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Specialist Libraries

London is home to hundreds of specialist libraries, many of which hold collections of national importance.

Some are not open to members of the public, but there are many who are willing to allow users access to their collections if they cannot find the information they need elsewhere.

If the subject you are interested in happens to boast a London library, you may be about to discover an Aladdin's Cave on your doorstep! . 

Some specialist libraries have also joined the Libraries and Learners in London scheme, so you can gain access if you are a member of your public library. Click here for more information.

The following list is just a small sample of specialist libraries in London with public access and we hope to add many others over the next few months

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Name Description Contact details
Association of Commonwealth Universities Specialist reference library, concentrating on material about higher education throughout the Commonwealth. Used mainly by ACU staff, academics, researchers and students but open to anyone with a genuine interest in the subject. Please 'phone in advance for advice on available materials and study space.  36 Gordon Square, London
WC1H 0PF
Tel: 020 7380 6700
Fax: 020 7387 2655  
Bishopsgate Reference Library Reference books, newspapers, magazines and computer resources on all subjects. Special collections on London, and on free-thought and working class movements of the 19th and 20th centuries. Valuable resources for local and family historians. Online learning available through learndirect. Reference facilities open to all without prior appointment.   230 Bishopsgate London
EC2M 4QH
Tel: 020 7392 9270
Fax: 020 7392 9275  
Booktrust Children�s Literature Collection The library contains most of the children�s books published in the UK during the last year (excluding text books and reading schemes books). It also has information about children�s literature in the form of books and journals. It is open to the public for reference purposes but please 'phone in advance for an appointment.  Book House, 45 East Hill, London
SW18 2QZ
Tel: 020 8516 2985
Fax: 020 8516 2978  
British Library The National Library with specialist collections in arts, maps, science and business information including patents, philatelic collections and sound recordings.  96 Euston Road
NW1 2DB
Tel: 020 7412 7677  
French Institute A large and impressive library aimed at French speakers and learners. It has 53000 books and 137 different periodicals which can be freely used by members of the public on a reference only basis. Lending services are also available on payment of a membership fee and they include a large multimedia collection. There is no need to make an appointment before you go and there is a separate children's library in a nearby building.  17 Queensberry Place, London
SW7 2DT
Tel: 020 7073 1350
Fax: 020 7073 1363  
Lloyd�s Register Information Services The library and archive service attached to Lloyd's Register. It has information on shipping, the history of shipping, shipping companies, shipbuilding, development of shipping and specific shiptypes, naval architecture, shipwrecks, complete collection of Lloyd�s Register of Ships and associated publication with the exception of the Rules. Visits from the public are free of charge, but there is a charge for their research services. No appointment necessary but users are advised to check the opening times on their web site.  71 Fenchurch Street, London
EC3M 4BS
Tel: 020 7423 2532
Fax: 020 7423 2039  
Paul Hamlyn Library Over 15,000 books and 16 current journals on subjects relating to the British Museum collections, including ancient history, archaeology, art, anthropology, museum studies and travel. The library is open to all for reference purposes without a prior appointment.  The British Museum Great Russell Street London
WC1B 3DG
Tel: 020 7323 8838
Fax: 020 7323 8855  
RNIB Research Library Specialist collection of print and electronic publications on all aspects of sight problems including health care, education, social provision, rehabilitation, daily living, recreation and leisure, and literature on special groups such as deafblind and multiply disabled people. It has also has some coverage of medicine. Reference use is free and open to all and no appointments are necessary. Loan facilities are available to members only on payment of a fee.  105 Judd Street, London
WC1H 9NE
Tel: 020 7391 2052
Fax: 020 7391 2210  
Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) Books and periodicals on Military History, Military Science, current Defence and International Security issues. Members of the public with a legitimate research enquiry are welcome, although ID is required. Please 'phone in advance to make an appointment.  Whitehall
SW1A2ET
Tel: 020 7930 5854
Fax: 020 7321 0943  
St Bride Printing Library Formerly part of the Corporation of London libraries, St. Bride Printing Library is a now an independent reference library open to all. Collections focus on printing, publishing, typography, and all the related book trades. The service is free and there are no membership requirements.  Bride Lane London
EC4Y 8EE
Tel: 020 7353 4660
Fax: 020 7583 7073  

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