About Explore the British Library

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With Explore the British Library you can search either for records of our collections, or our website, or records for 'open access' content free online.

Published date:

About Explore the British Library

The 'Main catalogue'

A search of the 'Main catalogue' will find records for our collections of printed and online items. Also included are records for free online content. The 'Main catalogue' has records for circa 72 million items:

  • 15 million records for the Library's holdings of books, journals, newspapers, conferences, maps, scores etc.
  • 50 million journal article records
  • 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)
  • hundreds of database records (most subscribed*; some freely available on the web)
  • hundreds of Research datasets records (freely available on the web)
  • 7,000 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.

The catalogue also contains records for free online content, selected by our curators. Examples are EU Bookshop records and records of US Federal Government documents.

Explore Further

Explore Further contains over 200 million records for online scholarly materials such as articles and e-books, provided by publishers.

Except for etheses records, 'Explore Further' does not contain records for our printed and online holdings.

Much of the content is 'open access' and free online. Some content requires a subscription. Where we subscribe to content it will only be available to Readers, using Library PCs in our Reading Rooms.

'Explore Further' is our name for Primo Central.

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.