Customs House Library

Easter and Anzac Day closures

All library branches will be closed on:

  • Friday 19 April
  • Saturday 20 April
  • Sunday 21 April
  • Monday 22 April
  • Thursday 25 April. 

After hours chutes are available at Glebe, Green Square, Haymarket, Newtown, Surry Hills, Ultimo and Waterloo.

Something for everyone

The Customs House Library is located in the heart of vibrant Circular Quay – the major hub for Sydney’s city workers, visitors and international tourists. Custom House is a dynamic and exciting public space that includes a grand atrium, helix staircase, exhibition spaces, restaurants and bars. 

Customs House is one of Sydney's finest historical buildings, yet it hosts one of the most stylised contemporary libraries in Sydney. It has bold, modern furnishings as well as traditional library spaces, spanning over 3 levels. Features include a beautiful and quiet Grand Reading Room, comfy lounges on the ground floor and the largest range of local and international newspapers and magazines in any Australian public library.

The library is a great place to relax, meet friends, read or research, and it has free internet access via library computers and free wifi. It is open 7 days a week.

31 Alfred Street
Circular Quay NSW 2000

02 9242 8555
TTY: 02 9242 8575

Opening hours

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


Loans, renewals and returns

  • You can borrow as many as 30 items for as long as 3 weeks.
  • You can renew items online (with your library card number) or you can send an email to
  • You can also call us or visit the branch.

Community languages

  • Japanese books
  • Korean books
  • Chinese newspapers
  • Fijian newspapers
  • French newspapers
  • German newspapers
  • Italian newspapers
  • Japanese newspapers
  • Korean newspapers
  • Spanish newspapers
  • Chinese magazines
  • Italian magazines
  • Japanese DVDs and CDs
  • Korean DVDs and CDs
  • What’s on
  • Mapping Paddington
    Tuesday 30 April 2019
  • Book now

    What gives Paddington its special qualities? Is it the terrace houses? The topography and landscape? The street patterns?

    Bill Morrison’s interest in the urban morphology of cities gave rise to detailed studies of Paddington, including the original mapping sequence in Paddington: A History.

    In this illustrated talk, Bill Morrison will trace the development of Paddington through topography, land grants and subdivisions, to show the development of street patterns and its evolution into the distinctive suburb it is today.

    Bill Morrison is an architect and urban designer and director of Conybeare Morrison Architects and Context landscape Design. He has lived in Paddington for over 40 years and has served on The Paddington Society committees in excess of 25 years, recently being awarded life membership for his contribution to the conservation of Paddington and work on the public domain.

    This free talk is part of a series of talks presented by the City of Sydney’s history and curatorial team for the National Trust Heritage Festival. The event will take place in the meeting room on Level 2, Customs House Library.

    The book Paddington: A History will be available for purchase from the Paddington Society. Bill Morrison contributed the chapter on ‘Mapping Paddington’.

    Customs House Library
    Tuesday 30 April 2019 from 12.30pm to 1.15pm
  • Cartographica: Curator talk by Margaret Betteridge
    Wednesday 1 May 2019
  • Book now

    In this special curator’s illustrated talk, the City’s Curator, Margaret Betteridge, will share some of the highlights of her exhibition Cartographica: Sydney on the Map.

    This exhibition brings together a series of reproduced maps with a focus on Sydney, captured through the cartographic traditions of mapmakers.

    Come and hear about what we can learn from maps, and the different ways we navigate and represent our city, as seen through the maps in the exhibition.

    The exhibition is on at Customs House right now. So why not take the time to view the exhibition before or after Margaret’s talk. She will be available to answer questions after the talk.

    This free lunchtime talk is part of a series of talks presented by the City of Sydney’s history and curatorial team for the National Trust Heritage Festival. The event will take place in the meeting room on Level 2, Customs House Library.

    Image credit: Roderick Shaw (1915–1992) Map of Sydney & inhabitants, 1948. Published by the Grahame Book Company, 1948. (Reproduced courtesy of the Mitchell Map Collection, State Library of NSW M2 811.16s/1948/1)

    Customs House Library
    Wednesday 1 May 2019 from 12.30pm to 1.15pm
  • Macular disease awareness
    Wednesday 8 May 2019
  • Book now

    Did you know that macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in Australia? 1 in 7 people over 50 years of age have some form or sign of the disease.

    Over 3 sessions, Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA) will provide information about vision loss and macular disease. Find out the risks, how to help prevent them and get , as well as identify risks and share nutritional advice.

    Wednesday 10 April, 11am-1pm: Macular degeneration
    Find out about macular function and signs and symptoms of macular disease and how you can prevent its progression. Learn how to interpret the statistic. and get nutritional and lifestyle advice.

