Living Knowledge blog

17 March 2015

Self-service photography extended

We have received really positive feedback since the initial roll-out of self-service photography in several of our Reading Rooms in January, so we are delighted to announce that this facility has now been extended to the following Reading Rooms:

  • Asian and African Studies
  • Business & IP Centre
  • Manuscripts
  • Maps
  • Rare Books & Music

Our curators have been working hard behind the scenes to identify additional material that can be photographed. As of this week, a range of items is available to photograph in each of the Special Collections Reading Rooms but, with over 150 million items in our collections, it’s a massive undertaking and will take some time to complete. Over the coming months our curators will continue to identify material appropriate for inclusion, therefore increasing the amount available for photography.


Assessing the collections is no easy task and there are many considerations which have to be taken into account when deciding what material can be included (particularly in the Special Collections Reading Rooms) such as the condition of an item; copyright, data protection, privacy or third party rights issues (a particular problem with unpublished material such as manuscripts); collections on loan to the Library where restrictions may apply; as well as certain categories of material such as restricted or special access, which are very often rare and/or vulnerable.

Although many items will be okay to photograph, there will always be some material within our Special Collections Reading Rooms that will be out of scope. Any material that can’t be photographed will be clearly flagged and must be read at designated desks. Staff will advise if this is the case.

Please be aware that any photographs taken are purely for reference purposes and be mindful about publishing, sharing or uploading photos as this could breach copyright, data protection or privacy laws, for which you are responsible.

Before using your device to take photographs, please read our guidelines on self-service photography – you can also watch these videos on photography and collection handling. You can find more specific advice on photography in the Manuscripts Reading Room in this Medieval Manuscripts blog post.

As this is a big service change for the Library, we ask you to bear with us in the first few weeks while we implement this and get to grips with the changes.

If you have any comments about how it’s working you can tweet @BL_Ref_Services, contact or speak to our Reading Room staff.

Rachel Austin

Service Improvement Manager



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