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.

You can download accessibility information for Customs House Library.

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
  • Speak out: Art Speak
    Wednesday 3 May 2017
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    Many artworks in the City of Sydney’s Civic Collection have hidden agendas as canvases for debate.

    These debates have included urban renewal, demolition of heritage items, racial discrimination, social exclusion, impacts on communities, threats to Sydney’s natural and cultural landscape and climate change.

    The City’s Curator, Margaret Betteridge, explores the ways in which Sydney artists have highlighted and interpreted contemporary dilemmas in a survey of works by artists since the 1840s.

    These artists include John Rae, Sydney Ure Smith, John Santry, Gordon Syron, Fiona MacDonald, Michael Fitzjames, Shaun Gladwell, Barry Flakeler, Richard Tipping, Joan Ross, Janet Laurence, Tony Albert, Karla Dickens and Deb Mansfield. This illustrated talk will include an opportunity to look at some original materials from the Civic Collection.

    This lunchtime talk is the first talk in a series presented by the City of Sydney’s Culture & Creativity team for the Australian Heritage Festival.

    Customs House Library
    Wednesday 3 May 2017 from 12.30pm to 1.30pm
  • Taking to the Streets: The Great Strike of 1917
    Wednesday 10 May 2017
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    Eveleigh Railway Workshops was a centre for one of Australia’s largest industrial conflicts in the early 20th century known as the Great Strike of 1917. In July-August 2017, the City of Sydney and Carriageworks will present an exhibition to mark its centenary.

    In this talk, Historian Laila Ellmoos will look at the social protest that accompanied the strike, from the regular street marches and mass meetings in The Domain, to the role of local communities in rallying around the strikers and on the picket lines.

    This lunchtime talk is the second talk in a series presented by the City of Sydney’s Culture & Creativity team for the Australian Heritage Festival.

    This is a free event, but bookings are essential. Make sure you book your spot!

    Customs House Library
    Wednesday 10 May 2017 from 12.30pm to 1.30pm
  • Sydney Film Festival: Program launch
    Wednesday 10 May 2017
  • Book now

    You’re invited to the official unveiling of the Sydney Film Festival 2017 program. Festival Director Nashen Moodley will showcase the diverse range of films to be premiered, including the impressive opening and closing night films, special events, international filmmaker guests, and the complete official competition selection.

    Whatever your mood, whatever your preference, there is something that will grab you in this year’s festival. The 64th Sydney Film Festival will screen feature films, documentaries, short films and animation across the city from 7 to 18 June. With over 300 sessions, multiple venues, and countless world and Australian premieres, come along to get insider insights into one of the world’s largest celebrations of film.

    City of Sydney Library is thrilled to host the program launch in partnership with Sydney Film Festival.

    Flexipasses are already on sale at the official website.
    This is a free event, however tickets are limited so bookings are recommended.

    Customs House Library
    Wednesday 10 May 2017 from 6pm to 7pm
  • It's In Our Blood
    Thursday 11 May 2017
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    Join us as poet and activist, Candy Royalle, presents three of her favourite Arab-Australian and Persian-Australian storytellers.

    Arab and Persian culture is rich with storytelling traditions. In fact, it is believed that the origins of professional storytelling originated in Mesopotamia. From the ancient Palestinian Hakawati’s, travelling storytellers and news sharers to the classics like Khalil Gibran, there are many who still carry on this tradition of storytelling.

    In its seventh year, the City of Sydney’s Late Night Library is kicking goals creatively and continues to provide emerging creative producers an opportunity to explore and develop new work.

    In 2015 and 2016 Maeve Marsden developed work for Late Night Library that has gone on to receive 5 star reviews at Sydney Festival and has played to packed houses at festivals round the country. Her storytelling project, Queerstories, won Best Spoken Word at Sydney Fringe and is now a monthly event at Giant Dwarf. For our 2017 Late Night Library Specials series, we’re bringing Maeve back to present four compelling performances across the year.

