Using the Social Science Library

A student working in the Social Science Library

In line with the latest government guidance, you must wear a face covering in library reading rooms, unless you are exempt. Find out more about staying safe in our spaces and other service updates.


  • All University members and Bodleian Reader card holders may use the Social Science Library. You can swipe your card at our entry gate to access the library.  
  • External readers may also visit the SSL to consult material within the library. However, many of our e-resources are not accessible to external readers.
  • If you would like to enter the library as a visitor, visit the SSL issue desk and staff will arrange a day pass for you. You will need to present a form of photo ID, such as passport, driver's license or a university card from your home institution. A maximum of 3 day passes may be issued per person per year.
  • Find out more about joining the Bodleian Libraries as a Bodleian Reader.

Rules and regulations

The Bodleian Libraries Regulations and Rules of Conduct apply in this library. Please note the following local rules:

  • Please keep your belongings with you at all times.  
  • The library operates a strict no food and drink policy, except for bottled water and drinks in KeepCups. KeepCups are available for purchase from the issue desk for £8.50 (plastic) and £15.00 (glass).

General information

  • View a floormap of the library (PDF, 57KB) or take our virtual tour.
  • The library has one main issue desk, for borrowing and returning books, collecting reserved books, borrowing or buying equipment and stationery, and queries about using library facilities and resources.
  • Lockers are available behind the main building reception. Padlocks can be borrowed from the issue desk on short loan.

Closing routine

  • A bell is rung 20 minutes before library closing to alert readers that the library will soon close.  
  • Please return closed stack books to the desk and check out books for loan in good time before the library closes to avoid queues building up at closing time.  
  • Rooms booked in the evening or at weekends will shut 15 minutes before library closing time.

Layout and classification

The SSL uses the Library of Congress classification scheme to classify books by subject matter. Our book collection is arranged along one side of the library by shelfmark in an A-Z sequence. Our Library of Congress Classification Guide (PDF, 27 KB) lists the major subject areas on the library shelves.  

If you are interested in a topic, our Subject Browsing Guide (PDF, 677 KB) can help you find the shelfmark which corresponds to that topic. For more information about resources in your subject area, visit our subject guides.

You can find an item’s shelfmark on its SOLO record. Our guide to Library of Congress shelfmarks (PDF, 10.7 KB) can help you to understand a shelf mark.

Once you have finished using a book, please return it to the relevant shelving trolley. Staff can then re-shelve it for use by the next reader. One shelving trolley is designated for ‘library use only’ books, as they are shelved as a priority daily.  If you are not sure where to put your books, please ask a member of staff.


The SSL’s collection of printed academic journals and serials is organized alphabetically by title on the east side of the library. The shelfmark on SOLO displays as ‘Per A’, ‘Per B’, and so on. (‘Per’ is an abbreviation of ‘Periodical’). If a print version of a journal is not available on our shelves, we may now be receiving it through electronic legal deposit. Current issues of selected journals are displayed in the main aisle of the library.


The SSL holds a collection of working papers in Criminology, Economics, International Development, Politics & International Relations, Refugee Studies and Social Policy & Social Work. Most can be found on SOLO, indexed either by the name of the series or the title of the individual working paper.  

Papers have the shelfmark ‘D+WP’ and are kept in the Discussion and Working Papers section. All papers are arranged in a single sequence, alphabetically by institution, e.g. papers issued by the IMF will be shelved under ‘I’ (International). They are then filed alphabetically by series, then by number.

You can track down working papers, reports and grey literature in your subject using our subject guide.


The SSL does not keep a copy of every thesis and dissertation produced by social science students. We hold dissertations produced by students on selected (usually Master's) courses. These are kept in the Theses and Dissertations section of the library, next to the periodicals.

Dissertations and theses are arranged by social science department (eg Criminology), the course name (eg Criminology and Criminal Justice), qualification level (eg MSc), year of submission, and finally the first three letters of the author's name (eg CRI.CCJ.Msc 2002 GIL).

MPhil dissertations in Politics and International Relations are not held at the SSL. They are generally deposited in hard copy to the Bodleian Library. Authors are not required to deposit a copy in the Oxford Research Archive.  

Some departmental websites list titles of theses submitted for their courses. If your department does not, it is worth asking the administrator if it is possible to list these online.  

Some dissertations and theses are held for the following courses:

  • Criminology (CRI): Criminlogy (MPhil), Criminology and Criminal Justice (MSc)
  • Economics (ECO): Economics (DPhil, MPhil)
  • Geography: Undergraduate prizewinning dissertations, MSc dissertations
  • International Development (IDC) (ODID from 2014 – present): Agricultural Economics (DPhil, MLitt, MSc), Development Studies (MPhil), Economics for Development (MSc), Global Governance & Diplomacy (MSc)
  • Oxford Department of International Development (ODID): Development Studies (M.Phil.), Economics for Development (MSc), Forced Migration (MSc), Global Governance and Diplomacy (MSc), Migration Studies (MSc), Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (MSc)
  • Politics & International Relations (POL): Politics & International Relations (DPhil); Politics, Philosophy and Economics (BA)
  • Socio-Legal Studies (SLS): Socio-Legal Studies (DPhil), Law & Economics (MSc)
  • Social Policy & Intervention (SPI): Comparative Social Policy (MPhil, MSc), Evidence-Based Social Intervention (MPhil, MSc), Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation (MPhil, MSc).

Authors’ copyright of theses is strictly protected. Find out more about restrictions on copying theses.  

Oxford University theses in the SSL are confined to the library. Theses from other universities, which are classified according to Library of Congress Classification and shelved in the main library sequence, may be borrowed.


A small reference collection (shelfmarks beginning ‘REF’) including encyclopaedias and dictionaries is located opposite the issue desk. 


There is a new research books display at the end of the issue desk. The display includes both legal deposit material relating to the social sciences and purchased books recommended by the library's subject consultants in both print and e-book formats.