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The conference collections

The British Library has probably the most comprehensive and easily accessible collection of conference publications in the world. It is internationally recognised that this material is important to collect; papers given at conferences fulfil a distinct function in the field of research and yet are often overlooked as a resource for those undertaking research because they are difficult to verify and locate.

The first time that a research breakthrough is made public or current issues are debated is often at a conference or other meeting. Papers can be presented at a conference long before, if ever, they are published in professional peer-reviewed journals. Also, because conferences are often organised to reflect the latest state of research in a specific subject and provide a forum for discussion between attendees, papers given are different in both content and style from articles published in journals.

 The conference index

Despite their importance, conference proceedings and papers have always had the reputation of being obscure and difficult to locate. Some causes of this are:

  • The variety of publication formats used: regular journal issues, special supplements, one-off monographs, regularly published proceedings, or any combination of these.
  • There is often no easily accessible information about where (if anywhere) or when (if ever) the papers will be published.
  • The great fluctuation in the amount of material published: abstracts, selected papers only, complete proceedings, or any number of satellite proceedings may be made available.

The British Library conference index contains the records of 400,000 conference proceedings held in stock, with 16,000 new records added each year.

 Requesting conference material

We endeavour to obtain all 'worthwhile' conference publications, whatever the subject or language, and our collection covers all types of publication formats with the exception of audio-visual. 

To aid in the processing of your requests, whenever possible please quote:

  • The full title of the conference and any other titles, e.g. if the conference is published within a journal series.
  • The date the conference took place. If the date of publication is all that is known, please make this clear on your request.
  • Name the organising body, if known. If all you have is an acronym, please do not try to expand it as we have all the reference tools here to do that.
  • ART customers should quote their source of reference in full.

 Conference holdings

Records of conference holdings are available through various online database systems, including Explore the British Library

 Further information:

Customer Services
The British Library
Document Supply
Boston Spa, Wetherby
West Yorkshire
LS23 7BQ
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 1937 546060
Fax: +44 (0) 1937 546333
Email: customer-services@bl.uk