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FAQs for readers using the Boston Spa Reading Room

These frequently asked questions are to help readers new to the Library. They cover:

  • General information
  • Admission
  • Library Services
  • Reading Room information
  • Copying

Please note: Major changes are being introduced for Readers using the Boston Spa Reading Room. The changes affect how you gain access to the Reading Room and use our collections.

General information

What do I need to know before my first visit to the British Library at Boston Spa?

  • Many items in our collection are held in store and you need to order them to the Reading Room. You can use the Library's catalogue, Explore the British Library, to search for items. Only items held on site at Boston Spa can be viewed in the Boston Spa Reading Room. These items have a 'Document Supply' shelfmark prefix.
  • You do not need to register for a Reader Pass to use the Boston Spa Reading Room, you will however be required to produce one form of photographic proof of identification.
  • Consider pre-ordering items prior to a visit. The Reading Room is open Monday - Friday: 09.00 - 16.30; it is closed Saturday and Sunday. There is no admission to the Reading Room after 16.00.
  • The Boston Spa Reading Room is open to Readers over the age of 14.
  • Bring with you the details of the items you wish to see.
  • Our printed reference collections and the majority of our electronic resources can only be viewed in the Reading Room.
  • You cannot take items away with you when you leave the Boston Spa Reading Room.
  • To arrange a group visit please contact us on +44 (0) 1937 546070 to discuss your specific requirements.
  • If you cannot visit our Reading Room our items marked 'Document Supply' in the catalogue may be requested as interlibrary loans through public, academic and business libraries. The interlibrary loan service is offered solely to organisations and not individuals. More information is available on our website.

Where is the British Library?

The British Library has two sites located at: Boston Spa and St. Pancras.

  • The Boston Spa site is located in Wetherby, West Yorkshire, LS23 7BQ. The Reading Room is only for limited reference use. You do not need to register for a Reader Pass to use the Boston Spa Reading Room.
  • The St. Pancras main site is located at 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB, along from King's Cross and adjacent to St Pancras International stations. We are placed near main line national services, international rail services and bus services. Please check Transport for London for details.

What do I need to do when I arrive?

  • Sign in at Reception
  • Leave your bags and coats in the lockers provided
  • Do not bring food or drink in to the Reading Room; catering facilities are available in the staff restaurant and restroom
  • Only bring pencils in to the Reading Room; you cannot use pens
  • Only use laptops on desks 1-6.

Our Conditions of Use give full details of the conditions you will need to observe when using our Reading Room.

Is the Boston Spa site open at weekends or English Bank Holidays?

  • The Boston Spa opening times are Monday- Friday 09.00 – 16.30.
  • The Reading Room is closed on Saturdays, Sundays and English Public Holidays.
  • Please note that there is no admission to the Reading Room after 16.00.

What are the contact details for the British Library?

Switchboard: +44 (0)843 2081144

Customer Services: +44 (0)1937 546060

Minicom (for the use of the hearing impaired): +44 (0)1937 546434


You can also contact specific departments on the phone numbers listed on our website.

Does the Boston Spa site have a café or restaurant?

Yes. There is a restaurant providing cold as well as hot meals and snacks.

Where can I park my car?

At the Boston Spa site there is a free car park provided for readers. It includes disabled parking spaces.

Where can I leave my bicycle?

There is a covered area for bicycles.


How do I gain admission to the Boston Spa Reading Room?

You will be required to produce one form of photographic proof of identification from the following list:

I am under the age of 14. Can I be admitted as a Reader?

We do not admit anyone under the age of 14 into the Boston Spa Reading Room.

Library Services

Can I borrow books from the Library?

Items marked 'Document Supply' in the catalogue may be requested as interlibrary loans through public, academic and business libraries. The interlibrary loan service is offered solely to organisations and not individuals. More information is available on our website.

How can I see collection items?

Most printed items are held in store; use the Library's catalogue Explore the British Library to search for items. Only items Document Supply Collection held on site at Boston Spa can be viewed in the Boston Spa Reading Room. These items have a shelfmark suffixed with 'Document Supply'.

Once you have traced your item on the catalogue fill out a Reading Room paper ticket & place it in the Order tray on the Enquiries Desk. Items are retrieved at 9.30am, 10.30am, 11.30am, 1.30pm, 2.30pm & 3.30pm.

If you supply your desk number when you order your items, your items will be delivered to your desk. If no desk number is supplied, items will be held at the Enquiries Desk. After consulting the items return them along with the copy of your paper ticket to the Enquiries Desk before closing time.

Note that we also have many online resources, including electronic resources and electronic journals, which are available on the computer terminals.

NB: You may not remove collection items from the Reading Room.

How can I find out which items are held in the British Library’s collection?

To find details of collection items we hold, use the Library's main catalogue, Explore the British Library. If you are having any difficulty using the main catalogue please view the Explore the British Library training videos and help.

How many items can I order?

You can order up to a maximum of eight items a day from our storage areas using the yellow reading room request forms.

How many items can I order prior to a visit?

