Libraries in London

From the British Library to the National Art Museum, if you are looking for a book, fifteenth-century document or 21st century film, you can find it in London.

The British Library

Aldwych Reading Room – see Science, Technology, and Business Reading Rooms

Arts Information Services – see Royal Academy of Arts Library

Barbican Library

Barbican Centre, EC2Y 8DS

Tel: 020 7638 0569‎


Hours: Mon, Wed: 9:30am-5:30pm; Tues, Thurs: 9:30am-7:30pm; Fri: 9:30am-2pm; Sat: 9:30am-4pm; Sun: Closed.

Comprehensive public lending library, especially strong in music, the arts, and children’s literature. Special Collections: the Music Performance Research Centre (holds archive recordings of live performances and interviews with leading musicians). Bring ID and official proof of working or living in the City of London to borrow books.

Barking Library

Barking, Essex IG11 7NB

Tel: 020 8724 8725 / 8723 (First Floor), 020 8724 8722 (Ground Floor)


Hours: Monday-Thursday: 9am-9.30pm; Friday: 9am-7pm; Saturday: 9am-5pm; Sunday: 10am-4pm.

Holds the London special collections on journalism, publishing and printing. Bring proof of address to borrow books.

British Architectural Library

Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, W1B 1AD

Tel: 020 7307 3888


Hours: Monday-Friday: 9am – 5am; Saturday – Sunday: Closed

“A world-famous library covering all aspects of architecture. The Library holds over 150,000 books, 2,000 periodical titles, 1 million drawings, 1.5 million archive items and 1.5 million photographs.”

The BFI (British Film Institute) Reuben Library

BFI Southbank, Belvedere Rd, London, SE1 8XT

Tel: 020 7255 1444

Hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 10:30am – 7pm

The world’s largest collection of printed material relating to all aspects of cinema, TV, and video. Items organised by title, director, producer, running time, distribution, awards, reviews, etc. The library is free to use and open to everyone.

The British Library

96 Euston Rd  London, NW1 2DB

Tel: 0843 208 1144‎


Hours: Monday, Wednesday-Friday: 9:30am – 6pm; Tuesday: 9:30am – 8pm; Saturday: 9:30am – 5pm; Sunday: 11am – 5pm

“The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom. The library is a major research library, holding over 150 million items from many countries, in many languages and in many formats, both print and digital: books, manuscripts, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, videos, play-scripts, patents, databases, maps, stamps, prints, drawings. The Library’s collections include around 14 million books, along with substantial holdings of manuscripts and historical items dating back as far as 2000 BC.” Everyone is welcome to visit the Library, to visit their exhibition galleries, or to tour the building. However, to use the Reading Rooms at St. Pancras, one must register for a Reader Pass.

British Library Newspaper Reading Room

Colindale Avenue, NW9 5HE


Hours: Monday – Saturday: 10am – 5pm; Sunday: Closed

British Library Newspapers, in Colindale (north London), provides access to the British Library’s major collections of British and overseas newspapers. The collections also include popular magazines, trade papers and comics.

 British Library of Political and Economic Science (LSE Library)

10 Portugal Street, London, WC2A 2HD

Tel: 020 7955 7229


Hours: (Visitors) Monday – Sunday: 8am-Midnight; (LSE Students & Staff) Monday – Sunday: 24 Hours during Lent & Summer Term

The British Library of Political and Economic Science is the main library of the London School of Economics and Political Science, England, and the world’s largest library specialising in social and political science. Free access for students registered with a college in the University of London. Access restricted to staff and research students during examination periods.

 British Music Information Centre

1st Floor Lincoln House , 75 Westminster Bridge Road, London, SE1 7HS

Tel: (0)20 7928 1902


Large collection of classical and contemporary British music, plus listening facilities, biographical material and a unique collection of 10,000 scores. Open to public reference only, no appointment necessary, free admission.

Courtauld Institute Library

Somerset House, The Strand, WC2R ORN

Tel: 020 7848 2701


Hours: Mon-Fri: 9:30am – 9pm [9:30am – 5pm for visitors]

The Book Library provides access to a significant art historical collection and is one of the major international research collections of art historical books, periodicals and exhibition catalogues in the country, numbering some 180,000 volumes. Use restricted to Courtauld students and faculty, though it is also a library of “last resort” — if you can’t find it anywhere else, they might let you look at the book you need if you bring an ID and a good reason.

