Go to  The Caird Library  Horniman Museum Library  National Art Library
     The Poetry Library  RHS Lindley Library  The Wiener Library  The Womens Library

    Caird Library
    (National Maritime Museum)


    The Library

    Anyone interested in the sea, ships, time, astronomy and the people involved with them, will find this reference library at Greenwich awash with information. It is at the National Maritime Museum, and within the Greenwich World Heritage site, so there is a lot more to see when you visit.

    The entrance to the reading room is a rotunda designed by Lutyens which contains a bust of Sir James Caird, the Museum’s principal benefactor. The library beyond, fitted in light oak, is a fine place for browsing, with some 20,000 books, periodicals, etc on display. Most are in glass-fronted cases, some on open shelves.

    The library has over 100,000 books, pamphlets, documents, maps, charts, ship’s plans, manuscripts, personal papers and diaries and dockyard records, etc., dating from the 15th century right up to the latest periodicals. It also acquires about 200 fresh items each month; some are new publications and some are old and out of print. The subjects covered include history, the Royal Navy, merchant shipping, ships crews and owners, navigation, horology, astronomy, lighthouses, harbours and docks, inland waterways, smuggling and a host of other topics. We were fascinated by the collection of biographies, where Admiral Togo joins Horatio Nelson, Bismark, and the ‘Man who lost America’.

    The staff are proud of the library’s role in research, and its involvement in important projects. The ships’ logs preserved here are providing weather details that, when converted into modern terms, allow the “Climatological Database for the World’s Oceans” to reach back 150 years before instruments became the main source of such data. But you don’t need an “ology” to benefit from this library; the staff are always ready to help with more modest research. If you are looking for that sea-faring ancestor they might be able to help you find the crew lists telling you where he sailed, and suggest other places with mariners’ records to help your research.

    Laptop computers can be used and some of the desks have power points for them.

    Finding and ordering what you want

    The library and manuscript catalogue is on the Internet at the address below, and also on terminals in the museum and library.

    Some of the books in the library are on open shelves, and the staff will provide you with anything that catches your eye in the glass-fronted cabinets. But, the reading room holds only about 20% of the library’s resources, so you may need to find what you want in the catalogue and complete a simple request form to ask for other material. If it is stored on site this will probably be soon delivered, but if it is stored somewhere else it can take up to 2 weeks to arrive. The catalogue has some advice on where items are held, but if you are looking for particular items it might be best to find them in the internet catalogue before visiting, and arrange by telephone for them to be waiting when you arrive.

    Visiting the library

    The library is free and open to all over the age of 18. It is in the museum, the main entrance to which is in Romney Road. You need to get a (free) ticket for entry to the museum before going up to the library on the Mezzanine floor of level 2 (1st floor). There is a lift near the staircase.

    You can get your Day Pass or Reader’s Ticket by completing a short application form and showing proof of identity at an enquiry desk outside the reading room. A staff member will let you into the reading room. The staff like to emphasise that this is a research library and for reference only

    You cannot take bags, coats etc into the reading room. Leave them in one of the lockers by the admission desk (operated by a £1 coin which is returned when you leave).

    E Library

    Just outside the reading room 10 public computer terminals are provided so that anyone can use the museum and library’s websites. These include copies of pictures in the museum collection, but unfortunately only at a remarkably small size - far too small to pick up worthwhile detail.

    These terminals are particularly suitable for children - you do not need a reader's ticket to use them.


    There are two websites. One for the Caird Library has the on-line catalogue and the other, called "PORT", gives on-line guides for researchers and links to other useful web sites. The addresses for these are below.


    Tuesday - Friday, 10.00 am to 4.45 pm
    10.00 am to 4.45 pm by appointment only
    Closed Bank holidays and third week in February


    020-8312 6528/6673


    The Caird Library, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London SE10 9NE See map below.





    "PORT" site:



    Cutty Sark


    Greenwich, then a bus or a rather long walk.


