Books about Hertfordshire
The Hertfordshire Public Libraries
Many books and other published material will be out of print, or hard/impossible to find on the second hand book market. As a result it is important to understand how the library system works in Hertfordshire.
The main collection is HALS, at Hertford, which has undoubtedly the best collection of Hertfordshire books and other publications in the world. It also includes the county record office for manuscript material, and much published and manuscript material (including parish registers and census returns) is available on microfilm. Material is reference only (i.e. it cannot be borrowed and a visit is necessary to consult the material). For a fee they will also carry out research for you. (Many of the microfilms may also be available worldwide through the LDS Family History Centres.)
Loan material is listed on the Hertfordshire Public Library catalogue. This has a poor search engine - but at least identifies books which may be able to be borrowed. The main location of Hertfordshire Books which may be borrowed is the library store at New Barnsfield, Hatfield. Most people access these books through the catalogue and borrow them from their local library. (This service could be available through interlibrary loans anywhere in the UK). However personal callers are welcome - and the explicitly Hertfordshire material is on open shelves, although some specialist material is in the books stacks.
Within each modern borough there will be a main library which has a specialist local library reference collection - often in a dedicated room - and I have used those at Hemel Hempstead, St Albans and Watford. There will include general material on Hertfordshire - including key reference books such as the Victoria County History, Chauncy and Cussans. They will also contain specialist local material , usually including local photographs and press cuttings. They usually have microfilms of local parish registers and census returns, and possibly other local manuscript material. Use of this material is free (or it was the last time I used it) although you have to pay for photocopies - and may have to book a microfilm reader in advance. Some (if not all) have a local newspaper on microfilm - Hemel has the Hemel Hempstead Gazette, St Albans has the Herts Advertiser, and Watford has the Watford Observer. If you are able to visit your local main library you should do so, and familiarise yourself with its contents - as the contents and facilities vary from place to place.
Each of the main libraries will have some loan material - which concentrates on the area - for instance don't expect books on Cheshunt or Royston in the Hemel Hempstead library. However it is possible to borrow such out of area books through the interlibrary loans.
In addition there are local libraries - I am most familiar with those at Tring and Berkhamsted. These will typically have a good introductory reference section of books on Hertfordshire together with books of immediate local interest - which in the case of Tring includes some on adjacent parts of Buckinghamshire. There will be a smaller selection of books to borrow, and there may be other local reference material - such as photocopies of old trade directories - if you ask the librarian. However they are unlikely to have microfilms and readers available.
For up-to-date contact information see the Hertsdirect site.