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
  • Home exhibition
    Tuesday 25 October 2016
  • Event details

    Habitat for Humanity Australia presents Home, a photograph exhibition.

    This free exhibition at Customs House Library will raise awareness of housing poverty around the world, by showcasing 10 individuals and their stories of how a safe and decent home has transformed their lives.

    We encourage you to get to know the people behind the photos, and see the incredible difference access to housing makes across all areas of life, from security to health to livelihood opportunities.

    Don’t forget to enter our competition to go into the running to win an overseas volunteering experience with Habitat for Humanity, or 1 of 4 family passes to an invitation only location for the New Year’s Eve fireworks display. Make 2017 your year to volunteer! Travel and build a home for a family in need with Habitat.

    Customs House Library
    Weekdays, 10am to 7pm
    Weekends, 11am to 4pm

    Wednesday 5 October to Saturday 31 December 2016

    Except Friday 21 October

  • Book club at Customs House Library
    Friday 4 November 2016
  • Book now

    Join a book club for a friendly discussion of literature of all kinds. Our monthly club, held at Customs House Library, covers a range of genres, including award winners, contemporary and classic fiction, poetry, historical fiction, crime novels, biographies and quarterly essays.

    The Customs House book club has recently explored the works of William Boyd. Next in their sights is Frank Moorhouse’s trilogy on the formation of the United Nations.

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

    Bookings recommended.

    Customs House Library
    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
  • Classics at Customs: The First Chief Justice of NSW
    Wednesday 16 November 2016
  • Book now

    First Chief Justice of NSW, Sir Francis Forbes, was a passionate believer in fairness, equity, and justice. As a visionary and legal pioneer Forbes made powerful enemies, and his time in office was filled with controversy. Despite bitter conflict with the Governor, Forbes fought to establish a system of trial by jury in NSW.

    In 1839, stress and ill-health forced Forbes to retire. As a parting gift he was given a knighthood and magnificent silver candelabrum – but just two years later he died in a rented home in Newtown.

    Join senior curator Alison Wishart as she explores the fascinating story of Forbes’ controversial life, The spectacular candelabrum is on display at the State Library until 15 January 2017.

    Our buildings, archives, and people hold many stories. Go back in time through stories and visual artefacts at our Classics at Customs House series.

    Bookings recommended.

    Customs House Library
    Wednesday 16 November 2016 from 12.30pm to 1.30pm
  • LGBTI voices in young adult media
    Thursday 24 November 2016
  • Book now

    Come and meet awesome LGBTI authors, Will Kostakis and Erin Gough, at this exciting event for young people. They’ll be reading their work and talking about the importance of LGBTI stories written for young people.

    They’ll be joined by Dr Victoria Flanagan from Macquarie University, a leading researcher and lecturer in gender representations in literature and film for young people.

    Explore some of the library’s LGBTI collection of more than 1400 books, films, and zines, chosen for display on the night by young people from Twenty10.

    You can also have your voice heard – share your experiences with the authors and other young people, and tell us what else you want to see in the LGBTI collection in your library.

    Bursting with creativity?

    Join our Zine Making workshop with zine maker, illustrator, YouTuber and trans activist Jesse Anderson. Bring your ideas and stories to life on your very own page of a special group-zine. Then feel the thrill of sharing your work, as your zine joins our LGBTI collection.

    Be sure to book early as places are limited for this free event.


    Will Kostakis is an award-winning author of novels for young adults. His latest release is The Sidekicks.

    Erin Gough’s novel, The Flywheel, won the Ampersand Prize and has been shortlisted for the CBCA Book of the Year 2016 (Older Readers).

    Dr Victoria Flanagan is a senior lecturer in English Literature at Macquarie University, where her research focuses on representations of non-heteronormative sexuality and gender in young adult literature and film.

    Jesse Anderson is an illustrator, writer, musician, Youtuber, transgender activist and aspiring 2D animator.

    Customs House Library
    Thursday 24 November 2016 from 6pm to 8pm
  • Unlimited Possibilities: Disability and Science Fiction Expo
    Saturday 3 December 2016
  • Book now

    3D printing, robotics and brainwave music. Sounds like science fiction? Not any more…

    Find out for yourself at this exciting interactive event celebrating the International Day of People with Disability. Discover a world of unlimited possibilities and see how science fiction has inspired new ways for people experiencing disability to participate in the world.

