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Ordering books in the Reading Room

Books which have the direction 'Order in Reading Room' in the catalogues or on the Finding list are fetched to the Room by a member of staff upon completion of either a paper order form or an online request.

We do not generally accept requests made by telephone, letter or email. Occasional exceptions can be made for readers from outside Cambridge coming a long distance for a short time. Email requests should be sent to

Book fetching

Items will be fetched as quickly as possible, but there may be delays at certain times of day (especially 12:30–14:15 and 17:15–18:20). Generally fetching times fluctuate between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on demand. The current estimated fetching time is always displayed in the room. Orders submitted after 18:20 (16:15 on Saturdays) will be fetched on the next working day. During Full Easter Term fetching continues until 20.20.

Once fetched, books are placed on a stand behind the staff desk area. Books are held for the remainder of the day they are fetched and one full working day thereafter. 

If you wish to order more than ten books at one time, please consult staff before placing your order.


Readers wishing to reserve items for future use should complete a red Reservation Slip, available on all the tables, and leave the slip clearly visible in the book(s) to be reserved. Books may be reserved on the tables for three working days. Please note that reference books (R100-R952 and Ref) may not be reserved.


Items fetched to the Reading Room (classes 9000-9999, C200-C210 and certain 3-figure classes) may be taken from the room and, if you have borrowing rights, borrowed in the same way as open-Library material.

Reference books (R100-R952 and Ref) are not borrowable.


Transfer of material

It is usually possible to arrange for the temporary transfer of reference works to another specialist reading room for use in conjunction with material fetched there.

Readers may occasionally be directed to the Rare Books reading room to consult older reference works formerly shelved in the Reading Room.

Returning items to the shelves

Items from any location in the Library that have been read in the Reading Room can be left on the table marked 'Shelving Point', adjacent to the 'Books Fetched Today' stand for reshelving by staff.


Items fetched to the Reading Room may be taken from the room, used in any other part of the Library, and copied, without need to ask staff.

Information and advice concerning the reproduction of material from reference works can be obtained at the staff desk. Generally speaking, if the reference work is in good condition staff will permit copying using machines in the West Room. However, staff will advise on alternative methods of reproduction, if the work is fragile, large or antiquarian.

Details of all reproduction services offered by the Library are available on the Digital Content Unit's webpages.

Self-service photography

Readers may use their own cameras to take still photographs of material at a designated table in the Reading Room. If you wish to take your own photographs and have not already registered to do so, you must first speak to staff at the desk, read the information sheets on self-service photography and copyright provided and complete an application form. For conservation reasons, staff must check each item before photography. Photographs may be taken for non-commercial research or private study only.

Cameras and camera phones must be hand-held and must be capable of being set to 'silent'. SLRs, tripods, 'mini-pods', hand-held scanners and flash photography are not permitted.

Please see our full guidelines for further information.

Uncatalogued book searches

Enquiries concerning any book described as an Uncatalogued item should be made at the Enquiry Desk. Staff will complete an online form requesting an uncatalogued book search. Enquiries may also be made online.

Such books must be consulted in the West Room, where they are held at the Central Desk. They must not be removed from that room nor left unattended on the tables but must be returned to the Central Desk where they may be reserved for further use, if accompanied by a completed reservation slip. Alternatively such books can be sent for urgent cataloguing and the enquirer notified once this has been done.

Rose detail


Laptops may be used in the Reading Room provided they cause no disturbance to other readers. Mains sockets are provided at all the tables designated for laptop use.

The tables in the South-West quarter of the room, clearly marked, form a laptop-free zone.

Wireless internet access is available to members of the University of Cambridge using their Raven passwords. Temporary access can be granted to visitors by issuing a UniOfCam wifi ticket.


Enquiries concerning reference works, books fetched to the Reading Room and other aspects of the Library's work, policy and procedures may be made in the Reading Room at any time. If the question cannot be answered immediately, an appropriate specialist can often be found to provide further assistance.

Enquiries are welcome in person, by telephone or by email to