Dr Williams’ Library

14 Gordon Square, WC1H OAG

Tel: 020 7387 3727


Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 10am – 5pm; Tuesday, Thursday: 10am – 6:30pm

Dr Williams’s Library is the pre-eminent research library of English Protestant nonconformity.  Established under the will of Dr Daniel Williams, the Library is one of the oldest open to the public still conducted on its original benefaction. Open to public, but must contact library before visit. ID required.

Goethe Institut

50 Princes Gate, Exhibition Road, SW7 2PH.

Tel: 020 7596 4044


Hours: Monday-Thursday: 1pm-7pm; Saturday: 1pm-5pm; Friday: Closed

Excellent collections covering everything to do with Germany and German culture. Especially strong on literature and the humanities. 3 months membership = £8, 6 months membership = £15, one year = £20.

Goldsmiths’ College Library

Lewisham Way, New Cross, SE14 6NW

Tel: 020 7919 7171

Hours: Term time: 24/7; Summer vacation: Monday-Friday: am-Midnight; Saturday-Sunday: 9am-Midnight

Free access for Goldsmiths students and staff with a ‘Goldsmiths Card.’ Ring in advance, and bring ID.

Guildhall Library

Aldermanbury, EC2P 2EJ

Tel: 020 7332 1868

Hours: Monday-Saturday: 9:30am – 5pm; Sunday: Closed

The Guildhall Library has London’s past covered. Its extensive manuscript and printed collections also embrace English and Parliamentary history, including the complete series of House of Commons papers and journals from 1800. Reference only; bring ID.

Imperial War Museum (Department of Books and Publications)

Lambeth Road, SE1 6HZ

Tel: 020 7416 5000


Hours: Open Daily: 9:30am-6pm

IWM holds a large collection of published material relating to twentieth and twenty-first-century conflict. Closed access, reference only.

Institut Français

17 Queensberry Place, SW7 2DT

Tel: 020 7871 3515


Hours: Monday-Friday: 9am – 11pm; Saturday: 10am – 11pm

All aspects of France and French culture, including CDs, videos and film. Free access.

Institute of Advanced Legal Studies

Charles Clore House, 17 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DR

Tel: 020 7862 5800


Hours: Monday-Friday: 9am – 11pm; Saturday: 10am – 5:30pm; Sunday: 12:30pm – 6:30pm

UK, EU, Commonwealth and international Law. Bring ID. Library of last resort.

Institute of Archaeology

University College London

31-34 Gordon Square, WC1 OPY

Tel: (0)20 7679 4788


Hours: Monday – Friday: 9:30am – 9pm; Saturday: 11am – 6pm; Sunday: Closed

*Summer Hours: Monday – Friday: 9:30am – 7pm; Saturday: 11am – 6pm; Sunday: Closed

The UCL Institute of Archaeology Library supports  programmes offered by the Institute and provides research material on a wide variety of topics covering all aspects of archaeology, museum studies and cultural heritage. The current library also contains the Yates Classical Archaeology library and the prestigious Edwards Egyptology library.

Institute of Classical Studies Library (Joint Library of the Hellenic and Roman Studies)

Senate House, Malet Street WC1E 7HU

Tel: 020 786208735


Hours: Monday, Friday: 9:30am-6pm; Tuesday-Thursday: 9:30am-8pm; Saturday: 10am-6pm; Sunday: Closed

The Library consists of two major collections: that of the Institute of Classical Studies and that of the Joint Hellenic Society and Roman Society. It numbers c.118,000 books and c.20,300 bound volumes of periodicals, thereby bringing the total to over 138,000 volumes; of the c.1,500 periodical titles, c.700 are current, with new titles constantly added. Reference use only. Free of charge.

Institute of Education Library

University of London

20 Bedford Way, WC1H 0AL

Tel: 020 7612 6000


Hours: Monday-Friday: 8:30am-11:30pm; Saturday-Sunday: 9:30am-8:30pm

All aspects of education. The Institute aims to have a Library and Archives of international standard and significance. The collections are both physical and virtual. The Newsam Library is open to all visitors for research purposes as well as staff and students of the Institute of Education. They have various categories of membership, some of which entitle the user to free reference or borrowing membership.

