Library Services for Distance Learners

This guide provides information on the Library services that could be useful to you as a distance learning student.

Library & Information Skills Moodle Module

This on-line tutorial is ideal for anyone who is not able to visit the Library. It will help you to use the Library catalogue, find resources in your subject area by searching electronic journals and databases and know who to contact if you have a problem.

Borrowing and returning books

Undergraduates can have up to 15 items on loan at any one time, postgraduates 20 items. 3 week and 1 week loans can be renewed if another library user has not requested them. Click here for information on how to renew.

Books can be returned in person to the issue desk or via the book return bins situated outside the Library. Books may also be returned by post, but are the responsibility of the user until they arrive in the Library.

If you cannot visit the Library in person you may wish to use our proxy borrower service. This enables someone else to pick up your books for you. If you would like to take advantage of this service, please contact User Support on 020 7631 6369, .

LAMP (LibrAry Materials by Post)

LAMP is a subscription service which allows you to have books and photocopied articles sent to you.  LAMP is available to all Birkbeck students, including writing up, break in studies and re-sit students but may be of particular use to students on a distance learning courses. Students enrolled on official distance learning options are entitled to postal loans of books held by Birkbeck Library free of charge. Photocopies of articles and loans of material not held at Birkbeck can be supplied at no cost. Click here for more details.

Using the Library catalogue

You can access our Library catalogue by clicking on the Catalogue tab at the top of the page. See our online catalogue tutorial for help with searching for books and journals. You can also use the catalogue to renew your books or to reserve books which are on loan to another reader; see the How do I ...?

Enquiries and help

You can contact our help desk on 020 7631 6063 or Your subject librarian can provide specialist subject help. For a list of subject librarians and their contact details, click on the Contact tab at the top of the page and select Subject Librarians.

For queries about the books you have on loan etc., please check the 'my account' section in the Library catalogue or ring the Library issue desk on 020 7631 6239. You will need the barcode from your Birkbeck ID card.

Using e-resources

Databases and online resources

Most of the databases we subscribe to can be searched from outside Birkbeck. For a listing of what we have, click on the eLibrary tab at the top of the page and select Databases and online resources. You can also search across almost all of our databases by using Discover on the eLibrary page. You will usually need your Birkbeck username and password in order to access databases.


The Library makes available over 33,000 full text electronic journals in all subject areas. Click on the eLibrary tab at the top of the page and enter the name/title of the eJournal into the search box in the top left hand side. You will usually need your Birkbeck username and password in order to access electronic journals.

If you are using your own computer, you may also need the Adobe Acrobat package for displaying articles in PDF format.. This software is available to download free. Download Acrobat reader

 Other Libraries

As a member of Birkbeck College, you are entitled to use the libraries of many other University of London colleges for reference. You can also borrow from other libraries via the SCONUL Access Scheme. This is a national scheme with member libraries throughout the country. Click on the Other Libraries tab at the top of the page, or the above link for more information.

You may also be entitled to use the library at the college or university where you studied for your first degree as you are an ex-student. Please check either with the relevant library or at their Help Desk for details of identification needed and opening hours.

Use Finding out where material is held to locate materials in other libraries.

Vacation access scheme

This is a national agreement which allows you to use most other university libraries for reference during vacations. Some libraries limit this to the summer vacation only, so check with the library before you visit.

Public libraries

You are entitled to join public libraries in the areas where you live and work, and as a Birkbeck student you are also entitled to join Camden and Westminster public libraries. You may need to provide documentation such as some form of identification and/or proof of address when you join and are advised to contact the library in advance to confirm exactly what is required. 

Professional and other libraries

Your place of work may have a library or information centre which you can use. Professional organisations often have library services that are available to members and, in some cases, non-members.