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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

It is no longer necessary to hold 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. 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.


Do you need space to study? Somewhere quiet to do your work?


Would you like to borrow books from your local university library?


The Open University has signed up to SCONUL Access to help you with all these things.


SCONUL Access is a national scheme in the UK which allows students and staff


from over 200 member universities to use each other’s libraries.


As long as you’re currently registered on a module worth 30 credits or more,


or are a member of Staff, you are eligible – and each time you sign up for another


module after that, we can simply renew your membership.


Here’s how to apply:


Go to the OU Library website and click on “SCONUL Access Scheme”.


Scroll down and click on the link to the SCONUL Access website.


Choose “Distance Learning Student” from the list in Step #1.


Choose “Open University” from the list in Step #2 and click “Find”. You only need to apply once,


so choose your preferred member library from the list and then click “Apply for access”.


On the application form, fill in your name and OU email address.


Put your OU Personal Identifier in this box– otherwise put in your


existing Library barcode number if you have one.


Tick the two boxes and button below, and then Submit.


So, what happens next? We’ll process your application – this can take up to 21 working days.


Once that’s done we will forward the acceptance email to the email


address in your application for you to take to your chosen library.


You no longer need to carry an Open University Library card, but if you have one, that’s ok. But


it is important that you also take along some form of Photo ID such as a Passport or Driver's licence.


Don’t forget, once you have your email you can use it to join as


many SCONUL Access member libraries as you wish!


You should check with the library you want to use before your first visit, in case they’d like you


to provide anything else for registration – for example a photo, or additional photo ID.


Any questions? Just contact the Library Helpdesk.


SCONUL Access: bringing libraries closer to you.

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 members are also members of SCONUL. If OU Research students or academic staff would like to use a SCURL library that is not in membership of SCONUL, or without registering for SCONUL Access, they should contact the SCURL library directly prior to visiting to confirm arrangements and check requirements.”

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.