About Explore the British Library


You can search for records in the Library's collections and for content freely available online. You can also use the catalogue to search our website.

You can use Explore the British Library to search:

  • The main catalogue for digital and print books, journals, newspapers, maps and scores, in the Library's collection. Also included here are electronic resources, sound archive items and a subset of archived websites selected by our curators as being of special interest as well as curated collections of archived websites.
  • For content available online.This content is free to access and can be viewed wherever you are
  • Our website for online exhibitions, learning resources, sounds and more
  • Explore Further for a large amount of externally-held content.

The main catalogue

You can search the main catalogue for records from the Library's collections of printed and digital items. This catalogue has records for circa 93 million items:

  • circa 17.5 million records for the Library's holdings of books, journals, newspapers, conferences, maps, scores etc.
  • circa 70 million journal article records
  • circa 5.6 million records of the Library's Sound Archive items
  • circa 76 thousand Web Archive records selected by our curators as being of special interest and archived automatically as part of our whole-UK domain archiving activity. The UK Web Archive contains all records 2005-present.
  • circa 112,000 records for British Library web pages
  • 14,000 Trade Literature collected since mid-1980s. Our website provides details of our earlier trade literature collection.
  • hundreds of database records (most subscribed*; some freely available on the web)
  • hundreds of Research datasets records (freely available on the web)

* Owing to licensing reasons, most subscribed electronic items are only available from the Library's computers within the Reading Rooms and Business & IP Centre.

The catalogue also contains records for free online content, selected by our curators, such as EU Bookshop records and records of US Federal Government documents.

Available online

Selecting ‘available online’ when you search will only display content that can currently be viewed online. This content is free to access and can be viewed wherever you are.

A small amount of content can only be viewed if you have a valid Reader Pass. You will be prompted to log in to view Reader-only subscribed resources

Please note certain resources have been made freely available during the current Covid-19 pandemic and may not remain free to access in the medium to long term.

Explore Further

Explore Further contains over 200 million records for online scholarly materials such as articles and e-books, provided by publishers.

Except for etheses records, Explore Further does not contain records for the Library's printed and digital holdings.

Much of the content is Open Access and available online. Some content requires a subscription. Where we subscribe to content it will only be available to Readers, using Library PCs in the Reading Rooms.

Explore Further is our name for Primo Central.

Key features

  • An easy-to-use Refine facility, to filter your results
  • Registered Readers can log on and request items to view in the Reading Rooms
  • Anyone can order copies of items in the Library's remote supply collection
  • Registered Readers and document supply customers can set up alerts to provide you with updated results for your search queries.