Cookie policy

What are cookies?

Cookies are small text files that websites save to your computer. They often include a randomly generated number which is stored on your device. Many cookies are automatically deleted after you finish using the website. Others remain on your computer to provide a seamless user experience – for example, by remembering which goods are in your online shopping basket.

Cookies are commonly used to improve browsing experience; measure website performance; support the delivery of services; and support sharing information through social media, such as Twitter or Facebook.

Unless you have adjusted your browser settings to refuse cookies, our systems will issue cookies as soon you visit our websites or access other online Services. If you have switched off cookies then some of the functionality of our Services may not be available to you.


How does the British Library use cookies?

Our websites use cookies to make our websites easier for you to use and improve your overall experience when accessing our online Services. Using cookies to distinguish you from other users means that we can store your preferences, provide increased functionality, and deliver better value for money.

Here are some examples of how we use cookies:

  • Improving your experience and supporting the delivery of our Services: To ensure that you don't have to repeat some actions unnecessarily and to make transactions as smooth as possible, we use cookies to remember that you are logged in; record items placed in shopping baskets; and to remember search terms and search results.
  • Measuring website performance: our websites must demonstrate value for money in the delivery of information and Services. Monitoring the use of our websites via cookies helps our web team to work out which pages are most useful to our users, and to improve pages that they aren't finding useful. We also use cookies in order to monitor visitor numbers. No personal information other than your IP address is collected as part of this process.

There are two types of cookies: ‘session cookies’ and ‘persistent cookies':

  • Session cookies last only for the duration of a website visit. Your web browser will normally delete session cookies as it is closed down.
  • Persistent cookies outlast a session and will remain on your computer, although they will normally have an expiry date.


What cookies are used by British Library websites and Services?

We use cookies for for three major functions:
  • Essential (also known as ‘strictly necessary’) cookies
These cookies are essential for you to be able to move around some of our websites and to use their features; for example, essential cookies are necessary to allow you access to secure Services such as your Document Supply account. Without these cookies, Services that you have asked for, such as shopping baskets or search results cannot be provided.

Here is a list of Essential Cookies used on our websites.

  • Performance cookies

These cookies collect information about how visitors use our websites, such as which pages visitors go to most often, and if they get error messages from web pages. These cookies do not collect personal information; all information collected by these cookies is aggregated and therefore anonymous.

Here is a list of Performance Cookies used on our websites.

Our main tool for collecting performance information is comScore Digital Analytix. comScore provide further information about their cookies and a method of opting out of receiving them here.

We also use Google Analytics for this purpose. Google Analytics is Google’s tool that helps website and app owners to understand how their visitors engage with their properties. It uses a set of cookies to collect information and report website usage statistics without personally identifying individual visitors to the British Library. This information is retained by the Library for a maximum of 50 months. The main cookie used by Google Analytics is the ‘__ga’ cookie. Google provide further information about their cookies and a method of opting out of receiving them here.

  • Functionality cookies
These cookies allow our websites to remember choices you make (such as your user name), and provide enhanced customisation features in certain Services. These cookies can be used to remember changes you make to text size, fonts and other parts of web pages that you can customise, or to provide Services you have asked for, such as watching a video or commenting on a blog. In our Online Shop these cookies help us to provide customer service, including contacting customers who have not checked out to follow up on abandoned shopping carts or to see if there was a problem with their use of the site. Information stored by functionality cookies is anonymised and cannot be used to track your browsing activity on other websites.

Here is a list of Functionality Cookies used on our websites.


Where can I find out more about cookies and how to turn off or delete them?

Find out more about cookies at including information on how to control and delete them in all major web browsers.

You can block cookies by activating the setting on your browser that allows you to refuse all or some cookies. However, if you use your browser settings to block all cookies (including essential cookies) you may not be able to access parts of our sites, or you may experience reduced functionality when accessing certain Services. Unless you have adjusted your browser setting so that it will refuse cookies, our system will issue cookies as soon you visit our website.

For information about deleting cookies from the browser on your mobile phone, refer to your handset manual.


Contact us

If you have any questions about our use of cookies, please contact our Data Protection Officer at:

Corporate Information Management Unit
The British Library
96 Euston Road