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Electronic Legal Deposit: Background information

for readers and reading room staff

Purpose of this guide

This guide is intended for students and researchers at the University of Oxford, or those visiting, who seek support in using the Bodleian Libraries’ electronic Legal Deposit special collection.

Use this guide to find out about electronic Legal Deposit, what is available and how to access this special collection.

Please note that electronic Legal Deposit is not the same as commercially available digital material. All the Legal Deposit Libraries are bound by the same UK legislation that restricts access to this material.


  • Legal Deposit started in 1662 and has helped the Bodleian Libraries to amass a vast collection of books, journals and other printed items which are of great value to researchers.  Of course the Bodleian Libraries also purchase many items including research materials from overseas and extra copies of key works published in the UK.   However, Legal Deposit legislation has allowed the Bodleian Libraries to receive many items which would not otherwise be available in Oxford.

  • Legal Deposit has historically only covered printed items. However, in 2003 new legislation was passed which extended legal deposit to electronic publications and it came into force in April 2013.  Therefore the Bodleian Libraries only started to receive electronic material via Legal Deposit in 2013. Of course, the Bodleian Libraries also has many subscriptions to eJournals and ebooks and so you will find many electronic items in our collections besides those that we receive under electronic Legal Deposit.

How is this material collected and stored?

Items deposited under electronic Legal Deposit (eLD) are collected from publishers or self-submitted via an online portal and then processed at the British Library. The digital objects themselves (e.g. PDFs for journal articles, ebooks in epub format etc) are stored on specially-commissioned servers at the British Library datacentres in London and Yorkshire and replicated to similar nodes at the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales.

Metadata (i.e. catalogue records) for the ingested items is then made available to the Legal Deposit Libraries to be incorporated and indexed in their local discovery services. At Oxford new records for eLD items are added to SOLO on a daily basis by a scheduled process which checks the British Library servers for new metadata and processes the records accordingly.

When an eLD item in SOLO is viewed it is via the British Library's secure delivery mechanism which ensures that access and use complies with the relevant legislative requirements.