By telephone: up to 3 items can be ordered in advance by phone providing you give us at least 24 hours’ notice of your visit.

By post: you can order up to 16 items prior to your visit. Requests must be submitted on our official request forms and we need to receive them at least 5 working days (excluding weekends and Bank holidays) before your visit. Request forms can be obtained from the enquiry counter or by contacting us for an information pack.

How long will I have to wait for ordered materials?

Delivery is usually up to 40 minutes from the retrieval time. Retrieval times are 9.30, 10.30, 11.30, 13.30,14.30 and 15.30.

Can I reserve items I have ordered to view on the following day?

If you are returning to the Reading Room within the next three working days to view the same items you may reserve them. Please ask a member of staff for assistance.

Space permitting, items will be kept in the Reading Room. These items will be kept for 3 days unless they are required for the purposes of the Interlibrary Loan service in the meantime.

Return your items to the Enquiries Desk; inform staff that you would like to reserve the material for the following day.

Can I bring my laptop into the Library and get access to the internet?

Yes. You can bring your laptop into the Boston Spa site and get access to the Internet via the Library’s free, public WiFi service. More information is available on our website.

Also, Internet access is available on most of the Reading Room workstations. After acknowledging the British Library guidelines on the appropriate use of the Internet you can access external Internet resources. However, you cannot access your Email account using Library PCs. This is one of the conditions that readers accept when using the Boston Spa Reading Room.

We will obtain records of transactions in cases of concern or complaint and infringements of the guidelines; this may lead to withdrawal of access to the Library's services.

When using your laptop in the Reading Room, please remember to put it into silent mode and use headphones inaudible to other readers.

Are there any electronic resources available in the Reading Room?

Yes. We have over 200 electronic databases, which are available only on computer terminals. Our database lists include useful websites and journal collection search interfaces, where you can search for articles across a range of journal titles.

Whilst the majority of the journals and newspapers are subscribed and only available in our Reading Room, the list does include some freely available titles, e.g. AGRICOLA, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

The Library provides PCs in the Boston Spa Reading Room from which Readers can access the subscribed electronic resources.

Many titles are networked and are available immediately. Those that cannot be networked may be pre-loaded on the PC.

Licence agreements and technical specifications limit the Library's ability to network some digital material, or to provide immediate access on a particular workstation.

Access cannot be guaranteed, as resources provided by remote suppliers may be subject to interruptions beyond the Library's control.

Can I access electronic resources from home?

No; the licence agreements we have with the publishers do not permit this. Registered Reader Pass holders have access to a limited number of resources as part of our Remote Eresoruces pilot, which provides access to:

  • Early American Newspapers, Series 1
  • Foreign Broadcast Information Service 1974-1996
  • US Congressional Serial Set
  • World newspaper Archive: African Newspapers, 1800-1922
  • Credo Reference

Log in on our Remote Eresources website.

Why are only a limited number of Library’s electronic resources accessible from home?

The Library has licence agreements with publishers governing access to all its electronic resources. In the majority of cases these licences only permit access on Library premises to Registered Reader Pass holders.

More information is available on our website.

Can I listen to sound recordings at Boston Spa?

Our Sound Archive's collections are accessible in the Boston Spa Reading Room through Sound and Moving Image, the British Library’s digitised multimedia service (onsite access only).

spacerSound and Moving Image provides instant access to a growing collection of sound and video recordings, including our most frequently requested items. The service is self-operated but, as it is only available on one computer terminal in the Reading Room, we recommend that you contact us to make a reservation.

If you wish to view sleeve notes and artwork, or to access selected recordings not yet added to Sound and Moving Image, please contact us.

If a recording is on compact disc, it can be added to Sound and Moving Image upon request within 5 working days (other formats such as LP or tape may take longer to prepare) after which readers may listen to their chosen recordings via a specially prepared SoundServer Playlist.

Listening requests and enquiries

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7418 (Listening and Viewing Service)
Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7676 (Enquiry Service)
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7441

Reading Room information

Can I take a jacket or a bag into the Reading Room?

No. Jackets, bags and umbrellas should not be brought into the Reading Room. However, you can leave all your belongings in a free locker. Our policy allows you to bring one bag no larger than 29x21x10cm into the Reading Room. In addition, one clear plastic bag may be taken into the Reading Room and, if required, a clear bag for a laptop or notebook.

Please note that all personal possessions taken into the Reading Room may be subject to opening and inspection by Library staff.

Can I use a pen in the Reading Room?

No. Pens can cause permanent damage to Library items. The use of pens or highlighters in collection areas is prohibited. You can only use standard writing pencils (not coloured) in the Reading Room.

Please note that writing in or marking collection material will result in a suspension.

Can I take food and drink into the Reading Room?

No. You are required to take care of all material in the Library's collection. There is no eating or drinking allowed in the Reading Rooms. This includes sweets, chewing gum, and cough sweets. Other prohibited items include scissors, knives, razor blades, and highlighter pens. More information is available on our website

How to handle collection items?

