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Communicating the progress of your order

How we keep you informed of the progress of your order

Once you have sent your requests to us, you will want to know what happens to them. The British Library uses Reply Codes to tell you how your order is progressing, but more specifically to communicate delays or problems with your order. Please see the Reply Codes and Directory of Library Codes section for a full list of our Reply Codes and our General Handbook for details of how we communicate them to you.

How you can contact us about your order

The most common reasons why customers contact us about their orders are:

 Resending a request

We will ask you to reapply for an item when:

  • We need further bibliographic detail in order to locate it.
  • We need you to confirm that we can send you something that is not exactly what you requested; for example, if we do not hold the specific edition you want, we might ask you if you want an alternative edition
  • The item you want is not immediately available and, instead of adding it to a Waiting List, we have asked you to wait and then resend your request.

 Chasing a request

If you have not had a reply to a standard service request after one week, you should ask us for a progress report. We call this chasing the request.

 Cancelling a request

You can only cancel requests that have been added to a Waiting List. Requests may be cancelled by your normal ordering method, for example ARTWeb or ARTEmail. If you have any questions please contact us on:

Tel: +44 (0)1937 546060

 We have sent you the wrong item or an incomplete or poor-quality photocopy

If the copy we supply is incomplete, incorrect or of poor quality, contact us on:

Tel: +44 (0)1937 546060

We will send you a new copy as a priority. If you are asked to return the copy, send it to the address below. If we send you the wrong item on loan, please return it to us at the following address:

Wrong items

The British Library
Boston Spa
West Yorkshire
LS23 7BQ

It is important that the words ‘Wrong Item’ appear on the outside of the package. We will then send the correct item as a priority.

 Changing search level

If we have not been able to supply the item on the search level you originally requested, you can reapply and ask us to check the stock of other libraries. We make an extra charge for this service.

 What happens if we can’t deliver the article you have ordered?

The five most common reasons for us not being able to deliver your article are:

 We have a copy of the item you want, but it is on loan to another customer

If the item you want is already on loan, we will put your request on a Waiting List and when the item arrives we will let you know. There will normally be a minimum delay of up to four weeks for an item on loan to be supplied, so please allow an appropriate amount of time before querying your request. Please note that we will always charge the prices that are in force on the day of supply rather than the day you sent us your request.

 We have a copy, but copyright law means that we may not make the copy/copies you want

The British Library supplies copies of articles from journals under an agreement with the Copyright Licensing Agency. If you are requesting a journal from an article that is not covered by that agreement, we may not have the authority to reproduce it.

 We do not have a copy of the item you want or the relevant issue of a journal

Although the British Library Document Supply collection is one of the largest and broadest in the world, we do not have a copy of everything. If we do not have the item you want, you have the option of applying for an Extended Search, where we check the stock details of other libraries in the UK and Ireland. For items not published in the UK, UK based customers may also request a worldwide search if the item cannot be provided locally.

 We cannot trace the item you require from the information that you have supplied

If the information you supplied is not detailed enough for us to verify it that we have the item in stock, we will ask you for more information about the item. We will then ask you to resubmit the request in the usual way.

 The item you want has either not yet been published or not yet been received

If the issue of the journal is expected to arrive within four weeks, we will add your request to a Waiting List and inform you when it arrives. If we expect a wait of longer than four weeks, or if the serial title itself is not held and we decide to buy it, we will not add your request to a Waiting List. Instead, we will send you a message that indicates how many weeks we think it will take for us to acquire the item. You need to reapply for the item after this length of time.

If your request is for a book that is not yet in our stock, we will consider buying it. If we do decide to buy it, we will add your request to the Waiting List and supply the item once it arrives.