Collection guidelines

Last updated:  04 March 2024

G9. Collection development and management


To develop and manage a broad collection which meets the needs of the community, inspires intellectual curiosity and anticipates future need.

To provide information and reference resources, recreational reading, literacy development and education support materials.  

To develop selection and acquisition procedures that ensure library materials are available to the community as soon as possible.

A public library collection should comprise a rich and diverse mix of content including (but not limited to):

  • fiction (including a range of genres, such as literary, popular, with different appeal characteristics)
  • non-fiction covering the principal fields of knowledge (using the Dewey Classification 000–999 as a guide)  
  • reference, including internet resources
  • multiple formats (including monographs, serials, ebooks, e-audio, graphic novels, databases, digital formats, large print)  
  • age-appropriate collections (including picture books, children’s, young adult)
  • collections in community languages
  • local studies.

Relevant standards: S9 to S14 Collection standards.


A collection development strategy (policy) based on community needs is developed and maintained, which includes:

  • selection criteria and guidelines
  • collection strengths and purchase priorities
  • customer requests for purchase of materials
  • evaluation guidelines, especially for deselecting items
  • policy on donations (for example, what is acceptable/unacceptable, or whether donations must meet selection criteria)

It may also include conformance with the provisions of copyright legislation.

The collection development policy is reviewed every two to four years.

The library provides webpages with links to government, education and reputable commercial websites.

Enough items should be added to the collection annually to provide up-to-date information and to reflect contemporary publishing.  

Provision should be made for duplication of useful material for which there is heavy demand.

The library uses interlibrary loan to supplement, but not supplant, local collection development.

The library cooperates in collection development with other local, regional and state libraries and collecting institutions to provide a wide range of resources in a variety of formats to meet the needs of its community.

The library provides access to resources in a variety of formats to ensure equal access for persons of all ages including those with disabilities.

Access is provided to adult basic skills and English as a Second Language (ESL) materials with reading levels and formats appropriate to meet the needs of customers who are adult new readers or who have developmental disabilities or limited English speaking skills.

Suppliers are reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure timeliness of supply and discount rates.

Discard, acquisition and depreciation rates are related to each other, in order to enhance the currency and overall appeal of the collection. Higher or lower rates of discard may be appropriate in special circumstances, such as relocation of library collections, or collection rejuvenation.

Suggested performance indicators

  • customer satisfaction with library collection
  • acquisitions rate for core library materials per capita
  • percentage of total expenditure on library materials  
  • timeliness, for example, time taken from order to shelf ready and available to library customers
  • discards per annum as percentage of total stock
  • number of collection items per head of population
  • age of collection items, for example, percentage of collection purchased in last five/ten years
  • turnover (loans/items)
  • costs of library acquisitions by item type; overall costs including staffing, outsourcing etc
  • costs per loan
  • number of library loans per annum by type of item e.g. non-fiction
  • percentage of library material expenditure per annum on digital material  
  • percentage of library material expenditure per annum on print material
Points to consider

Collection size is dependent on variables such as the geographic spread and size of the population served. Each library should possess sufficient stock to ensure that it can meet its normal operational requirements.

If there is a large stack collection and/or significant family history and genealogy reference collections this will reduce performance against standards S12 to S14

Collection age directly influences loans and stock turnover. If the age of the collection is improved (that is, a higher percentage of the collection is new), then loans and collection turnover will increase.

Access to library collections can be enhanced through local and regional co-operative measures, resource sharing between libraries, and through the national interlibrary lending scheme.

The number of duplicate titles will depend upon the type of library service and the collection development policy.

When calculating costings for libraries, factor in relevant CPI increases. This guideline is not prescriptive about methods for calculating costs. Different methods can be used, provided the method is explained.

Targeted services may involve purchase of special materials (for example large-print items, or items in languages other than English) which have significantly higher unit costs. This will have an impact on the acquisitions budget.

The State Library of NSW has developed a program of Stock Quality Health Check tools with input from public library readers’ advisory experts from around NSW. The spreadsheets provided on the State Library website suggest an indicative range of authors and titles across a variety of genres.

G10 Local studies collections


To collect resources that document, illustrate and record the history and cultural heritage of the local area. To provide access to, preserve and maintain a collection that relates to the history and development of the local community.