Institute of Historical Research

School of Advanced Study

Senate House, Malet Street, WC1E 7HU

Tel: 020 7862 8740


Hours: Monday-Friday: 9am-8:45pm; Saturday: 9:30am-5:15pm; Sunday: Closed

Major collection of printed primary sources and periodicals for British and European history. Membership is free if student’s UK university belongs to the corporate scheme.

Islington Central Library

2 Fieldway Crescent, N5 1PF

Tel: 020 7527 6900


Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday: 9:30am-8pm; Tuesday, Friday, Saturday: 9:30am-5pm; Sunday: 1pm-5pm

The main lending and reference library for the borough. You must live, work, or study in Islington or be a member of another borough’s library services to be qualified.

Italian Cultural Institute

39 Belgrave Square, SW1X 8NX

Tel: 020 7823 1887


Hours: Monday-Friday: 10am-1:30pm, 2:30pm-5:30pm; Tuesday: 10am-12:30pm, 2:30pm-5pm

Covers the main areas of Italian culture, society, and history, with over 25,000 books in Italian. Free access for reference only.

Kensington Central Library

Central Library, Philimore Walk, W8 7RX

Tel: 020 7361 3010


Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday: 9:30am-8pm; Wednesday, Friday, Saturday: 9:30am-5pm; Sunday: Closed

Public lending library, including decent collection of music scores and recordings. Must live, work or study in the borough to qualify to borrow books. Bring ID and official proof of address.

Lambeth Palace

Lambeth Palace Road, SE1 7JU

Tel: 020 7898 1400

Hours: Monday, Saturday, Sunday: Closed; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday: 10am-5pm; Thursday: 10am-7pm

Historic library of the archbishops of Cantebury, including an eclectic collection from archives of the Church of England from the eleventh century to the present and ecclesiastical history in general. Reference only, membership at discretion of librarian.

London College of Fashion Library

20 John Prince’s Street, Oxford Circus W1G OBJ

Tel: 020 7514 7455

Hours: Monday-Thursday: 9am-8:15pm; Friday: 9am-5pm; Saturday: 11:15am-5pm; Sunday: Closed

All aspects of the fashion and clothing industries. Visitors may use the library by appointment; book in advance by telephone. Daily visitor numbers are limited.

London School of Jewish Studies

44a Albert Road, NW4 2SJ

Tel: 020 8203 6427


All aspects of Hebraica and Judiaica. 100,000 books, periodicals and manuscripts. Open to the public for reference only. Admission free.

Marx Memorial Library

37A Clerkenwell Green, EC1R 0DU

Tel: 020 7253 1485


All aspects of Marxism, Socialism, and the working-class movement (especially in the English-speaking world). Opening hours may vary; call ahead if intending to visit after 6pm.

Marylebone Library

109-117 Marylebone Road, NW1 5PS

Tel: 020 7641 1300


Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: 9:30am-8pm; Wednesday: 10am-8pm; Saturday: 9:30am-5pm; Sunday; 1:30pm-5pm

Large and comprehensive public reference and lending library, particularly good on medicine. Special collections on local history and Sherlock Holmes. Bring proof of address and ID.

Museum of London

Corner of London Wall and Aldersgate Street, EC2Y 5HN

Tel: 020 7814 5600


Hours: Monday-Sunday: 10am-6pm

The Library, formed largely from the collection of the Port of London Authority, consists of around 10,000 volumes and cover topics  such as the Port of London, British and foreign ports, London, Shipping and the Thames. Admission by appointment and reference only.

National Art Library

Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL

Tel: 020 7942 2400

Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, Saturday: 10am-5:30pm; Friday: 10am-6:30pm

Major collection of fine and applied arts of all countries and all periods. Admittance is free, but you must apply for a Temporary Ticket which is valid for three months.

Natural History Museum Library

Cromwell Road, SW7 5BD

Tel: 020 7938 9191

Hours: Tuesday-Friday: 10am-4:30pm

Includes Zoology, Botany, Entomology, and Earth Sciences libraries. Reference only. Make appointment at least 48 hours before your visit.

