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Borrowing and managing your account

All you need to know on how to borrow and renew items, how long they can be borrowed for and managing your library account.

We'd love to hear from you. Contact us via email at library@ucl.ac.uk

Books laid out in a heart shape

We ask you to:

  • Check what you have on loan and when it is due back in the library
  • Let us know if you have any problems with your account

You can expect us to:

  • Do our best in ensuring as many people as possible get access to the material they need
  • Help you by explaining our services and giving you our personal attention as far as we can
Getting access to the material you need

Taking a book off the shelf

Will there be enough copies of books on my Reading List?

We do our best to ensure that as many people as possible can access the reading they need. We often have multiple copies of texts on reading lists, have digitized copies of articles and chapters available on your online reading list and have short loan collections (see below) for books in particularly high demand.

Don't hesitate to get in touch with your subject librarian if you have any questions about getting material for your reading list.

Finding material

Have a look at our Getting Started guide for information about how to find material.

Borrowing books

You'll need your UCL ID card and PIN number.

Browse the shelves or request the books you need via our Click and Collect Service and take them to a self service machine to borrow them. If you have trouble searching for anything in the library, please ask staff for help.

Inter-site service

Certain items held at outlying UCL sites can be requested to be transferred from one site to another for loan. Photocopies from journals can also be supplied.

How can I renew my loans?

All borrowed books are now automatically renewed if they have a loan period of one week or longer unless they have been requested by another user. Standard (eight-week) loan books can be recalled if they are requested by another user and you will be given one week to return them to us.

Short loan items (items with a loan period of less than one week) must be returned at the end of their loan period as usual.

Why can't I borrow/renew my loans?

Your library account will be frozen if:

  • You have an overdue requested book.
  • You owe £20 or more on your library account.
  • Your library account has expired.

If you don't think any of these restrictions apply, or if you have any other questions, please email us at library@ucl.ac.uk or speak to us in the library.

How many books can I borrow?
UserItems allowed
Undergraduates20
Staff40
Masters degree20
MPhil/PhD30
PhD writing-up30
NHS members20
London Mathematical Society borrowers10
SOAS external borrowers3
Other external borrowers5

Please refer to the Membership Services pages for more information on borrowing rights.

How long can I borrow books for? And what are the charges for late return? 

Normal loan periods and fines for overdue items are:

Loan typeLoan periodFine for overdue item
Standard8 weeks20p per day
2 week2 weeks20p per day
1 week7 days30p per day
3 day (rolling)Due at 23:59 on third day. Due at 23:59 on Monday if borrowed on Wednesday or Thursday.50p per day
1 day (short loan)Due at 10:00 the next day. Due at 10:00 on Monday if borrowed on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.50p per hour
3 hour (short loan)Due at 10:00 next day if borrowed after 15:00. Due at 10:00 on Monday if borrowed after 15:00 on Friday or on Saturday or Sunday.50p per hour
ReferenceNOT FOR LOAN 
What's my PIN?

Your PIN is needed for borrowing books from self service machines.

Your PIN is four digits and for UCL students is set automatically to your date of birth (Day/Day/Month/Month). External users are asked to create their PIN when they register online.

If your PIN does not work, please speak to a member of Library staff at a Help Point or email library@ucl.ac.uk

How will I know when my books are due?

The library sends courtesy emails to you to let you know when your books are about to become due. All borrowed books are automatically renewed if they have a loan period of one week or longer unless they have been requested by another user. Short loan items must be returned at the end of their loan period as usual.

If your books go overdue, we will also email you to let you know.

The best way to keep track of your loans is to regularly log into Your Account on Explore. We also send you a monthly Borrowing Statement to keep you informed about your account.

Books remain your responsibility while they're on loan to you, so make sure you know when they're due back, and don't rely on the courtesy emails.

The book I want is on loan, what do I do?

You can request one week and standard loan books by signing into Explore.

Then click the "Click and Collect" link found in the "Request options" section.

Catalogue screenshot place a request

How long will I have to wait?

The person with the book will receive an email asking them to return it. You will join a queue of borrowers waiting for the book. Renewals will be blocked while borrowers are waiting for the book, and every time a copy is returned you will move forward in the queue until your request has been fulfilled.

