Sotheby's Institute of Art

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Other libraries in London


Contents of this page

National Art Library
British Library
SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies)
Tate Library and Archive
Westminster Reference Library
Paul Mellon Centre
Libraries accessible by appointment only
    British Museum
    Goldsmiths, University of London
    National Portrait Gallery
    Royal College of Art
    University of the Arts London
    Wallace Collection

Libraries of last resort
    Courtauld Institute of Art
    National Gallery
    Royal Academy of Arts
    Warburg Institute

Libraries for special subjects
    BFI (British Film Institute) Reuben Library - see moving image guide
    British Architectural Library
    Drawing Room
    Estorick Collection library
    Feminist Library
    Geffrye Museum library ! mostly inaccessible until autumn 2019
    Goldsmiths' Company Library
    Guildhall Library
    Hayward Gallery and Archive
    Institute of Ismaili Studies
    Live Art Development Agency (LADA)
    London School of Economics (LSE)
    Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture
    Visual Arts Library
    Wiener Library
    Whitechapel Gallery Library

Tip #1: Search Copac to find which libraries have the books you need. See the guide to Copac or watch a video introduction to Copac (4 mins).

Tip #2: Many libraries offer wi-fi, so you can access SIA e-resources on your own laptop or tablet while there.

Before visiting a library for the first time:
These are the essentials to check. You will find this information, or relevant links, on this page.

  • What ID do I need to register?
  • When is it open?
  • Are books on open shelves, or do I need to request them in advance?
  • What guidelines are there? For instance some libraries allow pencils but not pens.


National Art Library

No public phone number
Email the National Art Library
Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Rd, SW7 2RL
Tube: South Kensington
National Art Library homepage
National Art Library catalogue

Access: Open to all as a reference library; no borrowing. Before you can use the library you must register as a reader. This can be done online in advance: instructions are here. When collecting your reader's card you will need to produce photographic ID and proof of address. Appointments are not necessary once you have your card, but it will save you time if you request material in advance: see the instructions for requesting books and requesting journals and special items.
Opening times

Collections: This is a major reference library of fine and decorative arts of many countries and periods. Has extensive runs of auction sales catalogues, including an un-catalogued run of annotated catalogues. There are significant special collections.

E-resources and wi-fi: A very good range of online resources is available, but only on the library's own computers (plus computers in the Prints & Drawings Study Rooms and Blythe House Reading Room). Resources include some which SIA does not subscribe to: Art Sales Catalogues Online, Art Sales Index, Artists of the World Online (Allgemeines Kunstlerlexikon), Berg Fashion Library, Design and Applied Arts Index (DAAI), Gordon's Photography Prices and Print Prices, Index of Medieval Art, International Bibliography of Art and the Vogue Archive.. Wi-fi is available, but the NAL's e-resources cannot be accessed this way.

NB. You will be unable to access the NAL's e-resources on your own laptop, but you will need your own laptop to access SIA material and resources at this library.

Help with your research: Librarians can offer some help with research enquiries. You can email the library or ask in person. Please note that librarians cannot spend more than 30 minutes on any enquiry, and only very simple enquiries will be answered immediately.

British Library

+44 (0)20 7412 7676
96 Euston Road, NW1 2DB
Tube: Kings Cross, Euston (walking distance from SIA)
British Library homepage
British Library catalogue

Access: A reader pass is needed to access books and e-resources. To be granted a pass you must show that you need to consult items you cannot easily access elsewhere. For SIA students, this means simply providing a list of items in the BL which the SIA library does not have. This can be your own list: it does not need to be an official SIA reading list. Reader passes are issued for differing periods. MA students normally receive a year's pass in the first instance. You can pre-register online but have to complete registration in person. At this point you must provide appropriate proof of identification, including original documents showing your address in the UK and signature. Students who are in London for less than 6 months are allowed to provide proof of an address outside the UK, and will be granted access for three months in the first instance.

There is no borrowing, unless you pay to use the document supply service. A reader pass is not necessary for access to the cafes, exhibitions or shop. There is a charge for some exhibitions.
Opening times

Collections: One of the three largest libraries in the world, with over 150 million items. Particularly good for items published in Britain and Ireland. Extensive special collections, e.g. Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks.

