Subject resources

While the libraries in Westminster have good general collections in all subjects, the books, online resources and staff are especially strong in a range of key subjects. Each key subject collection is held at a particular library, where the experienced staff will be pleased to help you with your research.

This guide will help you to find non-fiction books in your own local library, and point you to more information about our specialist subject collections.

The library service can recommend great websites on many subjects, some freely available and others - the Online Resources collection - requiring library membership for remote access. The specialist libraries also offer access to extra, high-value online resources which can only be used within the library, known as the In House Specials.

1. Finding non-fiction books

Finding books in the non-fiction subject areas is easy in Westminster lending libraries (reference libraries and special collections are not organised in the same way). All you need to do is check the category list and browse the books in that category. To find a specific book, use the library catalogue.

Here are the category codes and their abbreviations (which are on the spine of every book):

Category code Subjects covered
ART Art and Architecture: Artists, Drawings, Sculpture, Architecture, History of Art
BEL Belief and Thought: Philosophy, Religions, Sacred Works, Metaphysics
BIOG Biography: Autobiography, Biographies, Collected Letters
BODY Body and Mind: Medicine, Health Service, Psychology, Relationships, Health, Keep Fit, Self Improvement
BUS Business and Management: Businesses, Economics, Job Hunting, Accounts, Management, Marketing, Office Skills, Shares
COM Computing: Computer Programmes, Hardware, PCs, Software, Word Processing
CRA Crafts and Collecting: Antiques, Drawing, Flower Arranging, Hobbies, Knitting, Needlework, Painting, Soft Furnishings, Stamp Collecting, Upholstery
CRI Crime: Murder, Piracy, True Crime DIY Building, Decorating, Home
DIY Do It Yourself and the Home: Electrics, Interior Design, Plumbing, Woodwork
EDU Education and Careers: Schools, School Governors, Study Skills, Teaching, Careers, Grants, Higher Education
ENV Environmental Issues: Animal Rights, Conservation, Energy, Green Issues, Pollution
EUR European Union: its structure, history, laws and policies
FAS Fashion and Beauty: Fashion, Hairdressing, Beauty, Cosmetics, Costume
FOOD Food and Drink: Cooking, Recipes, Wine, Beer
GAR; Gardening: Garden Design, Garden Pools, House Plants, Landscape Design
HIS History: Archaeology, History, Flags, Genealogy, Prehistoric Man, Surnames, World Wars
LANG Language: Dictionaries, Language Courses, Linguistics, Phrase Books, Alphabets
LAW Law: General Law Books and Books for Legal Expert, Legal System, Legal Texts
LIT Literature: Essays, Humour, Literary Criticism, Poetry, Quotations, Writing
LON London: History of London
MEDIA Media and Performance: Theatre, Dance, Film, Newspapers, Public Speaking, Radio, TV, TV/Film Scripts, Card Tricks, Conjuring
MIL Military: Airforce, Army, Military Aircraft, Military Uniforms, Navy, Regiments, Tanks, Weapons
MUS Music: Classical Composers, Classical Music, Instruments, Jazz, Opera, Pop Music
MYTH Myths and Traditions: Myths and Legends, Customs, Christmas Traditions, Proverbs, Superstitions
NAT Nature: Wild Animals, Birds, Insects, Mammals, Plants, Reptiles
PARA The Paranormal: Astrology, Dreams, Fortune Telling, Ghosts, Prediction, Supernatural, UFOs
PAR Parenting: Pregnancy, Child Development, Adoption, Babies' Names, Cooking for Children, Making Toys, Pre- School Education
PER Personal Finance: Benefits, Conveyancing, Home Buying, Pensions, Personal Taxation, Tenancy, Wills
PET Pets: Any animal kept as a pet
PHO Photography: Amateur Video, Photography, Photographs
POL Politics and Government: Central Government, Elections, International Politics, Local Government, Political Parties
SCI Science and Industry: Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Dinosaurs, Electronics, Geology, Mathematics, Mechanics, Physics, Technology, Weather
SOC Society: Sociology, Class, Etiquette, Housing, Lesbian and Gay Issues, Race Relations, Retirement, Social Work, Weddings, Women
SPO Sports and Games: Athletics, Card Games, Cricket, Football, Golf, Indoor Games, Self Defence, Water Sports
TRAN Transport: Airlines, Bicycles, Canals, Car Maintenance, Driving, Highway Code, Railways, Shipping, Trams
TRA Travel and Holidays: Atlases, Geography, Restaurant Guides, Tourism, Town Plans, Travel Guides
Books in Languages other than English If you are looking for books written in a language other than English, these are in a separate section with yellow labels and a three letter code to indicate the language eg FRE for French. Find out more about our languages collection

