Get a Reader Pass

Desks in a British Library reading room.

A guide to how to obtain a British Library Reader Pass to use our Reading Rooms

Published date:

Register for a Reader Pass

We issue a free Reader Pass to anyone who has a need to see specific items in our collections. We do not usually issue a pass to anyone under the age of 18 but in some cases exceptions are made.

Before you register with the British Library, you should search our Catalogues to confirm we have the material you require. Please bring these details with you when you register. Our staff will have an introductory discussion with you about your need to use our collections. They may suggest more appropriate libraries or sources for your research.

You can pre-register online or register in person. Pre-registration is only eligible for first time Reader Pass applicants. To register in person, or to complete your online pre-reregistration, visit either: 

  • Reader Registration on the Upper Ground Floor at St Pancras, London (open Monday 10.00am–5.45pm, Wednesday and Thursday 9.30am–5.45pm, Tuesday 9.30am–7.45pm and Friday and Saturday 9.30am–4.15pm, except for seasonal closures. Please arrive at least 15 minutes before closing); or, 
  • Reception, Boston Spa, West Yorkshire (open Monday to Friday 9.00am–16.30pm, except for seasonal closures). We strongly recommend that readers intending to use the Boston Spa Reading Room pre-register online.

We will need to see proof of your identity and address.

Once registered, you will be given a Reader Pass. Passes are valid for a period of between one month and three years and are issued subject to the Library's Conditions of Use.

Once you have pre-registered, or got your Reader Pass, you need to get an account before you can order items to view in our Reading Rooms. If you pre-register and get an account before you get your Reader Pass you can order books before your first visit. You may find it helpful to order in advance as most collection items are held in storage. Delivery times range from 70 minutes to 48 hours, depending on the storage location. We provide delivery times at the point of order.

If you already have a Reader Pass you may need to extend or renew it or obtain a temporary pass.    

Extend a Reader Pass

This allows you to request material before renewing your pass in person. You can extend your expired Reader Pass only if you have upgraded your Reader number to a British Library Online Account before your pass expired.

  • The extension is valid for three weeks and allows you to pre-order items in advance of your next visit. However, you still need to renew your Reader Pass prior to using our Reading Rooms.

To extend your expired Reader Pass:

  • Log in to My Account
  • Click the ‘My Service’ ‘tab
  • In the British Library Reader section, click ‘Extend Reader Pass’
  • Tick the check boxes to signify that you will bring proof of signature and address
  • Click the ‘Extend’ button. 
When you renew your pass you must provide documentation to support your need for ongoing access to British Library collection items and appropriate identification and proof of address.

Renew a Reader Pass

To renew your Reader Pass you should apply in person to Reader Registration at St Pancras, London or at Reception in Boston Spa, Yorkshire. 

Your pass will be valid from the day you renew. If you have lost your expired pass we can still renew it. You can renew your Reader Pass both before and after your current pass expires:
  • If you have a three year Reader Pass you can renew up to six months before the expiry date If you have a one year pass you can renew up to one month before the expiry date
  • If you have a monthly pass you can renew up to one week before the expiry date.

You must provide documentation to support your need for ongoing access and you must provide appropriate identification and proof of address.

Temporary Pass

If you have registered and been issued with a Reader Pass but arrive at the Library without your pass, a temporary pass may be issued at a cost of £5.00. If you have lost your pass the fee will be £10.00. In either case you must provide appropriate identification and proof of address.

Please come to Reader Registration on the Upper Ground Floor at St Pancras, London or Reception at Boston Spa, Yorkshire.

Using the Library 

The British Library is different from public and university libraries:

  • In London, the majority of the collections are held in closed stores, and are ordered to a reading room. At Boston Spa, all items are held in closed stores and are ordered in advance.
  • The Library does not hold multiple copies of standard texts.
  • Items in the Library's main catalogue, Explore the British Library, with a 'Document Supply' prefix (DSC) may be requested as interlibrary loans through public, academic and business libraries, otherwise no items may be borrowed from any Reading Rooms.
  • Readers using the Boston Spa Reading Room are advised to order items in advance as the minimum delivery time to this Reading Room is 48 hours.
  • Delivery of items from storage areas to reading rooms depends on where the item is stored and to which reading room the item is delivered. There is further information for readers using our London and Boston Spa Reading Rooms.
Readers with disabilities who may need additional support should contact us.  

Reader Registration, The British Library,
96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB, United Kingdom
T: +44(0)20 7412 7676; F: +44(0)20 7412 7794

Customer Services, Reader Registration, The British Library,
Boston Spa, Wetherby, West Yorkshire, LS23 7BQ, United Kingdom
T: +44(0)1937 546060; F: +44(0)1937 546333

Collection guides

Modern British history printed sources

Monographs, periodicals and printed ephemera on modern British history

Sale catalogues

An essential resource for provenance research

King’s manuscripts

Medieval and post-medieval manuscripts and topographical material

Medieval and early modern British historical manuscripts

Sources for British history before 1600

Royal manuscripts

Manuscripts collected by English sovereigns from Edward IV onwards

Medieval and early modern British literary manuscripts

Sources for British literature before 1600


A wide-ranging collection of fine and historic bindings

Artists’ Books & Fine Press

A collection page about our fine press and artists' books holdings.

Music manuscripts and archives

Sources for vocal and instrumental works from the Middle Ages to the present

Western illuminated manuscripts

Approximately 9,000 manuscripts with decoration or illumination

Hebrew collections

Manuscripts copied over 1,000 years ago to the most recent monographs and serials

Early printed books

Highlights of incunabula and books printed before 1600

Manuscript maps

Cartography from the Middle Ages to the present

European philatelic material

Stamps, airmails and related material from the continent

India Office Records and Private Papers

Archives of the East India Company and the pre-1947 government of India