How to get a Reader Pass if you are under 18

Desks in a British Library reading room.
Desks in a British Library reading room.

Everyone is welcome to visit our exhibition galleries and public spaces. To use the Reading Rooms at St Pancras and Boston Spa you will need to register for a Reader Pass.

We do not normally issue a Reader Pass to anyone under the age of 18, but we occasionally make an exception to see specific items which are unavailable in other libraries.

We cannot admit anyone aged 11 or under to the Reading Rooms. As an under-18 student, you may find your school or public library better equipped to serve your needs.

Apart from some reference materials on the shelves, you can’t browse in the British Library’s Reading Rooms to see what you want. Instead readers search the online catalogue then order their items from storage and wait to collect them. This will take a minimum of 70 minutes or over two days for material stored off site.

The Reading Rooms are for individual study and groups of students can’t talk together in the Reading Rooms, nor can items be removed from the Reading Rooms as this is a reference library – items have to be looked at on-site.

To apply for a Reader Pass, you will need to provide a list of the titles and shelfmarks of each book you require as well as a list of other libraries from which you have tried to get the material. The shelfmark is available from the British Library’s catalogue. Please be aware your application may take up to ten days to process.

Any item in the catalogue with a ‘Document Supply’ (DSC) prefix in the shelfmark is available via public libraries through the interlibrary loan service. Your local librarian will be able to help you with this if you provide the details of the items you require.

To apply complete the Under-18 Reader Pass application form and email it to our Reader Registration Team.

Anyone over 18 can obtain a regular Reader Pass

Collection guides

Artists’ Books & Fine Press

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

African government publications

Our African official publications are strongest for Anglophone countries

Russian statistical publications

A comprehensive collection of statistical publications from all over the world, including Russia

Ethiopian collections

The Ethiopian collections include over 600 manuscripts in addition to recent monographs and serials

United States federal government publications

Publications from the 18th century to the present day

Australian and New Zealand government publications

An extensive collection of government publications in print and microform

Canadian federal government publications

Our collections of printed Canadian federal government publications run from the colonial period to 2014

African newspapers

Very rich historical newspaper collections in European and African languages

Grenville Library

Thomas Grenville's Library

Poetry Pamphlets

Poetry pamphlets published by independent presses.

Drama and literature recordings

A unique collection of audio-visual recordings of drama, poetry and literature in performance

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

Private Case

A collection of erotic printed books


A wide-ranging collection of fine and historic bindings