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Libraries in London: Library FAQs

Guide to libraries in London useful to SIA students

 


Cropped version of image by iam Se7en on Unsplash

 

13 July 2020 update: libraries are beginning to announce re-opening plans.  We will update the entries for individual libraries in this guide as we receive news, As there are many libraries and opening arrangements may change fast, please also double-check libraries' own websites, and/or contact us at library@sia.edu.

 

Do I need to use other libraries?

MA students usually find it very helpful to use other libraries, especially for dissertation research.  Semester students may find that the online SIA library has all they need.

 

How do I find out which libraries have the book I need?

If you are in the UK, Library Hub Discover is often the best starting point.  Watch a video intro to Library Hub Discover (3 mins) or see the comprehensive guide to finding books in libraries worldwide.

 

Can I use any academic library in London?

Unfortunately, no.  Many university libraries are only open to their own students. This guide lists those libraries you can access and that we think you may find useful. If you are interested in visiting another library, and cannot find clear information on its website, please ask the SIA librarians to investigate.

 

Will I I need to join?

Most of the libraries will need you to join and will require particular ID.  Some will not ask you to join but will ask you to make an appointment, or perhaps check that you cannot find what you need elsewhere.  Please carefully read the access section under each library on the libraries A-Z tab of this guide.

 

Will I need to pay?

The libraries we list here are free.  There are more libraries you can access if you're willing to pay. Some of these offer a reasonable one-day or one-week membership, which can be worth considering if they have a book you can't find elsewhere.

 

I've studied in London before - can I use my old library?

Possibly: you'll need to check their policy.  Ask the SIA librarians for help if need be.

 

A library you list did not give me access - what can I do?

Speak to the SIA librarians and we will help if we can.

 

Do I need to order books in advance?

In many libraries books are kept in storage and need to be fetched for you.  Fetching times range from an hour to up to 48 hours. Please carefully read the access section under each library on the A-Z tab of this guide. It is sometimes only possible to order books once you membership is active, e.g. at the British Library.

 

Can I borrow books?

Of those libraries listed here, all are reference-only except for public libraries (more info on these below). Unfortunately public libraries are not so good for academic and specialised works.  

 

Can I use other libraries' online resources?

Yes, at libraries such as the British Library, though usually only on their own PCs rather than your own device.  The National Art Library is an exception: their online resources are accessible via secure wi-fi as well. However at college and university libraries, use of online resources is often restricted to their own students and staff. Some libraries offer databases not available at SIA: see the databases guide for details. 

 

Which libraries are open at the weekend?

See separate tab of this guide about libraries open at the weekend.

 

Are there any unusual closure periods I need to know about?

The National Art Library closes for part of each August for its annual stocktake. We post details on the NAL tab of this guide.  University and college libraries often restrict access to visitors at their busiest times, usually around exams.

 

Public libraries

Post-lockdown access: 13 July update: many public libraries in London are beginning to re-open, though usually with limited hours and limited services

Public libraries are general-purpose libraries, accessible to everyone, found all around London. They are organised by borough: e.g. Westminster, Camden.  You can often walk in and look at books or use a desk without joining.  However to borrow books, or use the library's PCs, you'll need to provide ID and join.

You can join the public library service of as many boroughs as you like.

Westminster is a very good borough to join because the Westminster Reference Library specialises in art and also business.  

Each borough will have at least one large library with very good opening times, often including some time on Sundays and some public holidays.  There will also be much smaller libraries with limited opening hours.

All boroughs offer some online resources, some of which can be accessed from home.

Within a borough, you can ask for a book to be transferred from one library to another for you to borrow. You can also ask a borough to borrow for you books it does not itself have, although this will usually be too slow to be useful for SIA assignments.