2. Art and design

Westminster's nationally recognised Art and Design Collection can be found on the first and second floors of Westminster Reference Library. There are more than 8000 reference books covering painting, drawing, fashion, furniture, architecture, antiques, ceramics, sculpture, textiles, jewellery, graphics, gardens, interiors and installations. There are exhibition catalogues, art magazines and a lending collection of over 5000 art books too.

Read more about what the collection can offer and browse through the books available on the Art & Design Collection home page.

3. Business information

There are 4 Business Information Points (BIPs) offering excellent resources and networking opportunities for business:

Whether you're taking your first steps as an entrepreneur, or looking for new ideas for your business, our BIPs can help with regular training and networking events and great resources. You can read more about what's on offer on the BIPs page, and browse the latest books in the collection on the libraries' Business Information page.

4. Chinese

Westminster Chinese Library is based at Charing Cross Library on the edge of London's Chinatown, and holds one of the largest collections of Chinese materials in UK public libraries: over 50.000 Chinese adult and children's books for loan and reference plus CDs and DVDs for loan.

Visit the libraries' Chinese Library subject page to find out more about what is on offer, including Chinese speaking staff, events and a national subscription service of Chinese books. You can also browse the books available and search the library catalogue using Chinese characters or Pinyin.

5. Health information

Funded by the NHS, Westminster Libraries Health Information Project promotes health information in libraries by providing books to borrow, including bibliotherapy collections, and a programme of regular and one-off health-related events and information stalls in libraries. The two strands come together in the Share a Book groups held in several libraries.

Read more about what's on offer and find book group meeting details via the Health Information home page. You can browse through the latest health books available from your library too, including the books on prescription, teen books on prescription and mood boosting books collections.

6. Languages

Do you want to learn a new language or read a book in another language?

We have language courses in book and CD format for loan.

Most Westminster lending libraries have a collection of fiction in languages other than English. To browse the courses and books available in a wide range of languages, visit the Languages home page.

7. Law and UK official publications

The ground floor at Westminster Reference Library has the main reference collection of law and UK official publications resources in Westminster libraries. Knowledgeable staff can help you to find what you are looking for, whether in our collection, in other libraries, or on the internet.

The Law Collection includes selected legal text books, law reports, legislation, journals and encyclopaedias.

The UK Official Publications Collection includes archival holdings of selected statistics, reports and papers, some going back to the early part of the twentieth century with online access also via Public Information Online (PIO)

To find out about WestLaw and Public Information Online, exclusive databases available to library members, visit Law and UK Official Publications.

8. Music

Westminster Music Library holds extensive loan collections of books, scores, performance parts and sheet music.

Find out more about what the Music Library has to offer (including Sibelius and a digital piano for customer use), browse through the latest books in the collection - as well as the orchestral and vocal sets available for hire - by visiting the Music Library home page.

9. Performing arts

Westminster Reference Library in Leicester Square, at the heart of London's theatre and cinema world, has a collection of some 15,000 books covering the performing arts, a third of which are available to borrow. Our books and journals cover performance in all its variety: broadcast media, cabaret, circus, dance, film, magic, mime, music hall, pantomime, puppetry and theatre.

Browse the books on offer and find out more about the collection, including a wide range of directories and journals and an extensive play set collection, by visiting the Performing Arts home page.

10. Sherlock Holmes

The Sherlock Holmes Collection is a unique resources of stories, information about Holmes' creator Conan Doyle, photographs, cuttings and journals. The Collection is held at Mayfair Library, but is accessible by appointment only.

To browse the extensive collection of books, find links to further information and contact the librarian to make an appointment, visit the Sherlock Holmes Collection home page.

Last updated: 10 February 2020