Using The National Archives’ reference library

Our reference library at The National Archives contains over 65,000 printed and online sources. It is open to the public for browsing and reference only.  The opening times are the same as for the reading rooms.

Our library collection complements our archive holdings.  The best way to search our collection is to go to our library catalogue. Search by name of author, title or keyword. If you have an enquiry about our library holdings, contact us.

We have a selection of rare books. These can be consulted on request if you have a reader’s ticket. A small amount of material is stored off site, but we can retrieve it within three working days upon request.

Use the library to support your archival research

Libraries are often the best place to start archival research. Many of the books in our library can provide a shortcut as they may often reference our collections and other relevant published works in the bibliographies.

Published works can give context to archival material, providing background, dates and pointers to other relevant material; many archival records won’t be fully understood without some context and background found in published sources. Careful use of book indexes can also speed up understanding of a subject.

Some published material is central to archival research such as indexes and guides to archival holdings. Other material includes transcripts of material from original documents.

Sometimes there are no or very limited published works on certain subjects and the only way to carry out research is to use original sources.

Even then it’s nearly always possible to read around a subject and glean information from here and there to build up a background picture.  This is where searches on the library catalogue can help.