Open Access Policy

British Library aerial view

The British Library’s purpose is to make our intellectual heritage accessible to everyone, for research, inspiration and enjoyment.

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world’s greatest research libraries. The British Library’s purpose is to make our intellectual heritage accessible to everyone, for research, inspiration and enjoyment. 

One of the key statutory duties of the British Library under the British Library Act 1972 is to make our services “available in particular to institutions of education and learning, other libraries and industry”.

By law, the British Library and five other major libraries are empowered to collect a copy of every significant UK print publication from publishers.  This system is called legal deposit.  As of 6 April 2013, legal deposit extends to material published digitally and online, enabling the Legal Deposit Libraries to provide a comprehensive archive of the UK’s published material, including websites, blogs, e-journals and e-books.  These new regulations will enable the British Library and other Legal Deposit Libraries to preserve UK published Open Access content.

This policy statement describes the British Library position in support of Open Access to research that has been funded from the UK public purse:

  • We support the principle that open access to publicly funded, peer-reviewed, UK research should be freely available within, and also beyond the academic research community, to benefit business researchers, life-long learners, citizen scholars and the general public. 
  • We believe that the wider accessibility of publicly-funded research, combined with flexible reuse conditions, will raise the social, economic and cultural impact of UK research.
  • We are committed to serving both researchers today, and future generations, by collecting, preserving and providing access to scholarly content.  
  • As the national library of the United Kingdom, we will collect and preserve in perpetuity UK-published open access research outputs.
  • We recognise that research is collaborative and international in its nature.   Therefore, we will enable our users to access the growing range of UK and international Open Access content by connecting to appropriate content through our discovery services.
  • We will work in partnership with other libraries, the research community and publishers in the UK and internationally in seeking out collaborative and sustainable solutions for Open Access.

The principles stated in this policy will guide developments relevant to Open Access content.  We will develop further detail across relevant areas as the Open Access publishing channels evolve.