    Wednesday 8 May, 11am-1pm: Diabetic eye disease
    1 in 3 people with diabetes over 50 years of age have some form of diabetic eye disease. Find out what the statistic means, the link between diabetes and eye disease and the positive affect of lifestyle changes on diabetes.

    Wednesday 5 June, 11am-1pm: Macular disease research
    Get updates on the latest research and learn how to interpret the findings. Also find out how you can sign up to participate in clinical trials.

    Meet the facilitators

    Dilini Manthilaka
    As an MDFA education officer, Dilini provides non-clinical support to patients, family members and carers. She draws from her experience working with volunteers at the Cancer Council NSW.

    Natasha Knopf
    As an MDFA education officer, Natasha assists clients via the helpline and presents at education sessions Australia-wide. She’s passionate about promoting good eye health.

    Colette Kinsella
    As MDFA’s national partnership manager, Colette helps via the helpline and those presenting to eye healthcare professionals. She draws from her nursing background and industry experience.

    Booking are recommended for this free series as places are limited.

    Customs House Library
    Wednesday 10 April 2019 from 11am to 1pm
    Wednesday 8 May 2019 from 11am to 1pm
    Wednesday 5 June 2019 from 11am to 1pm
  • Aboriginal Paddington
    Thursday 9 May 2019
  • Book now

    Aboriginal people have watched the ancient landscape of Sydney and Paddington evolve over thousands of years and generations. The rich archaeological and historical record of the harbour allows us to recreate something of how Aboriginal people used Kogerah – as they called Rushcutters Bay – and its Paddington hinterland in the centuries before Europeans arrived. As a resilient and innovative community they continued to adapt their lives, co-existing around Rushcutters Bay until the turn of the twentieth century.

    Paul Irish will open your eyes to the Rushcutters Bay Aboriginal settlement and the impact of colonisation on Australia’s First Nation peoples in Paddington.

    Paul Irish is a historian and archaeologist with Coast History & Heritage, and has a long-standing interest in the Aboriginal history of Sydney. He was recently published the book Hidden in Plain View: the Aboriginal people of coastal Sydney and regularly holds public talks. As the recipient of the 2015 NSW History Fellowship he prepared the touring exhibition This Is Where They Travelled: Historical Aboriginal Lives in Sydney in collaboration with researchers from the La Perouse Aboriginal community.

    This free lunchtime talk is part of a series of talks presented by the City of Sydney’s history and curatorial team for the National Trust Heritage Festival. The event will take place in the meeting room on Level 2, Customs House Library.

    The book Paddington: A History will be available for purchase from the Paddington Society. Paul Irish contributed a chapter on ‘Aboriginal Paddington’.

    Image credit: Aboriginal people fishing in Woolloomooloo Bay near Paddington. Charles Rodius, 1833. (State Library of NSW, PXA 997)

    Customs House Library
    Thursday 9 May 2019 from 12.30pm to 1.15pm
  • The Paddington Terrace House: 1840-1910
    Monday 13 May 2019
  • Book now

    Paddington contains an extraordinary diversity of terrace house forms, providing a virtual checklist of the terrace house typology. It is one of the distinctive characteristics of the suburb. Robert Griffin has studied the architectural design and history of the Sydney terrace. In this illustrated talk, he will introduce the range of terrace house types to be found in Paddington and as illustrated in the recently published Paddington: A History.

    Robert Griffin is an architectural historian who has lectured and published widely on the history and design of Sydney houses, on historic interiors and the conservation of historic buildings. Robert has also curated exhibitions on Australian colonial architecture, social history and decorative arts and has been responsible for the conservation and interpretation of some of Sydney’s most significant sites including Elizabeth Bay House, Government House, Sydney and The Sydney Mint.

    This free lunchtime talk is part of a series of talks presented by the City of Sydney’s history and curatorial team for the National Trust Heritage Festival. The event will take place in the meeting room on Level 2, Customs House Library.

    The book Paddington: A History will be available for purchase from the Paddington Society. Robert Griffin contributed chapters on ‘Early Paddington’, ‘The Victorian suburb’ and ‘The Paddington Terrace House: 1840-1910’.

    Image credit: Terrace houses, Greens Road, Paddington, 1988. (City of Sydney Archives, 052735)

    Customs House Library
    Monday 13 May 2019 from 12.30pm to 1.15pm
  • Cyber safety: Introduction for parents
    Tuesday 14 May 2019
  • Book now

    Get an introduction and learn strategies to keep your kids safe online with leading expert, Dr Joanne Orlando.

