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
  • Art @ the Library: Customs House and beyond
    Sunday 7 February 2016
  • Event details

    An exhibition of original artwork created in a variety of mediums by students of Cilla Campbell, who attend art classes at WEA (Sydney), a non-profit community-based adult education organisation.

    Showcased are paintings, drawings, prints and artists books inspired by the Sydney Harbour landscape and historic sites, as well as by other locations.

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

    Monday 7 December 2015 to Thursday 25 February 2016

  • Print your own 3D monkey
    Thursday 11 February 2016
  • Event details

    Exploring the Chinese New Year Festival?

    Visit us at Customs House Library to see our 3D printer in action.

    You can purchase a 3D monkey in aid of the festival’s charity partner Cure Brain Cancer Foundation, which aspires to change a child’s life through research.

    Now that’s monkey magic!


    Bookings not required.

    This event is produced by City of Sydney and Cure Brain Cancer Foundation.

    Customs House Library
    Thursday 11 February 2016 from 5pm to 7pm
    Friday 12 February 2016 from 5pm to 7pm
    Saturday 13 February 2016 from 5pm to 7pm
  • Open computer lab @ Customs House Library
    Wednesday 16 March 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
    Every 3rd Wednesday, 12pm to 1pm

    Wednesday 16 March to Wednesday 18 May 2016

  • Classics at Customs: The Proclamation Board
    Wednesday 16 March 2016
  • Book now

    Sir George Arthur (1784–1854) issued several printed proclamations during his term as Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) to try to reduce the escalation of violence between Aboriginal peoples and the British settlers. George Frankland (1800–1838), the Surveyor-General, wrote to Arthur in 1829 and suggested the Proclamation Board as a visual tool to support the printed proclamations.

    The boards featured four-strip pictograms that attempted to explain the idea of equality under the law, in that those who committed violent crimes – Aboriginal or colonist – would be punished in the same way. The Proclamation Board was inspired by the way Aboriginal people communicated by leaving drawings on the bark of trees.

    Governor Arthur’s proclamation was painted on boards and nailed to trees in areas where they would be seen by Aboriginal people. The images on the Proclamation Boards have inspired numerous derivatives, such as lantern slides, lithographs, postcards, book covers and pottery. The boards, too, serve as ‘pamphlets’ on punishment and justice. Dr Rachel Franks explores the history of the Proclamation Boards – seven have survived – and talks about the board in the State Library of NSW collection.

    Dr Rachel Franks is the Coordinator, Education & Scholarship, State Library of NSW and a Conjoint Fellow, The University of Newcastle. Dr Franks is a popular culture researcher and has delivered numerous conference papers on crime fiction, true crime, food studies and information science. An award-winning writer, her work can be found in a wide variety of books, journals and magazines as well as on social media.

    Customs House Library
    Wednesday 16 March 2016 from 12.30pm to 1.30pm
  • Easter Eggstravaganza!
    Thursday 24 March 2016
  • Book now

    Join us for a special Easter story session for the whole family. Hunt for chocolate Easter eggs in the library and make a colourful Easter bunny.

    Parents of children with a nut allergy should be aware that chocolate Easter eggs may contain nut products.

    Suitable for kids aged 3-7.

    Customs House Library
    Thursday 24 March 2016 from 10am to 11.30am
  • Classics at Customs: Visiting Mother
    Wednesday 20 April 2016
  • Book now

    Diaries from World War I reveal the horror, loneliness and adventure of war. They also show the delight of visiting London on leave, with its entertainments and sense of home, albeit with fog.

    The State Library of NSW holds a significant collection of World War I diaries and letters. Elise Edmonds, Curator at the State Library of NSW, will explore London through the eyes of its Australian visitors. London – the heart of the Empire and the ‘mother country’ – was a place Australians felt they knew, even when most had never visited. They became excellent observers of the city and its people, awed by the grand architecture, the shops and the busy streets. No Australian city had such traffic and a lively populace.

    Like tourists today, Australian soldiers and nurses made the most of their time in London, walking the streets day and night, witnessing the jovial police force, air raids and blacked-out streets. Women, it was noted by many, were working everywhere – as conductresses on buses, as lift operators and window cleaners. ‘Girls do everything. They are to be seen in all classes of work,’ wrote George Horan in 1916. This entertaining presentation will show London as its Australian visitors saw it.

    Elise Edmonds is a Curator at the State Library of NSW and received a staff fellowship in 2009 to research the library’s World War I collections. She recently curated an exhibition on the World War I collection of diaries and correspondence entitled, Life Interrupted: Personal Diaries from World War I.

    Customs House Library
    Wednesday 20 April 2016 from 12.30pm to 1.30pm

Last updated: Monday, 1 February 2016