    Get hands-on with the new human technologies and explore how the power of your mind can extend your senses and mobility. You’ll also get to see how 3D technology works making it possible to print your own prosthetic ‘limbs’ at home, learn how inclusive design teams hack into objects and help rethink the future at the Sci-Fi Maker Lab.

    Then join an inspiring panel of artists, designers, and technologists to explore what emerging technology really means for people experiencing disability. Does it promote equity, or does it drive people apart?

    This is a free event, however places for the panel discussion and film screenings are limited. Be sure to book early to get a seat.


    Inspiration Stations (Interactive Expo) 1.00pm–3:30pm
    See inspiring technologies and projects such as the the eye controlled music device by Psykinetic. Psykinetic was founded by internationally renowned biomedical engineer, Dr Jordan Nguyen who recently featured on Catalyst and was a speaker at TedxSydney.

    Sci-Fi Maker Lab 1.00pm–3.15pm
    Drop into and join an inclusive design team to imagine, illustrate and prototype fantastic solutions for the future. Facilitated by AbilityMate, Northcott Innovation and artist Stephen Mushin.

    Documentary Screening, FIXED: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement
    Screening 1 – Audio Description: 1.00pm – 2.00pm
    Screening 2 – Captioned: 2.15pm – 3.15pm

    This award winning documentary takes a close look at the drive to be “better than human”and the radical technological innovations that may take us there.

    Panel Discussion 3.30pm – 5.00pm – Science fiction and disability

    Inclusive design thinking is rapidly enhancing assistive technology, helping people experiencing disability participate in the world and even sometimes experience things that people without a disability can’t do. So who is disabled?

    The Panel will be Auslan interpreted and captioned.

    The Panelists include:

    Naomi Malone: An experienced advocate in the field of disability inclusion across the arts and business, Naomi has managed mulitiple projects for Accessible Arts NSW and Westpac Group. Profoundly deaf, she is a graduate in arts and law from the University of Sydney and holds an MA in Public History from UTS.

    Melanie Tran: Melanie is currently the Lead UX Designer at AbilityMate and is a Board Member at Leep NGO. She won the Young Achievers Award for her self-published poems and short stories and pursued The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award to become the first person in the world with a neuromuscular condition to achieve the Bronze, Silver and Gold Award.

    Vicki Sowry: Vicki is Director of the Australian Network for Art and Technology. For over 25 years she has delivered programs for artists in partnership with industry and academia that often foray into concepts found in science fiction.

    Peter Horsley: Peter is the Founder of Cerebal Palsy Alliance’s Technology Accelerator called Remarkable, supporting new startups as they create technology to advance the social and economic inclusion of people with a disability

    Customs House Library
    Saturday 3 December 2016 from 1pm to 5pm
  • FIXED: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement (UC)
    Saturday 3 December 2016
  • Book now

    “Fascinating, humane, and provocative reframing of conceptions of ‘normal’ bodies and ‘disability.’” – Gina Maranto, author of Quest for Perfection

    Screening Times
    1.00pm – 2.00pm – Audio Description
    2.15pm – 3.15pm – Captioned

    From bionic limbs and neural implants to prenatal screening, researchers around the world are hard at work developing a myriad of technologies to fix or enhance the human body.

    FIXED: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement takes a close look at the drive to be “better than human” and the radical technological innovations that may take us there.
    What does “disabled” mean when a man with no legs can run faster than most people in the world?

    What does “normal” mean when cosmetic surgery procedures have risen over 450% percent in the last fifteen years and increasing numbers of people turn to “smart drugs” every day to get ahead at school or work? With prenatal screening able to predict hundreds of probable conditions, who should determine what kind of people get to be born? If you could augment your body’s abilities in any way imaginable, would you?

    This is a documentary screening as part of Unlimited Possibilities: Disability and Science Fiction Expo.

    Customs House Library
    Saturday 3 December 2016 from 1pm to 2pm
    Saturday 3 December 2016 from 2.15pm to 3.15pm

    Level 2, Meeting Room

Last updated: Monday, 24 October 2016