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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.

Book/Journal Suggestion Form

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

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:

TK 2380.45 GAR 

306.47 GEL 

B OCEAN (Physical) Kna 

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 items are arranged on the shelves using the call numbers.

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


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.

Collections at NOL

The National Oceanographic Library uses an in-house classification scheme

If you need assistance finding materials please speak to library staff at the Help Desk at the National Oceanographic Library who will be pleased to help you.

The floor plan of the National Oceanographic Library shows the layout of the collections across the floors of the library.

These guides explain how to find and locate books, printed journals, reports and Loose Papers at NOL.

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

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


The National Oceanographic Library houses the Ocean and Earth Science collection of undergraduate [3rd year project] and taught masters [Thesis (Masters)] dissertations. The dissertations written in the most recent few years up to 2019 are shelved in the library at the end of the books sequence. All of the dissertations up to 2019 are listed in the library catalogue

Dissertations from 2020 onwards are stored as electronic versions on the SOES Dissertations SharePoint site - [request permission to assess the site] please note that currently there are no Geology or Natural Science projects available.


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 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. 

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

  • To connect to library resources such as databases and journals you will need to use the University’s VPN service called Globalprotect. Advice on how to set your connection up can be found on the iSolutions page How do I set up VPN on my device? 

  • 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

  • EndNote Click (formerly 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