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About Explore the British Library

What's included in Explore the British Library

Explore the British Library allows you to search both the British Library's website and the Library's collections. You can also order many collection items.

Explore the British Library searches nearly 57 million items:

  • Circa 14 million records for the Library's holdings of books, journals, newspapers, conferences, maps, scores etc.
  • 37 million journal article records, from our electronic table of contents system
  • Thousands of records for British Library web pages
  • 5 million records of Library's Sound Archive items
  • Web Archive links (freely available on the web)
  • Thousands of electronic journal and book records and hundreds of database records (most subscribed*; some freely available on the web)
  • More than 450 Research datasets records (freely available on the web)
  • BNB records, for items held in the British Library collection.
  • Records for Trade Literature collected since mid-1980s. Our website provides details of our earlier trade literature collection.

* Owing to licensing reasons, subscribed electronic items are only available from British Library workstations within the Library's Reading Rooms and Business & IP Centre.

Where records require amending, the majority are updated on a daily basis although some, mainly electronic records, are updated on a weekly basis; a few records are updated less frequently.

To help you search and order we have compiled a list of Frequently Asked Question (FAQs). Online Help is also available as Adobe PDF documents and videos that you can watch.

What's not in Explore the British Library

Explore the British Library includes records for items received under legal deposit, which have been added to the collections. These records are also included in the British National Bibliography which also include records for forthcoming UK books and  for UK published items which have been catalogued by the other legal deposit libraries. 

Explore the British Library does not include records of the Library's archive and manuscript collections, which will now be found in Search our Catalogues Archives and Manuscripts.

Explore the British Library does not include other types of material which can be found in specialist catalogues.

Key features

  • An easy-to-use Refine facility, to filter your Results.
  • Alerts, for registered readers and registered document supply customers who log in, to provide you with updated results from your search queries.
  • The facility to tag or add notes about items that interest you. (NB: Inappropriate tags and notes will be removed; see our Terms & Conditions.)
  • Registered readers can log on and request items to view in our reading rooms.
  • Anyone can order copies of items in our remote supply collection.

Changes as of 16 February 2014

Changes have been made to allow for the online ordering of items formerly held at British Library Newspapers, Colindale:

  • Periodicals formerly held at Colindale - and embargoed since June last year - can now be ordered online.
  • Records for microfilm and print newspapers that are currently being moved are now visible; where available these records will link to digital versions. NB: Microfilm items will become available when the Newsroom opens in early April.
  • A Date range search option has been added to Advanced Search.
    NB: Date range searching is currently available only for Newspapers. Other data will be added in the near future. The search does not try to match the start or end date of the title; it looks for titles that have any coverage within the date range entered.
  • The 'Newspaper Library' search scope has been removed from the drop-down alongside the Search button.

One other change will be seen by Readers, once they have submitted a reading room request: You are returned to the 'My workspace' area of Explore; your search term is retained.

Future developments

Future developments include the addition of:

Known issues and Feedback

We release new updates to the software regularly throughout the year, to improve this service; there are a few known issues, which we are working to resolve.

Help us to improve this service; give us your Feedback.

Technical compatibility


Explore the British Library was quality assured, by the software provider, on:

  • Internet Explorer 6 and above (for Windows)
  • Firefox 3.x (for Windows, MAC and Linux)
  • Safari for MAC
  • Opera version 1.0 or above.

As the software was built in accordance with industry standards, the provider says that it is likely to function well in browsers that are absent from this list.


Explore the British Library requires that JavaScript is enabled.


Any PC or Macintosh hardware should support Explore the British Library, although it will run better with a faster computer.

Similarly, Explore the British Library will load more quickly with a fast modem or other internet connection. However, it is designed so that nearly all pages will load within 10 seconds over a 56k connection.