    177, 180, 188, 199, 286, 386; mobility buses: 851, 852, 853, 856


    Any boat to Greenwich Pier, then a 10 minute walk.



    Horniman Museum Library


    The Museum and Library

    The Horniman family’s successful 19th century tea business funded Frederick Horniman’s wonderfully diverse private collection which he shared with the public. Eventually he put it into a building described in ‘Pevsner’ as “no doubt one of the boldest public buildings of its date in
    Britain. ” (1) standing in beautiful gardens. In 1901 gave it all to the people of London, starting the Horniman museum and library.

    Over the years the building has seen changes. The original dramatic entrance under the tower on the main road demanded mountaineering legs, so a new main entrance has been created. You now go through the gates of
    Horniman Gardens to the modern way in through the side of the building. This allows people to get in and out without climbing steps.

    The Library

    The library, with around 30,000 books ranging from modern to historic and popular to learned, as well as periodicals (over 100 current journals are taken), CDs, videos and audio tapes, is free and open to all for reference use every day except Mondays and Bank holidays (the museum is open every day except at Christmas).

    It specialises in ethnography, natural history and musical instruments, supporting the museum. Within these broad classes the stock still reflects Frederick Horniman’s passions and those of successive museum curators, So, for example, if you are looking for books on bees you will be better served than someone interested in bears. Naturally, tea and its place in history is well covered but, looking through the catalogue, many other topics caught our attention. Just a few of them were: drums of the world, the metallurgy of 17th and 18th century music wire, folklore, boats (from the fishing luggers of Hastings to Eskimo watercraft), food and cooking around the world. Many titles appeal to the imagination: “Mooncakes and Hungry Ghosts – Festivals of China”, “Cats Paws and Catapults”.

    The staff put a lot of effort into welcoming users and making life easy for readers. In May 2006 David Allen, the Librarian, told us they’d made a long anticipated move into a building right by the way in to the main museum and had put the catalogue onto the internet. When we visited we found the librarians busy fitting themselves and their stock into their new situation while continuing to serve the needs of readers. The building has plenty of natural light and views out onto lush planting; this is such a change from the years they spent in the museum basement.

    On going into the library you first enter a “Family Room” with books on open shelves which both adults and children can use without registering or other formality. Behind a glazed screen there is a separate “Study Area” with work desks and if you use a laptop you can plug it in. You will need to sign a visitors book to use this area.

    Children doing ‘projects’ are welcome; they may get a light grilling about the subject, but are then quickly introduced to the right books to study.

    As well as keeping books in the library, some sections of the museum have a book selection to help visitors understand the exhibits.

    Visiting the library

    The main museum building stands on a busy bus route, a 15 minute uphill walk from Forest Hill Station. Its massive clock-tower is a conspicuous land-mark and additions to the main museum are just as remarkable; the library is in a grass-roofed ecologically friendly building just outside.

    You get to it by a short wooden path going off to the right on the way in to the museum. Like the rest of the buildings it is wheelchair friendly and, being also eco-friendly, it has bicycle stands. There is no signpost yet but you’ll notice the grass roof and see library shelves through the large windows.

    Finding and ordering what you want

    Some of the stock is on open shelves, but for many items you will need to have the volume you want fetched from store.

    The library is continually trying to improve – it has recently put the catalogue on the internet. This is particularly useful if you want to do some searching to decide whether to visit. The catalogue is simple, and the usual author, title, and keyword searches are easy though it did take us a little while to figure out the significance of crosses and ticks by the list of volumes it found. We found it a bit limited for the more complicated things users of specialist libraries often want – for example we have not found any way of limiting a search to just periodicals, or books, nor of searching for things published before or after a specified date. The address for the catalogue is below, or go to the museum website and follow the trail ‘Collections’ – ‘Library’ – ‘Catalogue online’.

    If in doubt about whether this library is for you, telephone to discuss your interests with the librarians, who are ready to help you decide.

