St Albans Library Local Studies Collection Index

An indispensable tool for local history research

The extensive local history collection in St Albans Library is an excellent resource for anyone researching the history of the city and district. A significant problem until now has been finding items of interest in the collection. Now, with the publication of the following spreadsheet-based Index, researchers should be able identify such items more effectively.

St Albans Library Local Studies Collection Index (3345kb)

The collection is indeed extensive and includes the following categories of material:

  • telephone directories, electoral registers and older poll books;
  • trade/residential directories (Kelly’s & others);
  • parish & St Albans Borough records (microfilm);
  • illustrations (photos, drawings, prints & slides);
  • the “Pamphlets” collection of miscellaneous sources - ephemera, journal/newspaper articles, themed cuttings, council & other local publications, guidebooks & directories, souvenir programmes, sale particulars, election literature etc.;
  • maps - Ordnance Survey (& older), street, commercial, planning, thematic, aerial photos;
  • local newspapers & periodicals (current & back runs);
  • articles from the Review by Geoff Dunk & others (1970s/80s);
  • the online reference library, a wide range of sources including Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford Reference Online, Ancestry, FindMyPast, old and current newspapers etc.

Those with past experience of the collections may recall wooden drawers, card indexes and the Brown classification system. These worked well, and have their anachronistic charm perhaps, but what to do when space is precious, online access an expectation, and web-based professional cataloguing not an option? A local solution was required.

Inspired by the excellent SAHAAS Journals Database, I considered transcribing the cards into spreadsheet form. If you have used this, you will know that the Find (Ctrl+F), Filtering and Sorting options can be useful tools. I hoped for a virtual “one-stop shop” where various resources could be checked easily in one file.

This is now in progress, with input from staff (like myself) and volunteers. The attached document contains a separate tab for each index; three have been fully transcribed, with further information added where possible:

  • pamphlets: repackaged, easier to look through, now in an A-Z subject index.
  • slides: can no longer be borrowed, but copies can be made by HALS.
  • Review articles: repackaged into new folders, shelved with the books.

The 4th tab (Illustrations) is currently just an expanded version of the previous subject index, but does contain some useful individual details. This will be replaced by a complete index, which is now underway.

We also hope to work on remaining collections (e.g. maps) as time goes on. Further details and instructions can be found in the document itself – download it and have a look!

If you have any questions or comments about the Index, please do drop into the library or email me via

Scott Chalmers
Library Assistant, St Albans Central Library and SAHAAS member