Freedom of Information

Shelves in a British Library Reading Room.

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world’s greatest libraries. Our collections include more than 150 million items, in over 400 languages, to which three million new items are added every year. We house books, magazines, manuscripts, maps, music scores, newspapers, patents, databases, philatelic items, prints and drawings and sound recordings.

Much of the information within our Collections is reasonably accessible to users and it is Library policy that staff will allocate up to 30 minutes research time to information enquiries relating to our Collections. This may be followed, if necessary, by referral either to an internal priced research service, or to an external research agency. The purpose of such research is to discover whether or not the Library holds the information being sought and to provide the information whenever possible. The Library will continue to provide advice and assistance to users undertaking their own research on the collections we hold. For those enquiries that relate to information contained within our corporate records, the Freedom of Information Act applies. 


The Freedom of Information Act

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 gives a general right of access to recorded information held by public authorities and obliges them to disclose information, subject to a range of exemptions. Applicants have the right:
  • To be told whether the information exists
  • To receive the information within 20 working days.

For further details on how the British Library will respond to requests, please see our Freedom of Information Policy (PDF format).


Making a request for information

One of the aims of the Act is that all public authorities should be clear and proactive about the information they make available. Section 19 of the Act requires the preparation of a Publication Scheme. The British Library's publication scheme can be found on the web pages linked to this page.

Under the Freedom of Information Act you can apply to see information that is not listed in the Publication Scheme. Send us a letter, fax, or email requesting the information and, provided it is not covered by one of the exemptions in the Act, we will provide you with that information as soon as possible, or in any event within 20 working days.

When making a request for information include the following details:

  • Your name and address
  • The information would you like to see
  • The format you would prefer to have the information in. We will make every effort to send you the information in the requested format, although in some cases may not be able to do this.
Please email us at

Exemptions under the Act

Although you may request any information we hold, there are a few exemptions under the Act that mean that we may not be able to disclose the information you need. If we decide that we cannot release the information requested, we will explain which exemption is relevant in this case.

The Publication Scheme

One of the aims of the Freedom of Information Act is that all public authorities should be clear and proactive about the information they make available. Section 19 of the Act requires the preparation of a Publication Scheme which sets out:

  • The classes of information the Library publishes or intends to publish
  • The manner in which they will be published
  • Whether the information is available free of charge, or upon payment of a fee

The aim of this Publication Scheme is to explain what information the Library makes available to the public as a matter of course, and to make it available online. The British Library does not charge for any of the information within the scope of its Publication Scheme. The Scheme will be periodically reviewed, amended and updated to include additional published information.

Overall responsibility for this Scheme is taken by the Strategic Leadership Team, which oversees all aspects of Freedom of Information implementation in the British Library. The Strategic Leadership Team has delegated day-to-day responsibility for the operation of the Scheme to the Head of Corporate Information Management.


Copyright and the Publication Scheme

Information available via our Publication Scheme is the copyright of the British Library Board unless otherwise indicated. The British Library complies with the Re-Use of Public Sector Information (amendment) Regulations 2015 and we encourage the re-use of the information that we produce, hold and disseminate. You are free to copy, publish, distribute, transmit, adapt, or exploit the information in our Publication Scheme in any way you choose, but you must attribute the British Library Board as the source of the information.


The Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015 (PSI)

The PSI Regulations establish a minimum set of rules which govern the re-use of material held or used by public bodies as part of their Public Task. The British Library makes most of its re-usable material available via our commercial services:



We should be grateful for any comments you may have about our Publication Scheme. Please email us at or contact us at the address below:

Freedom of Information
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)843 208 1144

Complaints and appeals procedure

If you are dissatisfied with our response to your request for information you have a right to an internal review, conducted by someone who was not involved in the handling of your request. Please see the Complaints and Internal Review Procedure for further details.

If you are still not satisfied following an internal review you can make a complaint to the Information Commissioners Office.