Frequently asked questions
Hopefully you'll find the answer to your questions here, but if not please email us.
What are alerts?
If you register for alerts, you will receive our monthly newsletter, tailored to your subject interests. It will highlight key reports added to the portal and the most important abstracts from Welfare Reform Digest.
Email alerts are set up by you as part of the online registration for Social Welfare at the British Library. You can choose to receive alerts for any one or more of the key subject areas, or no alerts at all, it's up to you.
You can change them at any time by clicking on the Change your alerts link on the green box you see on pages of the Social Welfare Portalonce you're logged in.
What does it contain?
The portal contains:
First: a high quality collection of full text digital research and evaluation reports, issued by academic research centres, think tanks, and campaigning charities, Parliamentary papers, government consultations and policy proposals, all selected by our social policy curators and available for immediate download free of charge.
Second: articles that we have commissioned from individual authors
Third: our monthly current awareness bulletin, Welfare Reform Digest, which keeps you up to date with the latest policy debates, controversies and developments through abstracts from research monographs and articles in academic journals, professional magazines, and quality national newspapers
Fourth: a powerful search interface that brings together all of the British Library's material in one results list - so you can see all the print books and journals, audio and websites that we have alongside the content from the Portal itself.
It does not contain the full text of peer-reviewed journal articles.
Why are there very few full text academic journal articles on the portal
This is because the cost of licencing subscription-based electronic journals for remote use is prohibitively expensive. It could also potentially duplicate provision by universities, national charities and professional bodies, which would not be a good use of public money. However, we do link out to open access versions of articles when they are available and when we have found them.
If you need journal articles and can't get them from your University or Public Library, you can:
Come to the British Library in London and get a Reader Pass that will enable you to use the electronic journals while you are in our reading rooms in London or Boston Spa in Yorkshire. In the Social Science Reading Room in London you'll find the latest 12 months' issues of a selection of print journals on the shelves, you can also order journal issues for delivery to the Reading Room.
Buy the journal article you need from our document supply service or the publisher's website. Again, if you're an academic or student your University Library can help you order documents from our document supply service, and if your company or organisation has a library, they can help.
I want to write an article for you. Whom do I contact
We're always pleased to hear from potential authors. You need to have a good idea for an article and be able to demonstrate that you know about the subject, as well as being willing to grant us non-exclusive rights to publish the article. We are also happy to re-publish articles that have appeared elsewhere, provided you are the copyright-holder or can get copyright clearance. We will verify these things with you, explain our editorial policy and writing style, and make sure there are no copyright issues, once you contact us.
The easiest way to start the ball rolling is to complete the Contact us form, which goes to the editor at the British Library in London. We aim to get back to you within 5 working days.
How do I get my organisation's content added to the portal?
UK law on legal deposit of electronic material has not yet come into effect, so the British Library operates a voluntary scheme whereby UK-based organisations are welcome to provide content to the Library for remote access services like the Social Welfare Portal, or just for use by readers in British Library reading rooms. We always respect the rights of copyright-holders and all content is covered by proper rights-clearance procedures.
If you would like to contribute content specifically to Social Welfare at the British Library, please complete the Contribute content form. We will always tell you about the Library's other schemes to give you a choice about, for instance, whether you would also like your website to be archived by the UK Web Archive.
If you would like to find out more about contributing electronic content to the British Library generally, or to have your website archived by the UK Web Archive, please see our webpages about Voluntary Deposit.
How do I register?
Anyone can register to use Social Welfare at the British Library.
Complete a short online form, click on a link in an email we send you, and that's it!
The data you give us will be kept secure and will not be used for any other purposes or shared with any third parties. Click on the word Register in the top right of any Social Welfare Portal screen to start your registration.
You don't need to come to the British Library to register to use the Portal. You do, however, need to come to our Reader Registration Office in London if you want to get a British Library Reader Pass to use our reading rooms. You need to bring two forms of ID with you to get your Reader Pass, find out more.
What are the benefits of registering?
Registered portal users can:
- Sign up to receive monthly alerts, tailored to their subject interests
- Access a personalised home page, which offers Twitter and RSS feeds
- Leave comments on portal content
However, the research reports collection and Welfare Reform Digest are available to all without registration
In the search box, what is the "Social Welfare Collection"? And what's in the "Main Catalogue"?
The Social Welfare collection is:
- everything in the Social Welfare Portal
- plus a subset of print and digital material in the British Library's collections (library books, journals, datasets, sound recordings, theses, websites etc) that we have identified as being relevant for the subject of Social Welfare
We use an automated process to capture catalogue records of books etc with the relevant Dewey class numbers, this set is updated once a week. New Social Welfare Portal content is added overnight each night.