National Maritime Museum/Caird Library

Romney Road, Greenwich, SE10 9NF

Tel: 020 8858 4422

Hours: Everyday: 10am-5pm

All aspects of maritime history and related subjects. Entry is free, but must apply for day pass or reader’s tickets. To consult the manuscript, phone the librarian in advance.

Poetry Library

Level 5, Royal Festival Hall, SE1 8XX

Tel: 020 7921 0943

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday: 11am-8pm; Monday: Closed

The UK’s most comprehensive collection of 20th century poetry in the English language, with some coverage of poetry in translation. It contains 200,000 items and is constantly growing. The Poetry Library is free to join for all members of the public on display of current ID with proof of address e.g bank statement, utility bill, driving licence etc.

The Rotherhithe Picture Research Library

82 Saint Marychurch Street, London SE16 4HZ


Hours: weekdays 10:00 -16:00, weekend by appointment

This is my new favorite library/archive in London. Located on the groundfloor of Sands Films Studios, the library was founded in 1976 to enable anyone to do picture research. A non-profit education trust, with open-shelf access, it is a researcher’s dream. The collection consists of historical images ranging from advertising to textiles, domestic utensils to trades. Sands Films specialises in historic films, costume making and rentals. They have been involved in Harry PotterWolf Hall, The Other Boylen Girl and Gangs of New York to name but a few.

Royal Academy of Arts Library

Burlington House, Picadilly, W1J 0BD

Tel: 020 7300 5737


Hours: Tuesday-Friday: 10am-1pm, 2pm-5pm

British art from the foundation of the Royal Academy to the present, including over 45,000 books, archives, manuscripts, and photographs. The research library is a specialist resource, and is open by appointment only to researchers wishing to consult material not easily available elsewhere.

Royal College of Art Library

Kensington Gore, London SW7 2EU

Tel: 020 7590 4224


Hours: Monday-Friday: 9am-8pm; Saturday: 12pm-5pm

Large collection covering all aspects of fine and applied arts, and design. Proof of identification required.

Royal Society of Arts

8 John Adam Street, WC2N 6EZ

Tel: 020 7451 6945


Hours: Monday-Friday: 8am-8pm; Saturday-Sunday: Closed

Non-Fellows can request access to the RSA library if they can demonstrate that no other library can meet their needs. There is no charge for this access. The library covers the history of the Society itself and the history of economics, technology, design and art.

Royal Society of Medicine

1 Wimpole Street, W1M 0AE

Tel: 020 7290 2940


Hours: Monday-Thursday: 9am-9pm; Friday: 9am-5:30pm; Saturday: 10am-4:30pm

One of the largest medical libraries in Western Europe for contemporary medicine. Every year up to 1,000 new books are added to the collection and it subscribes to over 1,300 journals, including titles from around the world and covering all aspects of biomedical science.

School of Oriental and African Studies Library

10 Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, WC1H OXG

Tel: 020 7898 4163


Hours: Monday-Friday: 9am-11:30pm; Saturday-Sunday: 10:30am-11:30pm

Humanities, literature, and social sciences relating to Africa, the Near and Middle East as well as all parts of Asia. Reference is free to all University of London students. Bring student ID.

School of Slavonic and East European Studies Library

Senate House, Malet Street, WC1E 7HU

Tel: 020 7679 8701


Hours: Monday-Friday: 9am-9pm; Saturday: 10am-5pm; Sunday: Closed

Summer Vacation: Monday-Friday: 10am-7pm; Saturday: 10am-5pm; Sunday: Closed

History and culture of all East European and Slavic lands, part of the University College London. Reference is free for students registered at the University of London. Bring ID.

Science Museum Library

Imperial College Road, SW7 5NH

Tel: 020 7942 4242


Hours: Monday-Friday: 8:30am-9pm; Saturday: 10am-6pm; Sunday: 11am-7pm

Pure and applied science, especially the history of science, technology and medicine. The Imperial College and Science Museum Libraries are open to the public for reference without charge. You will not be able to borrow.

