Readers' Newsletter


Scientific journals - planning for the future

Over the last few years the pattern of use of STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) journals has changed rapidly, with a move away from use of the paper journal to online access. Demand for full-text downloads of articles from electronic journals almost doubled between 2004 and 2006, with Cambridge downloads from ScienceDirect journals, for example, now running at over a million a year. The University Library now provides access to 30,000 current electronic journals.

At the same time as demand for electronic resources increases, scientists are using the physical collections in the library buildings less and less. The University Library is planning the changes to its physical infrastructure and collection-development policy needed to meet these changing demands, and, to assist with this process, it is undertaking two major reviews during the coming academic year.

Part of the Medical Library will be restructured to replace some of the shelving for journals by the provision of a variety of learning environments, including an expansion of the dedicated e-resource areas and further training facilities. This will require the removal of some journal back-runs, and a usage survey of these journals is currently in progress. When it is completed, readers will be consulted on the future of the least-used titles.

The unsuitability of the Central Science Library as a library building appropriate for the 21 st century has been a matter of concern for some years. The inadequacies of the building dictate that only a very small proportion of the stock can be on open access, and even those areas that are open to users are awkward and uncomfortable. However, though use of the building is low, the CSL does continue to play an important role in providing access to the back-runs of the thousands of journals in biological and chemical sciences that are not yet fully available in electronic form. The Library Syndicate has established a working party to give preliminary consideration to the future of the CSL, its building, services and collections, and that working party will begin its deliberations and consultation in October.

Scientists (and librarians) have in the past been reluctant to move towards electronic-only access because of fears that this access could be lost if the publisher went out of business or stopped providing a particular title. Increasingly, arrangements are being put in place to ensure that copies of the journals databases of major publishers are being housed in independent repositories. As electronic back-runs of journals become more prevalent, there is a declining need for every university library (even Cambridge) to hold in printed form all the STM journals likely to be wanted by its scientists. For most purposes, electronic access is not only acceptable but actually preferable. Where such access is not available for back-runs or the quality (e.g. reproduction of images) is unacceptable, there is a growing range of alternatives, and the University Library plans to participate in the developing UK Research Reserve, which aims to ensure that an agreed minimum number of printed back-runs is stored and preserved in perpetuity, allowing other libraries to dispose of their back-runs knowing that researchers will be able to gain access to them from elsewhere if required. As this service develops, members of the University will be consulted on the possibility of discarding some of the paper journals that have been purchased on subscription and are now in low use.

Did you know?
The ten most expensive journal subscriptions cost the Library about £135,000 in 2006-07.

Title Publisher Annual subscription
Tetrahedron (package of 6 titles) Elsevier £21,000
Brain research Elsevier £15,400
Physica A-E Elsevier £15,000
Nuclear instruments and methods A-B Elsevier £13,800
Surface science Elsevier £13,100
Physics letters A-B Elsevier £12,800
Physical review all American Physical Society £12,000
Journal of applied polymer science Wiley Interscience £11,200
Nuclear physics B Elsevier £10,400
Journal of chromatography Elsevier £10,100
Materials Science and Engineering A, B, C, R Elsevier £10,100

Journal price inflation, especially in the Sciences, Technology and Medicine is running well above the general inflation rate, with increases exceeding 6% per year.

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Reorganisation of the South Front and South Wing

One of the major everyday challenges of operating the University Library is ensuring that as much suitable material as possible is available and easily found on the open shelves. Such is the scale of the Library’s intake that newly catalogued material rapidly fills space previously allocated for growth. As a consequence serious overcrowding is obvious throughout the building in areas where overflows of classmark sequences are housed on desks and tables adjacent to the stacks.

The collections held in the South Wing and on South Front Floor 2, where readers may have experienced difficulties in retrieving material, have been reviewed as an area where action was urgently required and a comprehensive redistribution of material between floors is currently underway. When completed this will improve the use of the open-access collections on these floors and release additional reader spaces in the stacks.

The planned new division of classes between floors is as follows:

South Wing Floor 3 1-97 and P1-P99 (Religion)
South Wing Floor 4 100-196 and P100-P196 (Religion continued; Philosophy; Psychology)
South Wing Floor 5 198-220 and P198-P220 (Occult; Social and Political Sciences; Economics)
South Wing Floor 6 221-244 and P221-P244 (Agricultural Economics and Policy; Finance; Trade and Industry; Education; Social Issues)
South Front Floor 2 245-299 and P245-P299 (Women’s Studies; Law)

Book moving will take place floor by floor. Notices have been placed on the relevant floors and further notices noting progress will be posted throughout the project. Location information in the Newton catalogue will also be updated as the work progresses. Please ask staff in the Main Reading Room for assistance if you have any difficulty in locating any material.

