When are you opening?

Following the Government’s announcement of a relaxation of lockdown conditions, we are delighted to confirm that the Library will be able to open its building again on Monday 12 April.

What are the opening hours?

The Library will be open:

  • 10am-9pm on Mondays to Tuesdays
  • 10am-5.30pm Wednesdays to Fridays
  • 9.30am-5.30pm Saturdays

Do I need to pre-book?

You’ll still need to pre-book a slot if you want to work in the Library or browse the collection but this time we are able to offer more booking slots and you will no longer need to pre-book if you are simply dropping off books or picking them up for collection.

Book your slot here.

Why is there a booking system?

To maintain appropriate social distancing across the Library we need to manage numbers in the building at any one time and create working space between desks so that members can work safely. Pre-booking is essential to ensure we can keep numbers at safe levels and even out usage. 

Do I need to wear a face covering?

An update to the government guidelines mandates that it is necessary to wear face coverings in all areas of the Library. If you are exempt from wearing a face covering you will be asked to confirm this on entry.

Day passes

Who needs a day pass?

Day passes are needed for those wishing to enter the Library to work at a desk or browse the bookstacks

How many desks are available?

We currently have 120 desks available for use in the Library and the number of day passes available reflects this capacity.

How do day passes work?

Passes are apportioned in half-hour or one hour slots during the day (ie a small tranche will be available for a 10am entry; a further tranche for 10.30-11 etc). Time in the Library will not be restricted, so once they have entered the Library, members can remain there for the rest of the day.

Day passes - how far ahead can I book?

Tickets can be booked for up to two weeks ahead. We are not restricting the number of day passes a single member can book within that week. Members are asked to exercise restraint when booking, and to release slots ahead of time if you are not going to use them. We are seeking to maximise the number of members who can use the Library with a reduced number of desks. No-shows prevent other members using the Library.

Is it possible to book a slot far in advance so that I can plan travel arrangements?

We will always aim to try to make sure that members receive a fair opportunity to visit the Library, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will try to help.

Day pass users - who do I inform on arrival?

A daily list of bookings will be held at Reception, and members will be asked to give their name upon entry. 

A queuing system will be put in place for day pass users with members of staff on hand to explain the processes in place in using the Library safely. Members will then be invited to access the Library via Lane 2 in the Issue Hall (see below).

I am struggling to find any available booking slots on the times or dates I would like to visit, is there anything else I can do? 

Slots are added as often as possible, including additional slots and slots made free by cancellations so please do check again and contact reception on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for assistance. If you cannot get the slot you want please do check back again as we are often able to release new slots, especially when we have received cancellations.

I can't visit at the day/time I have visited, can I cancel?

Yes! If you have booked a slot and are no longer able to attend please tell us as soon as you can, including on the day as there will be another member able to take that slot. You can cancel your slot either by using the cancel button on your booking confirmation email (or the reminder that is received 24 hours before your booking), by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling 020 7766 4700.

I am a Remote Access member can I book to visit?

Remote Access members can collect or drop off books at the Library at any time. However, Remote Access members cannot book a day pass.

I am an Associate member when can I visit the Library?

Associate members can collect or drop off books at the Library at any time.  Associate members can book day passes after 5pm weekdays and all day Saturday.

Book collection and returns

Can I drop by to pick up books?

Yes, you will no longer need to pre-book if you are simply dropping off books or picking them up for collection.

Enquiry services will continue via email. 

How do I return books when I have finished with them?

Members can continue to return books by post and in person (for the latter a returns books trolley will be available in the Reception Area of the Issue Hall and there is no need to queue up at the Issue Desk).

Postal loans

Will you still be operating the free postal loans service?

Yes. The Library will continue the postal loans service to members with no postal charges, for the foreseeable future. We will assess when is a suitable moment to return to charging for this service. The 5 book extension to borrowing limits will stay in place for now.

Using the building

Can I enter and leave the Library in the normal way?

We’ve changed the entrance and exit arrangements. To manage the flow of people through the building, the St James’s Square door will be entrance only, and the Mason’s Yard door will be exit only. Disabled access will be managed through the staff entrance in Mason’s Yard. 

What else is different about the building?

To support social distancing three separate lanes have been installed in the Issue Hall

  • The Issue Desk Lane is for members to collect pre-ordered books and use other Issue desk services such as book enquires. 
  • The Fast Lane is a middle lane providing direct access into the rest of Library for members wanting to access the book stacks or desks. Members will need to give their name to Reception before entering this lane.
  • The Exit Lane is for anyone leaving the building and leads to the exit via the Mason’s Yard door.

Hand sanitiser dispensers have been installed in the Reception area and all members will be asked to sanitise their hands before moving into one of the Issue Hall Lanes.

As a further hygiene measure in the Issue Hall, perspex screens are in place across the Issue Desk and the Reception Desk. 

A new temporary reading room has been created on the first floor of TS Eliot House. The Art Reading Room has 14 desks adding to the number of socially distanced workspaces across the Library.

Can I leave bags and personal items in a locker?

The lockers will not be in use, but the ‘bag rule’ in the Library will be relaxed for this period so that members can take items with them rather than have them stored in a central area. It will not be possible to leave any bags or personal items at Reception.

Can I use the Members’ Kitchen?

