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Frequently asked questions about the music collections

General information on undertaking music research using the British Library's collections is available on other pages.

How can I consult music from the British Library's collections?

Some of the treasures from the music collections can be seen in the Exhibition galleries at St Pancras, which are open to all. If you are undertaking research and need to consult other items from the collections, you will first need to obtain a Reader Pass to use our Reading Rooms.

What kinds of music materials does the British Library hold?

The British Library holds printed and manuscript music scores, books and periodicals on music, and sound recordings.

How do I find out if you've got what I'm looking for?

You can search for music and music-related material in the Library's catalogues. If you cannot find what you are looking for, please contact us, as some material is not yet listed in the online catalogues.

Can I borrow music from the British Library?

Most of the music in the Library's collections cannot be borrowed, and is available for reference at the British Library only. The Library does, however, hold a separate lending collection of modern music scores, which can be borrowed on inter-library loan via your local library. Please note that the Library does not lend direct to individuals, but only via a library that participates in the inter-library loan scheme.

Can I order up material in advance of a visit?

If you have a current Reader Pass, you can place an advance request for the material you would like to consult in the Reading Room. Please see the reader registration page if you don't yet have a pass.

Which Reading Room should I go to?

Please see the page on where to consult music and music-related material for information on where the different categories of material can be consulted.

How can I obtain photocopies?

For preservation reasons, all copies of music must be made by Library staff. You can either place an order remotely for copies via the Library's Imaging Services or, if you wish to consult the material first, you can use the assisted copy service in the Rare Books and Music Reading Room. Further details are given on the obtaining copies page.

Can I use my digital camera in the Library?

The Library does not currently allow digital cameras to be used in the Reading Rooms.

What online reference sources are available in the Library?

A range of electronic resources for the arts and humanities is available in the Reading Rooms.

Can I see digitised images of music from the Library's collections on the web?

Digital images of a number of items from the music collections are available on the web.

Can you help me with my research?

Our staff will be pleased to help with enquiries about the British Library's music collections. We regret that we cannot offer general advice about musical research, or undertake research on your behalf.