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Using other libraries and SCONUL Access

OU students and staff who wish to use space and physical resources in libraries near where they live can take advantage of the following options:

SCONUL Access (UK and Republic of Ireland)

The Open University is a member of the SCONUL (Society of College, National and University Libraries) Access scheme. SCONUL Access enables eligible OU students and employees living in the UK or the Republic of Ireland to use and borrow books from other participating university libraries, or visit them for a quiet place to study. Most of the university libraries in the UK (and some in the Republic of Ireland) are participating in the scheme.

The following Open University students and employees are eligible to apply:

  • Undergraduate and taught postgraduate students registered on a module of 30 credits or more and living in the
    UK or the Republic of Ireland.
  • Postgraduate research students living in the UK or the Republic or Ireland.
  • Employees on permanent or fixed term contracts living in the UK or the Republic of Ireland.

When your access period expires you can re-apply, as long as you are still eligible.

The OU's SCONUL Access Policy defines the principles of SCONUL Access membership at the OU, including how we respond to infringements at host libraries.

Joining or renewing SCONUL Access

From 1st December 2022 you no longer need to have an OU Library card to join the SCONUL Access scheme

You can apply for or renew SCONUL Access at any time during your module, provided you are fully registered. Your application may not start being processed until two months before your module start date if you apply in advance. It may take up to 21 working days to process your application, so do apply early enough to accommodate this.

Make sure you select Distance Learning Student for Step 1 of the SCONUL Access application form, and Open University for Step 2.

Where you are asked for the ‘Library or ID Card number’ on the SCONUL Access application form, please type in:

  • your OU Personal Identifier if you are an Open University student, or your Staff number if you are an Open University Staff member, or your OU Library ID barcode if you already have one.

Once your application has been approved, an official SCONUL Access Acceptance email will be sent to the email address you used on the application (make sure to check your spam or junk folder for this)

Then you need to take 2 items with you when you visit your chosen library:

  1. The SCONUL Access Acceptance email – as a printout or you can show library staff the email on your phone/laptop.
  2. An acceptable form of photo ID

​Acceptable photographic ID are:

  • Passport
  • Driving licence
  • National ID card
  • OU Staff card (with photo)
  • Police / Customs / Home Office Warrant Card
  • Forces ID card
  • Photocard from another UK Legal Deposit Library (British Library, National Libraries of Scotland and Wales, Bodleian Libraries, Trinity College Dublin)

​If you have an Open University Library card, you can also take this with you, however, your chosen library will require one of the ID listed above. If you are at all unsure, please check with your chosen library which form of ID they will accept before visiting them.

You do not need to apply for an Open University Library card unless you are visiting the Open University campus library.

You can find and complete the application form at the SCONUL Access website.   Note: once your application has been approved, you can use any of the libraries on this list. You need not reapply for each library.

NOTE : Please be aware that should you be under the age of 16, you would need your Parent/Guardian's consent to join the Sconul Access scheme.

The online application form will have specific tick boxes for this information. 

Visiting your chosen library

The OU offers eduroam (education roaming), a free service which provides Wi-Fi Internet Access when you visit other academic libraries near where you live. More information on how to connect to eduroam can be found on the page Connecting to eduroam (requires login).

Participating libraries sometimes choose to offer specific services that are not automatically included in the SCONUL Access membership, such as access to computer facilities or online library resources. To avoid disappointment, remember to contact your chosen library ahead of your visit to confirm their registration requirements and to check what services are offered for your Sconul Access band.

To find out which Sconul Access libraries are currently accepting Sconul Access students/staff: / Sconul Access / Step1 Distance learning student or Academic and Support Staff  / Step2 Open University / Find / Select Map or List 

For current guidance on planning your visit at your chosen library please refer to the Sconul Access website.


SCURL (Scotland)

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.

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 apply for SCURL - complete the online Sconul Access application, and in the space with your Library ID/  include the words "and SCURL"

British Library (London)

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

The Open University Library building (Milton Keynes)

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

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

Libraries near you for overseas students

Here are some options you may wish to explore:

  • Our External Libraries and catalogues page has information on overseas students’ access to libraries and includes links to library catalogues. Please, note that access to libraries varies and books are not necessarily in English.
  • Secure Electronic Delivery (SED) for articles is available from British Library On Demand . The cost of each SED varies depending upon the copyright of the item.
  • You may be able to arrange inter-library loans through your local public library or the National Library of the country you are in. A list of National Libraries is available from Wikipedia.
  • The British Council is a worldwide organisation, with a variety of roles, which helps people to access education in English. 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.