Visiting the archive and library

Opening times

We are open Tuesday to Friday: 9.30am-12.30pm, and 1.30pm-4.00pm (we we will close for an hour at lunch).

We will stagger the arrival times of researchers during the first 30 minutes of opening and we will inform you of your arrival slot when we email to confirm your visit.

We will need to close promptly at the end of each session. Please allow time at the end of each session to collect your things. The reading room will not be accessible between 12.30-1.30pm.

How can I book a place in the reading room?

If you wish to book a space in The MERL and University of Reading Special Collections reading room, please email: merl@reading.ac.uk or specialcollections@reading.ac.uk.

Visits to the reading room should be booked in advance along with the material you would like to access.

In your email, please indicate:

  • the day you wish to visit
  • if you would like to book for all day
  • which archives or rare books (including references) you wish to consult

We can then assess your requests and advise you on availability.

Please only visit the reading room if we have confirmed your visit.

COVID-19 procedures in place for visitors

We have taken every reasonable step to create a COVID-19 secure building and we rely on the co-operation of visitors to follow the measures we have put in place to protect everyone’s safety. Please observe the safety measures that we have put in place.

We will have windows open for ventilation purposes. Please consider wearing extra layers on cold days.

Please delay your visit if you are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms. The latest NHS guidelines can be found on their website.

Please practice social distancing while in The MERL and University of Reading Special Collections building.

Please wear a face covering during your visit unless you have a legitimate reason not to do so.

There is a hand sanitiser station outside the reading room.

We will be cleaning desks and lockers at the end of each day.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What can I bring into the Reading Room?

The following items are permitted in the reading room:

  • pencils
  • note pads
  • laptops/tablets
  • mobile phones (switched to silent)
  • face mask

The following are not permitted in the reading room:

  • pens
  • food (including chewing gum and cough sweets)
  • drinks (including bottled water)
  • bags (including British Library bags, handbags and laptop bags)
  • personal scanners, tripods and stands
  • hand gel

Where can I leave my belongings?

Free lockers are available to store items not permitted in the reading room. These will be numbered in line with desks in the reading room. We will assign you a locker and desk before your visit and inform you of these when you arrive.

Can I bring someone else?

Our appointments are usually for one researcher only. We can sometimes accommodate two researchers working together. Please ask about this when booking in and we can advise.

How should I handle the collections?

Collections should still be handled in the ways we usually specify. Handling guides are available in the reading room and as PDF files below:

There will be a hand sanitiser station outside the reading room. Please ensure that your hands are dry before handling collections.

Can I copy and take photographs of the collections?

The photocopier will not be available to researchers.

We are unable to fulfil requests for photocopies or scans of material during a visit and instead can be ordered remotely through our copying service. Keep a note of the specific material you would like copied so you can email us after your visit to request copies.

Digital photography using your own camera/mobile/tablet is available subject to conditions. These conditions and prices for permits can be found on our copying services page.

Is the open access library open to browse?

The Open Access Library is now open for researchers to browse. Please keep a note of the call/shelf numbers of books and periodicals you would like to see and you will be able to fetch these during your visit.

Will I be able to visit the Museum?

The MERL galleries, cafe, shop and garden are currently open. You are welcome to drop in for a coffee and a treat. Admission is free and you can find out more and arrange your visit to the galleries on The MERL’s visit us page.

How can I connect to the Wi-Fi?

Eduroam is available in the reading room. We also have leaflets that enable short term access to The Cloud for visitors without access to Eduroam.

Where can I eat lunch?

Researchers can eat lunch in The MERL Cafe or other cafés on the University of Reading’s London Road Campus.