Local studies

Last updated:  15 April 2024

The State Library of NSW and the NSW public library network play a key role in developing, maintaining and providing access to collections that document the history and development of local communities across NSW.

Local studies provide communities with resources that document, illustrate and record the history and cultural heritage of an area, offering a dedicated repository for material over time. Local studies collections are unique to each public library and are highly valued by the community.

As well as collecting and archiving local history, knowledge and culture, public libraries are instrumental in assisting the community to create content, allowing the local community to contribute to the development of the library and collections. 

Local studies in NSW public libraries


In 2020 the State Library of NSW conducted an audit of local studies collections across the NSW public library network. 120 councils participated in the audit. The audit report provides information about policies and strategies, collection size and condition, cataloguing and indexing, digitisation and digital content, staffing, Indigenous collections and protocols, access and evaluation in NSW public libraries. 


The indyreads local studies collection aims to enable public libraries to make their locally important titles available via the platform.

Best practice resources


Each year the State Library collects statistics from public libraries about local studies collections and circulation. Statistics about the size and circulation of local studies collections are included in the annual NSW public library statistics publication.

Local studies practice guide

The local studies practice guide on the NSW public library wiki contains information to help those working in local studies and covers a wide range of topics including collections policies, rights and access, programs and promotion and evaluation. 

Guidelines and benchmarks

Guideline 10. Local studies collections in Living Learning Libraries: standards and guidelines for NSW public libraries provides guidance to public libraries in developing local studies collections and services.

People Places provides guidance for designing local studies spaces in public libraries.

The Indigenous spaces in library places tool kit provides information about sharing stories and building knowledge of Indigenous history and culture through public libraries. 

Benchmark 3. Quality of multicultural services/collections in Benchmarking NSW public library services to multicultural communities is a tool for library staff to measure the quality of their multicultural local studies collections.

The digital practice guidelines provide an introduction for public libraries that are involved in digitisation projects, including providing access and storage for born digital objects and digital preservation.

Professional development

  • Learn about local studies in Module 8 of the Reference Excellence training.
  • Sign up to the PL Portal online training platform to access a range of short courses and mini modules.
  • Visit our YouTube channel to access webinars and training videos on a range of topics relating to public libraries.
  • Subscribe to our enewsletters to stay informed about upcoming events, promotions and professional development opportunities.
  • Browse the Local studies reading list on indyreads.
Wider local studies seminar

Held over two days, the seminar features sessions looking at collecting local studies information, including about your culturally and linguistically diverse community, the use of oral histories and First Nations collection description guidelines for the library sector. 

There will be short (10 minute) talks from local studies staff across Australia as they share what is happening in their libraries. 

Register now:


Join the Local Studies working group and email list to connect with other library staff involved in local studies. 

The Public Library Services team is available to provide advice to NSW public libraries on collections and services.

Contact us to discuss how we can assist your library.