    In the library, the friendly librarians expect to be consulted and will identify the volumes you want. They know their stock and as the collections are eclectic you might want to let them find books for you and direct you to the right section of the open shelves for your browsing. Indeed, rather oddly, when we visited (May 2006) problems with the system meant that the catalogue was not available to the public in the library itself, so until this is put right you will have to ask.

    When you have identified what you want (and if it is not on the open shelves) ordering is informal; you ask a librarian and your volumes will usually arrive in a few minutes. However, some volumes are stored “off-site” and might take a couple of days to arrive - we could not see a way of identifying from the on-line catalogue which volumes these are, so if you want a particular work it might be best to telephone before visiting.

    Café, Museum and Gardens
    You can get snacks and simple lunches in the museum café, near the main entrance.
    While visiting the library it is worth spending a little time looking round the museum and the delightful 16-acre gardens. All free, except for major special exhibitions.

    There is a website for the museum and gardens, which includes a page about the library, at the address below.

    Friends group
    A Friends of the Horniman group supports
    Horniman Museum and Gardens by fund raising and other practical help. They have a website (address below) though when we looked we could find nothing about the library.




    Tuesday to Saturday: 10.30 am – 5.30 pm


    Sunday: 2 – 5.30 pm


    Closed Mondays and Bank Holidays


    (The Museum is open every day except for a 3 day Christmas break)


    (020) 8291 8681


    The Horniman Museum and Gardens, 100 London Rd, Forest Hill, SE23 3PQ (see map below)

    Friends Group:

    Friends of the Horniman, Horniman Museum, 100 London Rd, SE23 3PQ.


    Museum and Library: http://www.horniman.ac.uk


    Library Catalogue:


    Friends’ Group: http://www.friendsofthehorniman.co.uk/


    Rail: Forest Hill station, then a 15 minute uphill walk.


    Bus: Buses 176, 185, 312 and P4 stop outside


    Buses 63, 122 and P13 stop nearby

    1) “The Buildings of England….London 2: South” Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner 1983







    The Library

    Free and open to all, the National Art Library takes a broad view of art. It is a reference library in handsome, airy, book-lined 19th century rooms, inside the Victoria and Albert Museum at South Kensington. The collection reflects the character of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Anyone interested in the way we live should be able to find something interesting among its more than a million books and other items.

    As well as great art, its stocks cover anything to do with the art, craft and design of everyday objects; including, furniture, dress, architecture, styles of house decoration, books, pottery marks, artists, sculptors, photography, auction house sale catalogues (Country House sales, Sotheby's, Christies etc). Surprisingly it also has rare literary material. It is a great place for serendipity - we searched for something relating to an early civil engineer expecting a portrait or a sale catalogue for the contents of his house but found a book of pictures beautifully illustrating one of the bridges over the Thames during its demolition prior to his rebuilding it.

    The library holds short induction sessions introducing its facilities and resources. These start at 10 am on the first Tuesday of each month. To book a place telephone 020 7942 2400.

    Readers tickets

    General Collection: A temporary ticket, valid for three months and allowing you to use the general collection, is issued in a few minutes after you complete a registration form and provide proof of identity such as a passport or driver's licence.

    Special Collections: The process is a bit more involved if you want to use the special collections. Among the gems are around 1,600 letters to and from David Garrick, over a hundred letters from Charles Dickens to John Forster, and manuscripts of Dickens' novels.

    Finding and ordering what you want

    Some of the catalogue is on computer but much of the collection, especially older acquisitions, is still on microfiche catalogues.

    The library has a leaflet clearly explaining the ordering procedure. The staff are pretty swift in delivering your order; you will probably have your books within half an hour.

    Visiting the library

    The library is busiest in the afternoons, and on Tuesday and Wednesdays, so it is best to visit outside these times if you can.

    You will not be allowed to take large bags etc into the library - leave these in the cloakroom near the Museum's main entrance, where you can borrow a transparent bag for notebooks, pencils etc. It is best to do this when you first enter the museum because the cloakroom is a long walk back from the library.

