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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.


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

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

Can't Find What You're Looking For?


  • If the University doesn't have the book you need, email us to suggest a book for the library
  • If the book is only available in print, email us to let us know and we will do our best to get hold of an ebook for you

Journal articles

  • Make sure you're using either SVE (Southampton Virtual Environment) or VPN (Virtual Private Network) - for more information look at our page about off-campus access
  • Try to find an open access copy - these are available for free: 
  • Unpaywall, Open Access Button and CORE Discovery are all Chrome and Firefox extensions that find legal open access copies. Open Access Helper works the same way for iOS and Safari

  • Kopernio a Chrome extension that finds articles from our library subscriptions and open access versions
  • Google: if you find an article that is behind a paywall, try copy & pasting the article title into a search engine. If there is a copy in a repository it will often display on the first page of search results 

  • Still no luck? Try our interlibrary loan service. We will try our best to get hold of articles for you, although it may not be possible or be delayed while libraries are closed

PhD/ MPhil theses

  • the library holds print copies of all University of Southampton doctoral level theses; these are listed on WebCat
  • many of these are now also available online from ePrints Soton

Undergraduate/ taught masters dissertations

  • The Library does not normally hold undergraduate or taught masters dissertations


Book/Journal Suggestion Form

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