Deakin University was established by the Deakin University Act in 1974. The library absorbed the education collections from the Geelong campus of the then State College of Victoria. It also absorbed science, engineering, architecture, mathematics, commerce and art collections to support the transfer of the more academic elements of these subject areas from the independent Gordon Institute of Technology to Deakin University.
When Deakin enrolled its first students at its Waurn Ponds campus in 1977, resources were acquired to support the ongoing teaching and learning curriculum which was a broad curriculum focusing on education, commerce, humanities, social sciences, architecture, science engineering. Deakin's collections were also shaped early on by a strong ethos of open campus and a commitment to distant education Donations of resources were actively sought for many years to rapidly build a strong collection that had historical depth as well as sufficient breadth to meet the teaching and learning needs.
The merger of Deakin University with the Warnambool Institute of Advanced Education in 1990 and with Victoria College, Melbourne in 1991 meant that library collections were for the first time distributed across 5 different campuses over a wide geographic area. Transfers and consolidation projects were implemented to try and bring order to a dispersed collection that reflected different collection development policies and practices. In addition, collection development was focused on changing largely teaching collections to collections with enough depth to support university level research. In 1997 the Woolstores campus (later the Waterfront campus) opened involving the transfer of collections to support the architecture and nursing courses initially taught there.
Changes to library collections have always reflected Deakin's strategic decisions on courses and programs. The introduction of new courses such as MBA, law, police studies, occupational therapy, social work, wine science etc have created the need for new collections. The decision to introduce Medicine in 2008 has created the need to quickly build a substantial specialised medical collection The decision to close down courses such as Deakin's School of Engineering in 1981 meant that the large, research quality engineering collection was archived or dispersed. A decision to re-offer engineering in the 1990's created the need to rapidly re-acquire an engineering collection.
Library collections have also been actively developed to support the research within the University which was initially focused largely on applied research in engineering, science and education but has since expanded to a broad research profile focusing on several priority research areas. Donations of both monographs and periodical backsets were actively pursued to provide research depth to library collections. In recent years the emphasis has moved largely to online databases and publisher packages to support electronic access to a wide range of research level literature.
Several special collections were developed very early in Deakin Library's history with a Deakin archival collection and rare book collection first established. Other special collections were added both through active acquisition programs (e.g. Western Victorian Collection), through the donation of large formed collections (eg. Louis Goldberg collection) and the acquisition of significant other donations such as by the Parliamentary Library of Victoria. The Friends of Deakin University also assisted by the purchase of significant items for the special collections.
In March 2009, a new Alfred Deakin Prime Ministerial Library was officially opened within a new physical space located in the recently developed Dennis Lascelles building. The Library aims to provide access to material supporting scholarship and research into Alfred Deakin, and the social, political and national context in which Alfred Deakin lived. The collection also supports the Alfred Deakin Research Institute which aims to generate research that informs public debate and that enable government ministers, departments and policy-makers to take action based on evidence.
In recent years, the collections held by Deakin University Library have changed dramatically to meet changing user needs and technological developments. Online resources such as electronic journals and e-books have transformed the ways collections are being developed and the way information can be accessed. The large scale collection of print resources has given way to the flexibility of access to online resources. These changes have resulted in print collections being systematically evaluated for their ongoing value to users and their future possible preservation/archiving value.