Library & Archive Collections

Library & Archive Collections

The College's library is as old as the College. From modest beginnings it has grown over the years into a library of great distinction, whose comprehensive specialist holdings of organ and choral music and books are known across the world.

The library supports organists, choral directors and scholars of the organ and organ music in their work; it complements and supports our educational programmes; and it provides resources for those preparing for our examinations

Location & Access

New walk-in facilities

From 1 March 2018, RCO Members can benefit, free of charge, from walk-in access to over 3,000 items from the RCO Library Collections.

The College’s Library is of international significance, and an agreement has been reached with Birmingham City University for part of its collection of sheet music and books (the 'RCO Curzon Loan Collection') to be housed at the University’s new Curzon Library in the heart of Birmingham.

Members will also have access to other holdings at the Curzon Library, including the extensive loan collections of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

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This is the first of a series of enhanced arrangements for accessing RCO library and archive holdings. News will follow on this webpage in the coming weeks about further walk-in facilities for RCO members in London, at the Royal College of Music. It is hoped that these facilities will become available by 1 June.

Please note that from Wednesday 18 April until further notice there will be no access to the catalogue of RCO holdings on this webpage (however, see above for catalogue access to the 'RCO Curzon Loan Collection'), and any existing member accounts will not be in operation.   

New arrangements for postal borrowing will be announced as soon as possible.

This is a transitional period for the RCO library and archive collections, and we are grateful to members for their understanding whilst new catalogue access arrangements are put in place and stock is relocated. Any enquiries in this interim period may be sent to library@rco.org.uk, and we shall do our best to assist in the circumstances.  

History & Holdings

Currently, the holdings comprise over 60,000 titles, a number which continues to increase through frequent acquisitions.

The acquisitions ensure that the breadth of the Library collection is maintained in the areas of new publications and historical source material.

There are books on the organ (its history, construction, and repertoire), acoustics, architecture, technical textbooks, studies of composers, books on music history, and related subjects. There is an enviably comprehensive collection of music for organ solo, multiple organs, and organ(s) with other instruments (together with selected performance material) in historic original editions, facsimiles, and contemporary publications, besides a large collection of vocal music both sacred and secular from Dufay to the present day.

The recordings range from vintage 78s to CDs, and the holdings on microfilm include access to some of the College's most valuable manuscripts presently on loan to the British Library.

The College Library is also a repository for a number of significant collections, including the Parratt Papers, the Sowerbutts Collection, the Dalton Bequest, the Cruden Collection, and the Aprahamian Collection. The College is also the custodian of the Susi Jeans Archive (formerly at the University of Reading ) and the Organ Club Library.

In iRCO you can find a full history of the Library, its history and development, by former College Librarian Robin Langley (click here for more information if you haven't already registered to use iRCO).