Local Studies staff have appropriate skills and knowledge in:  

  • digital archiving
  • multimedia skills to make collections and resources accessible to various audiences  
  • exhibition and display procedure and preparation.


Collecting policies for local studies materials, including acquisitions and management, are recorded in the library’s collection development policy.

The library actively collects and preserves local studies material, including local newspapers.

The library provides opportunities and means for the public to donate relevant local studies material.

Items are acquired through purchase, donation, copying or transfer from local organisations.

Materials collected from local private sources are provided to the public with appropriate permissions and copyright clearances.

The library develops mechanisms for community creation and co-creation of relevant local information in a range of formats.

Contemporary collecting includes born digital materials of local interest.

Cooperative arrangements are in place with appropriate local community groups and other cultural institutions such as museums and galleries for the growth, development and use of the local studies collection.


Access is available to non-rare and non-fragile materials (i.e. standard items in Local Studies collection) at any time the library is open.

Access to rare and fragile materials is controlled.

Access provisions for sensitive materials and manuscripts are clearly documented.

All newspapers whether print or digital are accessible free of charge to the public.

Local history photographs (print or digital) are accessible free of charge to the public.

Public programs (such as participation in National Trust Heritage Festival, History Week, Family History Week, Anzac Day, NAIDOC week and other similar events) are offered by the library, where appropriate in partnership with other local community organisations.  

Appropriate exhibitions of local studies materials are curated and displayed.

Specific provision is made for collecting, organising and providing access to family history materials.

Partnerships are established with the media to develop and exploit opportunities for promotion of local studies programs.


A controlled environment and standards-compliant storage conditions to permanently preserve materials are provided if the materials in the collection require such treatment.

Appropriate library space and storage is provided including security for the collection.

Oral history collections are made digitally available in priority terms of significance.

Digital archives standards are used for local studies collections.

A disaster control plan has been developed for protection of the collection.

Links have been established with specialist consultants for professional advice concerning conservation matters.

A digitisation plan is developed for local studies material.

All copying is done in accordance with the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) and other regulations.

Suggested performance indicators

  • number of new still and moving images collected annually
  • percentage of local studies photographs in the collection digitised
  • number of oral history interviews made available per annum
  • number of exhibitions of local studies collections/materials  
  • proportion of users who rate the relevance and quality of the local studies collection as satisfactory or better
  • number of local history information requests recorded as part of the enquiry completion rate or other tracking mechanism
  • number of times per annum online local studies resources are accessed  
  • number of items added to the local studies collection annually  
Points to consider

Collecting of contemporary local information is as important as collecting older local historical material. Today’s information is tomorrow’s history.

Staff skills — shifts in library landscape, global digital communication, and archiving procedures and standards may have significant impact on local studies staff skills requirements. Ongoing professional development and training will be necessary to foster and maintain specialist skills and knowledge.

G11. Cataloguing


To provide a framework for bibliographic description of library materials and the exchange of bibliographic data.  

To maintain rigorous control to ensure consistency and uniformity which facilitates use by those unfamiliar with the rules.


All materials available in the collection are listed in the library catalogue.

Public libraries’ catalogue data should conform with international standards for descriptive and subject cataloguing.

Access to the collection, particularly unique items, is maximised by contributing information to Libraries Australia.

Suggested performance indicators

  • catalogued materials (including outsourced cataloguing/materials) conform to the recommended standards
  • cost of cataloguing each item
  • timeliness, for example, turnaround time (time taken from receipt of item to ready for loan) for both in-house processed and outsourced items meets acceptable targets.  
  • proportion of collection added to Libraries Australia database
  • per cent of acquisitions contributed to Libraries Australia per annum
Points to consider

Contributors to Libraries Australia should ensure that the records of their holdings are kept current, not only by contributing information on new material, but also by deleting holdings information for material discarded.

Cataloguing backlogs should be minimised, that is, actively managed to maximise throughput consistent with meeting cataloguing standards and timeliness of availability for loan to customers.

For some library material formats, cataloguing standards will be determined by the format. For example, see Digital practice guidelines, State Library of NSW, 2011 (Library Council of NSW Guideline) [link]