    Her first for Late Night Library Specials series, It’s in Our Blood will bring together Arab-Australian and Persian-Australian storytellers weaving narratives of family, history, art, culture, politics and love.

    This series of Late Night Library is produced by City of Sydney and presented in collaboration with Maeve Marsden.

    Be sure to book for this event – it will most definitely book out!

    Customs House Library
    Thursday 11 May 2017 from 8pm to 9pm
  • Letters of Complaint
    Wednesday 17 May 2017
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    Join City of Sydney historian Dr Lisa Murray as she delves into the city archives to reveal the best, worst and most bizarre letters of complaint from the 19th century.

    From bleating goats to the bothersome smell of boiling tripe, Sydneysiders have raised their voices to complain about many issues. Lisa will share some of the letters and re-visit the process of developing a performance based upon this rich archive.

    This lunchtime talk is the third and final talk in a series presented by the City of Sydney’s Culture & Creativity team for the Australian Heritage Festival.

    This is a free event, but bookings are essential. Make sure you book your spot!

    Customs House Library
    Wednesday 17 May 2017 from 12.30pm to 1.30pm
  • Can writers prevent disease?
    Thursday 22 June 2017
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    The City of Sydney Library joins forces with Inspiring Australia to host a Vivid event as part of the Curious Science series. Join author, Charlotte Wood, playwright, Alana Valentine and Charles Perkins Centre’s Academic Director Professor Stephen Simpson to explore a unique residency and partnership that puts science and fiction on the same page to answer: Can writers prevent disease?

    Psyche, education and cultural norms all feature in the rising burden of chronic disease. Interact with our panel of experts as they explore their collaboration, hurdles and triumphs as well as the future scope for similar alliances.

    Through access to conversation, seminars and research as part of her residency, Charlotte has been able to create characters of uncommon depth. By attending lectures and visiting labs, Alana has expanded the scope of her script about brides and grooms preparing their bodies for their big day.

    Charlotte Wood
    Inaugural Writer in Residence at the Charles Perkins Centre, Charlotte’s writing is innovative and confronting. Having authored 5 novels and 2 non-fiction books, this multi-award winning author tackles themes with disarming candour.

    Alana Valentine
    This acclaimed playwright’s most recent work includes Cold Light, Letters to Lindy and Ladies Day. In 2012 she won the STAGE International Award for best play about science.

    Professor Stephen Simpson AC
    Fellow of the Royal Society of London and of the Australian Academy of Science, winner of the NSW Scientist of the Year and Eureka Prize for Scientific Research, Steve is Academic Director of the Charles Perkins Centre and Executive Director of Obesity Australia.

    Charles Perkins Centre – University of Sydney
    Committed to easing the burden of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and their related conditions – the leading causes of death, disability and reduced quality of life in Australia.

    Bookings essential.

    Customs House Library
    Thursday 22 June 2017 from 6pm to 7.30pm
  • Tech Savvy Seniors @ Customs House Library
    Wednesday 5 July 2017
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    This free 6-part series is designed to help older people improve their computer and digital literacy.

    Get technology on your side by keeping connected, accessing vital services and doing business. Join us for the whole series or pick and choose the sessions that best suit your needs.

    Funded by the Telstra Foundation and FACS, get savvy using our library PCs and dive into the digital world.

    Introduction to computers – 5 July 2017
    Introduction to internet part 1 – 19 July 2017
    Introduction to internet part 2 – 26 July 2017
    Introduction to email – 2 August 2017
    Introduction to online shopping and banking – 9 August 2017
    Introduction to social media – 16 August 2017

    Sessions are free, run for 2 hours and cater for 8 people. Bookings are essential as there are loads of keen learners.

    Customs House Library
    Wednesdays, 10am to 12pm

    Wednesday 5 July to Wednesday 9 August 2017

Last updated: Tuesday, 18 April 2017