A person using archives in the reading room

Access archives and special collections

Open to everyone that wants to use our collections

The reading room on the 4th floor is called The Women's Library Reading Room and is where all our archives and special collections material can be accessed.

Opening hours

  • 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday. 

Make an appointment to visit our reading room

Get in touch in advance as it can take up to 5 working days to arrange access. 

If you already have access to LSE Library

If you don't have current access to LSE Library

Beginning your research

Search our catalogues to identify material that is relevant to your research.

Requesting material for use in the reading room

You can request up to 3 items in advance of your visit and additional material when you are here. We retrieve material at the following times:

  • 10.30am, 12pm and 2.30pm

Please allow up to an hour for material to be retrieved.


Take your own photographs of items. Flash photography and scanners are not permitted.

Make sure you follow copyright guidance. Responsibility for infringement of copyright is borne by the person making the copy, and the person (if different) for whom the copy is being made.

Read our guide to copying archival material

What can I take images of in the Reading Room?

You may take images of any item from the collections, as long as it’s for non-commercial research purposes.

Are there any limits on how much I can copy?

Yes. Fair dealing applies to all copyright works and suggests limits as follows:

  •  One article from a journal
  •  One chapter from a book
  •  One short story or poem from an anthology
  •  Up to 5% extracted from a work

You may only make one copy and that must only be used for non-commercial research or private study, or for criticism, review or news reporting.

What if I want to use an item in my book/article/website?

The only permitted use for making copies of copyrighted works in the Reading Room is for non-commercial purposes. If you wish to make copies with the intention of publishing then you must provide written permission from the copyright holder(s) first, or obtain a licence for publishing orphan works from the Intellectual Property Office.

There are no restrictions on copying and publishing works that are out of copyright.

How do I know if a work is out of copyright?

Copyright is a very complicated area and it can be difficult to determine whether something is in copyright or not, and consequently what you can do with it. The following is a guide, and should not be considered as legal advice:

  • Copyright in published works expires 70 years after the death of the author
  • Copyright in unpublished works, regardless of age, expires 31st December 2039
  • Copyright in published works with no specified author expires 70 years after publication
  • Copyright in photographs where the photographer is unknown expires 70 years after creation

Unpublished works, though still in copyright, may be published without infringement if the work was created before 1 August 1989; and the author has been dead for more than 50 years; and the work is more than 100 years old.

How do I find out who the copyright holder is?

There are a variety of sources to try, such as the WATCH database, DACS, the National Portrait Gallery (for photographers), and Who Was Who.

It is your responsibility to gain permission from the copyright holders if you intend to publish any of the images you take in the Reading Room.

Can LSE Library trace copyright for me?

Very rarely: in a small amount of cases we have up to date contact details for copyright holders or their estates, and we are willing to pass permission requests on for you.

LSE Library cannot grant permission to publish works where the copyright is held by a third party. 

What photography equipment can I bring?

All equipment that will fit on a Reading Room table is permitted with the following exceptions:

  •  Flash photography is not permitted under any circumstances
  •  The use of portable or flat-bed scanners is not permitted
  •  Users must disable electronic camera sounds and avoid disturbing other users

There is no dedicated space for photography in the Reading Room, but we are happy to sit users close to a window to maximise natural light. The Reading Room has ceiling lights and adjustable lamps on the desks. You are welcome to bring props to shield/scatter light as long as they do not encroach onto another user space. We place no restrictions on the quality of images taken, and we do not charge a fee for using a camera.

Digital scanning service

Digital scans of archives and special collections items can be ordered for personal use. The service is free and aimed at researchers wishing to consult small amounts of material remotely. 

Each request will be considered on a case-by-case basis. We aim to produce scans, subject to condition approval and appropriate copyright restrictions, within ten working days.

Contact us regarding your request.

Further help

Contact us if you need assistance identifying material relevant to your research.

Find out more