About the Library

Frequently asked questions

Enquiries desk, Reading Room, British Architectural Library, RIBA

Enquiries desk, Reading Room, British Architectural Library, RIBA 

 

If you have any questions about the British Architectural Library's services, want to discover more about its work or to access its resources, then please contact us or read the answers to FAQs received by the Library below.

Hours and access

Collections

Research and education

Services and resources

Hours and access

What are your opening hours?

The Library's Information Centre, collections and the Library's two public sites operate different opening hours. For all the latest information check the Library's listing of normal and seasonal opening hours

Reduced access and hours
Until 2014, due to work to build a new exhibition gallery at 66 Portland Place, access to the Photographs Collection will be limited. Some books and journals will be available by advanced request only. For further details go to Library news.

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Are you open on bank holidays?

No. The Library is closed on English public holidays. In addition it is normally closed on the Saturday before bank holidays and from noon on the last weekday before Christmas until after the New Year bank holiday. Bank holiday closures apply to all the Library's services, sites and collections, including those at the Library's Reading Room (RIBA, 66 Portland Place), RIBA Architectural Study Rooms (Victoria and Albert Museum) and the Information Centre.

The Reading Room and Study Rooms are normally closed to visitors for part of August, but the enquiry services of the Information Centre remain open throughout these August closures and the Library's collections can still be contacted by telephone, email or post.

For all the latest information check the Library's listing of normal and seasonal opening hours

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Why use the Library?

There are many reasons to visit the Library or use its services, here are a few:

  • Free access
    Both sites are open to the public without charge, accessible to disabled users and served by public transport.
  • The collections
    The Library's four million items (archives, books, drawings, journals and photographs) makes it one of the largest and most comprehensive architectural resources in the world. Free education programmes based on the collections are available to students.
  • Research and information
    The Library provides a quiet and peaceful environment for the study of architectural material, with a team of friendly and knowledgeable staff. For those who are unable to visit, the team at the Information Centre can be contacted to answer any questions about architecture and architectural practice.
  • Exhibitions and talks
    Both sites are located at cultural institutions where permanent and temporary exhibitions and talks exploring architecture and design are regularly held, often drawing upon material from the Library's collections.
  • The buildings
    Both sites are in buildings of historic architectural importance and a reason to visit in themselves: 66 Portland Place is Grade II* listed while the V&A is Grade I listed. Each site also has places to shop and eat.

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Where are you based?

The public can visit the Library at two sites, both are in London, accessible to disabled users and served by public transport: the Reading Room is on the third floor of the RIBA's headquarters at 66 Portland Place; and the RIBA Architecture Study Rooms are in the Henry Cole Wing of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

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Are you open to the public?

Yes. The Library and its collections are located on two sites (at 66 Portland Place and the Victoria and Albert Museum) and both are open to the public and entry is free. Visitors to either site can also enjoy exhibitions and talks exploring architecture and students can take advantage of the Library's education programme.

Photographic I.D. will be required for admission into the Library's Reading Room at 66 Portland Place. Check opening times before your visit.

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Are there specific policies I must adhere to at the Library?

Yes. Although the Library and collections are open to the public, there are admission policies specific to the Library's different sites and collections.

Visitors must bring a form of photographic I.D. to access the Reading Room (66 Portland Place) and the collections of books, journals and photographs. An appointment must be booked to see any material from the photographs collection. No I.D. is required for the Study Rooms (V&A) or to access the collections drawings and archives, but visitors will have to sign a form (Reader Information Form) on arrival.

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Can I take photographs in the Library?

No. For conservation reasons, photographic equipment or private scanning devices can not be used in the Library or to record or film any Library material. Photocopiers and a scanner are available for books and journals in the Reading Room (RIBA, 66 Portland Place), and a reprographic service is offered for all other material including the collections of archives, drawings and photographs.

Images of some material from the collections are available to view, order or download from RIBApix. 

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Collections

How do I find out what is in the Library’s collections?

Try the Library's online catalogue. The catalogue lists many items in the collections and there are online guides available to help new users with the catalogue. Due to the size of the collections and the arrival of new acquisitions, some items may not be listed in the catalogue; contact the Library or the individual collections teams for more details about the holdings of the collections.

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Is everything listed in the online catalogue?

No. The collections are continually expanding with acquisitions and donations, and these new items take time to be listed in the online catalogue. Not all of the Library's older records have been transferred into the catalogue and these remain in physical form and can be consulted in the Library, including:

  • Builder Index
    Photocopies of the annual indexes of the journal 'The Builder', for 1843-1951, are bound together at the end of the run. Library staff can also provide access to a card catalogue covering 'The Builder' between 1843 - 1864 and volumes covering references to buildings in London between 1842 - 1892. 'The Builder Illustrations Index 1843-1883' is also on open shelves in the Reading Room (RIBA, 66 Portland Place) and references to illustrated articles can be searched by subject, place and name and will provide page references within particular volumes.
  • Grey books
    These provide references to illustrated journal articles on building works by RIBA members. They are organised by the name of the architect or by building type. They cover 1920-1974 and are shelved in loose-leaf grey binders in the Reading Room. The grey books are also available on microfiche.

