material offered

The National Library’s collections are at once extensive and focused. Consequently, materials offered as gifts to the Alexander Turnbull Library might duplicate materials already in our collections, in other repositories around New Zealand, or be extend beyond the scope of our current collecting priorities.

Please check the National Library Catalogue to see if we already have the material you are thinking of offering before you get in contact.

National Library Catalogue

We are unable to accept all materials offered as gifts to the collection. Where possible, Library staff may refer donors to other libraries.

Gifts received without prior consultation may be returned or securely disposed of without acknowledgment.

What formats do we accept?

The Turnbull Library accepts materials within our collecting priorities as outlined in our Collections Policy and Collecting Plans, regardless of format.

Some formats, particularly digital files and obsolete formats, require special stewardship for their ongoing preservation and use.

Decisions about whether to acquire those materials may be sensitive to resource constraints

Not all new donations and purchases digitised

Materials acquired will be described shortly after it has been formally accepted by the Library, and this description will be available online, for world-wide discovery. The Library promotes the presence of all collections, even collections that may not be immediately accessible for research.

The Library engages in on-demand public order digitisation and strategic digitisation projects so that more materials will be accessible to more researchers. You can find more information in our digitisation plan.

Any materials that are digitised are likely to be made accessible online subject to copyright, unless otherwise restricted. It is uncommon for us to digitise entire collections because of the intensive resources required to do so.

In most cases we will not digitise new donations and purchases as part of the acquisition process.

Digitisation plan

Offering us your oral history

Oral historians considering a project whose products they wish to donate to the Turnbull Library are urged to contact us well in advance of such a project to ensure it will meet all criteria.

We may collect the products of oral history projects if they align with collecting priorities.

Donation of digital material

The Turnbull actively collects born-digital material. We collect digital content following the same pathways as described above. We need to discuss and review your digital content prior to any donation or transfer and, if it’s in line with our collecting priorities, consider adding it to our holdings.

Find out more about donating digital items

We don’t offer financial appraisals of material

While Library staff are content experts capable of providing historical appraisal of materials on offer to the Library, they cannot provide financial appraisals or other legal advice. Donors are responsible for the financial appraisal of materials, should they choose to have their materials fiscally valued. The cost of a valuation is the responsibility of the donor.

Donors are encouraged to consult local directories, or websites through which appraisers may be found, such as those of the Australian & New Zealand Association of Antiquarian Booksellers.

Make a bequest or financial donation

Your financial support of the Library is always appreciated. Bequests or financial donations can be made to the Alexander Turnbull Library Endowment Trust or to the Friends of the Turnbull Library.

Alexander Turnbull Library Endowment Trust
Friends of the Turnbull Library

Get in touch

Get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss donating your collections to the Library. We cannot accept items without prior consultation with you.

We are unable to accept anonymous deposit of materials. Please do not send books, manuscripts or other materials to the Library without consulting with us first.

Before sending materials to the Turnbull Library, donors and vendors must contact the Library. Contact us through our ‘Offer material’ form.

Offer material to the Alexander Turnbull Library form

Feature image photo at top of page by Mark Beatty.