To provide short-term decanting space as part of the project, the Library Syndicate has agreed that classes 244-244:3.a-d (post-1949) and P244.a-d be withdrawn temporarily to closed access. Books and periodicals from these classes should be requested at the desk in the Main Reading Room, and they will be fetched for you as quickly as possible. In due course these classes will be returned to open access as indicated above.

We apologise to readers for any noise or inconvenience experienced during this essential project.

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Changes to borrowing regulations

Responding to feedback received from our readers, the Library Syndicate has made a number of changes to the borrowing regulations.

Books can now be renewed online via Newton, the Library catalogue. In order to increase the circulation of materials and ensure that other readers get the opportunity of access, borrowers can renew their books either online or in person once only, provided no other reader has requested the books; repeated renewals of books will no longer be permitted.

To ensure the prompt return of books that have been recalled by another reader, Library notices informing the borrower of the recall will specify a new due-date for return of the recalled book. This will normally be 7 days after the notice has been sent. Please note that this due-date will therefore differ from the date stamped in the book and a higher fine rate of 50 pence per item per day will apply if the book is returned later than the new due-date.

Undergraduate students with borrowing rights at the University Library will now be able to borrow books over the Christmas and Easter vacation periods. All books are subject to recall by other readers, so books may need to be returned earlier if requested.

The Library is committed to acting in an environmentally responsible manner and is looking to reduce its paper output. Therefore, Library communications such as reminders, overdue or recall notices, will in future be sent primarily via email. You are asked to ensure that the Library is informed of your current email address.

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Visit of the Ruler of Sharjah

His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, the Ruler of Sharjah, visited the Library in July. He is seen here, with the Vice-Chancellor, examining a map of Cambridge, watched by Brian Jenkins, Head of Special Collections, and Anne Taylor, Head of the Map Department.

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Project MUSE and electronic journals in Psychology

A subscription to two major collections of e-journals by the Library fills a significant gap in provision for interdisciplinary research.

The Project MUSE Premium Collection ( ) of around 360 titles from over 70 publishers, including a number of university presses and learned societies in the US and UK, is the most important enhancement to date to current electronic holdings in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

PsycArticles ( on campus) is a collection of 61 titles published online by the American Psychological Association and much in demand by researchers in education, criminology, medicine, and the social sciences, as well as by psychologists. A further collection, the Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing Archive , adds archival access to 18 premier English-language journals in psychoanalysis up to 2003, complemented by the standard edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud , his letters, and works by other major psychoanalytic authors.

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International success for prize winning Cambridge collector

The first winner of the newly established Rose Book-Collecting Prize has gone on to win an international book-collecting championship.

The University Library’s Rose Prize has been funded by Professor James Marrow and Dr Emily Rose in honour of Dr Rose’s parents, Daniel and Joanna Rose. It offers a prize of £500 and 10 years’ membership of the Friends of the University Library to a current Cambridge student whose book collection is judged to demonstrate the greatest originality, intelligence and cohesion, regardless of monetary value. Although such prizes have been fairly common in North America since the 1920s, this is thought to be the first European example. Twenty-one-year old Classics student David Butterfield, of Christ’s College, won earlier this year with a selection of his 2,500-volume collection, under the title Landmarks of Classical Scholarship. His collection, including an Aldine edition of Lucretius (1515) and A.E. Housman rarities, was assembled over four years and on a student budget, aided both by the rich second-hand book market in Cambridge and the opportunities provided by the Internet.

As a consequence of his success, David was able to compete in the Fine Books & Collections Collegiate Book-Collecting Championship, open to winners of such competitions worldwide. His recently-announced victory in this, too, brings him a prize of $2,500 and a trip to the awards ceremony in Seattle, while the University Library receives a donation of $1,000 in his name.

For details of the 2007-8 competition for Cambridge students see

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$500,000 to help preserve digital information for future generations

The University Library has received an anonymous donation of $500,000 to appoint a Digital Preservation Specialist, who will have responsibility for ensuring that the digital information created in the University can be preserved for the use of future generations.

Since the 1990s, Cambridge University Library has played a leading role at a national and international level in recognising that, without prompt action and planning for preservation, digital objects of every type are at risk of becoming unusable, and vital collections of electronic publications and data might be lost for ever. Amongst the risks faced are technical obsolescence, failure of fragile digital media such as CDs and DVDs, accidental deletion of unique copies, and failure to ensure that potentially important files are collected and stored systematically along with the documentation that will render them usable and comprehensible in future.

For the academic community, whose research output is increasingly in digital format, these risks threaten the long-term survival of irreplaceable research data and the loss of years of investment in creating it. Future generations will also be unable to make continuing use of data which could hold the potential to yield valuable new results.

