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Most of our items are held in store rather than on open access and need to be requested via the Library Catalogue. You can request items either in advance of a visit, or when you are in our Reading Rooms. We recommend that you request items in advance so that you can make the best use of your time in the Library.

Most material has to be ordered online via the Library Catalogue or, for items that you cannot request through the catalogue, by using our online order and enquiry forms. 

  • Periodicals must be requested on blue paper request forms if you are in the Reading Rooms, or by completing an online order form in advance of your visit. We require 1 working day’s notice to process advance requests (see Periodicals requests below)
  • Some collection items may be on display in galleries, on loan to exhibitions, or out to staff (status ‘Checked Out’). Please contact us or ask a member of staff for more information
  • Certain Special Collection items, such as illuminated manuscripts and some artists’ books, require a written recommendation and appointment. Please send your initial request via an online enquiry form and a member of staff will contact you to discuss it further
  • Blythe House material requires an appointment in advance (see Access to collections by appointment below)
  • Prints & Drawings Study Room material requires an appointment in advance (see Access to collections by appointment below)

Requesting items in advance using the Library Catalogue

Please consult the Help Sheet (PDF File, 251KB) for full instructions on requesting material online. There are also some Quick Video Guides on Youtube.

  • Registered Readers can request 8 items in advance of visits by logging onto the Library Catalogue.
  • New readers can pre-register online for a Reader Ticket to obtain a Temporary Reader number and PIN. This enables you to pre-order up to 6 items in advance of your first visit. To pre-register, go to the Library Catalogue (click on the ‘My Account’ tab and then the ‘New User / Re-Register’ button) and fill in the self-registration web form. Please note that the self-registation screen is not compatible with Internet Explorer version 11. Please use another browser to register in advance.
  • Delivery times vary (see Delivery times below); some Special Collection items (including all artists’ books) will only be retrieved once you are in the Library. Requests for collection items made after 16.00 will not be available until 10.30 the next working day. Some material requires prior notice of 2 working days, other material requires prior notice of 1 week
  • Requested items will be reserved for you for 3 working days from date of ordering, so do not request material more than 3 working days before your intended visit. Please check our opening times.
  • You can check the status of the items you have requested within the catalogue. If the status has changed from Available to Reading Room the item is ready for collection from the Library Counter or Special Collections Issue Desk. (Tip: When logged in to your account on the catalogue, use ‘My List’ to keep a record of your requested items).

Contact us to request items in advance

Where an item is NOT available for online request via the Library Catalogue, please contact us as indicated below to order items on your behalf, or to make an appointment where necessary.

Periodicals requests:

Advance requests for periodicals must be received at least 1 working day before your visit. Please order using a Periodical Advance Order request form.

We require the following information to process your requests:

  • Your name
  • Your reader ticket number
  • Date of your visit
  • Full details of the item(s) (including periodical title, volume/issue number and date of publication)
  • Pressmark (you will find this in the catalogue record under ‘Subscription Summary’)

We will confirm that your request has been successfully placed, or we will contact you if we forsee any problems with your request.

Access to collections by appointment only:

  • Blythe House (Archive of Art and Design)
    Contact: Tel: +44 (0)20 7942 2303, or Contact us online
  • Blythe House (Renier Collection of Children’s Publications)
    Contact: Tel: +44 (0)20 7602 0281 ext. 212, or Contact us online
  • Blythe House (Theatre & Performance)
    Contact: Tel: +44 (0)20 7942 2698, email: tmenquiries@vam.ac.uk
  • Prints & Drawings Study Room
    Contact Tel: +44 (0)20 7942 2563
  • In addition, most illuminated manuscripts and some artists books in the NAL are not normally made available without a written recommendation received and acknowledged by us. Please Contact us online in advance if you require access to this material, providing a brief explanation of your research project.

Requesting items in the Reading Rooms

You can request items from within the Reading Rooms, for delivery the same day or for a future date, by logging onto the Library Catalogue. If requesting for the same day, please note the Delivery times below as this will affect how long you will have to wait to view the items you have requested. Some material requires 2 working days’ or 1 week’s notice. Remember to logout when you have finished making requests.

Periodicals cannot be requested via the Library Catalogue and when you are in the reading rooms should be ordered using blue paper request forms available at the Library Counter.

Delivery times

Location of materials or pressmark
Items requested by
Available for collection by
National Art Library
National Art Library 11.00
National Art Library 12.00 13.00
National Art Library 13.00
National Art Library 14.00
National Art Library 15.00 16.00
National Art Library
National Art Library
16.30 (Friday only)
17.30 (Friday only)

Departmental Libraries
Within 2 working days of request
Blythe House
By appointment
By appointment
Prints & Drawings Study Room
By appointment
By appointment

When you have finished with your books

Books must be returned to the Counter in time for the Library to close at 17.30 (18.30 on Fridays) Special Collection items should be returned to the Special Collections desk no later than 17.00 (18.00 on Fridays).

If you need to use your books again

If you need to use the same material on subsequent days ask for them to be held on reserve for you. You can reserve up to 8 items for 3 working days. Material that is not collected within this time will be returned to the book stores and must be re-ordered.

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