What to see in London this Christmas

London is one of the prettiest cities at any time of year. At Christmas it is especially gorgeous.

We asked library staff for their favourite bits of this world class city and got some interesting results. From Handsome Hampstead to finding spiritual solace in the big shops up west, this city’s got something for everything.


Lights in Central London

Central London

“Very lively, lots of lights that cheers me up”

The lighting of the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square

“Christmas is not a big deal in my family and never has been, but I attended this a few years ago with someone new to London, and it was such a nice festive feeling of community. You can bring your own flask of mulled wine too!”



Festive markets


“I love to go to some of the interesting Christmas events and markets and soak up the atmosphere, discover something new and find unusual Christmas presents”.

German Christmas Markets!

“Wherever they are! I love all the tat. I don’t buy much but I love all the random stuff that comes out at this time of year, and drinking a bit of gluwein and a hot dog whilst looking at all the stuff is great fun”.

Craft markets and going to musicals

“Love ’em”

The Southbank, London

“The lights, the Christmas market and events. It’s always magical at night”.



“Not a clue, I have never spent Christmas in London! I do want to try the iceskating this year though!”

“Canada water ice rink. Best in London”



The big department stores

“I just like it – but not when they are too busy”

“Visit the large department stores – Selfridges, Fortnum and Mason, Liberty to buy a tree decoration”

Fortnum & Mason

“Every year I treat myself to a select few items from the food hall, like preserves or biscuits or chutney”

Oxford Street

“Love the Steel drum band on Oxford Street, Christmas sales”



Out and about in nature

Churches and cathedrals

“I find going into religious buildings at Christmastime, and listening to the music that is made in them, very uplifting”.

The Heath
“A good walk on Hampstead Heath on boxing day is a great way to make room for some more mince pies”.

“I also like to walk in Epping Forest”.


Home comforts


“East London – where I live – and  the Strand. I like to see how East London changes over Christmas, it gives you an idea of how different and multicultural that part of town is. The Strand is always beautiful and they are all light up with musicals signs and xmas lights”


“Stay in for a nice rest”


“Sharing a warm Christmas pudding and brandy creme with Colin”



This year (2017) the Northampton Square Library will be open 27th – 29th December 10 am – 6 PM for self-service and reference only use. Check Library Services website for more information on library opening times.

What’s you favourite place in London at Christmas? Tell us below in the comments or tag us in your instagram posts or use the hashtag #CityLibraryXmas

15 books you really need to read this Christmas

Christmas is the perfect time to snuggle up beneath the blankets or next to an environmentally friendly peat fire burner and enjoy a good read. Reading is also a good way to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of a busy home during the festive period.

We asked staff at CityLibrary for their favourite Christmas books and got some great recommendations.


‘Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.’

Spot on'”

The Twelve Days of Christmas

“This book is basically the song with pictures, I always have trouble remembering all of the rhyme but my kids love shouting FIVE GOLD RINGS !!!!!”

Box of Delights by John Masefield*

“The wolves are running and the evil Abner Brown and his gang are on the prowl. They’re after a magical box, but Kay has it, and he’ll fight to keep it”.


“I don’t read during Christmas, busy enjoying relaxing/socialising with friends and families”


Hercule Poirot’s Christmas 

“A festive murder mystery full of family intrigue.  A bit like my own dysfunctional family, except more lethal”.

Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs

“Shows Father Christmas in an interesting and humorous light and has elements for both kids and adults.”

Hogfather by Sir Terry Pratchett*

“It’s an entertaining look at Christmas and winter traditions through the distorted lens of Discworld, and features Death (tall chap, hood and scythe) being forced to take on the role of Father Christmas/The Hogfather while his granddaughter sorts out the world”.

‘Twas the night before Christmas

“It was a gift for my daughter and is beautifully illustrated” says one member of staff; “because it rhymes” says another.


“The short story The Dead IDK if it takes place at Christmas but there is a party and it has a very evocative scene where a character watches snow falling from the the window.”

A Christmas Carol

“Reminds me of Christmas”

“Just because”

“The Christmas spirits reminding us all of Christmases past, why we should  enjoy the present and to help people in need.  The amazing change in Scrooge and how it made life better for everyone around him”.

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

“These short stories are quick reads in between meals that never fail to leave me in stitches”.

MR James*

“A most spooky collection. Spine chillingly good, like a cool slushie”.