E-resources and wif-fi: A wide range of e-resources is available, but only on the computers in the reading rooms. Art-related resources include some which SIA does not subscribe to: Art Sales Catalogues Online (incorporating Lugt's Répertoire), Artists of the World Online (based on Thieme & Becker), Design and Applied Arts Index (DAAI), Index of Medieval Art, SCIPIO and the Vogue Archive. There are also many business resources. There is wi-fi throughout the building, but the BL's e-resources cannot be accessed this way.

Help with your research: The Help for Researchers section of the website includes online guides to art research and business, management and law research. You can also consult the Humanities Reference Team in the library, by email or by phone. Their webpage gives examples of the kinds of enquiry they can help with.

Tip #1: Request material before your visit via the catalogue. Virtually all books are in storage, and most take 90 minutes to arrive. Some are stored outside London and take two working days to arrive.

Tip #2: The reading rooms - the part of the library where you access books and e-resources - have strict and extensive conditions of use (see guidelines, above) which it is worth reading before you visit. For instance, pencils but not pens may be used.

Watch this video on how to use the British Library and its catalogue:

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SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies)

+44 (0)20 7637 2388
Email the SOAS art and archaeology librarian:
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, WC1H 0XG
Short walk from SIA
SOAS library homepage
SOAS library catalogue

Access: MAMCAA students have full access and borrowing rights. Other SIA students can visit, but not borrow, up to three times in any 12 month period: for further details, see the SOAS day membership page. Day membership does not give access to archives, manuscripts, rare books or theses. However anyone can apply for a free archives card in order to consult these.
Opening times

Collections: The leading collection for African and Asian studies in the UK. Includes sales catalogues relating to African and Asian art dating back to 1877. An overview of the art and archaeology collection is available online.

E-resources: SOAS e-resources can be accessed from the library catalogue computers. The art and archaeology section of the website lists recommended art-related resources, many of them freely available. It all includes pages for specific regions, such as East Asia. Articles may be downloaded to memory stick but not printed.

Wi-fi: is only available to SIA students if you have BT Wi-fi (e.g. if you have BT broadband at home or have specifically subscribed to their wi-fi service).

Help with your research: the art and archaeology librarian, and the library helpdesk staff, will answer brief queries about searching the library's collections..

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Tate Library and Archive

+44 (0)20 7887 8838
Tate Britain, Millbank, SW1P 4RG
Tube: Pimlico
Tate library homepage
Tate library catalogue

Access: Open to the public for reference. There are two levels of membership: both are free, but the higher level requires more forms of ID. We recommend registering at the higher level as this gives access to special collections and archives as well as the main library collection. Please note that becoming a Tate member is not the same as registering for the library.

Few books are on open shelves, but are fetched by librarians every hour throughout the day. You can email to request up to 5 items in advance. To use any items from special collections you will also need to email or phone for an appointment. There is usually a waiting time of about a week for appointments.

Collections: The book collection mirrors Tate's art collection, i.e. British art 1500 from onwards and international art from 1900 onwards. The collection is especially strong on international exhibition catalogues, international journals and artists' books. The library's website describes those few types of material which are not listed in the library catalogue.

E-resources and wi-fi: A good selection of art-related databases and journals is available on computers in the reading room. Wi-fi is provided.

Tip: Take cash if you think you might want to photocopy, as there are no cashpoints close to Tate Britain. There is a camera stand, which should only be used for photographing images rather than text from books.

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Westminster Reference Library

+44 (0)20 7641 1300 
35 St. Martin's Street, WC2H 7HP
Tube: Leicester Square (walking distance from SIA)
Westminster library homepage
Westminster library catalogue

Access: Anyone can use the library for reference use. There are additional benefits if you join Westminster Libraries: you can borrow from the small lending collection at the library, borrow from any public library in Westminster, and use online resources. Anyone can join: you do not need to live in Westminster.
Opening times

Collections: Westminster Reference Library specialises in art, with around 45,000 volumes, including 5,000 that can be borrowed. These include books on art business, patrons, collectors. There are many journals too. The library also specialises in general business resources.

