The London Library Collection

When the Library opened its doors in 1841 the collection consisted of only 3,000 books. Today we hold over 1 million volumes and continue to add around 8,000 new ones every year.

Three broad areas form the heart of the collection where subject coverage is particularly strong:

History

From ancient to modern: political, ecclesiastical, topographical, constitutional, social, economic, military...

Cultural expression

Literature, language, fine & applied arts, performing arts...

Thought & life

Philosophy, religion, folklore, social science, political science, political economy...

The emphasis of these core collections is on Europe and the West, reflecting the world view of our Victorian founders, but other areas of the world – particularly the USA and Commonwealth countries are well represented.


SEARCH THE CATALOGUE


Alongside the core subject areas there is a wealth of ‘niche’ subjects, with something on almost any topic that comes to mind - from the rigging of pirate cutters in the Napoleonic era to the design of alms-houses; from the history of Tupperware to the care and uses of camels.  

All subjects are strongly supported by works of biography and bibliography, the back-runs of over 2,700 periodicals, and a growing range of electronic journals and databases .

In the arts and humanities, older publications retain an interest and value and may be just as relevant to ongoing scholarship as newer works.  Retention of stock is, therefore, a key principle of our collection development policy and the collection encompasses published works from 1500 to the present day

We believe that older works should be kept alongside more recent ones to reveal how a subject has developed or changed over time. For the most part, therefore, old and new titles are housed together in their subject categories and can be borrowed and freely browsed on our open bookstacks.

This combination of the collection’s extraordinary range and depth facilitates cross-disciplinary study and makes serendipitous discovery a constant delight.

Some 40,000 of the Library’s oldest, rarest, most valuable and vulnerable items are carefully secured within closed stacks, forming our Special Collections, but remain readily available for consultation. The result of the Library’s determination to acquire the most important publications from each generation, they represent a microcosm of the whole collections and include extraordinary rarities.

ONLINE PERIODICALS AND DATABASES

As well as print copies, the Library subscribes to over 300 online versions of its journals, augmented with access to thousands more through online periodicals archive services such as JSTOR. For further details of the extensive range of periodicals and databases that can be accessed on-line see our eJournals pages. Much of the content of our eJournals is directly searchable through the Library’s online catalogue service CATALYST

The majority of the Library’s electronic resources are provided through annual subscription rather than purchase and the continuation of each subscription depends on the volume of use and available funding. Wherever possible, licences are secured which permit use by members remotely (via the Library’s website) in addition to use on the Library’s premises. While some licences permit unlimited use, others are restricted to one or more simultaneous users; the use patterns of restricted licences are regularly reviewed and simultaneous use allowances expanded where demand requires and resources permit.

ONLINE CATALOGUE

Not all of the Library’s collections are included in our online catalogue but we have added all acquisitions since 1950 and a substantial and growing number of titles from our earlier catalogues as part of our Retrospective Cataloguing Project

Digital Materials

As the range of humanities information sources available in digital format has expanded, the Library’s collecting remit has also expanded to encompass digital materials where these are relevant to the subjects covered by the printed collections. 

In developing our electronic resources, we give priority to acquisition areas where digital format:

  • adds value to content by improving information retrieval, eg through full-text indexing (eJournals, newspapers) or by providing the capacity to search across a range of materials (subject bibliographies, periodical and newspaper compilations, compilations of reference works and/or texts with unified search engines)
  • offers longer-term possibilities for space saving (eJournals, bibliographies, reference works
  • has a reliable preservation and support infrastructure
  • provides access to materials not generally available or affordable to individual subscribers

It is our policy to defer exposure to digital (and other non-book) formats where:

  • content is merely reproduced in another medium (eBooks, audio)
  • access requires a particular brand of reading device (Kindle, iPad)
  • the purchase or subscription model is unfavourable in comparison with printed books

Benefits of joining the london library

Membership offers access to an extensive collection of more than one million volumes, subscriptions to 750 current journals and periodicals, with backruns of 2,500 titles, augmented by access to a wide range of electronic resources. The collection covers more than 2,000 subjects in 50 languages, with 8,000 new books added annually.

