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Document delivery and Inter-library lending

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The British Library is one of the main suppliers of the Open University’s inter-library books and article loans. They are currently experiencing a major technology outage, as a result of a cyber incident. This is affecting their online systems, services and website. Unfortunately this has impacted on our Document delivery and Inter-library lending service. We apologise for any delays; we will try to respond to and fulfil your requests as quickly as possible by sourcing from other libraries.

The library building is open to all users. We are once again able to process Inter-library print book requests. We also continue to offer the Secure Electronic Delivery (SEDs) service for electronic journal article and book chapter requests.

Please note: all Inter-library print book loans will need to be collected from the library building. If you require disability user support please contact the Document Delivery/Inter-library Loan team and we will be able to discuss alternative delivery options for you.

If you have any queries please contact the Document Delivery/Inter-library Loan team at

What is this?

The Document delivery and Inter-library loans service is available to university staff and research students (MPhil/PhD), it provides access to items not held by the Open University Library.

Please use Library Search to check whether we have an item in stock before ordering it via Document Delivery.

If an item is available electronically via Document Delivery it can often be obtained quickly but if it has to be borrowed physically from another library, via inter-library loan, this can much take longer. The loan periods for inter-library loans are set by the institutions who lend them, not by The Open University.

How do I access the service?

The Document Delivery service can be accessed via:

Who may use the service?

  • Open University staff involved in module production and/or University Research. If you are an Associate Lecturer, please be aware that we can only obtain copies for your personal use as part of your role at the OU. Further copying and/or sharing with students is not permitted.
  • The Document Delivery service is limited to the following students: MPhil/PhD/Professional Doctorate research students. You will need to be registered with the library. See: Joining the Open University Library
  • If you are not eligible to use Document Delivery there may be services available from libraries near you or you could use the Suggest New Titles facility.
  • If you have any enquiries about the Document Delivery service, including your eligibility to use it, please contact the Library Helpdesk

Copyright authorisation

Initial login will require registration of a four digit pin and a memorable word.

Frequently asked questions

How do I make a loan request?

  1. Please note that items requested will be sourced and borrowed physically from other libraries. This might take a number of weeks. Loan periods are set by the lending libraries, not by The Open University Libirary.
  2. Check our online electronic resources and Library Search to make sure the item is not held by The Open University library
  3. Go to the Document Delivery service home page
  4. Select LOAN and complete the form with as much information as possible remember there are some mandatory fields
  5. Enter your four digit pin number and letters from your memorable word for copyright verification
  6. Submit the request and you will see a message "Your request has been submitted" which means the request has been sent to the British Library
  7. Your request will now appear 'On Order' in the Item Requested list on your Document Delivery home page

How do I make an article request?

  1. Check our online electronic resources and the Library Search to make sure the item is not held by The Open University library
  2. Go to the Document Delivery service home page
  3. Select either Photocopy (PC) or Electronic copy (SED) and complete the form with as much information as possible. Click to the next page
  4. Choose your delivery option and click to the next page
  5. Enter your four digit pin number and letters from your memorable word for copyright verification.
  6. Submit the request and you will see a message "Your request has been submitted" which means the request has been sent to the British Library
  7. Your request will now show in your items as "on order"

Electronic copy (SEDs)

Change of delivery system for Secure Electronic Delivery (SED)

As of the 1st March 2016 there is a change to the way SED documents are accessed from the British Library and documents are now available online, via the British Library platform, on any device.

The email will arrive to your Open University email address. When you are connected to the internet, click on the link and you will be invited to create an account, with username and password. You will only have to do this once. After you have created your account you will be able to log in on multiple devices to access the document.

Once you have downloaded the article you cannot share it with another user. You can only print the document once. This is due to Copyright Law.

Please note that:

  • This works only with Adobe Reader 10 or above, and documents will not open with any other PDF viewer.
  • The article is not automatically saved and you must click ‘File>Save As’ and name it to a drive or memory stick to save it. If you ‘save’ the document, you should have access to it for three years from the date of supply. If files are not saved, access from the download link will cease after 30 days and the item will need reordering. Upon expiry, you will be locked out of the article permanently.
  • If you have forgotten your BLDSS/On Demand Username or Password, there are links to have reminders sent from the BLDSS/On Demand home page.
  • If your password changes, you may continue to access saved documents using your latest Password. However, you may need to clear the remembered account information in Adobe Reader.
  • To ensure access to documents previously downloaded with FileOpen or Adobe Digital Editions for up to the three year expiry time, you will need to maintain FileOpen or Adobe Digital Editions on the machine the document was originally downloaded on.

We cannot access the server where the article is held so any problems please contact the British Library Customer Services on 01937 546060.

Timescales and Exceptional circumstances

If the British Library (BL) is able to fulfil a request it should arrive within five working days. If the BL cannot supply the item we will forward the request to another UK institution. If we are able to source the loan from another library it can take up to three weeks to arrive. If the item cannot be loaned from within the UK we will approach international libraries. It can take up to four weeks to fulfil these requests.

In addition, there will be times of the year which are busier than others and this will impact on delivery times. Many libraries temporarily close their inter-lending sections owing to staff shortages or limit their service during the summer, in the run up to Christmas and New Year break.

Why do I need to authorise a copyright declaration?

  • Only one article from the same issue of the same journal can be requested under UK Coypright Law
  • All document delivery copy services are subject to the relevant copyright restrictions in line with UK and EU law
  • If you are requesting a PHOTOCOPY or ELECTRONIC COPY, check whether your request is considered commercial or non-commercial
  • You must complete the Copyright verification for each article or chapter request

How do I return/renew my document delivery loans?

  • All document delivery items must be returned to us on time. If an item is not returned on time the British Library will charge £160. This charge will be passed directly to the Library user. Items returned by post must be sent by recorded delivery
  • Renewals are not automatic and are subject to agreement with the lending library. Three days prior to the due date of an item you may be able to click on a green renewal button in the 'More' column. This automatically sends a renewal request to the Document Delivery team. If you cannot see this green button please contact the Document Delivery team at to request a renewal. If the item can be renewed or needs to be returned to the lending library you will be notified by email
  • If an item is recalled you will be asked to return it immediately

EThOS: an online service from the British Library

The British Library has developed EThOS to enable easier access to British Doctoral Theses. This will allow open full text access to a range of British Doctoral theses. If you are searching for a thesis, try searching EThOS first. If you are unable to find the thesis you are looking for, or need further help, please contact us

Supplying to other institutions

We do not supply items to individuals but will supply loans and copies to other institutions via Inter-Library Loan/Document Delivery services. You can get help with document delivery by contacting the document delivery team: email