Using the Reading Rooms

People sitting in a Reading Room

How to use the Library

We’re a bit different to your local library. We have 12 Reading Rooms in London and Yorkshire where you can order and see any of our 170 million collection items. We’ve got comfy seats, free Wi-Fi and staff to help you find what you need – you just can't take the collection home.

You'll need a Reader Pass, and it’s free to get one.

New to the Library? Get a Reader Pass 

Used our Reading Room before, or lost, forgotten, or need to renew your Pass? Renew your Reader Pass

Our Reading Rooms

Check our opening hours

Please leave any coats, outdoor jackets, bags or laptop cases in the cloakroom or in a locker before entering the Reading Rooms. This is to help us keep the collection safe. The temperatures inside the Reading Rooms are set to protect the collection and may feel cool, so please bring an extra layer for your comfort (just not a coat or bulky jacket).

If you have a disability and require assistance accessing our collections, please refer to our Accessibility page.

St Pancras, London:

Boston Spa, Yorkshire:

Consulting collection items

You can order collection items in advance of your visit to the Reading Rooms, using our catalogues Explore the British Library or Explore Archives and Manuscripts. If you would like to reserve any items to consult again just let our staff at the Issue Desk know. You can reserve items for up to three working days.

You can also order collection items on the day and while you are in the Reading Room. Most of them will be delivered to you within 70 minutes, but please note collection items are stored across our two sites in London and Yorkshire so some may take up to 48 hours to arrive.

We're enhancing our storage facilities in Boston Spa and some of our collections are being moved to enable this work. As a result, some of the items you requested might not be available while they're being moved. 

Keep an eye on your orders at My Reading Room Requests. If you’ve pre-ordered items please check this before you set off to the Library to make sure your items have arrived.

Need help?

Our customer services team can be reached by email at customer-services@bl.uk or 01937 546060.

If you need help with your research or to check which Reading Room to visit you can ask our librarians.