Books

  • More than one million books to browse, borrow and enjoy at leisure
  • Books from the 16th century to the present day
  • Rapid response to requests for materials
  • Extensive journal and periodical subscriptions from Modern Language Review to The New Yorker
  • A wealth of online resources from academic journals (including access to JSTOR) to Who’s Who online

Loans

  • Extremely generous loan periods
  • No fines
  • Ability to increase book allowances
  • Postal loans service anywhere within the UK and Europe
  • Advance ordering of books for collection or posting online or by phone, fax or email

Benefits

  • Late opening until 9pm twice a week
  • Four attractive reading rooms or a choice of individual study spaces
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Access to electronic publications and internet
  • Reference enquiries and research assistance
  • A congenial place to work, relax or study
  • Quarterly members' magazine
  • Member events, offers and discounts at a range of organisations
  • Open on Saturdays

Member Benefits

Membership offers access to an extensive collection of more than one million volumes, subscriptions to 750 current journals and periodicals, with backruns of 2,500 titles, augmented by access to a wide range of electronic resources. The collection covers more than 2,000 subjects in 50 languages, with 8,000 new books added annually.

Books

  • More than one million books to browse, borrow and enjoy at leisure
  • Books from the 16th century to the present day
  • Rapid response to requests for materials
  • Extensive journal and periodical subscriptions from Modern Language Review to The New Yorker
  • A wealth of online resources from academic journals (including access to JSTOR) to Who’s Who online

Loans

  • Extremely generous loan periods
  • No fines
  • Ability to increase book allowances
  • Postal loans service anywhere within the UK and Europe
  • Advance ordering of books for collection or posting online or by phone, fax or email

Benefits

  • Late opening until 9pm twice a week
  • Four attractive reading rooms or a choice of individual study spaces
  • Free WiFi
  • Access to electronic publications and internet
  • Reference enquiries and research assistance
  • A congenial place to work, relax or study
  • Quarterly members' magazine
  • Member events, offers and discounts at a range of organisations
  • Open on Saturdays

Come for a Tour

If you’re thinking of becoming a member of the Library and would like to be shown around before you join, please contact our Reception on 020 7766 4700 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to arrange an appointment. You can also log onto our online cataloguing system Catalyst and e-library to search the Library’s collection and see what’s on offer on our extensive range of electronic resources.

 

The London Library Emerging Writers Programme

Applications for the Emerging Writers Programme are now closed. Applicants will be notified during the second half of April.



The London Library is proud to launch an Emerging Writers Programme, a unique opportunity which offers writers, in all genres, one years’ free membership of The London Library.

Geared towards supporting writers at the start of their careers, the Programme includes writing development masterclasses, literary networking opportunities, peer support and guidance in use of the Library’s resources. With its rich cultural heritage, extensive open access book collection, dedicated writing spaces and its diverse community of established writers, the benefits of Library membership are invaluable. 

For over 175 years The London Library has played a central role in inspiring writers and researchers, and has helped them explore and develop their work. From Charles Dickens to Sarah Waters, Charles Darwin to Simon Schama, Virginia Woolf to Kazuo Ishiguro, T.S. Eliot to V.S. Naipaul, writers have consistently found it to be an unrivalled resource.

The London Library Emerging Writers Programme is open to anyone who is committed to pursuing a career in writing (for publication or performance) and wants to develop their practice. Applicants should be working, or planning to work, on a specific project, with the aim of publication or production, and have a clear idea of how they might use the Library’s resources to achieve that aim. Applicants will be selected anonymously by a panel of judges including London Library Trustee and writer Daisy Goodwin (chair); Head of Prizes and Awards at the Society of Authors and Associate Director at the Royal Society of Literature Paula Johnson; novelist Nikita Lalwani; poet Raymond Antrobus and an agent from A M Heath.

The Programme runs from 2 May 2019 to 1 May 2020. Successful applicants will be invited to the Programme Launch at The Library on 2 May 2019.

To apply please download the application pack below which includes application forms and submission guidelines. Please read through the submission guidelines carefully before preparing your application, with particular attention to the eligibility requirements.

The closing date for applications is 12pm on Monday 4 March 2019.

If you have any questions regarding your application, please contact the Programme Manager, Claire Berliner, on 0207 766 4765 or email on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We look forward to receiving your application.

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APPLICATION PACK DOWNLOADS

APPLICATION GUIDELINES

APPLICATION FORM

APPLICATION COVER FORM 

EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES FORM 

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The London Library Emerging Writers Programme is only possible because of the generous support The London Library has received from The Garrick Charitable Trust, AM Heath, The Golden Bottle Trust and the Julio and Maria Marta Núñez Memorial Fund and other anonymous donorsWe are particularly grateful to be working with AM Heath in the delivery of some events.