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Free research resources: Libraries

A guide to free and Open Access resources available to students, alumni and the public.

Visiting University of Reading Library

Members of the public who wish to consult printed Library materials which are not available elsewhere can arrange up to 5 visits per academic year.

All visits must be arranged at least 2 working days in advance. Please email ahead of your arrival with details of the items that you need.

All visitors must arrive between 09:00 - 17:00 on the day of their arranged visit. On arrival at the Library, please report to the Welcome Desk and present photographic proof of identification.

During University assessment periods (currently late March to early June), visits are only permitted on Saturdays and Sundays. 

More information about contacting the Library, what to bring when visiting the Library, times that visitors are allowed and any restrictions to access are on the Library websites below:
Search the catalogue before you visit

Search Enterprise, the Library catalogue, to find items you might be interested in consulting before you travel - you can do this from the Library homepage, or use the search box below; 

Library members can request items from Closed Access or Store. If the materials you would like to view are housed in our Closed Access or Off-Site Store areas, you will need to order them in advance of your visit and wait for confirmation that they are ready for you - please see our website for more information on how to order your items;

The British Library

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and houses a world leading research collection of over 170 million items including books, newspapers, sound recordings, patents, prints and drawings, maps and manuscripts. 

The British Library collections can be consulted at either the St Pancras or Boston Spa reading rooms - if you'd like to visit and use the collection first you need to register for a Reader Pass. For more information see the British Library website;

Public libraries

You can use your local public library for independent study, to borrow materials, use e-books and much more! The public libraries closest to the University are Reading Libraries, Wokingham Libraries and West Berkshire libraries - find more information at the following links;

Finding materials at other Libraries

It's a great idea to find out which libraries hold the materials you will find useful before you arrange to visit. You can do this in advance - the majority of University and research libraries have their catalogue available on their website for anyone to use, to find out what they hold in their collections. 

Person standing at bookshelvesYou may also find it useful to consult a union catalogue such as JISC Library Hub Discover, or Worldcat. These are freely available and search across many different library catalogues at the same time, showing you all the different locations for each book - you can search these at the links below for JISC Library Hub Discover and Worldcat:

Finding rare and unique material in Archives and Libraries

woman studyingIf your research is leading you towards historical, unique or rare material (manuscripts, rare books, archival records), there are special databases you can use to find out which libraries or archives hold this material. 

Once you find an archive or library with material you are interested in, it's best to contact them directly with your questions.

Other University and copyright libraries

If you live close to another university, you may be able to use their library. Check their webpages for more information. You can often search library catalogues online, so you can check what they have. Using the library for reference is usually free, but you may be able to borrow books on payment of a fee.

Copyright, or legal deposit libraries, are libraries which are entitled to receive a copy of all publications in the UK. This includes books, pamphlets, magazines, newspapers, sheet music and maps. This entitlement means that they will have very extensive collections. Apart from the British Library, there are five others: the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, the Bodleian Library, Oxford, Cambridge University Library and the Library of Trinity College, Dublin. All allow visitors to use their collections - check  their websites for more information.