Explore the British Library: How to order collections items

Example of item details for a record in Explore the British Library

We may have more than one holding, or item, of a title you want. The availability of the items may differ. You choose the item you want from the details displayed.

Published date:

During the order process, the catalogue displays:

  • brief bibliographic information for the title you want
  • our holdings, for the title, and the delivery time for each holding

If the item is not a newspaper or journal, for each copy of the item we hold, we display the:

  • Shelfmark
  • Availability
  • Delivery time.

Click the 'Select' button, alongside the copy you want, and choose either:

If the item is a newspaper or journal, for each copy of the item we hold, we display 'Search a year range' boxes.

Select a year in both the From and To boxes and click Search.

The results will display below; you may need to toggle the items displayed to see all items available. For each copy of the item we hold you will see the:

  • Date range
  • Shelfmark
  • Format
  • Availability
  • Delivery time.

Click the 'Select' button, alongside the copy/copies you want, and choose either:

More information is available as to why:

Request for today

Use this option if you only wish to order one item to a Reading Room:

  • If the copy you require is not pre-selected, click the relevant 'Select' button
  • Click Request for today
  • For some items you will need to:
    • Input a Year or Volume
    • Input a note if this helps identify the item
    • Select a Reading Location
    • Click Confirm.

For other items you need only:

  • Select a Reading Location
  • Click Confirm.

NB: For some items that include a date as part of the shelfmark you still have to supply volume details. Once you click 'Confirm' you will be prompted for this detail.

For all items, once you have clicked 'Confirm' a message confirms whether the item has been requested. Close this window to return to Explore the British Library.

Add to basket

Use this option if you wish to place multiple orders at once, or order items in advance of a visit to the Reading Rooms.

For some items, once you click Add to basket the Basket screen will display immediately and the item you require will be listed at the top of your basket .

For other items you will need to:

  • Input a Year or Volume
  • Input a note if this helps identify the item
  • Click Confirm.

NB: Sometimes you won't be prompted to supply year or volume details until you click Confirm.

When the Basket screen displays the item(s) you require will listed at the top of your basket.

You can order the item in your basket or you can return to Explore the British Library, using the breadcrumb below the banner, to search for more items to add to your basket.

More information

A particular copy is pre-selected

The system will pre-select the item with the quickest delivery time, if that item is available.

Items cannot be selected

Items may not be selectable because they are not available. They may not be available for a number of reasons, e.g. in use, damaged, being moved,on exhibit. As you cannot request these item they are not available for selection.

Items are not available for selection if the item, or one or more copies of the item, are on open access. Open access items can be found on the shelves in the Reading Rooms.

One or more of the 'Request for today' and Add to basket' buttons are not available (greyed out)

After 16:00 you cannot 'Request for today' items with a delivery time of 70 mins; the 'Request for today' button will not be available.

If the item's delivery time is 48 hours, or 48+ hours, the 'Request for today' button will not be available.

If the item, or all copies of an item, cannot be selected, neither the 'Request for today' or 'Add to basket' button will be available.
Item cannot be selected if they are on open access; these items can be found on the shelves in the Reading Rooms.
Items cannot be selected if they are not available; they may not be available for a number of reasons, e.g. in use, damaged, being moved,on exhibit.