Social Sciences Reading Room

Desks, shelving and Readers in the Social Sciences Reading Room at the British Library

Find this room on Floor 1 in St Pancras.

This Reading Room provides access to our Social Science collection, which covers a wide range of disciplines. The collection focuses on social policy and welfare, business and management studies, sociology, women’s studies, human geography, anthropology, education, politics and law.

We have recently published e-books, articles, journals and various subject-specific e-resources. 

You can also access our official publications collection and legal materials in this Reading Room. The collection includes current and historic Government publications for the UK and worldwide, and reports and documents from international organisations such as the United Nations, European Union, World Health Organisation and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 

In the Social Sciences Reading Room you can:

  • Order collection items to the Reading Room using our catalogues 
  • Access online databases, e-books, journals and articles
  • View our open access reference material on the shelves.

Who is the Social Sciences Reading Room for?

Anyone can use the Social Sciences Reading Room. You just need a Reader Pass.
Students, postgraduates, academics, people who work in social policy, the law, media, local or central government all have a need for the resources available on our shelves or that can be ordered to view in the Reading Room.

Items on the shelves in this Reading Room

General reference and quick reference materials

Items such as encyclopaedias, international statistical yearbooks, print catalogues and indexes.

UK official publications

Government publications such as historical and current statutes and statutory instruments, parliamentary debates and House of Commons and Lords journals.

Law resources

Access our extensive collection of law reports, transcripts of legal judgements, original acts of legislation, case summaries, and reform reports along with our collection of print law reports, reference materials and legal commentary.

Statistics, census returns, reports

Census returns and reports, UK electoral roll data and access to genealogical databases.

United Nations and international organisations documents and reports

Access to full text databases and print material for organisations such as the United Nations, European Union, OECD, IMF and the World Health Organization.

Births, marriages and deaths indexes

We have the General Register Office Index on open access. We also subscribe to Find My Past, a genealogical database containing parish records as well as census records from 1841–1911.

European Documentation Centre

As a European Documentation Centre until 2020, we hold copies of European Communities publications since the 1950s and will continue to collect selective EU publications.

Items available to order to this Reading Room

You can search and order books, reports and journal parts using our catalogues.

You can view items in the Social Sciences Reading Room that are not fully described in our catalogues. You will need to use the directories and electronic resources to identify the items that you need. Tracing these documents can be complex, and many of these are held offsite. Please ask at the Reference Desk for help or click on the following links for guides on how to access:

Using the Social Sciences Reading Room

Anyone with a British Library Reader Pass can access the Social Sciences Reading Room.

Get a Reader Pass.

Reference enquiries

If you need help, ask our Reference Specialists at the Enquiry Desk. They can:

  • Guide you to the most appropriate material for your research
  • Advise you on how to access and use our printed and electronic collection and resources most effectively
  • Help you to use our catalogues and answer your bibliographic questions
  • Suggest other libraries, archives and institutions that you might find useful in your research, or guide you to relevant websites and free online resources
  • Provide a range of free Reader sessions and 1-2-1 consultations to help you find your way around the collection.

If your enquiry requires more specialist help than we can provide we will forward your enquiry to the appropriate person in the Library or suggest alternative sources.

If you are unable to visit you can contact the Social Sciences Reference Team directly, use our Quick Chat service, or get in touch via Twitter.


Find government publications

If you can’t find a document in our catalogue, ask at the reference desk

Get your Reader Pass

All you need to explore our collections is a Reader Pass.

Order items

Order items from our catalogue of over 170 million items and they'll be waiting for you in our Reading Rooms.

All Help guides