E-resources and wif-fi: Some e-resources are accessible to library members from any location. These include art resources such as the Benezit Dictionary of Artists and some good general reference resources such as the full Oxford English Dictionary and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. The Design and Applied Arts Index (DAAI) and Access to Research is available within the library only. Wi-fi is available in all Westminster public libraries. There are also desktop PCs which need to be booked in advance, and are only available to members.

Tip #1: You can join the public library service of more than one London borough. This can be useful if you want to work in a library close to your home. All boroughs offer some online resources. Kensington and Chelsea is another borough with a good art history collection.

Tip #2: 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.


Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

+44 (0)20 7580 0311
16 Bedford Square, WC1B 3JA
Paul Mellon library homepage
Paul Mellon library catalogue

Access: No appointment needed, unless this is your first visit. However it is best to email ahead to check that the public study room is open.

Collections: British fine and decorative art, architecture and garden history from the medieval period to the present day. Particularly good collections on the country house and the Grand Tour.

Wi-fi: is available.

Help with your research: Staff will help with finding relevant material.

Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts): Stuart Hall Library

+44 (0)20 7749 1255
Rivington Place, EC2A 3BA
Overground: Shoreditch High Street. Tube: Old Street.
Stuart Hall Library homepage
Stuart Hall Library catalogue

Access: Open to the public for reference. Please register before your first visit using the online form. You will also need to privide one form of photographic ID. There is no borrowing.
Opening times appear on the library homepage.

Collections: One of the leading research centres for international visual art. Focuses on contemporary art from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the work of British artists from diverse cultural backgrounds. Includes over 10,000 books (covering cultural, political, gender and media studies) and exhibition catalogues, over 200 journals, DVDs, CDs, slides and ephemera.

Wi-fi is available.

Help with your research: The librarians can help you research your topic: please email them to make an appointment for this. There are online reading lists relating to Iniva's exhibitions.


Libraries accessible by appointment only

British Museum

+44 (0)20 7323 8224
Great Russell Street, WC1B 3DG
Tube: Russell Square (walking distance from SIA)
British Museum libraries homepage
British Museum libraries catalogue

Access: The Museum's different research departments have their own library collections which can be accessed via appointment only (with the exception of the Anthropology Library and Research Centre, which is open every weekday. The libraries are open to researchers of different standing, and appointments can be made by contacting the relevant department.

Access is reference only. Photocopying facilities are available in all departments except Asia.

Collections: The Museum's collection of books and reading materials is accessible to browse online via their catalogue. Each of the Museum's curatorial departments has a study area and most have their own library, including departments such as Prints and Drawings; Africa, Oceania and the Americas, and the Middle East.

Goldsmiths, University of London

+44 (0)20 7717 2295 (archives and special collections)
The Library, Goldsmiths University of London, SE14 6NW
Overground: New Cross/New Cross Gate
Goldsmiths special collections and archives homepage
Goldsmiths library catalogue

Access: access to books in the general collection is only possible if you need to consult a book unavailable in any other library open to you. Contact to make an appointment, stating what book(s) you need to look at. Access to the archives and special collections, including the Women's Art Library and textile collection, is also by appointment: please email

Collections: the Women's Art Library is the biggest library collection of women's art material in Europe, with books, magazines, zines, pamphlets, and artists' documentation boxes containing ephemera, objects and other archival items. (See also the Feminist Library and Women's Library at the LSE). There are many other special collections too, including an important collection of works about textiles, housed with the textiles themselves. The books are listed in the library catalogue, and the textiles themselves in the archive catalogue.

Help with your research: the library and archive staff will offer you help in finding relevant material in the Women's Art Library and other special collections, and the archives.

E-resources and wi-fi: are not available to visitors.


