The National Art Library (NAL) is located in beautiful and historic reading rooms overlooking the John Madejski Garden at V&A South Kensington. We hold the UK's most comprehensive public reference collection of literature on the fine and decorative arts, including books, journals, exhibition catalogues, auction house sales catalogues, comics, e-resources and much more. Some material, including archives, children's books and Theatre & Performance research collections, is currently inaccessible due to the move to new study rooms at V&A East. Full access will resume in 2024.
Sign up to be the first to hear about National Art Library news and events:
The Library is open on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, from 11.00 to 17.00.
Although an appointment is not necessary, you are strongly advised to order any items you wish to consult in advance of your visit via our online catalogue. Item requests must be placed by 15.30 for same day delivery. The Special Collections desk closes at 16.30.
Our online enquiry and copying services are available.
Visit the NAL blog for the latest updates about the Library, and sign up to the NAL newsletter.
Food and drink are not permitted in the National Art Library. Any bags should be deposited at the cloakrooms where you will need to show your library card. A clear plastic bag is provided to decant any items you need to use in the Library. Please see conditions of use for further information.
View the location of the Library on our digital map.
Disability access to the Library
Find out about access to and facilities for people with disabilities in the National Art Library and our other study rooms.
Educational group visits
If you are a group involved in researching, studying, working or participating in the arts, you can discover more about the services and collections of the Library through one of our group visit sessions.
In addition to the National Art Library, we also have a number of other study rooms, both on- and off-site, where it is possible to view over 2 million objects from the reference collections and to conduct private research.
To request items to view in the Library and our other study rooms, you will first need to join the Library by creating a user account. This can be done in advance or during your visit.
Create an account by completing our online form. Once you have set a password, you will be able to login to the Library Catalogue and place requests.
On your first visit to the Library you will need to show current ID (e.g. passport, bank card, national ID card, etc.) and proof of address (e.g. bank statement, utility bill, driving licence, etc.), in order to complete the joining process and be issued with a Library card.
Renewing your Library card
If you wish to renew your Library membership, please speak to a member of staff on your next visit to the Library. If your membership has expired and you wish to request items in advance of your visit, please contact us online and we will extend your expiry date. On your visit to the Library we will then issue you with your new Library card on receipt of your ID.
Search the Library Catalogue
Find and request print collections available to view in our study rooms, as well as to discover our e-resources, which include databases, dictionaries, encyclopaedias, e-books and e-journals. Some e-resources are only available to view when you are in our study rooms due to licensing arrangements.
You can find information on how to search the Library Catalogue and request material in our downloadable instructions.
All items may only be consulted in the Library and cannot be borrowed.
We recommend that you request items in advance of your visit to make the most of your time in the Library. You can request up to 8 items at a time. Please note that some rare items can only be requested during your visit or are available by appointment – this is indicated in the Library Catalogue.
Our staff can help you with questions about our library collections and services, as well as specific queries related to art and design.
Before submitting a question be sure to check the FAQ tab as we may already have an answer.
Our subject guides on a range of topics, including auction house sale catalogues, artists and the history of the V&A can be found alongside other reading lists in the 'course reserves' feature of the Library Catalogue.
Copying is subject to UK copyright law and permitted for private study or non-commercial research. The amount you copy must be ‘fair and justifiable’ and no more than a single chapter or 10% of a total work.
You may take photographs using hand-held devices or at the camera stands provided. Please note that flash or use of other artificial light is not permitted in order to protect our collections and avoid disrupting other readers. Please treat all material with great care and make use of the book supports and weights. Ask a member of staff if you need help or advice in handling any item.
Book scanners are available and free to use with a USB drive. Bring your own or purchase a USB drive at the Library counter.
If you are unable to visit the library in person, you can order copies online.
For photographs intended for publication, please contact the V&A Images team.
We are part of the national inter-library loans (ILL) community, which is committed to the co-operation of libraries in sharing resources.
The Library holds around one million books on subjects central to the V&A collections including prints, drawings, paintings, photographs, ceramics and glass, textiles and fashion, furniture, design, metalwork and sculpture. Our rich collections range from medieval manuscripts to contemporary artists' books and armorial bindings to comics and graphic novels.
Visit our blog to keep up-to-date with the latest Library news, exciting new service developments and to discover more about our collections, displays and research projects.