Cambridge University Library

Readers' Newsletter No. 6


University Library receives £2.5 million Lottery grant

The University Library has been awarded a grant of £2.5 million by the Heritage Lottery Fund in support of its building development. The grant is to assist with the creation of a new exhibition centre, which will be open to the general public, and an extension to the north-west corner of the Library, which contains the Manuscripts and Rare Books Reading Rooms.

The new exhibition centre will be situated on North Front Ground, with its public entrance leading directly off the Entrance Hall. The gallery itself will contain state-of-the-art exhibition cases and will be cabled to allow for multimedia and interactive displays, operating either as stand-alone machines or linked to the Internet. Adjacent to it will be two seminar rooms which will be used for meetings, talks and training sessions. The whole area will be designed with flexibility in mind. The seminar rooms will be used either individually or as one larger lecture room and it will also be possible to open these up to the exhibition area to create a large area for receptions and major events organised by the Friends of the Library and other groups.

[Plan] The opportunity will also be taken to reorganise the Entrance Hall and merge the activities currently carried out at the Entrance Hall level and at the Borrowing Desk on the First Floor. The plan shows the new layout, with all book-borrowing and returning activities concentrated in one area. This will be a much more convenient arrangement for readers, and will provide a flexibility which will allow staff to respond quickly to service pressure in a way that is not possible with the present layout.

The entrance to and exit from the Library will be controlled by turnstiles using the new-style Reader's Tickets; this will also allow for additional staff flexibility and provide important statistics on the use of the Library.

It is hoped that work on these areas will start during the current year and be completed early in 1998. Construction of the north-west corner cannot begin until the completion of the basement currently being built at the rear of the building. It is also dependent upon the Library's ability to raise a further £1.5 million in partnership funding. A new fund-raising campaign is about to start, with the collaboration of the University's Development Office and the Friends of the Library.

When completed, this phase will provide Reading Rooms for Manuscripts and Rare Books which are more than twice the size of the present ones and which are designed to take account of future technological developments and the increasing availability of electronic information resources. On the ground floor, there will be new space for an expansion of the Library's photographic, digitisation and microfilming services.

This Lottery grant represents a significant step towards the realisation of the Library's development plans which are designed to meet the needs of users well into the 21st century.

Visit of the President of Israel

[President Weizman]

During their state visit to the United Kingdom in February, the President of Israel, Mr Ezer Weizman, and Mrs Reuma Weizman, visited the University Library to see a special exhibition of Genizah fragments and other Hebrew manuscripts.

Mr and Mrs Weizman were welcomed at the steps of the University Library by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alec Broers, Dr Anthony Edwards, Chairman of the Library Syndicate, and Peter Fox, the University Librarian. The President and Mrs Weizman were then conducted to the Anderson Room where they were shown the exhibits by Dr Stefan Reif, Director of the Genizah Research Unit, and met a number of representatives of the University's Jewish community. A demonstration was also given of how the Library is using new technology to exhibit its medieval documents and to provide researchers all round the world with online access to Genizah sources.

The visitors were presented with digitised facsimiles of a signed letter by Moses Maimonides, and a document recording the rental of part of a synagogue in Ramle in 1039.

National Science Week

This year's celebration of National Science Week held between 14 and 22 March was marked by a wide range of events and activities at Cambridge. The University Library, in collaboration with Cambridge University Press, produced a booklet 'Science at seven ... and beyond' to accompany the main lecture programme of the week. This booklet provides suggested additional reading for each of the public lectures and details of relevant World Wide Web sites.

An online version of the guide, with active links to the cited Web pages is available for a limited time at the Library's Web site,

Copies of the printed guide may be obtained from the Scientific Periodicals Library.

News of online information services

Since the last edition of the Newsletter the University Library has provided access to World-Wide Web interfaces for several popular bibliographic indexes.

The BIDS Web service located at currently provides access to the following services:

Most features of searching these databases are supported by the Web interface, and those not currently available, such as saving and retrieving sets, will be added in later releases.

