skip to main content

Information for librarians

This page has information for librarians including how to manage DVDs and restricted books, signing up to our libraries newsletter, and getting resources from the Classification Office.

If you need more information please feel free to contact our Information Unit.

Librarian helping two children

Useful links

What to do about restricted/banned items

Many public and tertiary libraries stock books, DVDs or music which hold a restricted classification. We have listed the main points on managing these items here:

  • If your library has restricted books or magazines, you will need to manage those items to ensure underage people cannot access them, for example, by holding them behind the counter or placing them in a restricted access collection.
  • If you see a red restricted label that looks the same as a film label on an item, it means it has been legally restricted to people above the age on the label. You cannot lend this item to someone under the age on the label.
  • Books, magazines and sound recordings that were restricted before 2005 were not required to have official labels and can carry a variety of labels indicating a restriction. If a book or magazine in your collection has a label on it and you are not sure what it means, contact our Information Unit.
  • A classification decision remains in force unless a new decision has been on the publication. This means if an edition of a book was banned or restricted in 1966, it will still be banned or restricted. If you need to check the classification of any titles in your collection you can look on the NZ Register of Classification Decisions.
  • If you discover a book in your collection is 'banned', you must remove it from the library collection immediately. In this instance we recommend you contact our Information Unit to discuss your options.
  • It is possible to apply to get an older classification decision reviewed. You can read more about seeking a review on the Getting a classification changed page.
  • Books are not required to be classified before they are supplied to the public in the same way that films are. If you think a book in your collection may need to be classified, you can read about this process on the How to get something classified page.

How to manage your DVD collection

If your library stocks DVDs it is important you know the rules about supplying them. Here are the basics:

  • You need to have your DVDs labelled with the correct New Zealand classification label.
  • If you lend out DVDs you must display a label poster.

    Getting label posters or other resources

  • Unrestricted DVDs have green or yellow labels (anyone can see these DVDs). A red label on a DVD means there is a legal restriction on whom it can be supplied to.

    New Zealand's classification labels

  • It is illegal to supply a restricted DVD to anyone under the age on the label. It is also illegal to supply a restricted DVD to someone you believe will pass it on to someone underage.
  • If borrowers or staff have queries about who can see or borrow restricted material, please get them to contact our Information Unit.

Getting film labels

Labels can be obtained from The Film and Video Labelling Body.

Films, DVDs and (restricted) games must be labelled with New Zealand film labels before they can be supplied in New Zealand. (There are a few exceptions to the labelling rule, for films such as unrestricted documentaries.)
Types of films exempted from labelling

  • Labels need to be fixed to the front cover of the DVD case and should cover up any overseas labels.
  • When you buy a DVD from a New Zealand supplier, it should already be labelled with a New Zealand classification label.
  • If you purchase a DVD from overseas, you will need to get it labelled before you can lend it out.
  • If the label is attached to the plastic shrink wrap on a DVD, you will need to transfer the label to the cover of DVD itself before lending it.
  • Some box sets have a rating that applies to the set as a whole. However, in some box sets each disc has a different rating or classification. In these cases only the highest level label will be shown on the outside of the box. If you intend to loan box set discs individually, you will need to check with the Film and Video Labelling Body if the discs have been classified separately or as a set, and obtain the appropriate labels.
  • DVDs that accompany books also need to be labelled.
  • You can see what labels DVD titles will need to display by searching the Film and Video Labelling Body's website. If you can't find information on a title you are interested in, contact our Information Unit.

Types of films exempt from labelling requirements

Some types of films and games are exempted from labelling requirements. It is important to note that while some films may fall into one of the exempt categories (such as 'documentary') the exemption does not apply if the film contains material that is likely to be restricted.

The Classification Office and the Film and Video Labelling Body do not have power to grant an exemption from labelling. It is up to the person or organisation making the DVDs available to the public to determine whether they think the DVDs meet the exemption requirements under section 8 of the Classification Act. There's more info about exemptions in the Industry section.

For more information, contact our Information Unit.

Information for school librarians

Like all libraries, school libraries need to ensure that restricted items are not lent or shown to underage students. If your school library stocks DVDs, please make sure they are correctly labelled, that you display a label poster and that all staff are aware of the meaning of labels and legal restrictions.

Permission from a teacher or a parent does not override a restriction. If teachers want students to see a restricted film or graphic novel, they must apply to the Chief Censor for an exemption from the classification.

Two girls in the school library

Signing up for our libraries newsletter

We produce an e-newsletter for libraries around 6 times a year. The newsletter has articles and a spreadsheet of restricted books and magazines that have been classified as restricted since 2005. (Note: this spreadsheet does not contain sexually explicit titles, as libraries are unlikely to stock these).

To subscribe to this newsletter, email our Information Unit with the words 'Subscribe to libraries newsletter' in the subject line.

View the current newsletter

Libraries newsletter cover

Getting label posters or other resources

If your library lends out DVDs you must display a label poster. These are available free of charge in either A3 or A2 format. The poster was redesigned in 2012. Your current poster should look like the one shown. To order a poster contact our Information Unit.

We have a number of other free resources your library might like to use:

Censorship: The Basic Facts booklet

Censorship: The Basic Facts

A booklet outlining the censorship process and labelling, suitable as a school resource.

Contact our Information Unit to order copies of Censorship: The Basic Facts.

Red Means Restricted flyer

Red Means Restricted flyer

The new restricted movies flyer is a double-sided sheet informing people that it is illegal to supply restricted films or games to underage people. There is information on all the classification labels and what they mean on the back of the flyer.

Contact our Information Unit to order Red Means Restricted flyers (100 flyers per pad).

DVD slick resource

DVD slick resource

Our new DVD slick resource is designed to fit inside DVD display cases. Two PDFs are available: one is for films classified as restricted - such as R16 or R18 - and the other is for films with RP (parental accompaniment) classifications such as RP13 or RP16.

These slicks remind people that it is against the law to show or give restricted films to people under the age stated on the label and it is illegal to show or give films with an 'RP' classification to an underage person unless they are accompanied by a parent or guardian.

These resources are designed for DVD retailers, libraries, and stores offering DVDs for hire. Please feel free to print copies of this resource for your DVD display cases.

Contact our Information Unit to order DVD slicks.

Classification Label poster
Contact our Information Unit to order these classification label posters (available in A3 and A2)

LIANZA conference

LIANZA is a great opportunity for us to talk to library staff from around the country, and allows us to answer a wide variety of questions about the classification system as people visit our stand throughout the conference.

In 2014 the Classification Office attended the LIANZA conference in Auckland and presented a paper entitled Opening the book on censorship: classification of literature in New Zealand. Classification Office staff also participated in a panel discussion with Auckland Libraries regarding the recent classification of a number of books.

LIANZA 2014 paper: Opening the book on censorship: classification of literature in New Zealand (PDF, 184KB)

In 2010 the Classification Office attended the centennial LIANZA conference in Dunedin and presented a paper entitled From The Butcher Shop to The Peaceful Pill: A history of book censorship in New Zealand.

LIANZA 2010 paper: From The Butcher Shop to The Peaceful Pill: A history of book censorship in New Zealand (PDF, 337KB)