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Online reference services

Online reference services are available to anyone with a Lewisham library card.
Libraries services

Limited services are available at Hub and Community Libraries due to COVID-19 restrictions. Find out more about changes to our library service.

We are keeping COVID-secure measures in place across our buildings to protect our staff, residents and visitors

Please continue to wear a face covering if you can and maintain social distance in our buildings. This includes our libraries, leisure centres and learning centres.

You can read the Government's current COVID-19 guidlines on its website.

We have a range of online reference services which include business databases, encyclopaedias, dictionaries and historical newspapers, and most of which can be accessed remotely. To start using them follow the links below and enter your Lewisham library card number when prompted. 

Academic papers

Academic papers offer well informed arguments and studies on a variety of topics including health, politics, animal welfare, farming practices and history.

Access to Research
Free access to a wide range of published academic research covering a variety of subject areas including medicine, art, history and the sciences.

Issues Online
A comprehensive reference source addressing contemporary social issues. Issues Online covers 60 topics and provides a wide range of information and opinions on each one.

Art databases

Interested in art, architecture, structures, plans, and artist signatures? Access art databases for free with your library card.

Oxford Art Online
The most comprehensive online reference resource for all aspects of the visual arts worldwide from prehistory to the present day. You can find information on artists, architects, designers, patrons, collectors, dealers, publishers, printers, writers and scholars. This database also covers a range of mediums, including film and video, liturgical and ritual objects, and textiles and embroidery.


Find more about the lives of people who shaped history. You can find other biographies and autobiographies in Overdrive and RB Digital.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
The Oxford DNB contains 50,000 biographies of people who shaped the history of the British Isles and beyond, from the earliest times to the year 2004.


Got an idea that you would like to turn into a business? Find information on your sector, what you need to know about hiring staff and all other legal requirements to get you started.

COBRA (Complete Business Reference Advisor)
Practical information for starting, running and managing a small business. Find checklists for new businesses, legal requirements for hiring staff, if there are any changes in legislation that may affect you and much more.

Access to Research
Free access to a wide range of published academic research covering many different subject areas including all aspects of business – marketing, finance, economics and advertising.

Encyclopaedias and dictionaries

If you don't know very much about a topic use your library card to search through all of these sources for free from your web browser.

Credo Reference 
Credo is a giant online reference library that provides you with access to a selection of 504 reference books. It includes encyclopaedias, dictionaries, thesauruses and books of quotations, not to mention a range of subject-specific titles covering everything from art to accountancy and literature to law.

Encyclopaedia Britannica
This is the online version of the famous encyclopaedia, with a world atlas, timelines, comparative country data, international news feeds, and much more. Also available is the Britannica Library Junior, aimed at 5–10-year-olds and the Britannica Library Student, aimed at 10–14-year-olds.

Oxford Dictionaries
With up-to-date online dictionaries, thesauruses, and language reference content based on the largest language research programme in the world, Oxford Dictionaries is an extensive and smart-linked English language resource. It offers quick search access to definitions of words, phrases, and idioms, with expert guidance on grammar, spelling, and style and usage; plus specialist guides for legal and technical writing.

Oxford English Dictionary (OED)
The OED is widely recognised as the most authoritative and comprehensive dictionary of English in the world. It also traces the evolution of more than 600,000 words over the last 1,500 years through 3 million quotations from classic literature and specialist periodicals to film scripts and cookery books.

Oxford Reference Online
With your library card you have access to Oxford Reference Online: Premium Collection, which is a vast online reference library of over 212 titles. It offer both in-depth content and authoritative, quick-reference coverage.

Ephemera/Local interest

Do you want to know what life was like in the past? Or perhaps what events unfolded in a specific area? Then these databases are for you. You can also find out more about local history by visiting our local history and heritage pages.

Family and local history

Search for your ancestors on the library edition of Ancestry.com which includes all of the UK censuses from 1841 to 1911, plus births, marriages and deaths. 

To login, please click on the  link and enter your library card number and PIN, then on the new page, click the link for Ancestry Library.

Find My Past
Family history and genealogy website offering access to a collection of over 2 billion historical records covering the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Pacific Islands and other parts of the globe.

Available in Lewisham, Downham and Deptford branches only.

John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera
This collection provides access to thousands of items selected from the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera, offering unique insights into the changing nature of everyday life in Britain in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Categories include nineteenth-century entertainment, the book trade, popular prints, crimes, murders and executions, and advertising.

Illustrated London News Historical Archive 1842 to 2003 
This publication presented a vivid picture of British and world events including wars, disasters, royal affairs, social affairs, and the arts and sciences. The archive contains over 260,000 fully searchable colour pages.


Find sports, history, information and gossip by flicking through our wide selection of magazines online.

Magazines on Libby
This gives you access to over 660 magazines titles in 21 languages and their back issues too. Browse our collection of popular magazine titles with no holds and and no limit to the number of magazines you can borrow. Also available as a mobile app - Libby.

Press Reader
Press Reader has nearly 4000 magazines in 60 languages from over 100 countries. The magazines cover technology, fashion, parenting, sports and much more. Also available as a mobile app.


Interested in music, musicians, music-making, and music scholarship? You can access the music databases below with your library card.

Oxford Music Online
Instant access to the world's premier authority on all aspects of music. With your library card you have access to both the Oxford Dictionary of Music and the Oxford Companion to Music.


With your library card you can search through thousands of quality newspapers without adverts, paywalls, content split over multiple pages or signing in and out of multiple sites.

Press Reader
Access 6000 newspapers from over 100 countries in 60 languages. Also available as a mobile app.

19th Century British Library Newspapers
Contains full runs of influential national and regional newspapers representing different political and cultural segments of the nineteenth-century British society. 

Times Digital Archive 1785 to 2007
First published in 1785, the Times of London is widely considered to be the world's 'newspaper of record'. The Times Digital Archive allows users to search over 200 years of this invaluable historical source.

Illustrated London News Historical Archive 1842 to 2003 
This publication presents a vivid picture of British and world events including wars, disasters, royal affairs, social affairs, and the arts and sciences. The archive contains over 260,000 fully searchable colour pages.

British Newspaper Archive – community edition 1708 to 2009
These newspapers cover every aspect of local, regional and national news. You can find family notices, news articles, advertisements and more.
Available in Lewisham, Downham and Deptford branches only.


Library Service

London Borough Of Lewisham Third Floor, Laurence House, 1 Catford Road, London, SE6 4RU