British Library Cyber Attack

If you’ve ever used our inter-library loan service, the chances are your book or article was supplied by the British Library (BL). On the last weekend in October BL was subject to a cyber-attack. The ransomware group Rhysida claimed to be behind the attack. Access to the catalogue, website, ordering process and research services was lost.

Cyber Attack: Why does it matter?

With one of the largest book collections in the world, The EThOs doctoral theses collection and access to millions of journal articles, maps and music scores it is a huge loss to those who are studying or doing research.

Our inter-library loan service used BL to supply journal articles directly to the requestor. The online self-service BL On Demand was used to renew books quickly and easily for users.

BL had service standards regarding the delivery of items-articles were usually supplied on the same day or the next day after being requested. Books usually arrive within a week.

How are we sourcing requested items now?

We are now relying on partners, such as other universities and institutes to supply books and articles. In order to find out which partners have requested items we use JISC Library Hub Discover. This allows us to see who has the book or journal which the requested article is from. In the case of journals, holdings are displayed so we are able to see if an institution has the journal for the year the article was published.

The timeframe for partners supplying can be much slower than BL’s. This is because we are using other universities and institutions whose services are dependent on the availability of staff who will also be dealing with their own students and staff. They will prioritise their own members so if their own libraries are busy with students needing assistance, satisfying inter-library loan requests will not be prioritised.

Books will not be supplied by a partner if they are on a reading list or currently on loan. This may mean we have to try more than one partner to try to get a book supplied. We are dependent on our partners following up on our requests, which will take longer at certain times such as the start of the new semester.

How are we coping?

We have coped very well. There has not been very many requests which could not be supplied. We are receiving requests from partners for books and articles available at Edinburgh Napier and our interlending team are supplying to them. This generates an income stream as we make a small charge for each item we supply.

Slow progress

BL have recently partially re-instated their catalogue, but not all materials are currently searchable. BL’s Reading Rooms in London and Yorkshire are open, but access to the collection and online resources is limited. BL anticipate restoring more services in the next few weeks, but disruption to certain services is expected to last for several months.


If you had created your own BL account…….

Edinburgh Napier has a BL account to request and renew articles and books. You may have your own account so there are some things to be aware of. The attackers released some of BL data onto the dark web including some personal user information. It is recommended that if you use the same password for non-BL services as you use for your BL account. Then you change this password for the other services. BL intend to alert anyone whose data has been compromised and they are collaborating with the Metropolitan Police. BL’s data protection officer can be contacted at if you have any queries.


If you have any questions or concerns regarding the BL cyber attack you can  contact the library or talk to staff at any of the library helpdesks and we will try to assist.

Photo Source Andrea De Santis

By Vivienne Hamiliton

Unfamiliar with Inter Library Loans, you can read here