Video guide 4
To start using our collections, you need a library card. To register, you need to fill in a simple online form. You can do it before coming, or our staff can help you when you visit.
When you arrive, visit the Registration Office to get your card. You will need to have your photograph taken by our staff and bring proof of identity that shows your name and address.
Certain items are not allowed into the reading rooms, but you can leave them in lockers in the Cloakroom downstairs.
Most of our books and other items are kept in storage, so you have to order them for use in the reading rooms.
The reading rooms are on the first floor. The first area you will enter is the Issue Hall. Show your library card at the Check Desk. You'll see an Enquiry Desk to your right. Here staff can give you advice about using the reading rooms and how to find things.
Order books online and use a paper order form for other items like journals and newspapers. Everything has to be fetched from storage, it can take up to two hours for your order to arrive.
Collect your items at the Collections and Returns Desk. If you like, you can order items and return later in the day to collect them.
Some material is available online. You can consult it on one of our PCs or on your laptop. There are two reading rooms — the General Reading Room, for modern printed material, and the smaller Special Materials Reading Room, for items such as manuscripts and books printed before 1850. Bring your own laptop. There is free WiFi in the reading rooms.
Looking after our collections so that they're available for future generations is very important to us. Staff can give you guidance on how you can help us look after our collections and there's also a handy leaflet.
If you need to copy a book or print pages from a website, printing and photocopying services are available. Just ask our staff.
When you've finished, return your items to the Collections and Returns Desk. Items can be kept on reserve for you to use again. For security, staff at the Check Desk will ask to look at any materials you are carrying on your way out.
When you need a break, there's a café, shop and exhibition area on the ground floor.
Sara Sheridan, historical novelist: 'The quality of the material here — I mean, you just have some amazing, amazing things. The whole of the John Murray Archive is just astonishing. I could move in there. They probably wouldn't let me, though, they'd probably make me leave.'
Dr Rania Karoula, University of Edinburgh researcher: 'Well, I started using the Library as a postgraduate student a few years ago and I keep coming back. Even now as a researcher it's helping me uncover new material. It's a very friendly environment to work, study, read and actually inspiring in writing.'
Jordan Campbell, history student: 'The National Library, obviously, has everything at your fingertips so it's very, very helpful in terms of accessing journals and what not, and more kind of particular books that you just don't really find anywhere else — that's what I really appreciate about it.'
Paul Hambelton, Reference Services Division: 'What I'd recommend is the variety' because the weight of what we've got is so great and so deep that' no matter what one is looking for there' will be materials that will be relevant and high quality and reliable.'
Sara Sheridan: 'There's a coffee shop, there's a bookshop, there are lots of people there to help you, and that really is, I think, very special to have that kind of access to source material.'