Customs House Library

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.

Accessibility

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 library@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au.
  • 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
  • How the city cares
    Sunday 19 January 2020
  • Event details

    Does the city care?

    It would be easy to answer this question in the negative. Life in a large city like Sydney is so often measured through values like wealth and growth. From the perspective of our footpaths and windows, urban development seems to be extending rapidly and unstoppably, outwards and upwards. People are counted not as individual citizens, rather by the million.

    But How the city cares considers life in Sydney through artist-led projects that have sought to care about and for its people and places.

    These projects take a variety of forms, including the documentation of protest and of long-term community resistance, creative support for community-run activities and spaces, portable contexts for teaching and learning, design approaches that re-think our relationship to land and water (and who owns it), innovations for reversing environmental and cultural damage and encounters that ask questions to communities and listen to the answers they offer.

    Artists: Rebecca Conroy, Brenda L Croft, Keg de Souza, Bonita Ely, Future Method (Genevieve Murray and Joel Sherwood-Spring), Sarah Goffman, SquatSpace (Diego Bonetto, Keg de Souza, Lucas Ihlein and Mickie Quick) posters from the Tin Sheds Poster Collection, The University of Sydney by Jean Clarkson, Jan Fieldsend, Marie McMahon, Therese Kenyon and Toni Robertson. Curated by Bec Dean.

    This exhibition was commissioned and produced by the City of Sydney for Customs House.

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

    Monday 16 September 2019 to Sunday 8 March 2020

    Except public holidays

    Closed Wednesday 11 December

  • Code club for older adults
    Tuesday 4 February 2020
  • Book now

    If you’re keen to learn coding basics, come and join our Code Club. We’ll get you confident in using the free visual programming language, Scratch, developed by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Media Lab.

    Test your talent by exercising problem-solving skills and logical thinking while you draw from the worlds of science, maths and technology.

    Learn and build on skills and ideas each week as you explore the “how” behind computer games, animation and website coding.

    The sessions provide a greater understanding of coding projects and give participants the ability to share experiences with grandchildren, other family members or friends.

    These hands-on workshops which run for 1-hour each week for 4 weeks, are suitable for older adults with an interest in coding.

    Places are free, however, you must book in and attend for all 4 weeks. The workshops have a capacity of 8, so bookings are essential.

    No previous code experience is needed.

    Customs House Library
    Tuesdays, 11am to 12pm

    Tuesday 4 February to Tuesday 25 February 2020

  • Chinese Calligraphy Demonstration at Customs House
    Tuesday 4 February 2020
  • Book now

    During the spectacular Sydney Lunar Festival from 25 January to 9 February, we’ll be celebrating the Year of the Rat at the library with some fun festivities.

    Learn the beauty of the brush stroke as master artists from the Australian Chinese Artists’ Society compose the characters of Chinese calligraphy.

    Take the time to digest the detail behind this captivating cultural expression and go home with your own handwritten souvenir courtesy of our calligraphers.

    Chinese calligraphy is an expressive form of visual poetry and holds a valuable place in the heart of Chinese culture.

    Our calligraphy artists will be taking up their brushes in residence over 2 hours at Customs House Library

    This is a free demonstration and everyone is welcome to drop by to see the artists at work.

    Customs House Library
    Tuesday 4 February 2020 from 12pm to 2pm
  • Tech Savvy Seniors - Korean Classes
    Wednesday 5 February 2020
  • Event details

    Get technology on your side by keeping connected, accessing vital services and doing business. Facilitated by leaders from the Ethnic Community Council.

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

    Introduction to computers: 5 February 
    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 as you create your first document and perhaps do a little web surfing.

    Introduction to internet part 1: 12 February 
    Become familiar with the internet basics of getting online and surfing the web. Get well acquainted so you can go home, sign up for an internet service and hang out on the www’s yourself.

    Introduction to internet part 2: 19 February
    Growing your know-how from Part 1, we’ll look at ways to make web navigation a breeze as well as seek out video and music add-ons. We’ll make sure you know how to keep yourself safe online and get you going with tips for the best sites to view online.

