Using the Library

The information here should help you get the most of your visit, whether you use the website or come to see us in Edinburgh.

Brief summaries:

Online visits

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  • Search the main catalogue and websites
    Find details of National Library of Scotland material listed in our main catalogue and on our web pages.
  • View digitised material
    Visit our Digital Gallery for access to maps, broadsides, books, photographs, posters, films and other digitised material.
  • Register online
    You can register online to use our password-protected services and pre-register for a library card.
  • Use licensed digital resources
    Without a library card you have free access to selected licensed resources, including family history material. With a card you can search thousands of pages of texts and millions of records and abstracts.
  • Preorder books
    If you have a library card or if you registered online with us, you can preorder books via the main catalogue in advance of your visit to the George IV Bridge Building.
  • Chat online
    Monday-Friday from 14.00-16.00 we have General Reading Room staff available online to give an instant reply to quick questions about material published from 1850 onwards.
  • Ask a Librarian
    Send us a question using the online form. This service is part of an enquiries network involving libraries all over the world.
  • Make a Freedom of Information request
    Anyone has access to information about the Library under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. You can write to us or use our online form.

Personal visits to Edinburgh

Photo of main staircase in NLS George IV Bridge Building
  • Library cards
    This section tells you about our library cards, how to get one and what evidence of identification you need to bring with you.
  • Reading rooms
    Your library card gives you access to our reading rooms. These pages tell you about the facilities on offer and the kind of material you can consult.
  • Opening hours
    The opening hours of our reading rooms, exhibitions and Visitor Centre.
  • Public holidays
    A list of local and national holidays that affect the availability of services, the reading rooms and other public areas.
  • Location map
    See how to get to our main buildings.
  • Licensed digital resources
    With your library card you have free access to a wide range of digital resources within our General Reading Room. Some resources are freely available to everyone.
  • Manual catalogues
    Manual catalogues and indexes list details of material that is not available through the online catalogues.
  • Access for people with disabilities
    Details of facilities available in the George IV Bridge and Causewayside buildings for people with special needs.
  • Visitor Centre
    Our visitor centre has a café, shop, exhibition spaces, and computers for accessing NLS websites. Reader's Registration is also in this area.
  • Group tours
    Find out what tours and visits we can organise for groups, or how to book a speaker to visit your group outwith the Library.

Other useful information

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  • Video guides
    Four short videos in the Learning zone to help you get started if you are new to the Library
  • Guides for web users
    Information on how to use particular features on the website or aimed at specific groups of visitors, whether online or in our buildings.
  • Collections
    Overviews of what we have in National Library collections, ranging from early manuscripts and rare books to films, newspapers, music, maps and more.
  • Copying services and permission to re-use
    Discover what copying we can do for you, what you can photocopy yourself,  prices, delivery options, and how to get permission to re-use Library material.
  • Terms and conditions
    Conditions of use covering access to our reading rooms and collections.
  • Customer charter
    Read about our commitment to you, what we ask of you, and our customer service standards.
  • Loans
    Find out about borrowing for exhibitions or about how we can get can get material for you from another library.
  • Enquiry policy
    An outline of our commitment to answering enquiries.

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