After the successful conclusion of the CEDARS Project, led by the University Library, the Cambridge-MIT Institute funded the development of DSpace@Cambridge, one of the UK’s first university-based digital repositories. Today DSpace@Cambridge, run jointly by the Library and the Computing Service, is the largest DSpace digital repository in the world. Its collections include around 170,000 chemical structure files, research papers, audio files and digital images, both still and moving, from academic departments in the sciences, social sciences and humanities, and heritage material in the form of digitised manuscripts and correspondence.

What has been learnt from the DSpace@Cambridge project is that the long-term preservation of digital files requires active strategic management and appraisal of data over the life-cycle of scholarly and scientific materials. The $500,000 donation will fund a Digital Preservation Specialist, who will work closely with the existing DSpace staff. The Specialist’s principal role will be to collaborate with academic staff to ensure that research data-files created by them are collected at an early stage in their lifecycle, ensuring that preservation actions are carried out. They will also have responsibility for the further development of the UL’s digitisation strategy.

For more information on DSpace and what it can do for you, please contact Patricia Killiard, Electronic Services and Systems (

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Through the whole island

Sea-side, farmhouse & country lodgings & hotels on the Great Northern Rly, one of many such publications encouraging the growth of recreational travel by rail.

The Library’s current exhibition examines the exploration of the island of Great Britain from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. Drawing widely on the Library’s collections of rare books, manuscripts, maps, music and official publications, the display ranges from the scientific to the poetic and from the political to the recreational.

‘Through the whole island: excursions in Great Britain’ takes its title from Daniel Defoe’s A tour thro’ the whole island of Great Britain (1724), the first edition of which is on display in a section highlighting journeys undertaken for social and political discovery. Also in these cases, together with works by Voltaire and George Orwell, is a copy of John Bristed’s Ανθρωπλανομενος [The touring man]; or a pedestrian tour through part of the Highlands of Scotland, in 1801 (London 1803), with a frontispiece showing the author wearing a cat-skin cap and green spectacles, accompanied by his friend Andrew Cowan. The two men, students at Edinburgh University, disguised themselves as sailors on their journey, believing their investigations into social conditions in the Highlands would be made easier if they travelled without the trappings of wealth. Bristed pretended to be American, thinking that, as the Scottish so despised the English, he would meet hostility otherwise. Within a few days of setting out, the men were detained as spies in Dundee, and were forced to call on testimony from fellow students to secure their release.

Scientific travels are represented by two remarkable manuscript items. A page of notes made by the Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne during his experiments on Schiehallion in Perthshire in 1774 indicates how he and his assistants made astronomical observations to determine the precise zenith of two stations on either side of the mountain, in order to measure the deflection from the vertical of plumb lines caused by Schiehallion’s gravitational attraction. A bifolium of geological notes made by Charles Darwin during a field trip to north Wales with Adam Sedgwick in 1831 shows him recording the absence of Old Red Sandstone in the Vale of Clwyd, an important discovery that led to part of the national geological map being redrawn.

Nicholas Crane (left), explorer, writer and broadcaster, who opened the exhibition Through the whole island, with John Wells of the Manuscripts Department, at the opening ceremony.
The trend which emerged in the eighteenth century for members of the indigenous population to travel within Great Britain for recreation, rather than head abroad, is illustrated by a selection of printed books and manuscript journals. An unpublished leaf from a 1788 diary of John Byng, many of whose travel journals were published in the 1930s as The Torrington diaries, contains a wholly characteristic call to his compatriots to appreciate the beauties of their own island: ‘Talk not, therefore, Gentlemen, of foreign Parts, till you have seen, and learnt something of your Own Country:– ye, who drive by Canterbury Cathedral, without deigning a Look; and return Boasting of Rialtos, Eclips’d by the Works of the most ordinary Welsh masons.’

The exhibition runs in the Exhibition Centre until 22 December, Monday to Friday, 09.00 to 18.00. Saturday, 09.00 to 16.30. It is open to all and admission is free. For further information visit or contact John Wells on 01223 333055 or .

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The Friends of Cambridge University Library

 Forthcoming events, to be held in the Morison Room, University Library:

Saturday 24 November 2007, at 11.30  

John Keatley

‘Twentieth-century British-designed bookbindings’ Mr Keatley, a leading collector of contemporary British bookbindings, will talk on 20 th-century bindings, particularly from the 1960s onwards, and will exhibit examples from his own collection.   Friends and junior members of Cambridge University free, others £3.50.

Wednesday 28 November, at 17.00

Gloria Clifton

‘The Astronomers Royal at Greenwich, 1675-1900’

Dr Clifton, Head of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, will talk about the lives and work of the Astronomers Royal. A selection of documents from the Observatory’s archives, held in the University Library, will be on display.

Friends £2.50, others £3.50; junior members of the University free.

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Editor: Stephen Hills ISSN:1360-9033