The British Library's Main Catalogue includes everything in the British Library's stock no matter what the subject and covers material without any Dewey numbers i.e. everything catalogued before 2004, when we started using Dewey. So it's a much bigger collection.
We suggest you search first in Social Welfare Collection and then click on the British Library's Main Catalogue to broaden your search.
If you want to see only Social Welfare Portal content:
First: Search using Social Welfare collection
Second: In the Results list, look on the left hand side where it says Refine my results and choose Reports as the material type to see all downloadable reports, working papers and other PDFs on the Portal
Third: ChooseWeb page as the Material type to see all Welfare Reform Digest pages, plus editorial articles and websites that are part of the UK Web Archive.
Using the portal
How do I use the portal?
You do NOT need to register to access any of the portal content. The full text research reports, editorial articles and the Welfare Reform Digest are available to all, 24/7
However, if you perform a search using the simple or advanced options, you will be transferred to the British Library catalogue, Explore the British Library. Â Here you are searching a database containing records of books, journal articles, theses, audio recordings and archived websites in the British Library's stock.
To consult printed items, you will need to register for a British Library Reader's Pass and visit our London reading rooms in person. Explore is a different system from the Social Welfare Portal, and at the moment it requires you to log into it with your Reader Pass number in order to request material. Please see the Help pages written by our Electronic Services team for step by step instructions and video tutorials to help you use Explore.
You can order electronic versions of theses and journal articles to be delivered to your home or office. Please note that supply of journal articles is a charged service. For full details of how to order journal articles please visit "I want this": how to get books and journal articles from the British Library
What is available free and what do I have to pay for?
You can download the latest research reports, summaries and government papers in the field free of charge.
The high cost of journal subscriptions means we cannot deliver journal articles to your home or office free of charge. Your university, public or organisation library can provide you with print or electronic versions, or you can order them from the British Library Document Supply service on a pay as you go basis. If you have a British Library Reader Pass, you can read print or electronic journals in our reading rooms in London or Yorkshire for free.For a step-by-step guide on how to order material please visit "I want this": how to get books and journal articles from the British Library
What is a British Library Reader Pass and how can I get one?
A Reader Pass is a plastic card with a Reader Number on it that enables you to use the British Library's collections in our Reading Rooms in London and Boston Spa, Yorkshire.
You have to apply for a Reader Pass in person, by coming to our Reader Registration Office in St Pancras, London with the required forms of identification. Please read the detailed information here.
You also need to show that you have a genuine need to use our collections, for example because you need to use material that is only available from the British Library. When you come to the Reader Registration Office, the staff there will ask you why you need to use the British Library, and will expect you to be able to describe what you want to do. It helps if you have done a search of our catalogue and can name some books, journals and other resources that you need to use. If you're a University student, you really need to show that you need to use material that is not available from your University i.e. research-level material, not textbooks.
Using the Portal
Ordering books or other print materials to be delivered to the reading room
Most material is not kept on the open shelves in the British Library. In fact, most of our books, journals and other print material is kept in storage in Boston Spa in Yorkshire - two hundred miles away from our main Reading Rooms in London. So, you need to order the books, journal issues and other printed items you need to use in advance of your visit.
How to request items
You need to have a British Library Reader Pass to be able to order up material for delivery to our Reading Rooms.
Start your search using the search box on the Social Welfare Portal. This will take you into the Explore the British Library Search our Catalogue system. Explore is a different system from the Social Welfare Portal, and at the moment it requires you to log into it with your Reader Pass number in order to request material. Please see the Help pages written by our Electronic Services team for step by step instructions and video tutorials to help you use Explore.
Who is the portal for?
Who is Social Welfare at the British Library for?
Social Welfare at the British Library focuses on social policy development, implementation and evaluation. The research reports collection mainly covers the situation in the UK, but the Welfare Reform Digest includes abstracts of articles on policy development in both the UK and other Western countries to faciliate comparative research and policy borrowing. Â The portal is designed to be useful to:
- Researchers, policymakers and policy liaison officers in the Third Sector - charities, think tanks and community organisations
- Managers and training and development officers in the statutory, voluntary and independent sectors
- Independent researchers and consultants
- Student social workers and their teachers
The portal will not provide quick access to detailed practice guidance - for this please use the resources of our partner the Social Care Institute for ExcellenceÂ