Gawain and Greene Knight

“Love the lines about Christmas ‘On þe morne, as vch mon myneȜ þat tyme, joy reigns in every dwelling in the world“.

The Gospels

“I have heard the Christmas story as told in the Gospels every year for many years in church, and I like the familiarity of it”.

Harry Potter saga*

“I used to do it in school, taking advantage of the two weeks off. Now I don’t always do it, but I always feel Christmas as Harry’s time”

shooting star

*All books with asterisks are held by our friends in Islington Libraries. Anyone from City can join with a valid City card.


This year (2017) the Northampton Square Library will be open 27th – 29th December 10 am – 6 PM for self-service and reference only use. Check Library Services website for more information on library opening times.

What’s your favourite holiday reads? Tell us in the comments below.

Fairytale of #CityLibraryXmas

Christmas is a time of joy and good tunes. Whether you are having fun with family or friends, or spending a little bit of time revising, music can lift the spirits, energise or relax and help you bond with other people.

We asked members of staff from across City Library what their favourite festive tracks were. We got a lot of responses. Fairytale of New York and Last Christmas were both popular, but some very interesting tracks were added.

Listen to our Spotify playlist below.


Bianco Natal and Scende la Neve

“They are all Italian songs, we used to sing them in primary school (our teacher used to play guitar – very homey!)

The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York

“I love the lyrics!” says one. “Great to sing-a-long to” says another.

Last Christmas

“George Michael, school disco memories !!”

Silent Night and Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody

“Remind me of people I miss”

Anything from Muppet Christmas Carol

“The best sing-along songs for Christmas” says Chloe.

Oh Holy Night

Lynn chose this. She said “At the line “Fall on your knees, O hear the angels’ voices” it gives me goose pimples and makes me cry – every time, no matter who is singing – King’s College choir or Mariah Carey.”

Tim Minchin’s White Wine In The Sun

Samantha says “I’m not religious but like a lot of non-religious people I enjoy Christmas for the chance to spend time with family and friends and this song is all about an Australian family waiting for their children to travel home for Christmas and meet them, where they’re all outside, drinking white wine in the sun and I’m not Australian either so I really like the different image from the usual snowy winter festivals we think of in Europe”.


This year (2017) the Northampton Square Library will be open 27th – 29th December 10 am – 6 PM for self-service and reference only use. Check Library Services website for more information on library opening times.

Have we missed one of your favourite songs? Tell us in the comments below or add it to our Spotify playlist.

Christmas food and drink

Christmas is a time for families, friends and communities to get together and share food and drink and each other’s company.

The City community is no different. As an international University in the heart of London where the world’s best come to learn and educate, so many traditions come together. Whether you start Christmas morning with a prosecco or M&Ms, we hope you have the chance this holiday to meet friends and family to enjoy a meal or party. Maybe some of these dishes will inspire your own culinary experiments. Each link takes you through to a recipe from our collections on CityLibrary Search.

The big meal

Read more about the history of “traditional Christmas Dinners” through CityLibrary Search 


  • Home made rich spicy Christmas cake “Very special, can’t get it at any other time”
  • Mince pies, mulled wine, tin of well known confectionery, alcohol, cheese” says one member of staff “I also like to pull a Christmas cracker”. We’re not going there.

Explore the sweet meats of yesteryear through CityLibrary Search


Sweeties and snacks

  •  A family tub of Cheetoes “it’s low maintainence” says one member of staff.
  • Catie says she has Prosecco first thing in the morning on Christmas Day (UK) OR M&Ms all day long (US) . Why not both this year?

Find out more about how Christmas parties were organised in the past through CityLibrary Search




  • Cherry Brandy Samantha says “It’s a lovely treat I only have once every two years with my mother-in-law at Christmas when we visit them and we will always say to each other from about 9am onwards, “Is it a bit early for a cherry brandy?” before finally succumbing at about 3pm after our meal.”
  • Hot toddy “After a busy few months from Oct – Dec I inevitably get ill over the Christmas vacation and a hot toddy with the medicinal whiskey, lemon, and honey with the warming spices of cinnamon and cloves is like a hug from one of Santa’s cuter and more approachable reindeer in a mug” says Rachel.
  • Mulled wine “Just love that cinnamon and orange slices” says one member of staff. “A proper winter warmer in a cup. Cracking” says another.
  • A whisky mac, nothing else will do. Late in the evening, settled in my chair with the Christmas tree lights on and sipping a warming whisky mac, despite the cold, the wind, the rain or snow.

