Open Day: take a tour of the Albert Sloman Library

Open Days are your chance to explore the place that will become your second home, so it’s fair to say they’re a big deal. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 the library is currently closed, so it’s sadly not possible to visit us in person. But that need not hold you back. With our whistlestop virtual tour, you can get to know us from the comfort and safety of your own home.

Located in the picturesque eastern edge of the campus, the Colchester library is a huge space comprised of two individual wings set across six floors. For the architechts among you, it’s also a fantastic and much-loved example of twentieth-century Brutalism.

At a glance

We offer a wide range of services here at the Albert Sloman Library – more than we could fit in a short list! But here’s a snapshot of some of our main services, to give you a flavour of what you can expect from your library:

  • 24/7 opening hours.
  • Access to over 1 million items, including books, articles, CDs and DVDs.
  • Access to hundreds of online databases with countless articles, ebooks, movies, theatre productions, and more.
  • Over one thousand individual study spaces, as well as group study areas (including bookable study space).
  • Hundreds of PCs (including some at height adjustable desks).
  • Borrowable laptops.
  • Free printing.
  • Live chat support.
  • A noise textline, so you can anonymously report disturbances to staff.
  • Personal support from subject experts to help you get the best out of your studies.
  • Specialist academic and research support services.
  • Request a resource and Interlibrary Loan Services.
  • Access to an archive including a wide range of historically pertinent resources.
  • Access to one of the most comprehensive collections of outstanding Latin American art in the UK.

Entrance lobby

When you enter the Albert Sloman Library, the first thing you’ll see is the main lobby. This is where you’ll be checking out and returning your books, getting assistance from our friendly staff, or maybe just chilling out with your friends.

Located near the entrance in the main helpdesk. Helpdesk staff have wide knowledge on everything library related and are here to assist you 24/7.

You see those green cabinets at the back of the picture? That’s the Short Loan Collection, a small selection of really high-demand books that can only be borrowed for a few hours at a time – it means you can always get access to the books you need! The cabinet works like a vending machine, except instead of putting in money, you just scan your card.

Just beyond the helpdesk are our self-service check-out machines: in our library you can collect any book from the shelves and loan it to yourself within minutes! And returning books is made easy with self-service machines too. No need to login or scan your card here; from either inside or outside, just post your books into our special machine and it’ll do the rest for you.

Lovers of fiction and free books, turn right here and you’ll enter our chic little bookswap. Browse the collection and if you see something you like, you can take it home with you. Just be sure to donate a book for others to read before you go!

At the end of the main lobby is the Postgraduate Study Room. As the name suggests, this area is reserved for postgrads and can only be accessed by scanning your card. But don’t worry undergrads, we’ve got tons of study space for you too! In fact, turn left at the end of the lobby and you’ll find your way to the Large Reading Room, a huge study zone with more PCs, printers, and desk spaces than you can shake a stick at.

It’s in the Large Reading Room that you’ll find our whizzy Laptop Loans lockers. Just scan your card and you can borrow a laptop from us for free and take it anywhere on campus!

Finally, perhaps what we’re most famous for here at the Albert Sloman Library is our historic paternoster lift – one of only two left in the country. It’s a bit like a ski-lift: there’s a series of cars which move continuously up and down the building without stopping. It’s perfectly safe, but we do have two modern lifts for those who prefer a more conventional mode of travel.

Our paternoster is so iconic, former students travel back to us from all over the world just to take another ride on it. In 2014, a couple who met at Essex as students returned to have some wedding photos taken on it!

The paternoster is currently being refurbished and is set to reopen in September 2020, just in time for you new starters.

First floor

The first floor is largely taken up by the Student Collection. This area contains your essential readings and other high-demand books. Normally, when you loan a book from us you’ll get it for twelve weeks, but if you take it from here it’ll be yours for seven days. This helps ensure everyone gets access to the resources they need to be a success.

Also on the first floor is our Special Collections Room. From here you can access our archives, containing masses of fantastic historic resources. From handwritten Sigmund Freud letters, to a book from the personal library of Henry VIII, there’s loads to explore.

When you finally get to visit in person, you’ll want to check the display cabinets in the main lobby: they’re full of interesting items from our archive.

Second floor

The second floor is split between the North Wing and, you guessed it, the South Wing. Here you’ll find books for subjects like history, philosophy, psychology, computing, biology, and hotel management.

In the North Wing is a big, bright, modern, and open study space with loads of PCs for you to access. This is an Individual Quiet Study Zone and is monitored regularly by library staff so it’s great for those looking for a fairly peaceful spot to do some work.

There’s also a seperate group study room here, for if you need to collaborate with others. What’s more, it’s bookable in advance, meaning you can be sure of finding the right spot to work on a group project with your friends.

The South Wing of floor two has very recently been revamped, there’s hundreds of desk spaces, all with plug sockets, as well as plenty of PCs (including more accessible height adjustable desks).

We’ve also got different kinds of seating and study areas here – including some cool James-Bond-villian-esque swivel chairs that get great views of the campus!

Third Floor

The third floor is where you’ll find books on economics, accounting, sport science, business, marketing, and more. Again, The North and South Wings have a slightly different aesthetic, but both provide desk space (with plugs), PCs aplenty, quiet study areas, and a group study room.

Fourth Floor

If you come to Essex to study subjects like sociology, human rights, law, or politics, this is where you’re going to be spending a lot of your time.

Floor four has all the same ameneties as floor three, but there is one perk to coming all the way up here to study: the higher you go in the building, the better the views get. Study on the North Wing and you’ll get an excellent view across the nearby lake and parkland. Study on the South Wing and you’ll get to see the campus and its Brutalist architechture. Insider tip: sit here and you’ll also get to study in the glow of some fantastic sunsets.

Fifth Floor

The fifth floor contains books on art, education, language, literature, film, and theatre – it also contains our DVD collection. Things work a little differently up here compared to other areas of the library. On the North Wing you can enjoy quiet study, or work with your friends in a group study room, just like on the floors below.

But, the South Wing is reserved for silent study and is monitored regularly by staff. It’s a great spot if you find even a small amount of noise distracts you from your work.

We can’t wait to see you!

The University of Essex is a great place to study and here at the Albert Sloman Library we have excellent facilities, as well as kind and helpful staff. In fact, in 2018 Essex was named ‘University of the Year’ by Times Higher Education and the library team was shortlisted for the ‘Outstanding Library Team’ award the following year too!

As our namesake and founding Vice Chancellor once said: ‘the library is the university’s heart’, so if you choose to study at Essex we’ll make sure you won’t regret it.


If you’re still not completely convinced by how great the library is, this is the clincher: study with us you’ll almost certainly bump into Pebbles – famously known as ‘Campus Cat’ – somewhere along the way!

Campus Cat in the library

Why not check out our Instagram page for loads more great pictures of our library? Or follow us on Twitter and Facebook to see what we’re up to? You can also watch a video tour of the Essex University campus below!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.