    Portable computers are allowed, though only some of the desks have a power point for them. These desks cannot be reserved in advance.

    On entering the library you should pick up a numbered token which allocates you a seat. Seating is limited, and the library warns that if all the seats are taken you will be asked to wait until one is available.

    There is a lift so the (first floor) library is accessible to those unable to use the stairs.


    The library's website (see below ) has an "on-line catalogue" and information about the non-computerised catalogues, as well as a tempting glimpse into the wealth of the library's holdings.

    Friends Group

    There is no friends group for the library. However, there is one for the V&A Museum, which you might want to consider. There are details on the museum's website at www.vam.ac.uk .

    Open: Tuesday - Saturday 10.00-17.00.

     020 7942 2400

    Address: National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, LONDON SW7 2RL. See map below.

    Website: http://www.nal.vam.ac.uk/

    : South Kensington 

    Bus: 14, 74, C1




     The library, on the 5th floor of the Royal Festival Hall, reopened in July 2007, after refurbishment. 

    There is now more space and more daylight and, as the whole of The Festival Hall has been revamped, the surroundings are fresh and welcoming. 

    The Library

    This pleasant specialist library has unusually long opening hours and is both a lending and reference library, “free and open to all”. Poetry in some 80,000 books, pamphlets, and electronic media is on open shelves in bright, modern, surroundings. Although it’s in the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank you are unlikely to come across it accidentally because it is tucked away from the concert crowds up on level 5.

    The library specialises in poetry in English published in the 20th and 21st centuries, and aims to hold all poetry published in the UK as well as a selection of international work in English. The stock includes English translations of foreign language poetry.

    Earlier poems appear in some of the anthologies but you will not find volumes of Wordsworth, Milton or Blake. However, if you want to look at older poems, you can search databases for poetry back to 600 AD using the library’s computer terminals. Staff will advise you about the best way to find what you want.

    Children are welcome and there is a large collection of poetry for them and an area to sprawl in. Seats around casual tables and at private desks give older readers places to browse or study and the desks have power points for laptop users.

    There is a bank of video and CD players for the large audio-visual collection so you can hear poets reading their own work. The impressive array of periodicals includes major national and international journals and home-duplicated magazines. Dipping into the “Betjemen Society Newsletter”, the “Keats-Shelley Memorial Association Newsletter”, and others with imaginative titles such as the “Dandelion Arts Magazine”, the “Global Tapestry Journal”, and the “Journal of the Friends of Poetry-by-the-Sea”, alone would have made our visit worthwhile.

    The atmosphere is quiet and peaceful and the staff friendly. Whether your taste runs to Charles Sisson or Spike Milligan this is a delightful place to spend an afternoon with your favourite poets and discovering new ones.

    Visiting the library

    The library is on Level 5 of the Royal Festival Hall. You can use the reference facilities without registering but to borrow books, CDs and videos you will need to be member. There is no charge for joining but you will have to complete the usual form and produce some proof of identity and address.

    The Royal Festival Hall is due to close in 2005 for refurbishment which will take about two years. There has been no announcement yet (February 2004) about what will happen to the library during this period - ask nearer to the time.

    Disabled access is complicated. Within the building there is a lift taking you to the library, but finding the best way into the building, especially if you arrive by public transport, and finding the right lift when you are there, can be confusing. We tried to get instructions from the Royal Festival Hall information desk, but could not find that, or anyone who could direct us to it. For more information please ask the Royal Festival Hall’s Access Line, Tel: 020 7921 0926

    Finding what you want

    The library has (February 2004) no public catalogue. Instead its books are on open shelves, arranged by author (subject to the tendency of users to put them back in the wrong place). Some archive material; manuscripts, posters and so on is held separately, and is supplied on request.

