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Accessing the Collection

Who might use material in the RCS Collection? 
The material covers virtually every aspect of the administration, economy, history and life in all parts of the former British Empire and modern Commonwealth. Students of any topic relating to the colonies are likely to find useful information here. See Types of Materials Covered.

How do I get access to the RCS Collection? 
For information on visiting the library click here. To learn how to join the library click here.

Where is the RCS Collection? 
The collection is held in closed access, and is requested and read in one of two reading rooms, depending on the nature of the material - the Munby Rare Books Room or the Manuscripts Reading Room.

How do I know which room I need? 
In general, official government publications, printed books, periodicals and directories will be fetched to the Rare Books Room, and manuscripts, archives and photographs to the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Is there a special order form for RCS material? 
No, please use the standard Special Collections order form.


Using the Collection

How do I locate items? 
The original card catalogue of the RCS library is located at the rear of the Rare Books Reading Room. Not all the material has yet been added to the online catalogue, so the card catalogue should also be consulted. Readers should be aware, however, that not all the material listed in the card catalogue is actually still held, as much was lost due to damage during World War II and in later catastrophes. Staff in the Reading Room can offer assistance, and the RCS staff office can be found on North Front 1.

Click here for information on the catalogues.

The card catalogue is arranged both by author and by place within geographical regions, further subdivided into subject categories. There is also a periodical index and an index of biographical works. A guide to using the catalogue is located in the Reading Room.

See the Tips for Searching pages for help with using the RCS material on the computer catalogue.

I'm using different categories of material - is the material transferable between different reading rooms? 
Yes, material may be transferred from the Rare Books Reading Room to the Manuscripts Reading Room for use on a Saturday when the Rare Books Reading Room is closed.

How much can I request at a time? 
This is at the discretion of the reading room staff, depending on the nature and size of the material, and how busy the staff are.

Can I order material in advance? 
Yes you may. Staff in the Manuscripts Room and Rare Books Room will accept requests by phone or email, and can have the material waiting for you. Please email them the classmarks (reference numbers) plus author/title/publication date of items required. Manuscripts Room , Rare Books Room: . If you are unsure which room to contact, email the RCS Libarian on: or ring 01223 333146, but please note the RCS Librarian normally works at the University Library only on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Can I borrow material from the RCS Collection? 
No, the RCS collection is for reference only, although some material may be ordered through interlibrary loan for use in another library. It is also worth bearing in mind that some items in the RCS collection are duplicated in other parts of the University Library's holdings, and these items may be borrowable.


Further help

I can't find what I'm looking for in the RCS catalogues, what next? 
Try our online catalogues iDiscover and Janus, as well as the Official Publications card catalogue in the Rare Books Reading Room. Do also refer to the Official Publications LibGuide.  Hopefully the items you are looking for may be held in other collections within the University.

How do I contact the RCS office? Click here.


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