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National Oceanographic Library: Collections at NOL

Guide to the National Oceanographic Library

Archives and special collections

The National Oceanographic Library holds a unique collection within its archives and special collections.

We have a digital archive which is available to view. 

Our physical collection includes scientific data, photographs, monographs, slides, videos and other media.

For further information please visit our archives and special collections webpage

Past Exam Papers

Past examination papers are available from this online database.

Call Numbers Explained

When you enter the details of the item that you want on the catalogue it will display a call number or code that tells you where the item is shelved.

The call number will usually look something like these examples:

REF TK 2380.45 GAR 

B OCEAN (Physical) Kna 

CC BIO (Ecol & Behav) Smi

Although the codes look different, they work in much the same way: the combinations of letters and numbers gives a location based on the subject content of the item. The three letters at the end of each number are the first three letters of the author’s family name. Call numbers help us to group items on similar subjects together. The signs at the end of the shelves in the library explain where to find each call number. 

The library floor plan will show you where items with particular call numbers are stored.

Ocean and Earth Science Undergraduate dissertations / Taught Masters dissertations / PhD Theses


The National Oceanographic Library houses the Ocean and Earth Science collection of undergraduate and taught masters dissertations. The dissertations written in the most recent few years are shelved in the library at the end of the books sequence. All of the dissertations are listed in the library catalogue - WebCat


The National Oceanographic Library holds print copies of all the Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton doctoral level theses in our archives; these are listed on the library catalogue - WebCat and many of these are now also available online from ePrints Soton Please ask staff at the Help Desk if you need to see a printed copy of a thesis. 


History of National Oceanographic Library

The original library collection was formed from the Discovery Library, housed in Queen Anne’s Gate, the Admiralty, London where it supported the members of the Discovery Committee between 1925 to 1945. The collection is rich in special collection items including expedition reports and books dating from the 1770s, archives of the Discovery Committee and the Discovery ships, including over 2,500 images of the expeditions between 1925–1940. The collection moved and formed the basis of the Library at the National Institute of Oceanography in Wormley, Surrey after the Second World War.

The National Oceanographic Library was given its title in the 1980s in recognition of its importance as a significant collection of marine resources in the UK. Its value as a national library continued to be maintained and the management structure was put in place working within in the University Library when it transferred to the Southampton Oceanography Centre in 1995. As part of the establishment of the Library in the new location, the collection expanded to include not only marine science with collections from the Department of Oceanography but also, marine geophysics resources from the Physics Department and geology resources from the Geology Department.

The Library continues to acquire resources from marine and earth science to support the education and research of the Centre. All of the resources within the National Oceanographic Library have been purchased with funding from National Oceanography Centre and the University of Southampton or are donated.

National Oceanographic Library Collections

The collection, which is comprehensive from the mid-19th century, includes books, reports , loose papers, expedition reports, journals, conference proceedings, maps, atlases and charts covering the subject areas of oceanography, deep-sea research and earth sciences including, geology and geophysics.

The National Oceanographic Library includes resources on estuarine, coastal and shelf sea circulation, wind wave dynamics, sediment transport processes, global sea level science, geodetic oceanography, marine technology and operational oceanography.

To check the collections at the National Oceanographic Library please use the library catalogue - WebCat

Collections at NOL

The National Oceanographic Library uses an in-house classification scheme for most of the collections with the exception of the Reference Collection and a small section of non-academic books which are arranged on shelves using the Library of Congress classification scheme.

Books are on the main level of the National Oceanographic Library (level 4). 

Most of the printed journals are on either level 4 (journal titles from A to N) or the lower floor [level 2] (journal titles from N to Z). A small number of journals are held in the NOL archives. If you need assistance finding materials please speak to library staff at the Help Desk who will be pleased to help you.

Course collection

Course Collection - The National Oceanographic Library [NOL] Course Collection is located next to the self-service machine. The collection is open access. Items can be issued for loan at the Help Desk whilst it is staffed during our loans service hours. Alternatively items can be borrowed using the self-service loans unit.

  • The collection contains:
    • Online stock (extracts, articles)
    • Copies of recommended textbooks. Books are arranged in call number (shelf mark) order.
    • Course boxes (located at the end of the book stock). Course boxes are arranged in alphanumeric course code order. They contain material supplied by tutors for specific courses
  • When the Library is open you can return items to the Help Desk or use the self-service loans unit. When the Library is closed, a box for returns is available outside the entrance. Course Collection items must be returned to the library from which they were borrowed.
  • Items borrowed during the day are due for return by 11:00 the following day.This applies every day except Friday and Saturday when items are due for return by 11:00 on Monday.
  • We always welcome your comments, queries or feedback regarding either the course collection in particular, or material required for undergraduate course work in general.
    Please contact us

Borrowing books from the Library

Find out more about borrowing books from our library guide.

Includes information about:

  • how many books you can borrow
  • how long you can borrow the book

Cannot Find What You Are Looking For?

  • Is the book out on loan? - Place a hold
  • Is the book at another library site? - Place a hold
  • Is the book not held by the library at all? - Use the Inter library loan service to borrow it from another library
  • Recommend a book? - Contact your Academic Engagement Librarian if you would like to recommend a book we should buy for the library.

Book/Journal Suggestion Form

Use this form to suggest items to purchase for the National Oceanographic Library collections.