    The library is staffed with very helpful people skilled in tracking down poems in their own stock and in searching databases and catalogues covering other libraries. They also provide expert help when you want to find the source of those half remembered lines, poetry on particular subjects, poems for special occasions, or anything else to do with poetry.

    The library is developing an on-line catalogue which will eventually be available through their website.


    The Royal Festival Hall has a plethora of cafes, restaurants and bars. We hope you find one that suits you!


    The library has two websites. Its “Poetry Library” site is refreshingly clear about what the library does, and does not, provide. The library also offers an archive of material from 20th and 21st century poetry magazines on its Poetry Magazines Archive site, funded by the Arts Council of England. The addresses of these sites are below.

        Open: 11.00 am to 8 pm, Tuesday to Sunday

        Telephone: 020 7921 0943/0664

        Address: The Poetry Library, Level 5, Royal Festival Hall, London SE1 8XX

        Websites: http://www.poetrylibrary.org.uk (Poetry Library site)
                      http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk (Poetry Magazines Archive)

        Rail: Waterloo, Waterloo East, and Charing Cross

        Bus: Any bus to Waterloo bridge or station.

        Underground: Waterloo, Westminster, Embankment

    Anne Bennet, Alan Dove



     RHS Lindley Library -
    A Library For Garden Lovers




     The Wiener Library  

    The Wiener Library (in full, Institute of Contemporary History, Wiener Library) was founded in Amsterdam in 1934, moving to London in 1939. It is principally concerned with the collection and dissemination of information about Nazi Germany and its attack on European Jewry; and with its causes and legacy.

    The Library houses over 60,000 books, 10,000 photographs and many thousands of items in the document collection. Its press archive contains over 2 million items, and is stated to be the most extensive archive on National Socialism in the world.

    The Library is devoted to increasing awareness of the need for racial and religious understanding, and to the importance of maintaining vigorous democratic traditions.

    The Library concentrates on the 20th century, but it does also contain material relating to earlier times. Subjects within its aegis include Far Right ideologies and movements such as Nazism and Fascism, matters relating to genocide and antisemitism and exile studies. The Library specialises in modern Jewish history, the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, and the continuing survival of Nazi and Fascist movements in the post-war world.

    Material in the Wiener Library

    The Library contains books, periodicals, unpublished memoirs, original documents and eye witness testimonies, including a large collection from the 1950s, press cuttings and photographs; and also video and multi-media resources.

    Up to a third of the collection contains pre-war material, and new material continues to be acquired. Because of its nature, a significant part of the collection is in German. Material published in countries other than Germany is often in the language of such countries, but much is in German. The Library’s book catalogue is available online at the website (address below). It is possible to narrow a search on the computer by language.

    Attention is drawn to the availability of a leaflet from the Library “Primary Sources at the Wiener Library: A Guide for Users”.

    Use of the Wiener Library

    The Library is open to researchers and the public, free, as a reference library. You can borrow books if you become a member, which costs between £12.50 and £30 a year depending on your status.

    When you first visit you will need to show some form of picture ID (such as a new-style driving licence) and proof of address (such as a gas bill) or, if you are an undergraduate student, a letter of introduction from your tutor. Telephone beforehand if you are in doubt about what is required.

    Practical Information

    Address: 29 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DP

    Telephone: 020 7636 7247

    Fax: 020 7436 6428

    email: info@wienerlibrary.co.uk


    Physical access: From the street, up three steps

    Nearest stations: Russell Square (Piccadilly line), Goodge Street (Northern line), St Pancras International (Metropolitan, Northern, Circle, Victoria and Hammersmith & City lines)

    Bus: 188, 168, X68, 7, 59, 68

    Photocopying: Facilities are available; A4 10p, A3 20p.

    Microfilm printouts: 15p for A4, 30p for A3.

