Conditions of Use of British Library Reading Rooms

On Demand - register

Admission to British Library Reading Rooms requires a Reader Pass. These are issued at the discretion of the British Library Board and are subject to the Conditions of Use detailed herein.

Published date:

Failure to comply with these conditions may result in the removal of a Reader’s pass for an initial period of up to 10 working days while an investigation is undertaken. Potential outcomes of an investigation include temporary or permanent suspension of a Reader’s pass. All such decisions will be made in accordance with the guidelines outlined in Breaches of the British Library Reading Room Conditions of Use and include the right of appeal.

Access to Reading Rooms

  1. A valid Reader Pass is required to enter a Reading Room. A charge will be levied for replacement of a lost or forgotten pass.
  2. A Reader Pass is for the exclusive use of the individual to whom it was issued.
  3. Your Reader Pass must be shown to any member of staff who requests to see it.
  4. Should your name or address change or if your pass is lost or stolen you must inform the Library immediately.
  5. No bag larger than 29x21x10cm may be taken into the Reading Rooms.
  6. In addition to the above, only one clear plastic bag may be taken into the Reading Rooms and, if required, a clear bag for a laptop computer. 
  7. Outdoor coats and jackets must not be taken into the Reading Rooms.
  8. All personal possessions taken into a Reading Room may be subject to opening and inspection by Library staff.
  9. All emergency procedures must be followed, including the evacuation of the site in the event of a fire, or fire drill.

If you are a Reader who may need special assistance to use the Reading Rooms, please speak to a member of staff.

Consideration of others

The British Library is an environment in which both staff and Readers must be able to work without disturbance or fear of abuse. Therefore:

  1. Please treat staff and other Readers with courtesy and respect at all times.
  2. Consider other Readers and behave in a way that does not disturb them and respects their privacy. If it is necessary to talk, please do so quietly.
  3. When using the internet, please ensure that others are not exposed to extreme or unpleasant visual material that may either offend or distress.
  4. Mobile phones must either be turned off or on silent mode. Calls must not be made or received and texting kept to a minimum.
  5. All other equipment such as laptop computers, cameras and pagers must be on silent and headphones inaudible to other Readers.

Using the collection

The British Library has established procedures for the use of its collections to help ensure that they are adequately protected. Please observe these guidelines along with those displayed in the Reading Rooms.

  1. Collection items must not be removed from the Reading Rooms.
  2. Collection items are your responsibility at all times when in use by you.
  3. Please follow all procedures for the issue and return of collection items.
  4. All collection items must be returned to a member of staff at the desk from which they were issued or when asked to do so by any member of Library staff.
  5. Collection items must not be passed to another person when issued in your name. Neither should you use items issued to another Reader.

Looking after and copying the collections

The British Library has an obligation to preserve its collection for the users of today, the future and the nation. Damage to or theft of Library material is a criminal offence and may result in prosecution. British Library procedures for copying its collections have been developed both in accordance with relevant UK legislation and to help preserve its collection by reducing the risk of damage. The Library reserves the right to restrict copying to reduce the risk of damage to collection items or to comply with applicable laws. Please take note of the following when using collection material:

  1. Utmost care must be taken of all material in the Library's collections. All use increases wear and tear to collection items so please reduce the risk by limiting copying to what you need for reference purposes only and handling items as little as possible.
  2. Pencils only must be used once inside the Reading Rooms. No pens are permitted.
  3. Writing in or marking collection material is not permitted in any form.
  4. Items that could harm the collections are not allowed in the Reading Rooms. These include, but are not limited to: pens, “Post-It” notes, food, drink, sweets (including cough sweets), chewing gum, glue, bottles of ink, correction fluid, cleaning liquids, scissors, knives (including craft knives and razor blades), highlighter pens, scanner pens, portable scanners, adhesive tape and umbrellas.
  5. Tracings or rubbings are not permitted, unless prior written permission is obtained from the Library.
  6. 'Double page' photocopies are not permitted of any item from the collections. Copying via other means such as overhead scanning and self-service photography may be permitted (condition permitting).
  7. Current UK copyright legislation, terms and conditions governing electronic content and regulations governing the use of material deposited under Legal Deposit Libraries (NonPrint Works) Regulations 2013 must be complied with. Readers are liable for any copies they make which infringe copyright, intellectual property or other proprietary rights.
  8. Unless terms exist to the contrary, only single copies of an in-copyright item for noncommercial research may be made. The amount copied must be “fair” and not unnecessarily prejudice the interests of the copyright owner(s). Other copying, such as copying by disabled persons or for judicial purposes should follow current UK copyright legislation.
  9. Copying of collection items using personal devices is permitted for reference purposes only. Self-service photography, where this is permitted, is intended for personal reference and research not for copying at scale or commercial copying. Scanners are not permitted in the Reading Rooms.
  10. The Library will use your personal data to facilitate your reader membership and as part of our Collection Security protocols. We process this data in performance of our public task to protect the national Collection and will keep your data, where Collection items have been accessed by you, in perpetuity. For more information regarding how the Library will use your data please see our Privacy Policy.

    In addition, a number of the items in the Collection contain personal data related to living individuals. The Library is able to make such content available as we are archiving in the public interest in line with performing our public function of making the Collection available. However, you acknowledge that you are solely responsible for your use of any content involving personal data and are satisfied that you are complying with the General Data Protection Regulation and Data Protection Act 2018 by doing so.

Computers and other technical equipment

  1. Any personal devices such as laptops must not be connected to the Library network.
  2. To avoid disrupting other readers please turn all sounds and alerts off before taking devices into a Reading Room.
  3. Headphones may be used if the sound is inaudible to other Readers. If the use of personal equipment of any kind disturbs other Readers, you will be asked to stop using it or to move to another desk.
  4. Portable storage devices or software must not be used on the Library network or with the Library's computers.
  5. Under no circumstances may the Library’s electronic collections be photographed, viewed on or downloaded onto external networks or personal equipment.
  6. The Library may undertake safety checks of your technical equipment at any time.

Complaints and Disclaimers

  1. The British Library aims to provide an excellent service. Should you wish to comment on or complain about anything please do so using our service improvement procedure, details of which are available in the Reading Rooms and on our website.
  2. The Library does not accept liability for the loss of, or damage to, personal property or equipment, however caused.
  3. The Library reserves the right to add to or amend these Conditions of Use as required.

31 October 2018