Subsidy for the supply of official publications in public libraries

What is the subsidy?

The purpose of the subsidy is to facilitate public access to parliamentary and central government publications which are not available online.

The subsidy applies to eligible official publications purchased by 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.

The scheme does not preclude any organisation from producing and disseminating official publications, subject to any licensing conditions that may be in place.

What is the scope of the subsidy?

The subsidy applies to eligible publications from parliamentary and central government bodies in the UK, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

What is the rate of subsidy?

The rate of subsidy is 50% of the invoiced price, net of any commercial discount offered by an intermediary 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 official publications are eligible for subsidy under the scheme?

The subsidy applies to official publications which are not freely available online. This includes:

  • Ordnance Survey maps
  • Home Office Citizenship Guides
  • Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency driver education materials
  • other parliamentary or government information/publications which cannot be accessed freely on the internet (including subscription-based services)

The scope of eligible publications is kept under review. Intermediaries and libraries are kindly reminded that if they have arrangements which may relate to the subsidy this is at their own risk.

Which official publications are not eligible for subsidy under the scheme?

The subsidy does not apply to publications which are freely accessible online. An illustrative list of the publications not eligible for the subsidy includes:

  • legislation (this has been out of scope since 2005)
  • government Command and House of Commons Papers
  • parliamentary House of Commons and House of Lords Papers
  • House of Commons and House of Lords Bills
  • statistical publications
  • The Gazette
  • Hansard
  • other parliamentary or government publications which are only published online
  • compilations of official publications with or without the inclusion of other official information

Official publications that become freely available online automatically fall outside the scheme.

The most recent amendment to the scheme’s scope was September 2015. Intermediaries that regularly submit subsidy claims to The National Archives were informed of the change as outlined in this letter (PDF, 0.09MB).

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 eligible official publications from one of the following intermediaries, the intermediary’s invoice will state the cover or subscription price of a publication less 50%. These intermediaries have been approved by The National Archives to provide the subsidy at source on eligible official publications:

  • Coutts
  • Dandy Booksellers
  • Latitude Mapping
  • Palgrave Macmillan
  • The Stationery Office Ltd. (TSO)

The list of approved intermediaries may change from time to time.

Claims submitted to The National Archives must be accompanied by copies of relevant intermediary invoices to libraries which include: publications purchased, purchasing library, invoiced amount and subsidy amount.

For any subsidy claimed at source, we reserve the right to make audit checks by asking recipient libraries to verify the details of orders attracting the subsidy, including that the claimed for publications have been supplied and are in use in a public library. As part of the audit process The National Archives may also seek clarification from intermediary suppliers.

Claim directly from The National Archives

A library purchases the publication at full price from its preferred intermediary and submits a claim form to us, attaching copies of the invoices showing the price paid for each publication being claimed for. On receipt of a substantiated claim The National Archives will refund the subsidy to the library.

Is there a time limit on making claims?

All claims from public libraries or intermediaries must be received by The National Archives within three months of the date on the intermediary invoice to the public library. Claims received outside this time limit 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. An intermediary that provides the subsidy at source should be able to advise on which of its publications are eligible for the subsidy. However, the final decision on the eligibility of a particular publication rests with The National Archives. If there is any doubt about eligibility, please contact us.

Any queries regarding the scope of the scheme, or the processing of claims, should be directed to