Listening and Viewing Service

Listening and Viewing Service

With our Listening and Viewing Service you can access our extensive collection of recorded sound and video. The collection includes: music, wildlife, drama, literature, oral history and archived BBC Radio broadcasts.

British Library Sounds

Over 90,000 sound recordings have been digitised and are presented on British Library Sounds. A large number of the recordings are freely available for listening online, though some are restricted to users in accredited higher education establishments.

How to use the Listening and Viewing service

Over 200,000 digital tracks are available to Readers in our London and Yorkshire Reading Rooms via our Sound and Moving Image catalogue.

You can ask to listen to recordings not yet digitised. For some items you might need to make a listening appointment. If any essential preservation work needs to be undertaken there may be a delay of up to eight weeks.

Search the Sound and Moving Image catalogue to find the recording you want, make a note of the shelfmark and contact us with the details. You will find the shelfmark at the top of each entry in the catalogue:

Sound and Moving Image Catalogue record

Contact us

If you are unable to find the recording you want, contact the Sound & Vision Reference Team. Listening appointment times are:

Mon - Thurs: 10.00 – 20.00
Fri - Sat: 10.00 – 17.00.

You can book an appointment in person at the Enquiry Desk in the Rare Books and Music Reading Room, or contact the Sound & Vision Reference Team:

T: +44 (0)20 7412 7418

Collection guides

Forced Entertainment

Over 300 video recordings of performances, workshops and rehearsals

Radio broadcast recordings

200,000 hours of radio recordings dating back to the first decade of broadcasting

World and traditional music collection

We hold one of the world's largest collections of recordings variously described as traditional, folk or world music

Classical music recordings

Recordings in the western concert tradition, opera, liturgical music, and the pre-Baroque repertories of Western Europe

Music recordings

Our vast collection includes commercial discs, tapes of radio broadcasts, and rare or unpublished recordings

Black Britain: music and audiovisual

Rich and wide-ranging collections, especially of music and recorded sound

Wildlife and environmental sounds

The largest collection of its kind in Europe and the most comprehensive in the world

Asian Britain: music and audiovisual

Rich and wide-ranging collections, especially of music and recorded sound

Oral history

One of the largest collections of oral history and life story interviews in the world

Pop music recordings

We hold one of the most wide-ranging collections of popular music in the world

English accents and dialects

We have an extensive collection of spoken voice recordings

Drama and literature recordings

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

Poetry Pamphlets

Poetry pamphlets published by independent presses.

Music manuscripts and archives

Sources for vocal and instrumental works from the Middle Ages to the present