Sir John Soane’s Museum Library

13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2A 3BP

Tel: 020 7405 2107

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday: 10am-5pm

Up to his death in 1837, Soane amassed a varied collection of art and architecture. As well as his books, the library holds all the original architectural drawings from his and Robert and John Adam’s offices. Appointment essential.

Society of Antiquaries of London

Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BE

Tel: 020 7479 7080


Hours: Monday-Friday: 10am-5pm

The main subjects covered archaeology (especially British), architectural history and the decorative arts (especially medieval), heraldry and older works on British local history and genealogy. The Library can be used for reference purposes and without appointment by both Fellows and members of the Royal Archaeological Institute, the British Archaeological Association and the Heraldry Society.

Society of Genealogists Library

14 Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road, EC1M 7BA

Tel: 020 7251 8799


Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday: 10am-6pm; Thursday: 10am-8pm; Monday, Friday, Sunday: Closed

Genealogy, heraldry, and topography. Reference only—no appointment necessary.

St. Bride Printing Library

14 Bride Lane, EC4Y 8EQ

Tel: 020 7353 3331


Hours: Reading Room every Wednesday: 11am-6pm

All aspects of printing, publishing, graphic design, and related subjects. Holds extensive series of trade journals and technical manuals. Free access for reference only.

Swiss Cottage Library

88 Avenue Road, NW3 3HA

Tel: 020 7974 4001;jsessionid=54284528DBB60EF2D9B659C87FE76714.node2

Hours: Monday-Thursday: 10am-8pm; Friday-Saturday: 10am-5pm; Sunday: 11am-4pm

The main public reference and lending library for Camden. To borrow, you must live, work or study in the borough. Bring ID and official proof of address.

Tate Gallery Library and Archive

Millbank, SW1P 4RG

Tel: 020 7887 8838


Hours: Monday-Friday: 11am-7pm

Major collection of literature on 20th century art. British art from the Renaissance to the present day and international modern art. The emphasis is no fine art in the Western tradition and international contemporary art. For reference only. Bring ID.

University of London Library

Senate House, Malet Sreet, WC1E 7HU

Tel: 020 7862 8500

Email: (Library Office)

Hours: Monday-Thursday: 9am-9pm; Friday: 9am-6:30pm; Saturday: 9:45am-5:30pm; Sunday: Closed

The main undergraduate library for the University of London, covering all subjects. The library is especially strong in the humanities and social sciences. For students registered with a college in the University of London a reader’s pass is free. Bring student ID and a letter of recommendation from your college library.

Victoria Library

160 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 9UD

Tel: 020 7641 6200


Hours: Monday-Friday: 11am-7pm; Saturday: 10am-5pm; Sunday: Closed

Large public reference and lending library. Includes Westminster Archives and the Westminster Central Music library. Bring official proof of address and ID to be granted borrowing rights (you must live, work or study in the UK and be resident for at least 6 months).

Warburg Institute Library

University of London

Woburn Square, WC1H OAB

Tel: 020 7862 8949

Hours: Monday-Thursday: 10am-8pm; Friday: 10am-6pm; Saturday: 10am-4pm

The history of the classical tradition. Unrivalled collections on all aspects of Renaissance culture and science. Reference only. Write in advance to the Head Librarian, bring ID and a letter of recommendation from your supervisor.

Wellcome Institute Library

183 Euston Road, NW1 2BE

Tel: 020 7611 8888


Hours: Monday-Wednesday, Friday: 10am-6pm; Thursday: 10am-10pm; Saturday: 10a,-4pm

“The largest and most comprehensive European collection in the history of medicine”, with over 400,000 volumes. Bring ID and proof of address in order to obtain a reader’s ticket.

Westminster Central Reference Library

35 St. Martin’s Street, WC2H 7HP

Tel: 020 7641 1300


Hours: Monday-Friday: 10am-8pm; Saturday: 10am-5pm; Sunday: Closed

Westminster Central Reference Library is a special public reference library in London’s West End, holding key subject collections on Business, UK Official Publications, European Union and Arts and offering free access to the internet.

The Women’s Library @LSE

The national library for women’s studies and women’s history. Priority is given to British and Commonwealth rather than US material. Free and open to public, reference only.


My thanks to Liz Simpson for compiling the original list and allowing us to use it.