In addition to Web access several enhancements to the IBSS database have been announced. For those unfamiliar with this database a list of the source journals scanned is available at Although IBSS's basic coverage is of the four central disciplines - anthropology, economics, politics and sociology - corresponding to the paper divisions of the bibliography, the scope of the online database is extremely broad and especially strong in international and non-English-language material. Until this year IBSS covered the literature from 1980 to the present. Backfile data between 1951 and 1980 is currently being added at the rate of two years a week. Abstracts are also being added to references from about 200 core titles from the first 1997 issues.

Access to all these databases is password controlled. Passwords are issued by Reader Services staff in the University Library Reading Room and from the dependent libraries.

Questions or requests for further information may be directed to Michael Wilson, Scientific Periodicals Library (

New CD-ROM databases

Recent additions to the University Library's collection of CD-ROM databases include: Johnson's Dictionary of the English language, The works of John Ruskin, Chaucer's Wife of Bath's prologue (all published by Cambridge University Press), Who's Who 1897-1996 and the Dictionary of national biography. These may be consulted at workstations in the IT Resources Area and on North Wing 4, 5 and 6.

Descriptive volume of Hebrew manuscripts

For some 500 years, Hebrew books have been counted among the treasures of the University Library. Current holdings of Hebrew manuscripts (including some 128 Genizah fragments not in its major Genizah collections) currently exceed 1,000. A wide range of Hebrew literature is represented. The bulk of the material is late medieval, but there are also earlier items, among them the famous Nash Papyrus from the second pre-Christian century. A new descriptive volume by Dr Stefan Reif, Director of the Library's Genizah Research Unit, was launched by Mr Amiram Magid, Minister Plenipotentiary at the Embassy of Israel in London.

Stefan Reif, assisted by Shulie Reif, Hebrew manuscripts at Cambridge University Library: a description and introduction, Cambridge University Press, 1996. 626 pp. ISBN 0 521 58339 X, £75.00.

Improved online catalogue and new automated book ordering system

The beginning of March saw the release of a revised version of the online catalogue. The main improvements were: The new system was designed to be as self-explanatory as possible. Readers are advised to read through the options in the new menus. There are extensive help-pages for each section which are displayed when the letter H is typed.

The automated book-fetching system

Requests for fetching closed access books can be made using the pilot Online Book Request System (OBRS). Until now, requests to have books fetched from the closed stacks have had to be made in person, in the reading rooms, by filling in a paper slip. This option is still available to readers who prefer it. At present the OBRS may be used to request fetching from the "9000 to 9999" classmarks only. If this scheme is successful, we plan to extend it to other classes. It works as follows: if you are using the online catalogue and you find a book which you wish to consult in the 9000-class, the location description in the catalogue record appears as follows:
Location: [Univ.Lib.] 9000.c.41
          Type X now to request item be fetched 
          Order in Reading Room
          Not on loan
Typing the letter X will prompt the system to ask you for the number of your reader's ticket, and your name. Then it will either confirm that the item will be fetched, and how long it will take, or it will tell you that the item is in use and that it cannot be fetched. You cannot request an item to be fetched if it is already on loan, but you could make a recall either at the public terminal at the Borrowing Desk or via Emics.

If you already know the classmark of the item you wish to have fetched, you can also use the OBRS terminal at the Borrowing Desk to make your request. This terminal allows you to check the progress of your requests and indicates when they are ready to collect.

The other way to request fetching of 9000-class books is via Emics. Emics is an electronic mail facility which allows you to make enquiries about your borrowing, make recalls, and fetching requests. The help file in Emics explains how to do this.

If anyone is having difficulty with the online catalogue, the Enquiry Desks in the Catalogue Room or the Reading Room will provide help. We are always pleased to receive readers' comments and suggestions about the catalogues and book ordering service (

[The Lord Chancellor]

Catalogue of English legal manuscripts

On 21 February, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, was guest of honour at a reception held in the University Library's Anderson Room to mark the publication of the Catalogue of English legal manuscripts in Cambridge University Library, recently completed by John Baker, Professor of English Legal History. The project, originally begun in the 1970s, involved the description of nearly 500 volumes and the result amply demonstrates Professor Baker's unrivalled knowledge of legal manuscripts and their movements between sixteenth and seventeenth century antiquaries. The medieval codicological descriptions by Jayne Ringrose of the Library's Manuscripts Department present much completely new work.