Contact the Library or the individual collections teams if you need more details about the holdings of the collections.

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How and where can I access the collections?

The Library's collections are located at two sites: books, journals and photographs are held at the RIBA, 66 Portland Place, while the drawings and archives are held at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Most books and journals are on open-access shelves. The majority of the archives, drawings and photographs and some books and journals are held in staff-only stores due to conservation reasons, but they can be fetched for visitors subject to set times and notice.

Use the Library's online catalogue to find out what material is in the collection and where they are located

Due to their location and storage, each collection will have different opening hours and times to fetch material from stores (an appointment must be booked in advance to see material from the Photographs Collection). By contacting the teams, users can check if specific material is available (and not on loan or undergoing conservation) and be reserved for them in advance.

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Research and education

Can I use the Library for research and study?

Yes. Everyone is welcome to use the Library for research and study. Chairs, study desks, wi-fi and power sockets are provided at both of the Library's sites (66 Portland Place and Victoria and Albert Museum).

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Does the Library offer any programmes for students?

Yes. A year-round education programme of free workshops, inductions, tours and education events are organised by the Education Curator for groups of students to learn from the Library's collections and to find out more about the activities of the RIBA. The Education Curator will work with teachers to develop a programme to deliver specific learning outcomes that support students' current studies.

The education programme can be conducted at either of the Library's sites, depending on what part of the collections are used: books, journals and photographs are held at the RIBA headquarters, 66 Portland Place; drawings and archives are held at the Victoria and Albert Museum. At both sites there are dedicated education rooms available to education groups for free (please note that spaces are limited).

It is essential to contact the Education Curator in advance to book any group visits or to use the education rooms.

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I am a primary school teacher and would like to arrange a visit to see the RIBA Drawings Collection - is this possible?

Yes. The RIBA welcomes learners of all ages to explore its collections.

Primary and secondary schools teachers can arrange a visit to the RIBA Architecture Study Rooms at the Victoria and Albert Museum by contacting the V&A Booking Office. The V&A + RIBA Architecture Partnership has created a range of architecture learning resources to support visits to the RIBA Architecture Study Rooms, as well as gallery-based programmes for primary and secondary schools.

Primary and secondary teachers can to arrange a visit to the RIBA's headquarters at 66 Portland Place by contacting the Education Curator. Students can take a guided tour of the RIBA's Grade II* listed building before exploring material from the collections to learn about architecture and the role of the architect. The Education Curator will work with teachers to develop a programme to deliver specific learning outcomes that support students' current studies.

Educators at FE and HE levels should contact the Education Curator to arrange a visit to either the RIBA Architecture Study Rooms at the Victoria and Albert Museum or the Library's facilities at 66 Portland Place.

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Services and resources

Does the Library have any electronic resources?

Yes. Visitors to the Library's Reading Room have access to many e-journals that the Library subscribes to. For remote users a list of free e-journals is online.

RIBA members have online access to the Pidgeon Digital collection of talks.

For those unable to visit, there are online exhibitions based on displays curated by the RIBA, and a growing database of images drawn from material in the Library's collections which can be viewed on RIBApix. 

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Do you have wi-fi?

Yes. There is wi-fi access at the Library.

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Can I make photocopies?

Yes. For books and journals there are black and white photocopiers on both levels of the Reading Room. A colour scanner is available near the enquiries desk. For environmental reasons printing from the scanner is not possible, but PDF files from any scanning session can be saved on to a memory stick. Users are welcome to bring their own memory stick or to purchase one from the enquiry desk. The photocopiers and scanner are operated using pre-paid and top-up photocopying cards which can be purchased from machines in the Reading Room.

A remote photocopying service is offered to anyone who is unable to visit. Material from the Library's collections of photographs, drawings or archives are not available for photocopying due to conservation reasons – but some are available via RIBApix and others can (subject to a fee) be scanned by our professional photographer. See reprographic services for more information about these services.

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Can photocopies of books and journals be sent to me?

Yes. More information is available on the Library's reprographic services.

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Is it possible to borrow books?

Only RIBA members (and student members, RIBA honorary fellows and librarians of chartered practices for an annual fee) can borrow books from the Loan Library collection of books, located in the Library's Reading Room, RIBA, 66 Portland Place. The Loan Library is though available to any visitor to the Reading Room for reference purposes. All other books are for reference only, as are all the material in the archives, drawings, periodicals and photographs collections.

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How is the Library funded?

Since its establishment, the British Architectural Library has been a part of the RIBA and generously funded by RIBA members. It receives no direct government funding, nevertheless the Library and its services are available to all to learn more about architecture.

There are many opportunities for individuals and organisations to support the work of the RIBA.

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Where can I find out more about architecture?

The RIBA's architectural collections of archives, books, drawings, journals and photographs at the Library are open to the public and entry is free. The RIBA organises exhibitions and talks across the UK.

The RIBA provides a wide range of resources and information on its website, including a range of online exhibitions covering many architectural topics, including housing, history and awards. A growing database of images from the collections can be found in RIBApix. 

The RIBA's Information Centre is available to answer direct queries from RIBA members and the public about any aspect of architecture and architectural practice.

 

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