Summer at Cambridge University Libraries

Summer at Cambridge University Libraries 

We are delighted to look forward to the
summer months as our libraries once more welcome
our wider community of users.

Lavender outside the University Library
Bee hive in front of University Library Tower

As we have reached the end of the assessment period at the University of Cambridge, the demand for library services from our student community is easing.

At the University Library (UL), we are therefore able to extend in-person library services to all our members, Monday-Saturday.

Our established COVID-secure protocols remain in place on library premises for the time being and at least until the end of July, for the safety of our staff and users. The decision to retain these protocols has been made in consultation and agreement with the Chair of our governing body, the Library Syndicate.

We expect everyone in our libraries to observe social distancing and to respect the changed layout and one-way routes. Appropriate hand-hygiene is expected, and face-coverings remain a requirement, unless you are exempt.

Advance booking for all services and visits remains necessary, as this enables the libraries to maintain safe occupancy levels and comply with the requirements of Test & Trace. 

We ask you to visit our webpages and choose the services you want to use carefully before booking; you may need to make more than one booking to access everything you need in the library.       

In addition to these services for all library members, the UL continues to offer our zero-contact services to current members of the University: Scan & Deliver and Click & Collect.

Current University members can also request inter-library loans

Our vast library of electronic resources, including ebooks, ejournals, and databases remain available from any location worldwide for current students and staff of the University of Cambridge with a Raven password.  

Alumni of the University can access a suite of eresources.

You can find full details of all our services on our Using the Library page.

Almost all Faculty and Department libraries currently offer a combination of bookable study spaces, Click & Collect, and Scan & Deliver services, in addition to remote enquiry and other support services.

Over the summer vacation, libraries in Faculties, Departments and Colleges will provide a mix of services. Visit the websites of the libraries you use often for details.

The UL's current exhibition, Ghost Words: reading the past, launched digitally in March 2021, and visitors can now view the exhibition in person with pre-booked timed tickets. 

As always, admission is free, however booking is now essential.

New tickets are released weekly and listed on our website

Exhibition case in the University Library 'Ghost Words' exhibition

What to expect when you visit the libraries

If it’s been a while since your last visit, you may find some processes unfamiliar, but our staff will welcome you as warmly as ever.    

Although we know that from 19 July government requirements will change, our current COVID-secure protocols will remain in place on library premises for the time being and at least until the end of July, for the safety of our staff and users.

We expect everyone in our libraries to:

  • observe social distancing at 1m+ (2m wherever possible)
  • wear a face covering on library premises, unless exempt
  • take regular hygiene measures, such as hand-washing and sanitiser 
  • book in advance to use services or to visit our exhibition

We will lift these protocols when we can safely do so. We hope you appreciate that this safe environment provides the best opportunity for us to keep our staff in the workplace, running our in-person services effectively for library users. 

We may need to make changes to services at short notice if our staff numbers are reduced. We recommend checking ahead of your visit to see if any changes are highlighted. Find information on the website of the library you want to use or via Twitter. 

UL service updates can be found here, and you can follow us on Twitter @theUL

Some spaces in the University Library building look different. 

We are particularly excited that the Commonwealth Room is once more available as a space for library users, currently as bookable study space for students. The lofty ceilings and beautiful shelf-lined walls provide a very popular workspace. 


Our Collections Logistics and Services team are now based in the West Room, which is no longer open to readers. The Scan & Deliver service operates from the room, along with other projects including receiving Legal Deposit material and processing material into the Library Storage Facility. New arrangements are in place for items previously consulted in the West Room, and you are still able to access them.


The Royal Corridor is now host to a spectacular new photographic series showcasing ‘Conservation in Action’. Enjoy a glimpse of the incredible work our conservation team do next time you book a visit to use our library services.   


We have increased the availability of pop-up catering outside the UL and provide covered seating to enjoy a calm break outdoors. Counter-service in the Tea Room at the UL is not available, although you have access to a vending machine and water fountain. 

Desks and shelves inside the Commonwealth Room
Our conservators hanging photographic prints on the wall of the Royal Corridoor

We plan to increase opportunities for visiting the UL throughout July and August, and to remove some of the requirements to book once we are safely able to do so without compromising our responsibility to the Test & Trace programme.      

By Michaelmas Term, which begins 5 October 2021, we anticipate that libraries at the University will offer full access wherever possible, with appropriate safety measures in place. Our decisions continue to be informed by UK Government regulations and guidance from the University, its Faculties and Departments, and the Colleges.    

Our libraries staff are so happy to safely welcome back many more readers into our buildings. We want to say a big thank you to our huge community of library users for your support and understanding throughout these past months. 

We look forward to seeing you again soon! 

Images by Alice Boagey @alicethecamera, Hannah Haines, Zoe Smith, Mark Box & Raffaella Losito
for Cambridge University Libraries

Exterior of UL Tower behind plants in the South Courtyard.