We have decided to keep the members’ kitchen closed for the time being whilst social distancing measures are in operation.

Material in the Safes

Members are welcome to view restricted circulation material from our Safes but in order for invigilation to be carried out safely we require 72 hours notice.  Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to arrange this.

Food and Drink

The rules on food and drink will continue as they currently are, despite the closure of the 6th floor kitchen - ie members can take sealable bottles of water with them to the main desk areas, but food cannot be consumed within the Library as the requirement not to bring food and other drinks into the Library remains due to pest control.

Members should bring their own bottled water and plan to have breaks for food away from the Library.

There are a number of local establishments which are open and Duke’s Caffe on Duke Street St James’s have offered a 10% discount for members – just show your membership card at the counter.

Is the bike shed accessible?

Yes, but members leaving their bikes there will need to go to the St James’s Square door to access the Library as there will be no access via the Masons’ Yard door. Members are asked to be vigilant in maintaining social distance when using the bike shed.

Have routes within the Library building been adjusted?

Apart from the access changes we’re making to the Issue Hall, main entrance and exits other routes through the Library will be open as normal, but members will be asked to observe 2m social distancing measures as they move through the building, and to be aware of the possibility of other members being nearby as they enter rooms, turn hidden corners in bookstacks etc. 

Signage has been attached to the entry points to each area or floor to remind members of the social distancing guidelines and ‘keep to the left’ signage will be introduced in the stairwells.

Computer use

Can I use the shared terminals to search the catalogue?

To prevent cross handling by members, we have taken all but one of the shared terminals out of use. A single terminal will be available in the Issue Hall for searches of the catalogue, with sanitizer and wipes placed next to it. It will be regularly cleaned by the Library’s cleaner, and members should sanitise their hands before and after using it.  Members will be asked to carry out their catalogue searches using their own terminals as much as possible.

Will laptop users be allowed to work in the Reading Room?

Yes. Due to the reduced capacity of study places throughout the Library, laptops will be permitted in the Reading Room for the time being, as it has greater capacity. 

Handling books

Can I browse the stacks?

Yes. Once they have a day pass, members will be able to browse the borrowing collection and all the book stacks will be accessible. Members need to be aware of other users and maintain social distancing at all times. Once books are handled they need to be left on a reshelving trolley rather than placed back on the shelves. Books that have been handled will be quarantined for 3 days, so members are requested to handle only the books they need to.

Book handling by members

Existing re-shelving areas, and additional trolleys, will be provided for members where they can place books that they have handled during the day but do not wish to use further or borrow. All books handled by members will be quarantined for 72 hours before being re-shelved for use. Because of this we shall ask members to handle as few books as possible. Please use the re-shelving abilities and do not place books you have handled back on the borrowing shelves. 

Members are reminded not to browse or remove books from the reshelving spaces. These have been handled and will need to be quarantined. 

Procedures are in place to enable staff to issue books for members in a contactless way wherever possible.


What’s your policy on social distancing?

We are operating a 2m social distancing regime in all areas of the Library where that is possible. The government announcement on 23rd June talked of a 1m plus distancing guideline where 2m was not possible. As 2m is possible in almost areas of the Library other than occasional passing points on stairs and corridors we have applied this in our initial reopening plans and will keep under close review. Signage across the Library has been installed to remind members of the importance of maintaining an appropriate social distance at all times.

How are you keeping the Library clean?

A supply of hand sanitiser for members will be provided in both entry lanes and at other points throughout the building. Signs will remind staff and members to wash their hands frequently and for 20 seconds at a time.

Additional cleaning services have been contracted by the Library so that a cleaner will be on-site, cleaning throughout the day. This is in addition to our existing daily cleaning regime.

During the day cleaners will clean any study desks where members have turned over the usage cards to indicate that a desk has been used and that they have finished working there. 

All toilets will be available to allow frequent hand-washing for staff and members. Notices will be placed on toilet doors to alert users to the maximum safe occupancy and the need to be aware of other users coming in/coming out of toilets. Toilets will be cleaned more frequently, and sanitising wipes will be provided in each toilet. 

Do I need to wear a face mask or other form of PPE?

All members will need to wear a face covering while in all areas of the building unless exempt, regardless of whether or not you have been vaccinated.

What are you doing to ensure staff safety?

In addition to the measures outlined above, some of which serve for both member and staff protection, the Library will implement for staff:

  • Staggered start and finish times for staff where possible, and staggered lunch and tea breaks
  • Split team working where possible
  • Guidance in use of face coverings, if worn
  • Working from home where possible, as per official advice
  • Redeployment of on-site staff into workspaces not being used by those home-working to allow for greater distancing in offices
  • Managed staff kitchen and staffroom, to meet necessary hygiene and social distancing guidelines
  • Return to work information sheet to make all staff aware of new rules.

In accordance with government guidelines, staff will not be provided with PPE as a precaution against coronavirus but will be supported if they choose to wear their own face coverings.   If staff choose to wear their own gloves, they will still be required to follow the same level of hand hygiene as staff not wearing gloves.

Other services

Are there any services you are not able to provide?

For the time being we will be unable to offer the follow

  • Prospective Member Tours
  • Induction tours
  • Day tickets for non-members
  • Individual assistance with IT issues on personal devices
  • New Books shelves. Due to risk of cross-infection, new books will be shelved in their place within the Library.