Customs House Library

Customs House Library

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Harbourside heritage

Located in one of Sydney's finest historical landmarks, the Customs House Library spans 3 levels and highlights the building's contemporary and traditional design features. It houses a collection of more than 50,000 items and is open 7 days a week.

To become a member complete an online application or fill in a form when you next visit. It is free to join if you are a NSW resident.

Opening hours

  • Monday to Friday, 10am to 7pm
  • Saturday and Sunday, 11am to 4pm
  • Closed on public holidays.


  • Relaxing lounges on the ground and first floors invite you to sit down and absorb the building's unique atmosphere.
  • Beautiful and quiet grand reading room on the second floor.
  • Large selection of local and international newspapers and magazines.
  • Free wireless internet.
  • Public access computers.
  • Scanning, printing and photocopying facilities. 
  • Access to many high quality databases.
  • Regular exhibitions and cultural events.
  • Collections in Japanese and Korean.

Loans, returns and renewals

You'll find library catalogue computers on the ground, first and second floors. Loans desks are located on levels 1 and 2. You can borrow up to 30 items for up to 3 weeks.

Returns can be made up until 11.30pm on the ground floor.

Renewals are available online (with your library card number) or you can send an email to You can also telephone or drop in to the branch.


Customs House Library
31 Alfred Street
Circular Quay NSW 2001
02 9242 8555
TTY: 02 9242 8575 (hearing impaired people)

  • What’s on
  • Free heartfulness relaxation and meditation in Circular Quay
    Thursday 5 May 2016
  • Book now

    This is a group for anyone interested in heartfulness meditation. Strengthen that connection and cultivate an inner knowing that wisely directs and guides our lives. Grow to face the challenges of life with courage and acceptance. Live by the heart, and become what we’re meant to be. People young and old from any walk of life can come and try out the meditation – it is simple, easy and the only requirement being one’s own willingness to give it a fair go. This meditation is free of cost. We welcome one and all to come and experience this meditation.

    No booking is required. Just walk-in.

    If you can, please RSVP on our meetup site.

    The meeting room is next to the lifts on level 2 of Customs House.

    Customs House Library
    Thursdays, 5.30pm to 6.30pm

    Thursday 10 March to Thursday 26 May 2016

  • Book club at Customs House
    Friday 6 May 2016
  • Book now

    Join a book club at the library for an informal and friendly discussion of literature of all kinds.

    Books will be chosen from a range of genres including award winners, contemporary fiction, historical fiction, crime novels, biographies and quarterly essays.

    Our book clubs are small, friendly group discussions facilitated by one of our experienced library staff.

    The Customs House Library book club meets on the first Friday of each month.

    Bookings recommended.

    Customs House Library
    Friday 4 March 2016 from 1pm to 2pm
    Friday 8 April 2016 from 1pm to 2pm
    Friday 6 May 2016 from 1pm to 2pm
    Friday 3 June 2016 from 1pm to 2pm
    Friday 1 July 2016 from 1pm to 2pm
    Friday 5 August 2016 from 1pm to 2pm
    Friday 2 September 2016 from 1pm to 2pm
    Friday 7 October 2016 from 1pm to 2pm
    Friday 4 November 2016 from 1pm to 2pm
    Friday 2 December 2016 from 1pm to 2pm
  • Open computer lab @ Customs House Library
    Wednesday 11 May 2016
  • Book now

    Our tech-savvy librarians will be on hand during these one-hour open labs to provide assistance with computing issues, from the basic to the more advanced.

    They will also be able to guide you to reference material for further study.

    Bookings recommended.

    Customs House Library
    Wednesday 20 April 2016 from 12pm to 1pm
    Wednesday 11 May 2016 from 12pm to 1pm
  • Sydney Film Festival: program launch
    Wednesday 11 May 2016
  • Book now

    You’re invited to the unveiling of the 2016 Sydney Film Festival program.

    Festival Director, Nashen Moodley, will showcase the diverse range of films to be screened in 2016, including the Opening and Closing Night films, and the Official Competition Selection.

    Whatever your mood, whatever your preference, there is something that will grab you in this year’s festival. The Sydney Film Festival will screen feature films, documentaries, short films and animation across the city from 8 to 19 June. Flexipasses are on sale now!

    Customs House Library
    Wednesday 11 May 2016 from 6pm to 7pm
  • House Histories
    Saturday 14 May 2016
  • Book now

    Who lived in your house? Join us for a very special talk and expert panel as part of the Heritage Festival.

    City Historian, Dr Lisa Murray, will give you the tools to research the history of your house. Using records such as Sands Directories, rates assessments and lands titles, you can find out when your house was built, who has lived there and how your house may have been changed over time.

    After Dr Murray’s talk, join us for some morning tea and a Q&A session with an expert panel of City historians and archivists.

    Do you have a question for our experts? Please submit your question for the panel when you book online. Unfortunately time will not allow for every question to be posed, but we will endeavour to answer a broad selection.

    This program is presented in partnership with the National Trust Heritage Festival 2016.

    Customs House Library
    Saturday 14 May 2016 from 10.30am to 12.30pm
  • Classics at Customs: Imagining our cities
    Wednesday 18 May 2016
  • Book now

    As new towns and cities spread across the frontier of colonial New South Wales, itinerant artists soon followed. Keen to foster town pride and local commerce, civic organisations, business owners and wealthy citizens commissioned images to document the growth of these urban centres, including panoramic maps, known as bird’s-eye views.

    A bird’s-eye view is a perspective drawing of a city or town portrayed as if viewed from above. Popular during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, before the technological advances of photography and flight, such views were constructed from imagined perspectives or taken from high vantage points. They typically show street patterns, individual buildings and major landscape features. Colour lithography, an invention of the illustrated press, made the production of a bird’s-eye view affordable for even the smallest towns. These extraordinarily detailed lithographs eventually numbered in the hundreds and now serve as a rich pictorial record of our cities as they stood a century ago.

    Margot Riley is Curator, Research & Discovery, State Library of NSW. Riley completed the Masters in Museum Studies Program at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York City, in 1994 and has been working at the SLNSW since 1998. She has researched, curated and written extensively about the library’s collections. In 2005, she was awarded the inaugural SLNSW Staff Fellowship to study the library’s portraiture collections. In 2010, her essay ‘Images as a Resource for the Study of Australian Dress’ appeared in the Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion.

    Customs House Library
    Wednesday 18 May 2016 from 12.30pm to 1.30pm

Last updated: Tuesday, 29 March 2016