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Which reading room do I need?
May I borrow items from the collection?
How do I request material?
May I use my digital camera or make copies?
Further assistance

Which reading room do I need?

Official publications within the RCS collections should be requested and consulted in the Rare Books Room. Over 32,500 such publications may now be located via our online catalogue. To learn which geographical regions have been catalogued, and how best to search for official publications, please see our project website.

Please continue to use the RCS card catalogue to obtain information which cannot yet be found online.  The Library’s own Official Publications collection also contains significant runs of colonial and Commonwealth titles, which complement the RCS collection.

Books, pamphlets and periodicals within the RCS collections should also be requested and consulted in the Rare Books Reading Room, where the RCS card catalogue is located. Many categories of published material may now be searched online.

RCS manuscript, photographic and archival collections should be requested and consulted in the Manuscripts Reading Room. Approximately two-thirds of them may now be searched online via Janus.

Maps from the RCS Library, not already held by Cambridge University Library, were incorporated into the University Library's own map collection and should, therefore, be requested in the Map Room.

Opening times for each of the above reading rooms are published on the Library's website.

May I borrow items from the collection?

Items in the RCS collections may not be borrowed. Please note that in the case of published material, there may be another copy in the Library that could be borrowed.

How do I request material?

Please complete order forms in the relevant reading room and hand these in at the desk. Please write clearly and include as much information as possible, including classmark, author, full title, date of publication and number of pages. Most items do not have unique classmarks, so the more information given, the quicker it well be to locate them. Material will be fetched as quickly as possible and brought directly to the reader.

Please bring a pencil. Use of pens is not permitted in the Rare Books, Manuscripts or Maps reading rooms.

Lap top computers may be used if they do not disturb other readers.

May I use my digital camera or make copies?

Yes, you may take photographs of authorised materials consulted in the Manuscripts Reading Room, Munby Rare Books Room and Map room for non-commercial research and private study only. Information and advice may be obtained from staff in the relevant reading room. Please note that all copying is at the discretion of library staff and general photography (e.g. of people, locations and reading rooms) is not permitted.

Further information on reproductions from RCS manuscript and photographic archives is available on our Collections page.

Further assistance

Please address enquiries about RCS holdings to the Smuts Librarian for South Asian and Commonwealth Studies, Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DR or email: rcs@lib.cam.ac.uk. Please note the Librarian is part-time and usually works at the University Library on Wednesdays and Thursdays.