    Introduction to email: 26 February 
    Keep connected to family and friends with email. We’ll walk you through setting up a free Gmail email account as well as how to send, read and reply to your emails.

    Introduction to social media: 4 March 
    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: 11 March 
    We’ll walk you through the techy world of the tablet and get you up and running on this handy device.

    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, 10.30am to 12.30pm

    Wednesday 5 February to Wednesday 11 March 2020

  • Sydney Lunar Festival: Lantern Artist Talk
    Thursday 6 February 2020
  • Book now

    The spectacular Sydney Lunar Festival runs from 25 January to 9 February 2020.

    During the festival, the city is alive with giant illuminated Chinese zodiac animal lanterns. 2020 is the Year of the Rat, and we’ll be talking about all things light at the library.

    Join Sydney Lunar Festival lantern designers, Claudia Chan Shaw, Nancy Liang and Fiona Lu in conversation with festival curator, Valerie Khoo. Backlit with story, we’ll delve into a discussion about how these lanterns came to be.

    Valerie Khoo
    Valerie is a visual artist and designer. Valerie has been a finalist in numerous art prizes and also mentors creatives in their career journey. A former magazine editor, she is passionate about fusing storytelling with art and is also CEO of the Australian Writers’ Centre.

    Claudia Chan Shaw (Rat lantern)
    You might recognise Claudia from her stint as a host of the ABC TV show Collectors. A custodian of Chinese culture, Claudia is also an author, artist, and curator. Commanding the crowd as a public speaker, MC and lecturer, Claudia wears many professional hats

    Nancy Liang and Fiona Lu (Rabbit lantern)
    Fiona is an interdisciplinary artist that explores the ‘in-between’ of Chinese and Australian culture through her art practice, while Nancy is primarily a collage artist who uses uses drawing, paper cutouts and animation to explore Australian urban landscapes. Collaborating together, both Australian born Chinese artists integrate their Chinese cultural experiences of growing up in Sydney. They explore icons of childhood nostalgia through re-imagined forms that spring to life.

    This free event will attract a large audience – bookings are recommended.

    This event will be Auslan interpreted.

    Customs House Library
    Thursday 6 February 2020 from 7.30pm to 8.30pm
  • Workshop for supervisors of learner drivers
    Wednesday 18 March 2020
  • Book now

    You’re invited to attend a free 2-hour workshop for supervisors of learner drivers.

    Give your learner driver the best possible introduction to driving: their life could depend on it!

    The City of Sydney aims to improve road safety with free workshops for supervisors of learner drivers.

    This workshop will provide practical advice about:

    • laws for learner and P-plate drivers
    • how to use the new learner driver log book
    • how to plan on-road driving sessions and supervise learner drivers
    • understanding the benefits of supervised on road driving experience.
    Customs House Library
    Wednesday 18 March 2020 from 6pm to 8pm
  • Cyber safety: Protecting your personal information
    Wednesday 25 March 2020
  • Book now

    Your information is valuable. But keeping your details safe online extends beyond banking data. The key is knowing what data is valuable, and why.

    Join leading expert Dr Joanne Orlando to find out how to take control of your personal data, and why you need to treat your online information like you treat your money, protect it and don’t leave it lying around.

    Forbes magazine recently reported that a file with 1.4 billion hacked passwords was found for sale online. Focusing on everyday activities like online shopping, free downloads, advertising and dating apps learn where data breaches occur. Dr Orlando will show you 10 effective ways to keep your details safe.

    Trace how personal data is used by legitimate and illegitimate sources, and identify common errors we make. Manage your online presence and better understand cyber safety and security trends.

    Learn ways to prevent identity theft and hacking and understand how personal data is used online. Find out what companies like Facebook, Amazon and Netflix are doing with personal information.

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

    About Dr Joanne Orlando:
    As a leading international expert on family and digital lifestyles, Joanne offers fresh perspectives and solutions on our digital lives. She’s a regular TV and radio presenter offering expert advice on the technology practices of adults and kids. 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 is currently working on her third parenting book and also hosts online and face-to-face digital-parenting seminars and courses.

    Booking recommended for this free session as places are limited.

    Customs House Library
    Wednesday 25 March 2020 from 1pm to 2pm

Join the library

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