National Portrait Gallery: Heinz Archive and Library

+44 (0)20 7321 6617
St Martin's Place, WC2H 0HE
Tube: Charing Cross/Leicester Square (walking distance from SIA)
NPG library homepage
NPG library catalogue

Access: Open to the public for reference, but by appointment only. Appointments are available Tuesday-Friday. No borrowing. Most books are on open shelves in the library, and the others will be fetched for you by library staff. More information about visiting is online.

Collections: May be particularly useful if you are researching Brtish portraits or portrait artists, including photographers, or portraiture in general. There is much material about the sitters of portraits. As of February 2018, 70% of the library collection is not listed in the online library catalogue. However all items added to the collection since 1994 are listed.

E-resources and wi-fi: E-journals, plus a small range of databases including JSTOR, are available on a single computer in the reading room. See the left sidebar of the library catalogue page for a listing. Wi-fi is available.

Help with your research: The librarians can help with enquiries about the researching the Gallery itself, British portraits, and sitters. Please email, as only very simple enquiries can be answered in the library without advance notice.


Royal College of Art

+44 (0)20 7590 4224
Kensington Gore, SW7 2EU
Tube: South Kensington
RCA library homepage
RCA library catalogue

Access: is by appointment. Email for an appointment to see the archives or special collections, or if there are items in the main collection you cannot find anywhere else and need to consult.

Collections: The special collections include the Colour Reference Library, a major collection of works about colour. Also a photographic record of students' work, some rare books and artists' books.

Wi-fi: is available. There is no access to the RCA's e-resources.

University of the Arts London

Phone numbers and email addresses
Various locations around London
University of the Arts library homepage
University of the Arts library catalogue

Access: Reference access to visitors is by appointment only. There is no borrowing. Please contact the specific library you are interested in visiting (see above).
Opening times

Collections: The University comprises six leading art colleges which between them have extensive holdings on contemporary art and design. Each library has its individual strengths. Chelsea College of Art & Design has strong holdings of exhibition catalogues, video art and an artists' ephemera collection. There are numerous special collections and archives across the sites.

E-resources, wi-fi, help with your research: not available to visitors.


Wallace Collection

+44 (0)20 7563 9528/9536
Hertford House, Manchester Square, W1U 3BN
Tube: Bond Street (walking distance from SIA)
Wallace library homepage
Wallace library catalogue

Access: is by appointment only, with further details here. Books can take 48 hours to fetch and can be requested at the time of making an appointment.

Collections: Works relevant to the museum's collection of fine and decorative arts.

E-resources and wi-fi: JSTOR and Art Sales Catalogues Online are available via desktop PCs in the library. Wireless is available.

Libraries of last resort

These are libraries that only accept visitors to consult material that is unavailable elsewhere.

Courtauld Institute of Art Library

+44 (0)20 7848 2701
Somerset House, Strand, WC2R 0RN
Tube: Temple (walking distance from SIA)
Courtauld library homepage
Courtauld library catalogue

Access: Only offered if you need to consult material unavailable elsewhere. Access is usually offered for a single day, and may not be possible at very busy times of year. Please email or phone before your visit. It is also necessary to arrive when the library issue desk is open - see opening times, below. Please note that Courtauld dissertations are now kept in an external store, so you will probably need to make an appointment several days ahead. Further admission details are online.
Opening times

Collections: You might need to visit the Courtauld for certain auction catalogues, their dissertations and theses, or items from their special collections. See a list of recent Courtauld PhD theses.

E-resources, wi-fi, help with your research: not available to visitors.

Tip: The Courtauld's image libraries contain over 3 million photographs of art and architecture. They have their own admission procedures. Anyone can join, but there is a small membership fee.
Witt Image Library
Conway Image Library
Photographic Survey Image Library


National Gallery

+44 (0)20 7747 2542
The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN
Tube: Leicester Square or Charing Cross (walking distance from SIA)
NG library homepage
NG library catalogue

Access: Only offered if you need to consult material unavailable elsewhere. The online catalogue only includes 40% of the collection as of February 2018, so please email if you think the library may have a book you cannot see in the catalogue. The catalogue includes, but is not limited to, everything added to the library since 2005, and also the library of Charles Eastlake. The Eastlake library can also be searched separately. To arrange access, please see the contact details.

