Preserving and providing access to local archives is one of the roles performed by public libraries in New South Wales. This role is not mandated, nor is it a stated priority for public libraries. Local government records are regulated by legislation, but what of the other records documenting the lives of rural and city communities? In many cases the librarys local studies collection becomes the default home of the archives of local community organisations and of individuals whose personal papers are acquired by libraries. In some cases, the library shares the role of maintaining local archives with historical societies, museums and universities. The result is a functioning example of distributed custody, where public libraries and other local institutions take responsibility for local archives. This paper is a case study that draws on two major surveys of local studies collections undertaken by the State Library of NSW, the first in 1984 and the second in 2013-2014. It concludes that public libraries have been critical for over 50 years in ensuring that local archives have been acquired and managed, despite there being no explicit regulatory or policy frameworks for doing so.