It is the duty of the Library to ensure that collections are preserved for future generations of users. Much of the damage that collection items sustain is caused by poor handling. Our aim is to encourage responsible use of our collection and reduce the need for costly conservation work.

General handling advice:

  • Wash your hands and dry thoroughly before going into collection areas.
  • Avoid touching text or images and do not attach notes.
  • Use pencils for taking notes (pens are not allowed).
  • Do not fold over the corners of pages or not insert bookmarks.
  • Open books on book supports and use special weights to hold pages.

Equipment designed to help you care for the collection items e.g. book rests, weights, trolleys, is available in the Reading Room. Staff can advise you how to use this equipment.

Can I download items onto a memory stick in the Reading Room?

Most of our online resources are subscribed. Although the British Library has to pay an access fee, we do not pass this cost onto our readers. The licences for eresources are very restrictive. This means that in most cases downloading is not available.

All our computer terminals are also configured to prevent general downloading.

Legislation, licences and the availability of appropriate equipment restrict the use of most digital material available in the Reading Room.

Emailing of results (records) from many databases is allowed using the functionality within the database.

Printing, where permitted, is possible in the Boston Spa Reading Room.

If you print or download from the Internet, you must abide by any restrictions notified by the information provider. The output is not to be used except for the purpose of personal research or private study; no commercial use is permitted.

A charge to cover administrative and consumable costs will be made.

Can I have help to research a topic?

Yes. If you are researching a topic and need assistance you can contact the staff in the Boston Spa Reading Room in the first instance. They can help you use the catalogues and indexes, answer your bibliographic enquiries and assist you with tracing material relevant to your research. They will also deal with any queries regarding delivery and non-delivery of material. There is a range of leaflets and collection guides available in the Reading Room.

You can also get more information about materials that are not in our catalogues or may be hard to find, using our online service Help for researchers. In addition, you can ask question of the Reference Services Team at St Pancras remotely.

If your enquiry requires in-depth research or more specialist help than we can provide we will forward your enquiry to the appropriate person, refer you to our Research Service or suggest alternative sources of assistance.

 More information is available on our website.

Are there special facilities or assistance for disabled readers?

The Boston Spa Reading Room is on the ground floor adjacent to the reception area and has full wheelchair access. We have height-adjustable tables, alternative keyboards, and facilities for the visually and hearing impaired.

If readers have any specific needs or suggestions, please contact us.

Reader Information Boston Spa
The British Library
Boston Spa
West Yorkshire
LS23 7BQ

Tel: +44 (0)1937 546070



Can I make copies of items I am looking at?

Yes. Items in our collection can be copied, subject to UK copyright legislation.

You can use our self-service copy facilities to copy items in the Boston Spa collection subject to UK copyright regulations preservation policy restrictions.

Copy services are operated using a reader account. You will be able to top up your account:

Breaching copyright law is an offence. You are legally responsible for any copies made.

Are there any materials not suitable for copying?

For preservation reasons, some materials are not suitable for self-service copying:

  • Items published before 1851; some other rare material; printed music; public records
  • Items larger than A3
  • Any material that weighs 9lbs (4kg) or more
  • Items too tightly bound, in vellum or fine bindings
  • Items in a damaged condition - brittle paper, cracked spine, loose pages and covers
  • All foldouts

For help, please refer to staff at the copy desks or visit our website.

Can I copy all of a book?

This will depend on what you are looking at. If an item you are copying is still in copyright, you will not be able to copy the whole item (unless you have the written permission of the copyright holder). Staff at the copy desks will be able to advise you further on copyright legislation.

More information about the self-service copyright regulations is available.

Can I make copies of a newspaper article?


Can I order images from the Library’s collections?

Yes. You can use our Images Online service or Imaging Services that offer you a variety of products to suit your needs.

Can I copy a book for a commercial purpose?

No. You can only make a single copy of the page for: private study, research, criticism, review or news reporting.

If the copy is needed for a commercial purpose, or if you cannot comply with either of the above, you must have the prior permission of the copyright owner or pay a copyright fee.

For further information, please visit our self-service copyright regulations webpage.

Can I copy two pages at a time?

No. Double page copying is prohibited as it can cause damage to the spine of books. Most books are not designed to open flat and many will not easily open more than 120 degrees. Tightly bound books should not be forced to open more than they can open comfortably. Forcing a book will damage it, straining the spine and weakening the binding structure leading to it splitting into sections.

As the items form the national collection, the Library is obliged to safeguard its collections.

Can I use my own camera, smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc., to take a digital picture?

No. Cameras and scanners must not be brought into the Reading Rooms. Our copyright policy does not allow readers to take their own copies of Library items. Copies of Library collections must only be made using Library copying facilities. Mobile device cameras must not be used within the Reading Rooms. Please note that the Library may undertake safety checks of your technical equipment at any time.

If you breach our terms and conditions, you risk a suspension from the Library.

Can I print from my memory stick in the Reading Room?

No. We do not offer this kind of service to our readers. This does not comply with the security of the Library’s network.