Restoring access to Electronic Legal Deposit

Latest update from the British Library

By Vicky Westmore
04 June 2024

Artistic representation of electronic data

Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

The first stage of access to the Electronic Legal Deposit is expected by August, the British Library has said.

The restoration will give access to non-print legal deposit materials collected before October 2023, when the cyber attack on the British Library took place.

Options for sharing materials collected after October 2023 are being considered with more details expected soon. The UK Web Archive will not be accessible during this phase of the restoration.

The British Library has said access will be restored in some form. Cambridge University Library, and the other legal deposit libraries, are working closely together, and we will need to ensure our access systems are working with the British Libary's new system once it is ready.

All our other resources, print and digital, are still available. We will also provide alternative ways to access electronic legal deposit content wherever possible.

Latest update

The British Library is confident that its data, digital holdings and digitised collections are safe and intact – either through back-ups or because they were not targeted in the attack – but many of their legacy IT systems were encrypted, damaged or deleted. Rebuilding and improving these systems to safely allow access to their collections again is complex and takes time.

Restoring access to digital collections acquired through non-print legal deposit (NPLD) is a priority.

Sir Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library said: “Our loss of access to these collections has also affected the other Legal Deposit Libraries (the National Library of Wales, the National Library of Scotland, the Bodleian Libraries, Cambridge University Library and Trinity College Dublin) as their access systems depended upon our own, which has been offline since the cyber-attack.

"We have been working with our Legal Deposit Library partners to restore access to NPLD materials that were deposited prior to the cyber-attack (October 2023) and we now expect this to be available, in some form, by August. We are continuing to explore different options for collecting and storing items deposited after October 2023, and will share more details about these arrangements as they are confirmed."    

Read the full update.

Resources available at Cambridge University Libraries

We will provide alternative ways to access electronic legal deposit content wherever possible, such as through inter-library loans and purchasing content.

Legal deposit libraries have the right to request a copy of every publication in the UK and Ireland. Cambridge University Library has been collecting in print since 1710. Our print collection is ongoing and is still available.

Map content from electronic legal deposit is on a different system and can still be accessed from a PC terminal in the Map Room at the University Library.

All our other digital services, and our purchased electronic content, are still available too:

iDiscover (a single search point for print and online collections)

eResources and eJournals (articles, journals, databases and books online)

Cambridge Digital Library (digitised materials, collections and research outputs)

Apollo (research outputs from the University of Cambridge)

ArchiveSearch  (search for archives and primary sources held in Cambridge)

These services are available onsite and offsite, with your username and password where applicable. All University of Cambridge students and staff are automatically members of the Library: simply use your usual Cambridge login for all digital services and your Cambridge ID card to visit the Library.

Everyone is welcome to join the Library: find out more and register.

Cambridge Digital Library is accessible to everyone, everywhere, without a login.

Tell us what you need

We understand it is a stressful time of year for students. We will do whatever we can to help. Ask in person at the University Library on West Road, your faculty or department library, or email

What is electronic legal deposit?

Books, magazines, scholarly journals, newspapers, maps, websites and more, that originate in the UK and Ireland, are preserved in their millions under print and electronic legal deposit. Ten years ago, the six legal deposit libraries of the UK and Ireland gained the right to receive a copy of every UK electronic publication, on the same basis as they have received print publications for several centuries.

Electronic legal deposit also includes government and official publications from the UK, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, publications from charities and campaigning organisations, sheet music, academic journals, local histories, and outputs from private presses through to the largest publishers in the UK.

Even annual snapshots of Ordnance Survey large-scale mapping of Britain, and regular snapshots of UK websites are collected – often the only surviving copy of millions of pages of web content, as information rapidly changes online.

The collaborative collecting happens on an incredible scale.

What happened to it?

Access to the electronic legal deposit is provided by the British Library through terminals on site in legal deposit libraries. The British Library was the target of a cyber attack in October 2023, causing substantial damage and many systems are still unavailable. The information itself is safe and systems to access it are being restored and rebuilt.