These documents are often difficult to identify and acquire through normal bookselling channels. They are sometimes referred to as ‘grey literature’. The British Library makes efforts to acquire and make available this type of material through the Library's Document Supply service.
The British Library probably has the most comprehensive collection of public available reports, conferences and theses in the world, covering all subject disciplines.
The reports collection includes British research and practice reports, and reports distributed by US and international agencies. The Library’s Document Supply service has built up what is probably the largest, most comprehensive collection in the world of unrestricted reports available for public use. Approximately 4.9 million are held in total.
It is internationally recognised that conference material is important to collect; papers given at conferences fulfil a distinct function in the field of research. Fortunately, the British Library acknowledges their importance and has built up probably has the most comprehensive and easily accessible collection of conference publications in the world.
Theses are a major source of research and we hold many thousands in our collection, in both print and e-. EThOS, the UK E-Theses Online Service, provides access to most of the doctoral theses awarded by UK universities since the early 1970s.