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Using the Reading Rooms

We welcome anyone who needs to do research in our Reading Rooms in London or Yorkshire. For the London Reading Rooms at St Pancras and Colindale, you’ll need a free Reader Pass, which you can obtain on your first visit – just make sure you bring along the correct ID. More information

Doctoral Open Days

Have you just started your PhD? Our annual programme of Doctoral Open Days is a chance for you to discover the British Library’s unique research materials. From newspapers to maps, datasets to manuscripts, ships' logs to websites, our collections cover a wide range of formats and languages spanning the last 3,000 years. We understand that researching can be an overwhelming process. These open days are designed to explain the practicalities of using the Library and its services plus help you navigate our physical and online collections. You will have the opportunity to meet our expert and friendly staff and researchers in your field. Aimed at first year PhD students who are new to the Library, each day focuses on one aspect of the Library’s collections. View the schedule for 2016.

Finding the material you need

Our main catalogue contains records for 14 million books, serials, printed music and maps. If you have a Reader Pass, you can order items in advance of your visit to our Reading Rooms.

Other specialist catalogues are also available on the web: for example, the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts, and the English Short Title Catalogue.

For journal articles and conference proceedings, search the BLDSS database of 20,000 research journals for free. Order the full text articles via your free university library Zetoc service or purchase them direct from the database using your credit card.

Our Help For Researchers link provides over 2,000 pages giving information about our collections which may be hard to find in the catalogues. There are links in the right-hand margin of every page to our services; whether delivered in the Reading Rooms, remotely, or by our expert research staff. You can use the search box or browse for content in a number of ways.

Namely, by;

  • Subject
  • Time period
  • Region
  • Language
  • Resource type
  • British Library department

We have also created a series of one-page guides to the Library's collections in different fields.

Digitised Collections for Higher Education

The Sounds website offers registered UK Higher Education users over 4,000 hours of recorded sound, free on the web. The collection includes music, oral history, animal sounds, radio drama and dialect recordings. Download any of the 12,000 sounds to support your research.

Over 3 million digitised pages of British newspapers – local, regional and national - are available to all in UK further and higher education. The collection includes 2 million pages of 19th-century titles and the entire Burney collection of 1,270 titles from the 17th and 18th centuries. Available in the Library’s Reading Rooms or via your university library.

Collaborative Research

We participate in collaborative research activities in the Arts & Humanities and in the Social Sciences. We have Independent Research Organisation status with the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Currently we co-supervise several CASE and University of Sheffield PhD students, and collaborate on research projects such as Italian Academies and Digital Lives.

Focus groups for postgraduates

We are running a series of focus groups for current users of the Library in early March. We are looking for research Masters or PhD students. A cash payment will be offered to say thank you.

Find out more

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