    Opening hours: Mondays-Fridays, 10.00am-5.30pm; Last orders for books 5.00pm

    Lockers: Free

    Updated 13th Aug 2011


     The Women's Library  

    The Library
    The rather grim surroundings of Old Castle Street, Whitechapel, conceal a thoroughly modern library building entered through the preserved façade of a 19th century public wash house. Inside everything is new and brightly high-tech, though the atmosphere remains peaceful and traditional. Despite its off-putting name this free reference library is open to all - men as well as women are welcome to use what it claims is the UK's largest collection devoted to women's history.

    The library has been through several incarnations. Starting in 1926 as The Women's Service Library, it became The Fawcett Library and is now The Women's Library (and part of London Metropolitan University's libraries). As well as books and periodicals it is home to some splendid archives, including that of the National Federation of Womens' Institutes. As you would expect, the suffrage movement, education and social attitudes are well covered but there is much more.

    Books published after about 1920 are on open shelves tempting you to enjoyable browsing. Here, in the large collection of biographies, where Charlotte Corday jostles Barbara Castle, we came across the fascinating autobiography of a W.W.II Land Girl. As a whole, this section leaves you feeling that if a woman's story was ever published, you can find it in this library. Staff will fetch pre-1920 material and archives from the vaults where they are stored.

    Like most collections, material is being acquired more quickly than the cataloguers can work so not everything is immediately available. A recent addition to the library's splendid archives is that of the National Federation of Womens' Institutes, which is still being catalogued but which should be available sometime in 2004. Do telephone to ask about access to new acquisitions. The desks have power points for laptop computers.

    Visiting the library
    After you have completed a simple form and produced proof of identity the staff at a ground floor reception desk will issue a “reader entry card” to open the reading room door. At the moment (January 2004) your proof of identity will be held until you return the entry card, but this system might change so that you will leave a small cash deposit instead. The card opens the door of the second floor reading room which you reach by lift, or by stairs illuminated in a dramatic modern style (or a spotty irritating one, depending on your taste).

    You will also be given a leaflet setting out the library's conditions of use where the copyright section seems rather severe; the rules go way beyond anything we have seen before.

    Finding and ordering what you want

    Most of the stock is listed on a computerised catalogue available both at terminals in the reading room and on the Internet (Web address below). However, some material, including older periodicals, press cuttings and ephemera, is still listed in catalogues on paper. Ask the staff about these.

    Material from the vaults will be fetched by staff after you have completed a request form, usually arriving within an hour. However, just occasionally, some orders take 24 hours, so it might be worth finding what you want on the Internet catalogue and asking for it by telephone before visiting the library.

    Café, Exhibition Hall and Seminar Room

    A café on the first floor, in the same bright style as the rest of the building, serves "fair trade" tea and coffee as well as snacks. It is open 11am to 4pm Monday to Friday and on Saturdays too if there is an exhibition.

    Exhibitions are held three times a year, usually with supporting events, talks, seminars, etc. From 12 February to 1 May 2004 the exhibition is “Office Politics: Women in the workplace 1860-2004”. The summer 2004 exhibition will look at Beauty Queen contests.

    You can visit the café and exhibitions without registering for reading room pass.

    The library's website (address below) gives information on what the library holds and the exhibitions. You might also be interested in an article at

    Friends group
    A £15 annual subscription makes you a "Friend". As well as helping the library financially and giving an opportunity to be involved in its activities, this will provide you with various privileges, including invitations to previews and use of a Friends' Room.

    Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday: 9.30am - 5.00pm
    Thursday: 9.30am- 8.00pm
    Saturday: 10.00am - 4.00pm
    (Sunday and Monday, closed)

    Contact details:
    Telephone: 020 7320 2222
    Address: Old Castle St, London E1 7NT (see map below)
    Web catalogue: http://library.lgu.ac.uk/search~Sl

    Travel details:
    Underground: Aldgate East (Toynbee Hall exit)
    Bus: 15, 25, 40, 42, 67, 78, 100, 115, 205, 254, 705
    Disabled car parking: The library has one parking space for holders of a
    disabled parking permit. This should be booked in advance.