Exterior of National Library building

Service charter

Read our service charter and find out how we can support you to find, access and use the resources in the National Library and Alexander Turnbull Library.

Research services principles

The Alexander Turnbull Library research services support our users to find, access, and effectively use resources held in the National Library and Alexander Turnbull Libraries.

Anyone in New Zealand can use our services. We provide research services to people outside New Zealand when a) the enquiry relates to New Zealand, or b) the enquiry relates to collection items.

  • We provide support by offering users advice and guidance about how to access the information they are looking for in our collections.
  • We support user independence and self-help wherever possible through developing user friendly information systems and guidance material.
  • We are strongly committed to equity of access to information, to providing a service to all members of the community and to treating all enquiries with respect and confidentiality.
  • We are committed to ensuring that our services meet the research needs of Māori.
  • We will provide assistance and access to collections by making our research services available at our users’ point of need, whether online or in the Library.
  • We will provide information and research services free of charge wherever possible.
  • While respecting the confidentiality of researchers, we support information sharing between our users to better enable them to learn from each other.
  • When we can’t help within our service guidelines, we will endeavour to provide further avenues for research by referring enquirers to other services.
  • We expect our staff to provide timely, courteous and professional services to all our users.

Research services guidelines and standards

These guidelines and standards are underpinned by our Service Principles and are designed to help you understand what levels of service to expect.

Getting assistance with your research

We support you to find information in a variety of ways. When self-help tools and resources do not guide you to the information you need, assistance is provided through a range of channels, including:

  • face to face in reading rooms
  • telephone
  • online requests, through Ask a Librarian
  • letters.

What we can do initially

If you visit the Library and ask us for assistance, we will advise you on how to get started with your research, suggest appropriate resources and support you to use our databases and catalogues effectively.

If you phone we are generally able to spend up to 10 minutes advising on the most appropriate information resources to guide you in your search including assistance on how to use our databases and catalogues effectively.

Your enquiry may be referred to staff for a written response.

You may also be referred to another information provider if that is most appropriate.

What we undertake as an online research enquiry

Enquiries that cannot be responded to on the phone within ten minutes, and written or email enquiries, may be referred to our distanct enquiry service ‘Ask a Librarian’.

Depending on the nature of the enquiry, this service provides:

  • up to 2 hours of research on most enquiries
  • a list of the resources that librarians have consulted to respond to your enquiry
  • guidance on the most appropriate information resources for you to continue with your own research.

Where copies of documents are an outcome of the research, there may be a charge for the reproduction of the documents. We will let you know the charge before we do the work.

Most enquiries will receive a response within 7-10 working days. For more complex enquiries we may need to discuss a longer response time with you.

Ask a Librarian

What we are not able to do

  • Lengthy or ongoing research, such as extended family history, newspaper searches or searches through large manuscript collections.
  • Extended research assistance to people overseas asking for information that is readily available in their own country.
  • Answers to lists of questions for quizzes or competitions.
  • Detailed assistance with school or university assignments.
  • Valuations.
  • Legal and medical advice.
  • Extensive checking and correction of footnotes and bibliographies.

In these instances, we may give you guidance on search strategies and relevant resources to get you started in your research, or refer you to your local library or another information provider.

To ensure everyone is treated fairly/equally, we reserve the right to limit the number of responses provided to any one person. For instance, we may help you scope your question down to something we can answer within the parameters of our service, or ask that you contact us again after a period of time, so that we have time to answer other enquiries we receive.


When responding to enquiries, we make reasonable and diligent efforts within our service guidelines to obtain accurate information from authoritative sources, including online databases. Information is provided in adherence with copyright legislation. Our advice is restricted to factual matters that can be established from primary or published sources. We will not analyse or make value judgements on the information.

Getting items from our collections

Access to collections onsite

Items from our collections can be used onsite in our Wellington premises.

Items from the collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library that are rare or fragile can only be viewed in our supervised reading rooms. In some cases surrogate copies (eg microfilm) will be provided.

Access to collections online

Some items from our collections are digital and are available online.

Loans of material from our collections

Items from the National Library’s General Collections and photocopies of journal/magazine articles are available using the interlibrary loan service available from your local library.

Fast delivery is available through our Rapid Access Service, for which there is a charge. Items from the Alexander Turnbull Library collections are not available for interlibrary loan. In some cases surrogate copies (photocopies, microfilm, digital images, or other formats) may be available.

Copies of collection items

Quality copies in digital and other formats are available and are usually supplied within 10-15 working days.

Large orders and orders with special requirements may take longer. Staff are happy to discuss your needs.

Note that some rare and/or fragile items require special conditions for retrieval from storage. Timeframes for retrieval for these items will vary, and in some cases can take up to two days as items held in cold storage need to acclimatise slowly to room temperature. We will inform you about extended retrieval timeframes at the time of your request.