Public Library Access Scheme

What is the Public Library Access Scheme?

All local authority-funded public libraries are eligible to receive a subsidy on official publications. The subsidy is given to facilitate public access to parliamentary and government materials and legislation which are not available online.

Who qualifies for the scheme?

The scheme is available to local authority funded public libraries in the United Kingdom. Orders placed by a local authority’s central acquisitions unit will also qualify for the scheme, provided that the publications are for use by the local authority’s own public libraries.

What is the rate of subsidy?

The rate of subsidy is 50% of the invoiced price, net of any commercial discount offered by the supplier, excluding VAT.

The amount of subsidy available is cash-limited, and payment may be suspended if the demand for subsidy on qualifying publications in any one financial year exceeds the total annual budget. We will give you as much notice as possible in this eventuality.

Which publications are eligible for subsidy under the scheme?

The subsidy applies to printed copies of official information which is not freely available online. This includes:

  • Ordnance Survey maps
  • Home Office Citizenship Guides
  • Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency driver education materials
  • Other parliamentary or government information which cannot be accessed freely on the internet

Which publications are not eligible for subsidy under the scheme?

A review in 2014 identified a need to amend the scope of the subsidy. As a result, from 20 September 2015, the subsidy will no longer apply to publications which are freely accessible online. An illustrative list of the publications affected includes:

  • Government Command and House of Commons Papers
  • Parliamentary House of Commons and House of Lords Papers
  • House of Commons and House of Lords Bills
  • Statistical publications
  • Gazettes
  • Other organisational publications which are only published online

The intermediaries who regularly submit claims to The National Archives for the subsidy have been informed of the changes. See a copy of the letter outlining the changes below.

The changes to the scope of the PLS do not preclude any organisation from continuing to produce and sell printed copies of official information to new or existing customers.

March 2015 letter on changes to the scope of the public library subsidy (PDF, 0.09 MB)

How does a public library obtain the subsidy?

There are two ways a library can claim the subsidy:

Subsidy provided at source

When a library purchases official publications from one of the following suppliers they will be invoiced at cover or subscription price less 50% public library subsidy.

  • Context Ltd Justis Parliament
  • Coutts
  • Dandy Booksellers Qualifying publications only
  • Signpost leaflet service (previously FRILLS)
  • Health and Safety Executive (HSE Books) HSE publications
  • Latitude Ordnance Survey maps
  • Palgrave Macmillan Office for National Statistics
  • House of Commons Hansard CD-ROMs
  • House of Lords Hansard CD-ROMs
  • The Stationery Office Ltd. (TSO) Qualifying publications only
  • UK Official Publications (UKOP) CD-ROM or UKOP online (published by TSO Ltd)

Claim direct from The National Archives

A library purchases the publication at full price from its preferred supplier and submits a claim form to us, attaching copies of the invoices showing the price paid. On receipt of the claim The National Archives refunds the subsidy to the library.

For any subsidy given at source, we reserve the right to make periodic or spot audit checks by asking the recipient libraries to verify the details of orders on which discount has been given.

Is there a time limit on when public libraries can make claims?

Claims for subsidy direct from The National Archives must be submitted within three months of the date of the invoice from the supplier. Claims received outside this time scale will not be accepted.

I have a query on which publications are eligible

Responsibility for policy and administration of the scheme lies with The National Archives. A supplier who provides the subsidy at source will be happy to advise you on which of its publications are covered by the scheme. The final decision on eligibility of a particular publication rests with The National Archives. If a library is in any doubt about eligibility, we will be pleased to advise.

For queries on policy, scope and administration of the scheme, please contact:

For queries on eligibility of publications and processing of claims, please contact:
Tel: +44 (0)20 8876 3444 ext 2288