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For most modules, the wide range of online library resources available via the Open University Library will meet your needs. OU students and staff who sometimes need to use other libraries to borrow books, to use collections for reference, or as a quiet place to work or study can take advantage of the following schemes.


The SCONUL Access scheme allows students and staff to gain access to and borrow from permitted printed and audio-visual loan collections at other libraries which belong to the scheme; these include most of the university libraries in the UK (and some in Ireland).

  • Undergraduate and taught masters students studying modules worth 30 or more credits are eligible to apply for Distance Learning Student Band B membership. Membership will cover the study period of the module(s) you are currently registered on.
  • PhD, EdD research, MPhil students and staff are eligible to apply for Band A membership.

There is no restriction on the number of libraries you can join.

How do I join SCONUL Access?

Please  read the guidance below before opening and completing the application form at the SCONUL Access website and complete as per the guidance:

  • STEP #1: tell us what kind of user you are: Select 'Distance Learning Student' if you are an undergraduate or taught masters student; otherwise select the appropriate category for Research or Staff
  • STEP # 2: tell us the name of your institution: Select 'Open University'
  • Click 'Find'
  • Scroll down to beneath STEP #3 and click 'See results as a list'
  • Select the library you wish to use. Note: you will not be restricted to this library and can use the same email and library card you receive to join any other host libraries
  • Click 'Apply for Access'
  • Fill in the online form. Note: In the ‘Library or ID Card no.' box type in your Open University Library barcode number if you already have one, otherwise type in your student/staff PI number, and we will post you an Open University Library card when your application is processed.
  • Tick both agreement acceptance boxes
  • Click 'Submit'

Please allow sufficient time for your application to be processed. Currently applications are taking up to 15 working days to be processed. You will have an email confirmation when your application has been received, and an approved email when the SCONUL application has been processed.

You will be sent an Open University Library card (if you do not already have one) through the post and an email detailing your Band, SCONUL access expiry date and Library barcode number.

Visiting your chosen library

Please note that most SCONUL Access host libraries have joining restrictions currently in place due to revision and exam periods, and stock-taking. Most host libraries will not register you as a new borrower in the last month before your SCONUL Access membership expires. Please call host libraries ahead to confirm whether registrations are being accepted at the moment and whether any additional paperwork will be required for registration at the host library. We advise that you always take along additional proof of ID such as your Drivers Licence or your Passport when you register at the host library.

You should take your library card and email when you go to register with your chosen library. Use the SCONUL Access website to find out more about the Library you are planning to visit including

  • their opening hours
  • whether they have specific registration periods
  • if they provide computer access
  • if they require other paperwork or photos for registration

You are responsible for all fines and charges associated with any items that you borrow.

How do I renew my SCONUL Access membership?

If you register for a further module with 30 or more credits, follow the registration procedure to receive an updated email. Type in your existing Open University Library barcode in the 'Library or ID Card number' field.

Please note that if there is a gap between completion of one module and payment for another then you will need to wait until you have paid for the next module before you can renew.


The Open University Library is a member of the Scottish Confederation of University and Research Libraries (SCURL). Most SCURL libraries can be accessed by joining SCONUL Access. However, academic staff and postgraduate research students can join SCURL Research Extra to gain access to specialist libraries that are not members of the SCONUL Access scheme. To join this scheme, complete the SCURL Research Extra application form (Doc) and post it to the Open University Library.


The OU Library is a member of the M25 Consortium of Academic Libraries. Nearly all M25 libraries can be accessed by joining SCONUL Access. However, their Search25 tool has useful information for academic staff and postgraduate research students on how to access specialist libraries that are not members of the SCONUL Access scheme.

Open University students and staff are entitled to apply for a pass for the British Library's St. Pancras reading rooms in London.


Access to print material, or to journal articles outside our online Library resources can be problematic for students living overseas.

Unfortunately, there is no equivalent SCONUL Access scheme. However, there are some options that you can explore:

  • The External Libraries and catalogues page has information on overseas students access to libraries and includes links to library catalogues. However, access to libraries varies and books are not necessarily in English.

  • British Library Direct is an option, but does require payment. The cost varies depending upon the copyright of the item. Secure Electronic Delivery (SED) is available for articles, and there are instructions on the British Library web site.

  • The British Council is a worldwide organisation which helps people to access education in English and has a variety of roles. Search within the main British Council website for 'Library', and you will find many countries and services listed. There is often a charge to join, which varies from country to country, and the services that are offered will vary.

  • You may be able to access the National Library of the country you are in or arrange inter-library loans through them. A list of National Libraries is available from Wikipedia.

  • Some world-wide universities offer access to their libraries for external students. Try searching Google for the university you would like to visit. If you have a university within travelling distance then you could consider asking if they will allow you access. If necessary, a letter confirming your status as an Open University student can be provided. For further information about this please contact the Library Helpdesk.

Using the OU library Building in Milton Keynes

The Library building at Walton Hall is open to all for reference and study purposes. Consult the Library at Walton Hall page for information about using Library Wi-Fi and computers. To see if you are entitled to any other services such as borrowing books check the Services for you pages.

Check the opening hours of the Library building and Customer Services before you visit.

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Library helpdesk

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Email: Library Helpdesk

Phone: +44 (0)1908 659001

Contact the helpdesk for help, information and advice on using the library.

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