Visiting Catholic National Library

Welcome to the Catholic National Library

The Catholic National Library has over 70,000 books, pamphlets and periodicals, including theology, spirituality and related subjects, biography, history (including Catholic Family History), and many works not freely available elsewhere. The reading room contains the reference stock, current journals, and back numbers of the most frequently consulted journals. There is also a rare collection of Catholic fiction.

The Catholic National Library currently houses MISSION REGISTERS which list baptisms, confirmations, marriages, deaths etc. dating back as early as 1694. These are typescripts and a few other printed books on loan from the Catholic Family History Society. The Library also houses the Thomas Merton Collection.


Due to Staff Shortages

we request that anyone wishing to visit the library

make an appointment either by

phone (01252 543818), post or email


New! CNL Shop Front

Do your on-line shopping via the CNL Shop Front and the Library will receive commission on your purchases. For more information, see our Appeal page.

New! Mission Registers on CD!

The Library is developing a collection of Mission Registers on CD from various sources which may be viewed at the library.

New Books

To see books recently added click on

Recent Acquisitions

Building the Collection

As members will know, the collection grows continuously both by purchase and donation. The annual spend is of the order of £3-5,000, depending on available funds, which translates into an average of about 30 new books a month. The Library’s policy is to keep up-to-date with new and interesting publications in its field. For instance, the Library aims to stock all the best commentaries on scripture, obtaining the latest editions wherever appropriate. Subject areas that are constantly updated include:

  • Spirituality
  • Theology
  • Church History
  • Ecumenism
  • Interrelations between religions
  • Philosophy
  • Biographies

The coverage of the collection is also constantly being expanded, for instance recent additions include books on all the major religions. Over the years the Library has benefited from many donations of collections, some of very high quality. In a typical year we add about 1,000 good quality books from donated collections.

Visit the Library

The Library opens 3 days a week and some Saturdays (by arrangement).

Credit Card Facilities

The Library has arranged facilities to receive payments by Credit and Debit cards.


Much of the work of the Library has been done by Volunteers working under the direction of the professional Librarian. But we need more of these Voluntary Library Assistants (VLAs)! VLAs need to be able to commit to working at least half a day a week, have a professional background, although not necessarily in librarianship, be practicing Catholics and happy to work in a small team. Please contact the Librarian if you could help in any way.


The opening hours of the Library at the new location are dependent on two things: the needs of visitors and the availability of volunteers to staff the Library. At the moment we have 4 volunteers and a growing number of visitors.


The Library has compiled a number of reading lists. The first lists were put together primarily for priests and religious as an aid to CONTINUING FORMATION. Click Continuing Formation for full information.


Change of Name

In June 2007 the Library changed its name from “Catholic Central Library” to “Catholic National Library”. There were several reasons for this but the most important was to reflect more closely the Library’s role as a national resource.

Online Catalogue

Several years ago (in March 2010) we set about making the Library catalogue available on-line. Thanks to the huge amount of work by numerous volunteers we can say that the book catalogue is now available on-line. In the light of changes in technology and with the aim of making the catalogue sharable we are developing a plan to upgrade to a Library Information System with OPAC (members will be able to check their lending on-line). For a catalogue approaching 70,000, this will be a huge undertaking and will require a lot of support, both financial and voluntary.