What can I take into the reading rooms?

To help us ensure the safety of our visitors and staff, and preserve the records for future generations, please observe our updated guidance for using the reading rooms and handling documents:

  • Only bring what you need with you – the fewer items you have, the quicker it will be for us to check when you arrive
  • You may now bring pencils (without erasers) into the reading rooms – please ask a member of staff for paper if you need it
  • You may also take two items from the following list into the reading room with you: laptop, tablet, mobile phone or camera. Chargers for your chosen device(s) will be allowed
  • You may not bring your own paper, pens or research material
  • Ensure you have turned the sound (and flash) off on your electronic devices, and keep sound levels low if you are using headphones
  • No coats, bags or umbrellas – please leave in the lockers provided on the ground floor
  • No food, drink, sweets or gum
  • No sharp objects
  • Please wash your hands before and after visiting the reading rooms
  • Always handle the documents with care

A complete list of rules is available from the welcome desk, the Enquiry Service Manager or online.

Face coverings and gloves

Due to a change in the law, all visitors will be required to wear face coverings during their visit from Saturday 8 August. If you are travelling to us on public transport you must also wear a face covering.

If you have a legitimate reason not to wear a face covering, please indicate this on the form when you book your visit – this will help our staff prepare for your arrival and ensure that your visit is not delayed.

We will not allow gloves to be worn in our reading rooms, unless you are handling photographs, in line with long-standing guidance relating to the preservation of our collection. All visitors will be asked to wash their hands thoroughly before and after their visit to the reading rooms.

Some of our staff (for example, our document services staff and security officers) are likely to be wearing face shields and other protective equipment.


A limited number of our ground floor lockers will be available for visitors to use, to ensure sufficient distancing in the locker area. These lockers will be thoroughly cleaned at the end of each day. We’ll also be carefully managing how visitors and staff move in and out of this area, so please try to minimise your return visits to your locker as much as possible during your visit.

Photography and camera stands

You can use your hand-held camera, phone, tablet or laptop to take still images of documents. We provide camera stands in our reading rooms or you can use universal adapters that enable smart phones or tablets to use these stands.

You may not use any device that scans images, or that has an integral or external stand or extension (such as a tripod or selfie stick).

Flash photography is not permitted. Copyright applies to all records: please ask a member of staff for details.


We would strongly recommend that you only bring what you need with you – the fewer items you have in your bag, the quicker it will be for us to check it when you arrive.

Suitcases and other items that are too large to fit inside our lockers are not allowed inside the building: please make arrangements to leave luggage elsewhere. Our lockers can accommodate items with a maximum size of 43 cm x 42 cm x 24 cm.

Nearby luggage storage providers can be found by searching on www.stasher.com.

Lost property

If you leave something behind, please contact us to see if it has been handed in. We normally keep lost property for one month.