Introduction to the Albert Sloman Library

Are you new here and want to find out more about the Albert Sloman Library? Then look no further! The library is an important place on campus and knowing what we offer can help you get more from your studies.

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 architects 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 (during normal circumstances)
  • 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 and individual study pods (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 our ‘Book a Librarian’ service 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.


The Library is committed to ensuring that all students can make full use of its services and collections. We provide an accessibility service which includes:

  • 1-1 Welcome tours.
  • Collection service.
  • ‘Request an Accessible Copy’ service.
  • Assistive Technologies, for example Sensus Access.
  • Assistive Equipment, for example book baskets, magnifiers and height adjustable desks.
  • Hearing Loop at our Library Helpdesk.

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.

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! 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 loads of study spaces for you too! In fact, turn left at the end of the lobby and you’ll find your way to the Library Reading Room, a huge study zone with more PCs, printers, and desk spaces than you can shake a stick at.

It’s in the Library Reading Room that you’ll find our snazzy Laptop Loans lockers. Just scan your student 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 has recently been refurbished and re-opened in 2021 with some additional safety measures. Read more about the Paternoster in action on our website.

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.

If you’re visiting us 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 separate group study room here (and on floors 3, 4 & 5!) 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 provide 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 amenities 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 architecture. 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.

Unlike the other floors, the South Wing of floor five 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 in 2019 and 2021!

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 laying down in the area outside the library.

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