    Every child uses technology differently. In this session, you’ll learn the particulars of how and why children use technology, the decisions they make in their use and the technology habits of different age groups and lifestyles.

    Dr Orlando will help you understand the risks and safety issues for each age group, as well as ways to help manage and prevent them, Get an understanding of how schools approach cyber safety and ways to supplement and extend this at home.

    Discover how to identify aspects of children’s technology that can be unsafe and harmful and learn strategies to tackle cyberbullying and effectively manage online abuse. Explore how you can help keep kids safe by building confidence and ability, recognise dangers and use progressive, evidence-based techniques to deal with them.

    This 1-hour session includes time for questions and access to new resources developed by Dr Joanne Orlando.

    Dr Joanne Orlando

    As a leading international expert on family and digital lifestyles, Joanne offers fresh perspectives and solutions on our digital lives. Appearing regularly on TV and radio, she also provides expert parenting advice around all things technology. Joanne is known for introducing new terms like ‘Sharenting,’ the implications of parents sharing images of their kids online, and ‘Finsta,’ fake Instagram accounts. She’s currently working on her third parenting book and hosts online and face-to-face digital-parenting seminars and courses.

    Booking recommended for this free session as places are limited.

    This event will be Auslan interpreted.

    Other cyber safety events:
    Cyber safety: Gaming, social media and sexual content

    Customs House Library
    Tuesday 14 May 2019 from 1pm to 2pm
  • Citizen Science: Feather Map
    Saturday 25 May 2019
  • Book now

    The Feather Map of Australia was a national citizen science project which ran from 2016 to 2018. As part of the project, people were asked to collect waterbird feathers from their local wetlands. The feathers collected were analysed to find out which wetlands waterbirds use, how they use them and provide insight into wetland health.

    Australian wetlands are threatened by reduced river flows, flooding, drought, climate change and changes in land use. Wetlands are critical habitats for Australia’s waterbirds, providing places for breeding, nesting, feeding and roosting.

    This app allowed the community to engage in scientific and environmental research to help preserve these precious environments.

    The critical information collected from the project could improve wetland protection and water management, as well as deliver understanding around the ecology and life cycles of waterbirds and waterbird populations.

    This 1-hour event includes background on the Feather Map of Australia project and time for Q&A.

    Dr Kate Brandis
    As leader of the Feather Map of Australia project, Kate is an expert in wetland and waterbirds, as well as the management of water and environmental flows. She also specialises in the analysis of biological samples to address ecological challenges and is a research fellow at the Centre for Ecosystem Science, UNSW.

    Australian Citizen Science Association (ACSA)
    Formed in 2014, this member-based community supports, informs and develops citizen science through sharing knowledge, collaboration, capacity building and advocacy.

    This is a free event. Bookings are recommended as places are limited.

    Book tickets to 25 May, 2pm at Customs House Library
    Book tickets to 30 May, 6pm at Surry Hills Library

    Customs House Library
    Saturday 25 May 2019 from 2pm to 3pm
  • Tech Savvy Seniors @ Customs House
    Wednesday 5 June 2019
  • Book now

    This free series funded by the Telstra Foundation and FACS is designed to help older people gain confidence in basic computer and digital skills.

    Book in for the small group sessions below:

    Introduction to computers
    This workshop covers what a computer is, it’s components and how it’s operated. You’ll learn to use a mouse and keyboard and then road test your skills to create your first document.

    Introduction to internet part 1
    Become familiar with how to access and surf the web so you can go home, sign up for an internet service and hang out on the www’s yourself.

    Introduction to internet part 2
    We’ll look at ways to make web navigation a breeze and seek out video and music add-ons. You’ll leave knowing how to keep yourself safe online and tips for the best sites.

    Introduction to email
    Keep connected to family and friends with email. We’ll walk you through setting up a free Gmail email account and how to send, read and reply to your emails.

    Online shopping and banking part 1
    From booking a holiday to buying groceries, we’ll take you through the process of buying something and how to stay safe banking and shopping online.

    Introduction to online shopping and banking part 2
    Following on from part 1, find out how you can save time paying bills online and learn how to browse, buy and sell using websites like eBay and about payment options like PayPal.

    Introduction to social media
    Get sharp with social media’s famous three: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. We’ll take you through a run-down of which social media to use and when.

    Introduction to iPads
    We’ll walk you through the techy world of the tablet and get you up and running on this handy device.

    Customs House Library
    Wednesdays, 11am to 1pm

    Wednesday 5 June to Wednesday 24 July 2019

Join the library

Membership is free for NSW residents. Complete the online application form and enjoy borrowing up to 30 items for 3 weeks.