Public Library Access Scheme

What is the Public Library Access Scheme?

All local authority-funded public libraries are eligible to receive a subsidy on official publications. The subsidy is given to facilitate public access to parliamentary and government materials and legislation which are not available online.

Who qualifies for the scheme?

The scheme is available to local authority funded public libraries in the United Kingdom. Orders placed by a local authority’s central acquisitions unit will also qualify for the scheme, provided that the publications are for use by the local authority’s own public libraries.

What is the rate of subsidy?

The rate of subsidy is 50% of the invoiced price, net of any commercial discount offered by the supplier, excluding VAT.

The amount of subsidy available is cash-limited, and payment may be suspended if the demand for subsidy on qualifying publications in any one financial year exceeds the total annual budget. We will give you as much notice as possible in this eventuality.

Which publications are eligible for subsidy under the scheme?

The scheme covers the following publications:

  • parliamentary and government materials
  • electronic publications (for example, CD-ROM and online services) produced under Crown or Parliamentary copyright
  • printed books and electronic publications issued by or on behalf of:
    • The Audit Commission
    • The Competition Commission
    • The Environment Agency
    • Signpost leaflet service
    • Legal Services Commission
    • official legislation*

* The removal of subsidy applies to all legislation available online. Where material is not available online because it pre-dates the online archives then that legislation will attract subsidy. A full list of legislation that will no longer attract subsidy is available (see Letter explaining changes to PLAS).

The purpose of the scheme is to facilitate access to legislation and to Parliamentary and government materials, by making relevant publications available to public libraries at 50% of the purchase price. It follows, therefore, that publications, which do not satisfy this purpose, will not attract the subsidy. For example, publications intended solely or mainly for recreational purposes, or comprising material of a cultural nature, are excluded.

Qualifying publications bought on subscription terms are eligible under the scheme on subscription price only. Blanket subscription orders, such as selected subscription services currently offered by The Stationery Office Limited are eligible provided that the service covers only qualifying publications.

How does a public library obtain the subsidy?

There are two ways a library can claim the subsidy:

Subsidy provided at source

When a library purchases official publications from one of the following suppliers they will be invoiced at cover or subscription price less 50% public library subsidy.

  • Context Ltd Justis Parliament
  • Coutts
  • Dandy Booksellers Qualifying publications only
  • Signpost leaflet service (previously FRILLS)**
  • Health and Safety Executive (HSE Books) HSE publications
  • Latitude Ordnance Survey maps
  • Palgrave Macmillan Office for National Statistics
  • House of Commons Hansard CD-ROMs
  • House of Lords Hansard CD-ROMs
  • The Stationery Office Ltd. (TSO) Qualifying publications only
  • UK Official Publications (UKOP) CD-ROM or UKOP online (published by TSO Ltd)

** Subscriptions to the Signpost leaflet service have been included to the Public Libraries Access Scheme on a trial basis for the financial year 2007/2008. Any local authority public library which has already taken a subscription to FRILLS from 1 April 2007 and that have been invoiced in full can apply direct to The National Archives for a 50% subsidy following the instructions below.

Claim direct from The National Archives

A library purchases the publication at full price from its preferred supplier and submits a claim form to us, attaching copies of the invoices showing the price paid. On receipt of the claim The National Archives refunds the subsidy to the library.

For any subsidy given at source, we reserve the right to make periodic or spot audit checks by asking the recipient libraries to verify the details of orders on which discount has been given.

Is there a time limit on when public libraries can make claims?

Claims for subsidy direct from The National Archives must be submitted within three months of the date of the invoice from the supplier. Claims received outside this time scale will not be accepted.

I have a query on which publications are eligible

Responsibility for policy and administration of the scheme lies with The National Archives. A supplier who provides the subsidy at source will be happy to advise you on which of its publications are covered by the scheme. The final decision on eligibility of a particular publication rests with The National Archives. If a library is in any doubt about eligibility, we will be pleased to advise.

For queries on policy, scope and administration of the scheme, please contact:

Jim Wretham
Tel: +44 (0) 1603 553 219

Please note that email addresses take the format:

For queries on eligibility of publications and processing of claims, please contact:
Tel: +44 (0)20 8392 5330 ext 2288

Please note that email addresses take the format:

Public Library consultation

The consultation on the Public Library Subsidy Scheme formally closed on 8 January 2010. Following this we reviewed all the comments received. We are undertaking further research to inform the final conclusions as a number of points were raised that needed further assessment since the consultation was launched. Once this is complete we will share details of the consultation and the proposed outcome. During this next period, The Public Library Scheme continues to operate under the existing scheme terms.

Consultation documents

Public Library Subsidy Scheme financial addendum (PDF, 0.09MB)

Public Library Access Scheme documents

Report on Public Access Scheme funding 2006-2007  (PDF, 0.22MB)

2004 consultation report (PDF, 0.14MB)

Letter explaining changes to the scheme, September 2005 (DOC, 0.09MB)