SOAS University of London

SOAS Library

Access to Special Collections

Last updated: 25 September 2020

The Special Collections Reading Room is now open to SOAS students and staff only. Access will be provided in the Main Reading Room, Library Level D.

To allow for social distancing, the number of people using the Reading Room will be temporarily restricted, and places must be booked in advance. Users must also preorder all material they wish to consult during their visit.

The health and safety of users and staff remains our priority. We have made some changes to our Special Collections Reading Room opening hours and procedures in light of Covid-19, so even if you’ve visited us before, please read the guidance below explaining what you can expect from your visit.

We are keeping the service under review and are planning to extend it to all of our users when it is possible to do so. Please visit this page for updates.


The Special Collections Reading Room is currently open to SOAS students and staff only. 

All bookings are temporarily by appointment only.

We hope to be able to open the service to external visitors as soon as this is possible. Please check this page for future updates.

Opening hours

The Special Collections Reading Room is currently open for the following pre-booked appointment slots:

  • Wednesdays: 10:30am to 15:30pm
  • Fridays: 10:30am to 15:30pm

The Reading Room will be closed for an hour lunch break each day (12:30 - 13:30) to allow for the space to be cleaned.


The Special Collections Reading Room is temporarily located in the Main Reading Room, Library Level D.


All bookings are by appointment only. We ask that you provide at least 72 hours notice of your requested appointment slot(s). This allows us to confirm the material you wish to view is available before you travel.

Please contact to request an appointment and to place an order for material. 

Please provide: 

  • Visit date(s) requested
  • Classmark(s) or reference(s) for the material you wish to consult

Special Collections staff will do their best to accommodate your request. We may need to offer you a later appointment slot if the Reading Room is fully booked on your prefered day or the material you have requested is currently undergoing a quarantine period.. 

Please note: Unfortunately, we are not able to permit anyone to use the Reading Room who has not pre-booked a visit, so please do not travel if you have not received a booking confirmation email from Special Collections.

Material available

You may order up to three rare books, manuscripts or boxes of archival material per visit. 

We will confirm in your booking confirmation email whether the items you have requested are available for consultation. We reserve to the right to make less than three items available during busy periods.

Please note: The following material-types are temporarily not available for consultation.

  • Microfiche
  • Fragile material (e.g. glass lantern slides)
  • Oversize items (e.g. large maps and plans)
  • Artefacts
  • Items used within 72 hours by another user that are in quarantine on the date of the appointment
Temporary Reading Room Procedures

We have made some changes to our standard Reading Room procedures in light of the current Coronavirus pandemic. We kindly ask that all users behave responsibly and respect the measures that we have put in place.

These include:

  • Face coverings are to be used in the Library and Reading Room at all times.
  • Hand sanitizer will be available immediately outside the Reading Room. We will ask you to use these facilities before using the space. However, please ensure that your hands are fully dry before using Special Collections material.
  • Please bring your own pencils or laptop for making any notes. 
  • You will be asked to place any bags and coats in the designated space in the Reading Room. Please note secure lockers are currently unavailable. We therefore advise users to only bring essential items with them during their visit.  
  • Pencil sharpeners, light boxes, magnifying glasses will temporarily not be made available. Book cushions and weights will still be provided where necessary.
  • Paper finding aids and Library OPAC catalogue computers will temporarily not be available.