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Use of carrels

Carrels are small study booths which can accommodate one or two people. They are to be found in all our St Pancras Reading Rooms apart from the Business & Intellectual Property Centre. Some contain specialised equipment to assist with reading collection items. They need to be booked before use, and can be booked in advance under certain conditions.


You need to book a carrel before you can use it. You can make a booking over the phone, or in the Reading Room you are using.

If you have a disability you may book a carrel in advance of your visit by contacting the Disability Support Officer. Otherwise, bookings should be made in person in the Reading Rooms.

Bookings are for a maximum of 2 hours, unless you need to use the specialised equipment in the carrels, in which case longer bookings may be accepted at the discretion of the local manager.

At the end of the original booking, if no other reader has asked to use the carrel, you may make a repeat booking.

If you need to use the carrel on a regular basis, please contact the local manager of the Reading Room you are using.


The general Conditions of Use of our Reading Rooms apply in the carrels; if you do not comply with either the general conditions, or the additional conditions listed below, you may have your reader pass withdrawn.

Only one person per carrel is permitted, unless you need a helper. In exceptional circumstances, more than one person at a time can be permitted to use a carrel at the discretion of the local manager, eg a blind reader with a sighted helper, or a translator for foreign language items.

One carrel in each Reading Room is labelled for priority use for readers with disabilities. This does not mean that other readers cannot use these carrels, but you may be asked to vacate them if required.

You may use a carrel in any reading room if you need to use specialised equipment available.

You may take collection items into a carrel, as outlined below. In some cases, permission is required from Reference Enquiries. All items will be checked before and after use in a carrel.

All carrels will remain locked when not booked, to safeguard equipment.

During peak times, you can book a carrel (if available) if you need to consult items restricted to the Reading Room you are using, subject to the collection security procedures outlined below.


You may make a booking to use a carrel if:

  • You have a genuine need, and you meet one of the criteria of approved usage listed below; however, reason for usage may not be to have a quiet area or for personal or private study only.
  • You have a disability which requires use of a carrel, e.g. if you are blind or partially sighted and have a helper or if you are using special equipment.
  • You wish to dictate into a tape recorder in conjunction with British Library collection items and for research purposes. (Not for private study only.)
  • You need to use microform readers or CD-ROM machines in carrels where so designated on the carrel booking system.
  • You need to use the listening and viewing service.
  • You need to use a UV lamp and/or other reading aids, with the permission of the Reference Enquiries staff in the Reading Room in question.

What can be consulted in a carrel

You may take one or two collection items into the carrel with you.

In exceptional circumstances, you may be allowed to take more items into a carrel, at the local manager’s discretion. All items must still be checked and/or authorised, as outlined below.

If you wish to use open access items in a carrel, you must complete a paper ticket for each item. In addition, some items also need a carrel approval form to be completed before they can be taken into a carrel. See below for details.

Some categories of material may not be taken into a carrel, eg unbound manuscripts. Please ask Reference Enquiries for details.

Permission from Reference Enquiries is required for certain categories of material, and a signed carrel approval form obtained. The local manager reserves the right to refuse approval.

If you are consulting special material, you will still need to leave your reader pass at Issue & Return if you are consulting these items in a carrel.

If you wish to change the items you are consulting within the carrel, the original items must be returned, the new items checked, as above, and new paper tickets / approval forms completed (as appropriate).

If you need to use the UV lamp, watermark reader, or other reading aids, with the items you are taking into a carrel, you must have obtained permission from Reference Enquiries.