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Senate House Library

The Special Collections Reading Room

The Reading Room is an invigilated space for the use of Archives and Manuscripts and printed Special Collections.

Opening hours

11:00 to 17:00 - Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday
11:00 to 19:00 - Wednesday 

The Reading Room

You can use the Special Collections reading room for consulting printed Special Collections, Archives and Manuscripts and accessing the Palaeography, Manuscript and print studies collection. There is also a microfilm reader available to use in the room. 

Free access to the Archives and Special Collections

All current members of Senate House Library can access Special Collections. Independent researchers using Special Collections, Archives and Manuscripts who would normally pay to use the library, can apply for a free archive ticket. (This ticket is not valid for accessing other areas or resources within the Library.) Proof of address and photo ID is required.

To apply for a free archive ticket, please complete the pre-registration form. The Special Collections team will contact you to confirm this has been activated. Archive tickets must be arranged with at least one day’s notice. We also offer other membership options for university students and staff. Please see our membership pages for more information.  

Accessing Special Collections 

  • Use the main Library Catalogue for printed Special Collections, the catalogue for Archives and Manuscripts and the card catalogue to find and request the items you want to see.
  • You will be asked to make a booking when ordering the items. 
  • Please allow a minimum of 48 hours when placing your request and when choosing the date you would like to visit. This will allow enough time to process orders and ensure they are available when you visit.
  • You will receive an email confirming your booking. 
  • The Special Collections reading room is on the 4th floor of the library and is an invigilated, silent area. Please show consideration for others while using the room.
  • If you cannot visit the Library in person, we offer a free Virtual Reading Room service for Library members as well as external researchers.

The majority of the Palaeography and Manuscript studies and Book Studies collections are available on the shelves in the Reading Room. Back issues of Palaeography periodicals and journals are stored in the Main Library Stack and can be ordered through the fetch service.

Regulations for using the Special Collections Reading Room

  1. If you are using Special Collections and archive material, we have regulations and procedures we ask our users to follow to protect the collections. 
  2. Users must put their bags and coats in a locker before viewing materials.
  3. You may only consult one rare book or archive folder at a time.
  4. Please read books on the rests provided, using chains to minimise the need to touch the volumes, and consult archival and manuscript material in line with Special Collections staff guidance.
  5. You are responsible for all materials issued to you for consultation until you return those materials to a member of Special Collections staff.
  6. Handheld devices may be used to take digital images for non-commercial research or private study only.
  7. Only pencils may be used.
  8. Eating and drinking, including bottled water, is not permitted.
  9. Please note that this area is under security camera surveillance.

Further information

Contact us

Contact the Special Collections Reading Room team by email: