Inter-library loans


Items not held by the Library may be requested through the inter-library loans service. The item must be needed for research or course work, and not easily available from any other library in London. We obtain most items from the British Library On Demand Service. We do not normally obtain items on inter-library loan if they are in stock at Senate House Library (select the link to search the catalogue). You can also search the catalogues of other libraries.

If the book you need has been published very recently it is likely to be difficult to acquire via inter-library loan, please contact your subject librarian or fill in the suggestion for purchase form in the first instance.

If a book is available for reference in a London library then we will not request it from abroad.

Types of material available on inter-library loan

Journal articles and book chapters

Journal articles and book chapters will be supplied as digital files (PDFs) where possible and emailed directly to you. To access secure electronic files received from the British Library you will need to register for a British Library Online Account (see below). You will then be given a username and password, which you can use to access all future ILL files received from the BL.

All digital files from the BL need to be opened and saved in Adobe Reader. Please ensure you have this installed on your device when downloading the file.

Please note due to copyright restrictions you must not print more than one copy of a digital file or share it with anyone else.

Some libraries will only send us paper copies of articles and chapters. These can be collected from the help desk in the library. If you require a paper format for accessibility reasons, please make a note of this in your request.

Due to copyright restrictions, you cannot request more than one article from the same issue of a journal. If you require more than one article, we may be able to request a loan of the whole issue from the British Library, or you may be asked to select one from among them.

Digital files

A link to your document will be delivered by email and this link will take you to the download page. Please note that you must have access to the internet to download your document and each time you open it.  Access to electronic files from the British Library is by username and password via Adobe Reader 10 or above. The document is locked to a username, meaning it can be viewed by that person anywhere on any device, including smartphones and tablets. Users are required to be registered for British Library On Demand to open electronic files. After creating a username and password, you can open all documents via adobe reader 10 or above.

You will need to save the document to your device, after which you can access it for 3 years.  Please note that you may only print your document ONCE.  

The download link will remain live for 30 days, after which it will expire.  If you have not saved the file before the link expires you will need to re-order it.

For more information about opening electronic files from the British Library, please see these FAQs.

Book loans

Many English language books are available to borrow from the British Library On Demand service, but very recently published books may not be available for loan. If the book is not in stock at the British Library other locations will be tried. The loan period is ususally 4-6 weeks, subject to recall by the supplying library. Heavily-used books may be lent for a shorter time. 

Reference-only material

Some books are lent to use in the Library only. This condition is made by the lending library and must be observed.

UK Theses

Many UK theses are available from the British Library's Electronic Theses Online Service ETHOS. To order a digital copy of a thesis yourself, you will need to register and login, though you can search without registering. Many theses are available for immediate download free of charge. If a thesis has not yet been digitized there may be a charge.  We also have access to Proquest dissertations and theses: Uk and Ireland from the e-resources A-Z list, and you can also access Proquest Dissertations and Theses Global via Senate House Library.


How to apply for an inter-library loan

You may input your requests on the Library catalogue.

  • Click on Inter-Library Loans and log in with your user ID and library PIN.
  • Select the request form, either book or journal, and complete with as much information as possible.
  • Submit the request and the message "ILL request was registered" will appear.
  • When you have finished, click on End Session to log out.

How to check on the progress of your requests

You may check 'My Library Card' on the catalogue to look at a list of your active requests and check on their progress. We will also notify you by email.

Collecting inter-library loans

We will let you know by email when your request is ready to collect from the library helpdesk.  We do not charge users to make ILL requests, but the library does have to pay for them, so please be sure to collect them once they arrive.

Renewing books

To renew an ILL book, please email ( Please apply for renewal before the loan period has expired. It is usually possible to extend the loan period for a further three weeks, except when the item has been recalled by the supplying Library. Please bear in mind that the British Library charges £4.75 for renewals, so we would not normally renew a book more than once.

Overdue books

Fines on overdue books are charged at 50p per day. If an item is kept overdue after a recall notice has been sent, you will be charged for the replacement cost. The British Library charges £151.60 + VAT for lost items, which you will be asked to pay.

Failure to return inter-library loan books may damage our borrowing relationship with the lending library, so please make sure to return inter-library loans promptly.