Using Special Collections

Special Collections Reading Room opening hours

  • Tuesdays: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
  • Wednesdays: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
  • Thursdays: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
  • Fridays: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

For more information about the School and Library's overall opening hours, including holidays and closure dates, please refer to the Key dates and opening times page.

Booking your visit

Advance bookings for the Reading Room are currently required. To schedule an appointment, please complete our online booking form.

Library stacks viewed from above

Schedule an appointment

Reading Room booking form

Apply for membership

Everyone is welcome to join the library and make use of the Special Collections material.

If you are a current SOAS student, staff member, or external user with a valid library card, you can book Reading Room appointments using your existing library membership.

If you do not have an up-to-date library membership and are not eligible for other forms of library membership, we offer free special collections membership. To apply, please fill out this application form. We will review your submission and contact you to arrange an appointment for you to collect your new ID card when it is ready.

Ordering material

Prior to your visit to the reading room, you may order up to three boxes or volumes of material.

If you require additional material while you are at the reading room, you can request it through our retrieval service. The retrieval times are as follows:

  • 11:00am
  • 2:00pm

If you would like us to hold any of the ordered material for a future booking, please let us know. If we do not receive any communication from you within one week, the material will be reshelved for the convenience of other researchers.


The Special Collections Reading Room (room L66) is located on Level F (lower-ground floor) of SOAS Library. When you arrive at the library, you can access the Reading Room via either the main staircase or Library Lift A.

Reading Room rules

To ensure the preservation of our unique and irreplaceable collections, we kindly request all visitors to observe the following rules while using the Reading Room:

  • Use only pencils or electronic devices for note-taking.
  • Store bags and coats in the lockers provided outside the Reading Room.
  • Do not bring food or drinks (including bottled water) into the Reading Room.


We are committed to providing an accessible and inclusive environment for all our visitors. If you have any specific requirements or need assistance during your visit, please contact us in advance. The Reading Room is situated on the lower-ground floor (Library Level F) and can be accessed via a staircase or Library Lift A.

Buddhist priests, from SOAS Special Collections

Featured image

This page's featured image is a colourised photograph of two Buddhist priests, housed in SOAS Special Collections.

Learn more about this object online at SOAS Digital Collections