As might be expected from the aims and objects of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute the largest part of the book collection was always the Adult Nonfiction collection. This was comprised of both items for reference and items for loan.
The Munn-Pitt Reported noted in1934 "as a mechanics' institute - and that is the only fair way to judge it [he says earlier how outmoded MIs are] - this library is one of the best in Australia. Its building is pleasant, commodious and gives the impression of housing a library which is alive and progressive. The book collection is much stronger in its reference and nonfiction sections than is usually found in institute libraries."
The surviving items from this collection are widely dispersed through the Launceston Library's holdings.
Tasmanian Items are held in what is now known as the Launceston Local Studies Collection. The LMI items, together with the Meston Collection (discussed elsewhere in this outline) form the basis of the Library's strong local and Tasmanian history research collection.
Early Australian material, especially items published before 1850 are held in the Library's Phil Leonard Room, in a secure environment under glass, or in the strongroom.
A list of these items was compiled in 1942 thus: List of books in the library on the early history of Australia and Tasmania, almanacs, and Tasmanian newspaper files. Launceston Public Library (Tas.), 1942, 11 p.
Reference Items of ongoing interest and usefulness are held in the Library's general reference collection, for example Burke's Peerage, or in the Reference or Local Studies stack collections, e.g. Encyclopedia Britannica (9th ed) and Gorton's Topographical dictionary of Great Britain and Ireland (1833). A selection of other encyclopedias and dictionaries of the period have been retained.
Association Copies. A small collection of some 200 volumes, with connections to interesting persons, donations and institutions. Items donated to the LMI are included in the collection.
The balance of the surviving Nonfiction Lending Collection consists of an estimated 17,000 volumes which are in storage in the Library's stack area. This collection is strong in subject areas such as biography, travel, sciences, philosophy and history. It is a valuable exemplar of the reading and information interests of the period.
This collection was moved to Hobart for assessment by State Library staff in the 1980s. It is probable that some items were transferred to the State Reference Library collection at this time. The collection was placed in storage in Hobart and returned to the Launceston Library in the mid 1990s. It is stored in boxes in the Library's stack area. This collection was valued using a sampling method in 2005. It was subject to a further assessment on behalf of the State Library of Tasmania in 2013.