J.H. Baker, A catalogue of English legal manuscripts in Cambridge University Library, with codicological descriptions of the early manuscripts by J.S. Ringrose. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1996. 828 pp. ISBN 0 85115 376 3. £95.00.

The Friends of Cambridge University Library

Forthcoming meetings - Easter Term 1997

Wednesday 7 May at 17.45 in the Meeting Room (tea will be served at 17.15)

Dr Lewis Wolpert

Why are so many beliefs unscientific?

Dr Wolpert publishes and broadcasts extensively on biology, embryology and scientific ethics

A charge will be made for attendance: £2.50 for Friends, £3.50 for others

Saturday 21 June at 19.15

Friends are invited to join the President and Committee at a 'Midsummer Evening' in the Library. Besides a buffet supper with wine, guests will enjoy a varied programme of tours, demonstrations and specially-mounted displays. Full details will be circulated to Friends early in May but particulars are available from the Hon. Secretary, Dr Mark Nicholls ((3)33047, e-mail:

Wednesday 9 July Summer Outing

This year's summer outing will consist of an excursion by coach to the Lord Leycester Hospital, Warwick, and a nearby National Trust property, Baddesley Clinton. Full details of this event will be sent to Friends in May.

Wednesday 16 July at 17.45 in the Meeting Room (tea will be served from 17.15)

Mr Jeremy Brown

The Thistle and the Jade: Jardine Matheson, its archive, and Hong Kong

Mr Brown is a Director of Matheson and Company, London

A charge will be made for attendance: £2.50 for Friends, £3.50 for others

The Friends meet The Chancellor

On 10 February the President and Committee of the Friends hosted a reception in the University Combination Room, in the presence of the Chancellor of the University. More than one hundred Friends and their guests attended, most enjoying an opportunity to speak to Prince Philip during the course of the evening.


Current and forthcoming exhibitions (Main Library)

In the Exhibition Corridor (outside the main Reading Room)

'The Princely Hong: Jardine Matheson, Hong Kong, and the eastern trade'
7 May to 24 July

'Colour printed books'
August to October

In the Entrance Hall

'"Granta hails her chosen Lord": Prince Albert and Cambridge'
5 May to 24 June

'Indian independence'
July to September

Six million volumes - and still growing!

The University Library received its six millionth volume in February. The paperback edition of John D. Barrow's The artful universe was received by legal deposit under the terms of the Copyright Act. It is one of about 80,000 books which will be added to the Library's collections by legal deposit this year. The Library's policy is to acquire as many British books as possible in this way, although we exercise considerable selectivity over periodical publications, and this contributes to the continuing need for additional shelf space. The new basement being constructed at the moment on the west side of the Library is scheduled for completion early in 1998 and will hold over 600,000 books. Space on North Front 3 and North Front 4 will also be released next year when the Japanese and Chinese books are moved into the Aoi Pavilion, currently under construction on the south side of the Library.

New members of staff

Two new members of staff will be joining the Library over the next few months. Miss Patricia Killiard took up her duties as Head of IT Services on 1 April and Miss Anne Taylor becomes Head of the Map Department on 1 October.

Patricia Killiard is a history graduate of St Andrews University and has a postgraduate diploma in librarianship from University College London. Since 1980 she has worked in the Warburg Institute, University of London, most recently as Systems Librarian.

Anne Taylor is a geography graduate of Reading and has a Sheffield MA in Environmental Archaeology and a postgraduate diploma in librarianship from the College of Librarianship Wales. Her first library post was at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, University of London, and she moved to her present post as Curator of Modern Mapping at the British Library in 1989.

Editor: Ray Scrivens ISSN:1360-9033

Top of document
Back to Newsletters