Find out more about what makes a Christmas drink with CityLibrary Search.


If all else fails

Cheese! “Every year, Christmas Day evening,” Chloe says, “we will have a cheese board and play fun board games”.


This year (2017) the Northampton Square Library will be open 27th – 29th December 10 am – 6 PM for self-service and reference only use. Check Library Services website for more information on library opening times.

What’s your favourite festive food? Tell us below.

Black History Month

This month we have been celebrating Black History Month and all the powerful and truthful books written by, and about, people of colour.

bell hooks

London has a rich, deep and proud black history which likely dates back to the Roman period, if not before. London’s diverse community is a source of strength and inspiration throughout its history. For example:

  • Olaudah Equiano, was an eighteenth century bestselling author who helped lead the campaign to make slavery illegal.
  • The composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor wrote some enduring music of great beauty, but died tragically young.
  • Humanitarian, Businesswoman and healthcare provider, Mary Seacole was hailed as mother of British Soldiers for her work during the Crimean War to care for wounded and convalescent soldiers.

You can find out more about this history with CityLibrary Search




Grab a free bottle and help heal the oceans

Today as part of Sustainable City Week 2017 Library Services will be handing out exclusive water bottles to City students and staff from 11:30 am in the Northampton Square Library.

Get your hands on one of these (whilst stocks last)Joi
  • Britain consumes 3 billion litres of bottled water per year.
  • Typically bottled water retails at up to 500 times more than the price of tap water
  • The average student will spend £25,000 on bottled water and associated soft drinks in their lifetime.

The majority of bottled water is sold in PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles. All PET bottles can be recycled. Yet it is estimated that only 3 billion of the 13 billion plastic bottles of water sold in the UK  in 2007 were recycled.

Plastic waste, including bottles often end up in the oceans. The Eastern Garbage Patch is an area 6 times the size of England, where plastic outweighs plankton by 6:1. It is the world’s largest waste dump.

Together we can stop this happening. Join us today to get a free reusable bottle, whilst stocks last and let’s end plastic waste in the oceans.


All facts from these pages:

Bottles up

Facts from University of Nottingham 

Plastic Oceans


What is City doing to reduce waste?


A very short introduction to all the knowledge of the world

Summer breaks are the perfect time to read around different subjects and explore the world in more detail.

Ice cone magnifier

A perfect way to do this is the Very Short Introductions series published by Oxford University Press. Over 500 books have been published on various subjects, written by academic experts in an accessible and engaging style. Covering everything from Anglo-Saxon England to thermodynamics dipping into these easy to read books can give you an instantaneous knowledge in various tough subjects. So whether you want to prepare for University Challenge or just show off in the Courtyard Cafe, check out some Very short Introductions now.

Here are some of our favourite books in the series:


Barthes: a very short introduction by Jonathan Culler

A fascinating cultural critic who analysed everyday objects through the lens of structuralist philosophy, Barthes is both an eminently readable and difficult author all in one. A classic in the genre of very short introductions. This book is written by afiniciano of Barthes, Jonathan Culler and has won several awards. 2017 saw Barthes back in a big way, following Laurent Binet’s stunning novel.

Civil engineering : a very short introduction by David Muir Wood

Civil engineering is what’s just built Crossrail, digging through 42 km of new tunnels to remove over 3 million tonnes of excavated materials. It’s also built dams, bridges, hospitals and schools.  Check out this book for more information about the discipline, that’s literally shaped the world around you.

Criminal justice : a very short introduction by Julian V. Roberts

One of the more exciting areas of the legal system, whether you just want to understand the news better or you are a fan of crime thrillers and procedurals this little book will help you make sense of the criminal justice system. It’s a good introduction to a very complex area and takes you through the basics of how criminal justice is administered.

Corporate social responsibility : a very short introduction by Jeremy Moon

Corporations take their social responsibility very seriously, as this very short introduction makes very clear. A fascinating insight into an aspect of the corporate world, which corporations take very seriously.

Game theory: a very short introduction by KG Binmore

Game theory is a mathematical method of understanding logical decision making. It’s a great market to get into, according to an acquaintance of Lord Bragg. This is your chance to find out more.

Globalization : a very short introduction by Manfred B. Steger

Globalization [sic] is the process of the world becoming more connected via communications, companies and markets and travel. It has had a massive impact across the world. Recent political events will affect this process in ways that we probably can’t predict. It has its supporters and critics, and is worth studying in more detail. A fascinating area of globalisation is glocalisation, which links local and global markets.

