How to order/view catalogue items

A finger pointing to content on an iPad

A guide to the options for accessing content from the records in the catalogue, Explore the British Library.

How you order/view items in Explore the British Library differs depending on which tab you search:

Note that Explore the British Library does not contain a record for all the items we hold. You will find much manuscript and archive material in Explore Archives and Manuscripts. Records for other items are only found on card catalogues. You can request items not in our online catalogues if you know the shelfmark.

How to order/view items found in the 'Main catalogue'

Click the 'I want this' tab to see the order/view options available:

Explore the British Library I want this tab

You will see one or more services:

The options available depend on the type of material and may depend on whether you are registered for our services.

Deliver item to

Printed items will offer one or two 'Deliver item to' services:

Deliver item to services offered in the 'I want this' tab for some records in our catalogue, Explore the British Library.

The first of these services is only available to Readers. The second service, available to everyone, is only seen on items in our remote supply collection.

View online

Everyone can view free online content immediately. Content that is free online includes:

  • EU Bookshop documents
  • digitised books, music, maps, playbills
  • archived websites
  • US Government documents
  • content on open access platforms.

Some online content – legal deposit or licensed – is only available to Readers using the Library’s PCS in our Reading Rooms. If you are not a Reader using our PCs, and there are no other services available for the item, you will see the “Onsite access’ message:

Onsite access

You can view all content on the computers in our Reading Rooms.
If you searched in Explore Further there may be a link to the content in the Details tab.

Search for

Publishers send us non-print legal deposit journals, and licensed journals. This content is deposited at article or issue level. Our catalogue contains records for these articles and issues from which you can view the content. Our catalogue also contains journal title records for this content but you cannot view the content from these title records. You have to search, from title- level records, for the article/issue records from which you can view the content.

Search for service seen in the 'I want this' tab for some records in our catalogue, Explore the British Library.

Note: Non-print legal deposit, and licensed content, can only be viewed online by Readers using Library PCs in our Reading Rooms.

How to

You cannot access some content directly from services in the 'I want this' tab. Instead you’ll see a message with information on how to listen to, or view, these items. You will see this for some records of items in our Sound Archive and for all records of items in our Trade Literature collection.

'How to listen to audio content' service seen in the 'I want this' tab for some records in our catalogue, Explore the British Library.

'How to access Trade Literature items' service seen in the 'I want this' tab for Trade Literature records in our catalogue, Explore the British Library.

How to view items found in 'Available online'

All records in this tab are free to access and can be viewed wherever you are.

Click the 'I want this' tab to see the order/view options available. You may see more than one ‘view online’ service:

A catalogue record with multiple view online access options

Records found in this tab may also offer other access options:

A catalogue record with view online and order copy access options

A small amount of this content can only be viewed if you have a valid Reader Pass.You will be prompted to log in to view Reader-only subscribed resources.

How to view items found in 'Our website'

If you search ‘Our website’ you will find records for:

  • British Library webs pages
  • Reports
  • Images.

To see the web pages/reports/images, click the 'I want this' tab and records will display the View online’ service:

Catalogue message - View online: British Library web page or image or document

How to view items found in 'Explore Further'

Not all items found in ‘Explore Further' contain links to the full text. Where they do, in the main, you will find the link to view the online content in the 'Details' tab, not the 'I want this' tab. You will see the link to the full text on the right-hand side of the 'Details' tab. The link may include a note specifying that access is to subscribed content:

Link to full text in Explore Further catalogue records

Subscribed content is only available to Readers, using the Library’s PCs in our Reading Rooms. Not all subscribed content is flagged as such.

The link in the 'Details' tab may be to the record on the publisher’s website:

Link to record on publisher's website seen in some Explore Further catalogue records

Full text may be available from the record on the publisher’s website; but the content may be subscribed and only available to Readers.

Some of the links in the 'Details' tab are to citation databases (e.g. Scopus or Web of Science). Full text may not be available.

If you do not find a link in the 'Details' tab you may find one in the 'I want this' tab. Most, but not all, of the links in the 'I want this' tab are for subscribed content and only available to Readers. If you are not a Reader, or are a Reader using your own laptop/mobile/device, you are more likely to see the ‘No access message: