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The Reference Library is the largest public reference library in the South West with a collection that was originally founded in 1613 with the first Bristol Library on King Street. The book stock numbers over a third of a million titles reflecting the development of printing and publishing over at least five centuries.
It is generally complementary to the stock held by the Lending Library, with major encyclopedias, dictionaries, academic textbooks and monographs well represented. There is much else besides which may interest researchers, and academic study is well catered for between 'A Level' and undergraduate level. Collected works, published letters by literary figures, nineteenth century travel accounts, books on slavery and theology are special strengths. Here you shall find everything from Newton's Principia to the collected works of Sigmund Freud.
Enquiries are welcome, in person, by telephone, email or in writing. There may be a charge for enquiries which require research - staff will advise you if this is the case. Please include your phone number and full postal address in all correspondence, including email. This is so that we can clarify any aspects of your request, and can post photocopies to you if necessary.
Resources and facilities: introduction
Most general reference books bought before 1986 are not on the LibrariesWest library catalogue, so using our subject indexes and card catalogues is often necessary. It is possible to do this in person or to ask our staff to assist by telephone or via email. Many books are not on the open shelves.
Free WiFi is available throughout the first floor of the Central Library on which the Reference Library is situated.
There is seating available for up to 80 people to study.
We hold resources in electronic formats:
- Our 24 Hour Library has an excellent range of web-based subscription services, and most can be used from home as well as in the library, all free of charge.
- There's also a range of CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs that you can use here (see the 'From Central Library only' section).
We provide a wide variety of local and national newspapers, and magazines.
- Today's newspapers are on display in the Reference Reading Room.
- Back issues are available via the Reference desk.
- Current magazines are displayed in the Learning Centre (First Floor), and in the Cafe area on the Ground Floor.
For a more in-depth guide to our newspapers and magazines, including lists of current and archived titles and online services, see our newspapers, magazines and periodicals page.
- A black and white and a colour copier are available.
- We provide a worldwide fax service for the public - pages can be sent and received.
Both of these services are subject to charges.
There is a computer dedicated to 'Ancestry' - a family history database - in the Family History area.
A separate section in the Main Reading Room contains a very wide range of frequently consulted sources such as foreign language dictionaries, biographical works, quotations dictionaries, atlases and gazetteers, sport reference works and travel guides.
To view some of the rare or valuable works it will be necessary to give advance notice of up to five working days and to produce identification showing name, address and signature. A list of acceptable identification can be found under 'Joining the library'. We reserve the right to require items to be used under supervision in the Reference Library. Please note that fragile material cannot be photocopied.
Pages in the section
Reference library Central Library College Green Bristol, BS1 5TL Opening Hours
Monday 9.30am - 7.30pm.
Monday 9.30am - 7.30pm.
Tuesday 9.30am - 7.30pm.
Wednesday 10am - 5pm.
Thursday 9.30am - 7.30pm.
Friday 9.30am - 5pm.
Saturday 9.30 am - 5pm.
Sunday 1pm - 5pm.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Work: 0117 903 7202 [Tel]
- Fax: 0117 922 8081 [Fax]