Information: a very short introduction by Luciano Floridi

In his Very Short Introduction, Luciano Floridi presents his Philosophy of Information by looking at how information is presented and seen in various subjects including Mathematics, Economics and Biology.  Floridi looks first at the Age of Information that we live in (the 4th Revolution after the works of Copernicus, Darwin and Freud) before presenting his philosophy and using different subjects to explain it.  The book is a short and interesting read about how we look at and use information.

The history of mathematics: a very short introduction by Jacqueline A Stedall

Following the dramatic discovery of an unknown medieval manuscript belonging to Johannes Sacrobosco, the history of mathematics is suddenly big news again. This book will take you through all the big news stories in the subjects giving you a deeper understanding of how mathematics has shaped us and how we have shaped mathematics.

Linguistics: a very short introduction by Peter Hugoe Matthews

Language is central to how we understand the world and communicate with others about it. Linguistics is the study of language and so is in some ways the study of everything, but it is also the study of language.

Racism : a very short introduction by Ali Rattansi

Ali Rattansi tackles this very important subject with great sensitivity and insight. Sadly, in these latter days it is more important than ever for all of us to remain vigilant and look after each other. If you only read one very short introduction this year, make it this one.

Risk: a very short introduction by Baruch Fischoff & John Kadvany

Not to be confused with the military strategy board game of the same name, this addition to the series looks at different sorts of risk and how people analyse them.  The authors look at the definition and analysing of risk before talking about how individuals understand risk and make decisions, including the involvement of bias.  They also look at how societies differ in the ways they deal with risk.

Science Fiction: a very short introduction by David Seed

By breaking Science Fiction into a variety of themes, this book by David Seed, analyses and discusses a genre that has captured many an imagination.  Via space travel, encounters with aliens, technology, the polar opposite societies types utopias and dystopias, time travel and the communities created by sci fi, this book explores all media formats used in its creation.  An interesting read, this very Short introduction will interest all who enjoy science fiction.

Statistics : a very short introduction by David J. Hand.

Big data is the big news at the moment, but statistics has always underlaid several disciplines. Understanding the trends and problems of statistical modeling can help you understand important subjects with ease.


What’s your favourite very short introduction book? What topic do you think the subject should cover?

The sweetest things: summer food

Nothing triggers a memory more easily than taste.

Ice cone magnifier

It might feel like summer’s nearly over, but then summer isn’t a time of the year. It’s a state of mind. Even if you can’t enjoy good weather, you can at least enjoy the taste of summer all year round. Did you know that the library holds several books related to food science, including recipes?

We asked staff for their favourite flavours of summer, with some recipes from CityLibrary Search to inspire your own culinary adventures.


Sweetest things

Catherine loves Pavlova “with all the fresh fruit that you put on top and that sweet crumbly goodness, what’s not to love!”

One member of staff loves milkshakes, saying they are the secret ingredient that keeps them looking young.

A member of staff likes to indulge her sweet teeth with a Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake, sometimes even sharing it with friends and family.


Hot and tasty

Jonathan loves a Green Thai Curry. He says they taste great.

One member of staff likes Falafels. Full of nutriments.

Alex loves lamb shish kebabs. He says they’re the smell of summer.

Another member of staff is a big fan of courgette pasta.


Salty Summer nights

Lynn loves hummus. She makes her own and can’t get enough of it.

One librarian likes Bloody Mary. “Very nutritious and gives me the energy to get through a busy week”.

Another librarian likes Pasta Genovese. A classic dish.


Beach ready

Catie loves pasta primaevera. Quick and easy, bung in a bit of veg, smash in some herb, shake it about, drizzle in olive oil. Pukka.

One member of staff loves fruit smoothies. The sweetest things to get him going.

A Greek salad is a classic summer flavour for some.


Picnic perfect

And if all else fails, Samantha recommends “Proper Pimms or a champagne cocktail, “Picnic Tea” (everything cold that you like from a posh deli [ed.: tongue, roll-mops, pickled eggs?] with some nice bread) and Eton Mess.” Don’t forget the crisps (three’s the magic number for picnics).


…and here’s some we made earlier

What an absolute feast! What’s your favourite summer grub? Tell us in the comments below.

