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Who can register for a Reader Pass

Anyone can apply for a Reader Pass to use our Reading Rooms, but due to pressure on our services we cannot guarantee admission. A Reader Pass is issued subject to your need to see specific items in our collections. Other libraries or sources may be more appropriate to your research and staff will advise you accordingly.

Before you register, please note that the British Library is very different from public and university libraries:

  • Only general reference works and current science and business collections are available on open shelves in the reading rooms. 
  • Most items in the Library’s collection are kept in storage. Delivery of items from storage areas to reading rooms normally takes between 70 minutes (onsite) and 48+ hours (offsite), depending on where they are held.
  • Items stored onsite must be requested before 16.00 for delivery the same day.
  • Before you register for a pass you should search the Library’s Catalogues to confirm that we have the material you require. Remember to bring with you details of those items you wish to see.
  • The Library does not hold multiple copies of standard texts and is not generally suitable for university course work.
  • You cannot borrow items from any of our Reading Rooms. However, items marked DSC or Lending collections in the catalogue may be requested as interlibrary loans through public, academic and business libraries.
  •  We do not normally issue a Reader Pass to anyone under the age of 18, although we occasionally make an exception to see specific items which are unavailable elsewhere. There are special arrangements and you must apply at least 10 days in advance of your first visit.