Collections: You are most likely to find the library useful if you are looking for an obscure text on an artist or artwork in the Gallery's collection.

E-resources: National Gallery board minutes 1828-1918 and Agnew's stock books 1853-1933 have been digitised and are free online.

Royal Academy of Arts

+44 (0) 20 7300 5737
Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BD
Tube: Piccadilly Circus, Green Park (walking distance from SIA)
RA library homepage
RA library catalogue

Access: Only offered if you need to consult material unavailable elsewhere. Please email for an appointment before visiting and check the homepage for further details.

Collections: You might need to visit to consult the special collections: historic books, prints, drawings and photographs. The collection focuses on British art, and the Academy and its members in particular. More details are on their homepage.

E-resources: all Winter Exhibition catalogues (1870-1939) are freely available online.

Wi-fi: is available.

Help with your research: If you are researching the Academy or an Academician, you are welcome to submit enquiries by email, phone or letter.


Warburg Institute

+44 (0)20 7862 8949
Woburn Square, WC1H 0AB
Short walk from SIA
Warburg homepage
Warburg library catalogue

Access: SIA students need a letter of recommendation from an academic member of staff, briefly stating why access to the Warburg's collection is needed and how long for. Please also take your SIA ID card.
Opening times

Collections: The library's specialities incude medieval, Byzantine and Renaissance art, and the influence of classical civilisation on later cultures. There is a large photographic collection, mostly not online, documenting the icongraphical tradition in Western art.

E-resources: e-resources are available within the Warburg library.

Libraries for special subjects

Please check the website of each library for visiting arrangements.

BFI (British Film Institute) Reuben Library
See the moving image guide for information on this film and TV studies library.

British Architectural Library (RIBA)
Includes works on interior design.

Chelsea Reference Library
A public library with a strong costume and fashion collection, including many magazines. Part of the Kensington and Chelsea library service.

Drawing Room
Contemporary drawing. Small library, but very helpful staff.

Estorick Collection library
Twentieth-century Italian art. Access by appointment only, with a written reference and costs £2.50 per visit. No online catalogue.

Feminist Library (previously Women's Research and Resources Centre)
An independent library with books, periodicals and zines relating to the feminist movement. They have a particularly strong arts section. Opening times are limited, though it is possible to make an appointment to visit outside these hours. See also the Women's Library (below) and Women's Art Library.

Geffrye Museum library (! mostly inaccessible until autumn 2019)
"The history of the home from the medieval period to the present". Includes historic retail catalogues.

Goldsmiths' Company Library
For jewellery and silverware. Accessible by appointment only.

Guildhall Library
Public library with an important collection of books on clocks and clockmakers.

Hayward Gallery and Archive
Accessible by appointment only, on Mondays and Thursdays. Useful for Hayward Gallery publications.

Institute of Ismaili Studies
For Islamic studies, including art and architecture. Accessible by appointment only.

Live Art Development Agency (LADA)
Small collection entirely focussed on performance art. Appointment needed.

London School of Economics (LSE)
Large university library with good collections of books on economics, business and social sciences. Access by appointment only, and only likely to be granted to consult books you cannot find elsewhere. Includes the Women’s Library, a major feminist collection: access is again by appointment, by anyone researching topics in feminism should be welcome. (See also the Feminist Library, above, and Women's Art Library.)

Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA)
Access by appointment only. The museum includes books, pamphlets and catalogues.

Visual Arts Library (British Council)
British art, mainly from 1945. Only gives access to consult material not found elsewhere.

Wiener Library
Holocaust and genocide studies. Letter of introduction from tutor needed, but no need to make an appointment to visit.

Whitechapel Gallery Library
Most useful for Whitechapel exhibition catalogues. Also has the Documents of Contemporary Art series, should any of these be unavailable at SIA.

library opening hours

until Fri 20 July
Mon - Fri: 9am - 7pm
Sat - Sun: closed

Please note this closure:

Monday 28 May
closed for late spring holiday

+44 (0) 207 462 3240

enquiry form

library FAQs