The George Waterston Library
at Waterston House

The largest ornithological library in Scotland

The library

The library is one of the most valuable resources at Waterston House. Its shelves are filled with almost 5000 books from all over the world and with 50-100 new titles being added yearly, it remains an up to date working collection.

The breadth of ornithological information provides a wonderful resource for many different types of reader. This is a collection not only for the professional ornithologist, but also for those new to birdwatching, students, artists, ornithological historians and writers, or those working in the areas of conservation and the environment.

The library shelves’ are brimming with all of the best current academic books, reports and journals, to beautiful antiquarian books with hand coloured images. Alongside there is a treasure trove of historically important archive materials, including notebooks, photographs, films, sound recordings, and letters.

A closer look…


Books include virtually all the major British and International handbooks and country avifaunas, field identification guides, site guides, species monographs and a good selection of works on biology, conservation and bibliography. There is also a collection of books from classic and contemporary bird artists’, including titles from several artists who have previously exhibited in the Donald Watson Gallery.

Search our library’s book catalogue:
books Excel Comma-delimited text



The breadth of the periodical (i.e. titles that are produced regularly i.e. journals, bird reports, magazines etc., as opposed to one-off publications) holding is exceptionally wide; the library exchanges with, or subscribes, to virtually all of the major international journals, including long runs of mainly English-language titles and numerous foreign-language (especially European) titles, many of which have English summaries.

There is a complete set of Scottish local, and observatory bird reports, as well as many similar reports from the around the rest of Britain and Ireland. For you own convenience you may be able to access the periodical you’re looking for electronically, over the web

Search our library’s periodicals catalogue:
main list Excel Comma-delimited PDF
supplementary reports Excel PDF
online periodicals Excel PDF

Archive material

Within the George Waterston Library we also have a substantial archive of historically important items; notebooks, photographs, films, sound recordings and letters relating to the Club. This comprises many fascinating materials, including birdwatching diaries from eminent Scottish ornithologists (together with George Waterston’s wartime birdwatching notes from his time in a German prisoner of war camp!), Club memorabilia and literature.

Search our library’s archives catalogue:
main list Excel PDF
architecture (key to main list) Excel PDF

Borrowing books

Please see our borrowing terms and conditions, here

SOC members can borrow up to 2 books at a time for a maximum of two months. If you plan to access the library regularly and would like to find out more about joining the SOC (alongside the other benefits membership entitles you to), please click here.

Bird Reports, Journals, Ringing Reports and Bird Observatory Reports are not lent out, but individual papers may be copied for personal use (see below).


An idyllic setting…

Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve provides a scenic backdrop and peaceful environment for absorbing what this excellent ornithological collection has to offer. A small children’s corner, well-stocked with books, colouring in sheets and pencils, is designed to occupy our younger visitors. Tea and coffee making facilities are available in the foyer for a break away from the books.


Visit the library

This wonderful library is open to all for reference (members of the SOC may borrow items), seven days a week (except over the festive period), during normal opening hours . For access to rarer titles, please contact us in advance so we can ensure someone is available to assist you.


Can’t get to the library in person?

Tell us what you’re looking for over email or phone and we’ll try and post it to you via Royal Mail standard parcel/packet services (p&p charges apply).

Or we can scan and email, or photocopy and post pages to you (postage charges apply). We can copy up to one chapter, or 5% of the publication, whichever is greater.

For black and white photocopies we charge 5p per sheet for the first 20 pages, and 10p per sheet thereafter. For colour photocopies, we charge 15p per page. Payment can be made via credit/debit card or by cheque, payable to ‘The SOC’.

Photocopies and scans will be supplied with a Copyright Declaration Form to be completed and returned to us at Waterston House. It is important to declare that copies will be used non-commercially (copying for commercial use will need prior permission from the copyright holder).


Second-hand books

The Club is extremely fortunate and grateful to receive donations of high quality natural history books from members past and present, and the general public. Any duplicates to library holdings are sold in our second-hand book shop at Waterston House.  We have hundreds of titles available to browse in the shop, so visit us to view the full range or contact us if there’s something in particular you’re after.


Having a clear out? Donate your books to SOC

If you find yourself with more bird books than you know what to do with and you’re looking to downsize your collection- then please get in touch with us! Donations of ornithological books, reports or journals are always very gratefully received. Titles which duplicate what we have in the library already are offered for sale in our second-hand book shop (at Waterston House and online) to raise money for the Club, and allow us continue our work advancing ornithology in Scotland. It is also possible to leave a bequest of books to the SOC in your Will, click here to find out more.


Looking for something in particular?

If you’re looking for a particular title then please get in touch with us using the form on the Contact us page. We’ll let you know if and when we find what you’re after.

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