How to order items

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

Find out how to request items from our Reading Rooms, both during or before your visit.

To order items to view in our Reading Rooms you must have first registered for a Reader Pass.

At St Pancras, London, most of our items are held in store, rather than on open access, and you have to request them to view in our Reading Rooms. Some items in our collection are held offsite and might not be available on the day of your visit unless you order them in advance. If you want same day delivery of onsite items, in London, you should make your request before 16.00. You can order items when you are in our Reading Rooms, or in advance of a visit either online or by contacting us. We recommend that you order in advance to make the best use of your time here.

At Boston Spa, in Yorkshire, all items are held in store and the minimum delivery time is 48 hours. Items have to be ordered in advance either online or by contacting us.

To locate and order items, you can:

You may request up to 10 items per day; restrictions apply in the Manuscripts Reading Room. Items will be kept for a maximum of four working days, before being returned to storage.

You can track the status of your requests with My Reading Room Requests.

Note that some collection items have to be requested on manual tickets; these include some Maps, Patents and Official Publications and certain highly restricted and fragile items.

Note also that some Western Manuscripts collection items, including most illuminated manuscripts, are not normally made available without a written letter of introduction or recommendation.

Contact us to order items in advance

Reader Services Enquiries can order items on your behalf, if you prefer not to order items in advance of a visit to our Reading Rooms using Explore the British Library or Explore Archives & Manuscripts.

You can order:

  • up to four items by phone
  • up to six items by fax, email or letter.

Advance requests must be received a minimum of four days (excluding Saturday and Sunday) before the date required.

When contacting us, you must state:

  • your name
  • your British Library Online Account number (formerly 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 or fax number if placing orders by fax or letter (in case there is a problem with your order).

We do not send automatic responses to confirm your order but you can check the status of your requests with My Reading Room Requests.

Contact details for orders

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

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7676

Our office hours are:
Monday–Friday: 08.30–17.00
Saturday: 10.00–16.00