Reading Room Requests

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

Some items can be viewed online but you have to request printed items to view in our Reading Rooms.

How do I order items to view in a Reading Room?

  1. Get a free British Library Reader Pass to use our Reading Rooms for study and to view our collection items
    Once you’ve applied online for a Reader Pass and have an online account you can pre-order items to view in a Reading Room. You will need to come into Reader Registration at the Library to complete your registration before going to a Reading Room.

  2. Order items online using our catalogues or contact us in advance and we’ll order for you
    You can order some items on the day of your visit but we recommend you order in advance. Use: These catalogues don't give access to everything in the collection yet; other catalogues may help you find what you need.

How do I use your catalogues?

  1. Search for the item you need
    Enter your search term(s) in the box, or use Advanced Search to add extra filters to your search. If you’re not sure what to search for to find what you need, our librarians can help. You can also filter your results list using the options available, if required.
  2. Select the item(s) you’re interested in, one at a time
    Click the 'I want this' tab to see the delivery options available for your item. Not all options are available for all items. The options available differ in Explore Archives and Manuscripts.

    In Explore the British Library the options that may be available are:
    • deliver the item to one of our Reading Rooms
    • order via our On Demand service
    • view online
    • search for the article/issue details to view online, if ordering journals
    • find out more via a ‘How to’ option.
  3. To order an item to a Reading Room, click ‘Go’
    You’ll be prompted to login using your online account details.
  4. Check the item we hold is the one you want to order
    You can view:
    • brief bibliographic information for the title you want
    • the items and the delivery time for each.
  5. To order, click to ‘Select’ the item you want
    One or two options will be available to you:
    • Request for today
    • Add to basket.
    To order newspapers, and some journals, you have to search for the item by year. You can then click to ‘Select’ the item(s) you want. Other journals require you to specify the year and volume. You can also add notes to these orders, e.g. Issue number details.
  6. To request items for today
    You need to request each item individually. Select the Reading Room where you want to view the item. Not all items can be viewed in all rooms.
  7. If you have added items to your basket, you can request them to view on specific dates
    If you want to see a number of items on the same day, select them and you need only change the date once; all selected items will be delivered on the same date. You also need to select the Reading Rooms where you want to view the items. Not all items can be viewed in all rooms.

    You can have up to 30 items in your basket at any one time. Items remain in your basket:
    • until they are requested
    • until you remove them
    • for 90 days, after which they are removed automatically.
    Any item in your basket is still available for other people to order, until you place a request.
  8. Once you have requested your items, please check My Reading Room Requests before you set off to the Library to make sure your items have arrived
    If you need any assistance please contact us.

Contact us to order items in advance

  1. Reader Services Enquiries can order items on your behalf, if you prefer not to order items yourself
  2. You can order up to five items by email or letter
  3. Advance requests must be received a minimum of four days (excluding Saturday and Sunday) before the date required
  4. When contacting us, you need to state:
    • your name
    • your British Library Online Account number (this is the same as your Reader Pass number)
    • the shelfmarks (or reference code, for archive and manuscripts) of the items you wish to order (one item can be ordered without a shelfmark/reference code)
    • author/title details
    • the date you require the items
    • which Reading Room you would like the items delivered to
    • your telephone number if placing orders by letter (in case there is a problem with your order).
  5. We do not send automatic responses to confirm your order
    Please check My Reading Room Requests before you set off to the Library to make sure your items have arrived.

Contact details for orders

Reader Services Enquiries
The British Library
Customer Services
Boston Spa
LS23 7BB
United Kingdom