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FAQs

British Library Online Account

Why are you changing the login procedure? It's OK as it is!

The Library has lots of different services, and lots of people who want to use more than one of them. At the moment, you have to register separately for each service. The new service enables Library users to register once centrally, and then choose which services they need to use. So it's a lot easier for you to keep everything up to date, and for us to administer.

I'm not interested in other services, I just want to order books. Why do I have to upgrade my account?

All our customers, regardless of how many services they want to use, need to be registered centrally. This includes our readers. You only need to upgrade your account once, and it only takes a few minutes. And, if you find that you need to use one of our other services in the future - for example, ordering a ticket for an event - you won't need to register again to do so.

I don't have an email account, and I don't want one. Do I still need to upgrade my account?

Yes, you still need to upgrade your account. You don't need to have an email account to do this, although you won't be able to access other Library services without one.

I used to be a Colindale user. Do I need to upgrade my account?

If you only used Colindale, and now want to use St Pancras, you will need to apply for a photographic pass. Once you've got your pass, you will then need to upgrade your account.

If you used Colindale, but you have a photographic pass because you also use St Pancras, then you will need to upgrade your account if you want to log into Explore the British Library and request items to the St Pancras reading rooms.

I use the reading room at Boston Spa. Will there be any changes for me?

No, if you only use the Reading Room at Boston Spa the current changes won't affect you if you only use Boston Spa.

I only use Search our Catalogue: Archives and Manuscripts. Will the changes affect me?

Yes. You will need to upgrade your account otherwise you will not be able to log into Search our Catalogue: Archives and Manuscripts and request items to the Reading Rooms.

I've just registered online, and now I'm being asked to provide more details! Why?

Sorry about this, but we're in the process of upgrading both systems. At the moment, registration is still using the old service, but Explore the British Library is using the new service. During the cross-over period, people who register online will then have to submit additional details when they go to log in to Explore the British Library.

We realise this isn't ideal, but you only need to do this once, when you log in for the first time. It only takes a few minutes; when you log in subsequently, you will just enter the relevant details.

Why do I still keep seeing the same upgrade screen? I've already upgraded my account.

The new login screen enables you to log in with your new credentials, and provides a link for those who haven't yet upgraded their account. We thought it would be less confusing to have just the one screen.

I've forgotten my username and password. What do I do?

If you're at home, or using your own laptop in the Library, you can use the links on the login page to get an email reminder of your details.

If you're using one of the Library's PCs, or if you don't have an email address, you need to contact Customer Services on 020-7412-7676. They can set you up with a temporary password. If you're in a Reading Room, go to Reference Enquiries and ask to use the Library's phone to make the call.

Why can't I use my reader number anymore?

Your reader number is exactly that - just your reader number. You can use the details of your upgraded account to log in to other Library services, rather than having to register for each new service you want to use. And it's more secure, as you choose your own username and password.

In addition, in a future phase of the programme, you will only have to log in once to access all the services for which you are registered - so, for example, you would log in to Explore the British Library, check on the progress of your requests via My Reading Room Requests, and book a ticket for an event, having logged in only once.

Your reader number has become your account number, and you will still need to use it if you have a query and need to contact Customer Services. You will also still need to show your Reader Pass, which has your number on the front along with your photo, when you collect your books in the Reading Rooms.

I've already registered for one of the other services. How do I upgrade my reader account?

Go to the login screen as normal, and click on the upgrade link. You only need to enter your reader number on the upgrade screens, along with your Online Account details, and then we can link your old reader account with your existing British Library Online Account. You only need to do this once, and it's very quick and easy to do.

I regularly use My Reading Room Requests. How do I upgrade my account for that?

You don't need to upgrade your account specifically for My Reading Room Requests. Once you've upgraded your reader account and have chosen your username and password, you will just use these new credentials to log in to My Reading Room Requests.

I have an account to pay for prints or photocopies that I make in the Reading Rooms. How do I upgrade my account for that?

You don't need to upgrade your account specifically for the Print/Copy Top up service. Once you've upgraded your reader account and have chosen your username and password, you will just use these new credentials to log in to the Print/Copy Top up service.

I upgraded my account in February. Do I have to upgrade again?

No. You should be able to log in with the Username and Password you set up in February. If you can't remember your Username and/or Password, either use the Forgotten username / forgotten password links on the login page, or contact Customer Services who will be able to advise you.

Requesting items from Explore the British Library

How do I order books now?

Basically, the process is the same as now, but there have been a couple of improvements:

  • Items stored at St Pancras can be requested for the same day without adding them to a reservation list (now called Basket).
  • Items stored elsewhere, or which you want to request in advance of your visit, will be placed in a Basket.
  • You can submit multiple requests at once by selecting the items in your Basket.
  • Items placed in your Basket but which are not requested remain in your Basket even after you log out of Explore the British Library.
  • You can store up to 30 items in your Basket, for up to 90 days.
  • It's easier to check the availability of stock.

There's plenty of online Help available in Explore the British Library, but if you need more assistance please ask a member of staff (or Customer Services, if you're not in the Library).

I want to order newspapers. How do I do that?

We're not changing the way newspapers and other items from the Newspaper collections are requested at this stage - we're waiting until the collections move into St Pancras.

So at the moment, you would still need to use Explore the British Library to find out the shelfmark of the newspaper you want to order, then you would fill in request form for each item you want to see.

Why do I only get the option "Request for today" for certain items?

Not all items are stored at St Pancras. Only those which are can be delivered on the same day. As a result, you only get "Request for today" for items which are stored at St Pancras (those with a delivery time of 70 minutes.)

I've placed a request, but it no longer shows in my Basket. What's going on?

The Basket is for items you want to request; once you have ordered an item, the request starts to be processed, and it is no longer shown in My Basket. You can track the progress of your request via My Reading Room Requests.

Items which you have placed in your Basket but which you have not requested will remain there even when you log out of Explore the British Library.

How long do items stay in my Basket if I don't request them?

You can have up to 30 items in your Basket at any one time, and if you don't request them they will stay there for 90 days.

If you need something more permanent, then please save the item record into My Workspace in Explore the British Library. You will still be able to request the item from there, but it won't be deleted after 90 days.