Building the Vision

From our Archives

City has been in the news recently for building plans. The handsome design for the new Sebastian Street Building took centre stage at the prestigious Summer Exhibition 2017 at the Royal Academy on Piccadilly. Yet City’s history of gorgeous architecture has a rich heritage and her buildings have added lustre to London over a long period.

An arty and crafty City

City’s first building was the College Building, designed in the Arts and Crafts style by Edward Mountford. It was opened in 1898 .


The College Building taken from the Finsbury Library / Islington Museum (over the road)


In the 1920s the building was getting small for the growing institution and extensions were needed.

City’s flirt with Art Deco

In 1932 the building was opened by H.R.H. The Prince George. This was not the later King George VI, but his brother a good time prince who knew how to make a celebration go with a bang.

A program for the reopening of College Building.

A new building was opened across the road, called the Connaught Building.

A photo of the newly opened Connaught Building
Photos of the new entrance way and automobile laboratory


Les trente glorieuses

Due to growing numbers of students after the second world war an extension was needed.

Graph to illustrate growth of Polytechnic work 1913 – 1947
College Building architect’s drawing of Schemes II and III
The original plans for proposed building work on College Building are carefully unraveled by the expert hands of a member of the City Archive and Special Collections group.
A delicate scroll is opened for the first time in many a year.

An area plan of the area and not a single gastro-pub in sight. Times have changed?

Note the difference between the original pencil draw plans and the printed version.

Block plan of proposed development.
Printed site plan showing proposed development of Schemes I – VI


A booklet outlining building plans for College Building from 1956.

In 1964, the third floor of College Building was further extended.

Plans for the extension to the third floor of College Building in 1964.


Mid-century classic City

After receiving her Royal Charter, The City University needed to extend once again. In 1976 the Tait Building was opened by Dr O A Kerensky, the brilliant bridge designer (and son of Aleksandr Kerensky).

A program for the opening of the Tait Building in 1976

We look forward to more architectural adventures in the future as City strives to be bigger and better.

More detailed information about the City Archive and Special Collections can be found on our library guide.


What’s you favourite City building (past or present) and why? Let us know in the comments below.

25 interdisciplinary books you must read now

Summer is a great time to expand your mind. During the year, you can find it too busy to read up on all the stuff that has piqued your interest;  but there’s nothing better than taking the time to explore new ideas and find out more about what’s going on. It’s good for inspiration and creativity and if nothing else, you can always get more interesting conversation pieces from reading widely.

Here’s a list of great books from across different subjects that are worth reading.

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  1. Margaret Austin, Rudy Crawford, and Vivien J Armstrong, First aid manual: the authorised manual of St John Ambulance, St Andrews First Aid and the British Red Cross
  2. Jean-Dominique Bauby, The diving-bell and the butterfly
  3. Leonard Bernstein, The unanswered question: six talks at Harvard
  4. Tom Bingham, The rule of law
  5. Michael Blastland and AW Dilnot, The tiger that isn’t: seeing through a world of numbers
  6. James Cameron, Point of departure
  7. Dale Carnegie, How to win friends and influence people
  8. Michel Foucault, Discipline and punish: the birth of the prison
  9. Sigmund Freud, The Penguin Freud reader
  10. James Edward Gordon, Structures, or, Why things don’t fall down
  11. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John “JJ” Jay, The Federalist papers
  12. Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: the enigma
  13. Helena Kennedy, Eve was framed: women and British justice
  14. Tim Lang and Michael Heasman, Food wars: the global battle for mouths, minds and markets
  15. Harper Lee, To kill a mockingbird
  16. Larry MacDonald, The Bombardier story: from snowmobiles to global transportation powerhouse
  17. David Ogilvy, Confessions of an advertising man: the all-time best seller about advertising
  18. Inderjeet Parmar, Foundations of the American Century : the Ford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller Foundations in the rise of American power
  19. Sheryl Sandberg, Lean in: women, work, and the will to lead
  20. Mary Seacole, Wonderful adventures of Mrs. Seacole in many lands
  21. Gary Slapper, How the law works
  22. Susan Sontag, Illness as metaphor and: AIDS and its metaphors
  23. Thorstein Veblen, The theory of the leisure class
  24. Dan Ward, The simplicity cycle: a field guide to making things better without making them worse
  25. Alex Wright, Cataloging the world: Paul Otlet and the birth of the information age

(In alphabetical order by first author surname)


Have we missed anything that you would recommend to your fellow students? Tell us in the comments below.