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Plan your visit

The Reading Rooms are very busy. To ensure that as many Readers as possible can access our collections, during busy times, we:

  • Increase the number of desks in the Reading Rooms
  • Allocate particular desks in the Rare Books & Music, Manuscripts and Asian & African Reading Rooms for sole use of Readers accessing these collections
  • Direct Readers to available desks where possible.

We also provide additional lockers during busy times, but we recommend that you avoid bringing additional luggage and/or bulky items with you.

We recommend that you plan your visit, by considering:

1) Do you need a quiet study space rather than access to our collections?
For directions to the nearest alternative library, please ask staff at the Information Desk in the Entrance Hall.

If you are an undergraduate, you may find information on vacation access to higher education libraries helpful. The SCONUL Access scheme offers staff and students a reference service in over 170 higher education libraries in the UK and Ireland. The M25 Consortium provides information on visiting an academic library within the M25, as well as access to these institutions’ catalogues.

Please note that the British Library does not hold multiple copies of standard texts for university course work.

2) When is the best time of day to visit?
Generally, more desks are available in the early morning and evening. The Humanities, Rare Books & Music, Science and Social Sciences Reading Rooms and the Business & IP Centre are open until 20.00, Monday to Thursday.

3) How you can make the best use of your time here?
Collection items may not be available on the day of your visit. Most items are held in closed stores, some of which are offsite. Items can take from 70 minutes to 48+ to be delivered to a reading room, however, you can order in advance of a visit. More information is available from Customer Services - call +44 (0)1937 546060

If at any point you are not actually using our collections, please vacate the desk for people who need to consult our items. You can also go and see our exhibitions or displays, or take a break in our cafés or restaurant.

4) Do you need to access our collections onsite?
Please be aware that we offer additional fee-based services to provide material remotely. Contact Customer Services for Document Supply services - call +44 (0) 1937 546060 or customer-services@bl.uk or visit BLDSS for more details.