What are the Reading Rooms?
The British Library Reading Rooms are dedicated spaces where you can access items in our collection. You can also use them for quiet study. There are 11 Reading Rooms at our St Pancras site in London, and one at Boston Spa in Yorkshire.
How to use the British Library Reading Rooms
We’re a bit different to your local library. You can’t take the books out, but you can order any of our 170 million collection items to see in one of our Reading Rooms in London and Yorkshire. All you need is a Reader Pass.
Viewing and accessing the collection
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.
You can also order collection items on the day and while you are in the Reading Rooms for delivery within 70 minutes. Please note collection items are stored across our two sites in London and Yorkshire so some may be unavailable for same day ordering and may take up to 48 hours to be delivered to the Reading Rooms.
If you pre-order items, please check My Reading Room Requests before you set off to the Library to make sure your items have arrived.
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.
We have a large collection of online content: databases, electronic journals and books, digital sheet music, web archives and more. While much of this content can only be viewed in our Reading Rooms, we have a growing number of resources available on a personal device, wherever you are.
Can anyone access the Reading Rooms?
Yes, you just need a Reader Pass to use the British Library Reading Rooms.
Getting a Reader Pass is free and enables you to request items from our collection to view in the Reading Rooms.
Can you work or study in the Reading Rooms?
Yes. If you have a Reader Pass you can study at the British Library, even if you’re not using any collection items. Just show your Reader Pass at the Reading Room security desk as you enter.
You can also choose which of the Reading Rooms to use, unless you are combining your study time with using collection items. Some collection items can only be viewed in certain Reading Rooms, and you can check this when you order items.
Our Reading Rooms
St Pancras, London
- Asian & African Studies, St Pancras
- Business & IP Centre, St Pancras
- Humanities 1 and 2, St Pancras
- Manuscripts, St Pancras
- Maps, St Pancras
- Newsroom, St Pancras
- Rare Books & Music, St Pancras
- Science 2 and 3, St Pancras
- Social Sciences, St Pancras
Boston Spa, Yorkshire
The opening hours of the Reading Rooms vary between our two sites and differ from the opening times of our public spaces, entrance hall and galleries.
Help and advice
Our Reading Rooms are calm, inspiring places to work and view the Library’s collection. We are proud that our St Pancras site is regarded as one of the best libraries to study at in London.
As we are sure you can understand, things are a little different at the British Library, so we do ask you to observe a few rules when you’re in the Reading Rooms:
- Pens can’t be used in the Reading Rooms - just pencils please.
- Leave any coats, bags or laptop cases in the cloakroom or in a locker.
- No food or drink to be taken in or consumed in the Reading Rooms.
- Leave your mobile phone and laptop on silent, and headphones at a low volume.
The temperatures inside the Reading Rooms are set to protect our collection and may feel cool, so we suggest bringing an extra layer for your comfort.
For general enquiries and questions about ordering items, contact:
Phone: 01937 546060
If you need help with your research or to check which Reading Room to visit you can always ask our librarians.
If you require assistance accessing our collections, please refer to our Accessibility page.
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