What is the short loan collection?

Short loans are in high demand and are available to borrow for either 3 hours, 1 day or 3 days. Short loans can be books, articles or audio-visual items.

Where are they?

Short loan collections are kept together in a separate section of the library to keep them secure. Ask staff in the library if you're not sure where to find them. Some short loan collections are available through self-service.

How do I use the collection?

All the books in the collection appear on Explore. We'll often have several copies of a book from a reading list, and might have 1 or 2 copies in the short loan collection.

If the book is available, simply go to the short loan collection and borrow it from there, either on the self-service machine or by asking library staff.

Once you've borrowed the book, be sure to note the return time and date.

The loan periods correspond to the following slots:

3 hour loans

  • 3 hour rolling loan period from 10:00 - 18:00 Monday to Friday.
  • If borrowed after 15:00 due at 10:00 next day.
  • If borrowed after 15:00 on Friday or any time on Saturday or Sunday due at 10:00 on Monday.

1 day loans

  • Due at 10:00 next day if borrowed on Monday - Thursday.
  • Due at 10:00 on Monday if borrowed on Friday.
  • Due at 10:00 on Monday if borrowed on Saturday or Sunday.

What if they're out on loan?

You can check on Explore when the books are due back. Short Loan books cannot be re-borrowed within 30 minutes of returning them.

How do I return my books?

Please return your books to the Library from where you borrowed them - either at the Issue Desk/Help Point, at self service machines or in the book bins (when the Library is closed). This helps us to ensure that they are made available as quickly as possible for other Library users.

Can I return my books by post?

Yes. Please send them to the library you borrowed them from. See our webpages for a list of the Library sites and their contact details.

The book will remain your responsibility until it has been received at the library, so it is a good idea to send them by recorded delivery.

What do I do if I've lost a library book?

Contact the library you borrowed the book from and Library staff there will advise you on how you can pay for a replacement copy.

If you have any queries about this process or have any particular worries, contact the library directly, or email library@ucl.ac.uk

How do I pay my fines?

There are a number of different ways to pay your fines:

  • Pay by credit or debit card in person or by phone at:
    • Main Library (020 7679 7792)
    • Science Library (020 7679 7795)
    • Cruciform Hub (020 7679 6079)
    • Institute of Archaeology Library (020 7679 4788)
    • Institute of Education Library (020 7612 6080)
    • Language & Speech Science Library (020 7679 4208).
  • Pay in cash at all other libraries except for Queen Square Library, which is currently unable to accept cash owing to ongoing restrictions.
  • Send a cheque made payable to "UCL" to the Library.

Please see our Libraries and Study Spaces page for telephone and contact details.

The book I want has the Due Date 'Shelving' in Explore so where do I find it?

If you look up an item on Explore and the Due Date column says 'Shelving' this means it has been returned to the library within the last 12 hours.

Screenshot of Explore showing an item with 'Shelving' status

If the book is not on the shelf it is likely to be in the process of being re-shelved via our Shelving Service and we recommend that you check the following locations:

  • The static trolleys in the reading room which the book should be shelved in.
  • The Central Shelving Area in the library the book belongs to.
  • Any unsorted shelving trolleys parked near the Central Shelving Area in the library the book belongs to.

Please contact staff in the library if you'd like some help finding a missing book. We'll do our best to find the book in the library for you, will investigate replacing it if it has been lost, and in the meantime can recommend an alternative source for the book.

I can't find the book I want on the shelf, what do I do?

If you look up an item on Explore and the Due Date column says 'Available' but the book is not on the shelf, we recommend that you check the following locations:

  • The static trolleys in the reading room which the book should be shelved in.
  • The Central Shelving Area in the library the book belongs to.
  • Any unsorted shelving trolleys parked near the Central Shelving Area in the library the book belongs to.

It is also possible that someone else might be using the book in the library without having borrowed it.

Please contact staff in the library if you'd like some help finding a missing book. We'll do our best to find the book in the library for you, will investigate replacing it if it has been lost, and in the meantime can recommend an alternative source for the book.