National Art Library: Requesting Material

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 when you are in our Reading Rooms, or in advance of a visit, either online via the Library Catalogue or, for items that you cannot request through the catalogue, by using our online order and enquiry forms.  We recommend that you request items in advance so that you can make the best use of your time in the Library. 

Some collection items are indicated as unavailable for online requesting on the Library Catalogue and you may need to contact us for assistance: 

  • Periodicals need to be requested on paper request forms in the Reading Rooms, or by completing an online order form in advance or your visit.
  • Certain highly restricted items, such as illuminated manuscripts and some artists’ books, require a written recommendation and appointment. Please send your initial request via the online enquiry form and a member of staff will contact you to discuss it further.
  • Blythe House material requires an appointment in advance.
  • Prints & Drawings Study Room material cannot be requested in advance.

Requesting items in advance using the Library Catalogue

Registered Readers can request items in advance of visits by logging onto the Library Catalogue. Please consult the Help Sheet (PDF File, 168KB) for full instructions on requesting material online..

New readers can pre-register online for a Reader Ticket. Pre-registeration provides you with a Temporary Reader number and PIN , which 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.

  • Delivery times may vary (see Delivery times below); some Special Collection items 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.
  • Requested items will be reserved for you for 3 working days. Do not request material more than 3 working days before your intended visit.  Please check our opening times.
  • You may request up to 8 items at a time (or up to 6 items if you have a Temporary Reader number).
  • 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 note 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 online to order items on your behalf, or to make an appointment where necessary.  

Periodicals requests

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 do not send automatic responses for periodicals requested via an online enquiry form although 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 7603 7493, 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

In addition, most illuminated manuscripts and some artists books 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.

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. Remember to logout when you have finished making requests.

Periodicals cannot be requested via the Library Catalogue and should be ordered using blue request forms available at the Library Counter.

Please visit the Prints & Drawings Study Room to view items with that location in the Library Catalogue. There is no need to make an appointment; items cannot be requested in advance and will be retrieved once you have made your request in the Prints & Drawings Study Room.    

Delivery times

Location of materials
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 two working days of request
Blythe House
By appointment
By appointment
Prints and Drawings Study Room
Anytime (no advance orders)
Within 30 minutes of request

When you have finished with your books

Books must be returned in time for the Library to close at 17.30 (18.30 on Fridays) Special Collection items should be returned 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 put 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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