The British Library offers a range of services designed to make the collection as accessible as possible to all types of users. This page describes these services in outline; you can find out more about the real value of each service and how to use it by following the links.
Many of our services, such as exhibitions, our catalogues on the web, and our Reading Rooms, are provided free. Other services are priced so as to recover their costs. We provide these as a public service and they are not intended to make a surplus. In situations where we add value to the information we provide by customising or interpreting it for the users, we charge a rate appropriate to the market, and the surplus revenue is used by the Library to fund core public service activities.
The rationale for our pricing policy is contained in the British Library Act 1972, which requires the Library to provide certain statutory services in the public interest. The Act allows the British Library Board to determine which of these can be provided free at point of use, and which it is appropriate, under the Act, to charge no more than would recover the full cost of the service, including overheads.
The Library provides a number of non-statutory services which are ancillary to its core functions; these include value-added or customised services which are not explicitly covered under the Act, and for which the Board has the freedom to price at the rate appropriate to the market.
The list below doesn't include our free services, only those that are priced. Services are therefore shown as 'cost recovery' or 'market rate'.
Priced Services available in the Reading Rooms
Self-service copying - cost recovery
Self-service copying and printing is available for readers in our Reading Rooms at St Pancras, Colindale and Boston Spa. Readers make copies of items from the collection for a price per page, subject to preservation checks and copyright permission. The charge is also applied to any item printed from electronic resources, search results and lists of items ordered from the collection. The services are operated through an account system: users set up an account which is used during the course of their copying and printing.
Staff-operated copy services - cost recovery and market rate
Copies are made by members of staff for readers in our Reading Rooms at St Pancras and Colindale. The staff-operated copy service has to be used for rare and fragile material that is at risk of damage from the self-service copying operation. The standard service is priced to cover costs, and the rapid copy service is priced at a market rate.
Ecclesiastical five-year search and certification - cost recovery
The Ecclesiastical five-year search service is available for enquirers who are unable to visit the Asian & African Studies reading room at St Pancras. The service covers a search for any one event over a five-year span in the ecclesiastical records. Enquirers are advised that the collection contains 70-80 percent of the Ecclesiastical Returns (i.e. births/baptisms, marriages and deaths/burials) for European and Eurasian Christians living in India, Burma and territories controlled from India - therefore with any search there is the possibility of failure.
Once a paid search has been successful, a copy of each registration, certified with the seal of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, can be provided for an additional fee. Both elements of the service are priced to recover costs.
Priced Services in the public areas of St Pancras
The British Library Bookshop - market rate
The Bookshop is at the front of our St Pancras building. It stocks a selection of topical and specialist literature, as well as gifts and souvenirs. Everything is priced according to current market rates.
Tour of the building or exhibitions - market rate
Guided tours are available for individuals or groups who are interested in the history of the building and/or the exhibitions in the galleries. Audio tours are also available for those wishing to absorb the attractions at their own leisure. (The Colindale and Boston Spa sites only take group bookings.)
Public Events in the Conference Centre - cost recovery
We offer a series of discussions, debates, lectures and other events on a range of cultural themes, and a chance to meet authors and other public figures.
Priced Services delivered to your desktop
Document Supply - cost recovery and market rate
The Library's document supply services can be used by organisations and individuals to request a copy or loan of any item from the Library's document supply collection. To enjoy the most cost-effective benefits of the services, users need to be registered, and most public, educational and company libraries are. Copies of material can be provided on paper, as a digital scanned image or on microfilm. The standard service to UK customers is cost recovery and is based on delivery in three to five days with faster turnaround available at a market rate. Services to overseas customers, and to non-registered customers, are all priced at a market rate.
Imaging services - cost recovery and market rate
Imaging services enable customers to request a reproduction from any item within the collection, subject to preservation and copyright restrictions. The reproduction can be provided on paper, CD-ROM, microfilm or photographic transparency. The standard UK service is based on delivery in 25 days for pre-paid orders, and is priced to recover costs. Services to overseas customers, and fast-track services for UK customers, are priced at the market rate.
Images Online - market rate
Images Online gives people access to illustrations from the collection that they can search, order, and buy online. Orders are fulfilled either online or on CD. Online, customers can also negotiate the reproduction rights to use the images for publication or broadcast, at the current market rates.
Research Service - market rate
Expert staff conduct detailed research into requested subjects and provide a detailed research report with the results.
Searching and Alerting Services - market rate
Alerting services are available to registered customers via our subscription service Inside. A subscription to the Inside database gives customers access to 20,000 current journal titles and papers and from more than 100,000 conference proceedings.
Database licensing - market rate
Licences are negotiated via contract which permits the embedding of our dynamic databases into customers' own services. There are three available databases:
- Table of Contents lists 22 million articles from 20,000 research journals and more than 100,000 conferences.
- British National Bibliography is the only catalogue of all new UKpublications.
- Allied and Complementary Medicine Database (AMED) gives the latest research and specialist reports in this field.
The British National Bibliography is also available in various formats, including print and CD-ROM from our retail and distribution outlets.
Other priced services
Medical Indexing - market rate
These specialist services are negotiated by individual contract.
Publishing - market rate
The publishing programme showcases the treasures of our collections, and also brings some of the scholarly research that we support to a wider readership. Booksellers buy wholesale from our distribution outlet at standard trade terms, and retail customers can buy in our Bookshop at St Pancras or online.
Sound Archive Transcription Service - cost recovery and market rate
The Transcription Service provides copies of recordings held in the collections to users who are able to obtain the appropriate copyright clearance. The copies can be supplied on a range of audio formats to suit the customer. This is a professional service, intended primarily for organisations such as radio stations and record companies, and for academic and educational users. Use of the copies for subsequent re-publication is at the British Library's discretion.
Hire of staff - market rate
This service is available to organisations requiring the expertise of our specialist staff in support of their services. It primarily covers attendance at external training courses and guest speaking at conferences and is subject to individual contract negotiation and staff availability.