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We expect our blend of online, zero-contact and in-person COVID-secure library services to continue through the national lockdown, with minor local adjustments where operationally essential.

Cambridge University Library


Image by @AlicetheCamera for Cambridge University Libraries

We are delighted to welcome readers to the University Library to visit our reading rooms and consult our collections. 

Registered readers may order items in advance from our Special Collections and main collections and arrange an appointment to come into one of the University Library reading rooms to consult them.  

Which collections can I access?  

You can request to see specific items from the following areas: 


  • Modern collections including:

    • non-borrowable material (normally ordered to the West Room)
    • reference works from around the UL building
    • non-print legal deposit
    • borrowable material (for use in the building only - if you are a current student or staff member, you may use the Click & Collect  service to access borrowable material and take it away).

Please note, only pre-booked material will be available to you during your visit. You will need to request in advance the items you want to use, including reference works from the open shelves in the reading rooms. It will not be possible to browse the shelves during your visit. 


Who can book a visit? 

Anyone with a reader's card for the University Library can use this service. The number of seats available is limited to safeguard readers and library staff. If your card has recently expired, we can renew it.


How do I book a visit? 

Appointments are available 10 days in advance. Please complete the following steps at least 48 hours before you would like to visit:   

  1. Request the material you wish to see via these forms: 

  2. Our staff will confirm the material is available and send you a link to book an appointment to visit either the Main Reading Room or Special Collections reading room. 

  3. You will receive a confirmation of your appointment, along with guidelines to help you prepare for your visit. 

When you book, you will be asked to list the material you wish to see. From the modern collections, you may order up to 5 items per visit. For print periodicals you may order multiple volumes as a single item, though we reserve the right to limit the number of physical items supplied on any one day. For Special Collections, we appreciate that it may be difficult to determine what an item is, particularly for archival material. Please give us as much information as you can and we will contact you to clarify your request. 

Seating capacity has been reduced to comply with social distancing. Please do not travel to the University Library if you have not received confirmation of your booking, as we will be unable to admit you. Please note that due to heavy demand, users may only book 3 visits per week to the Special Collections reading room.


What do I need to know before I arrive? 

We have adapted our ways of working in line with Public Health England advice, including safety principles and the need for social distancing for both staff and users, so you will find aspects of your visit to the Library unfamiliar.  

Please be aware of the following points: ​

  • Bookings are currently for a single daily slot on Mondays to Fridays from 10:30-17:30 and from 11:30-15:30 on Saturdays.

  • You are free to leave and return during the day; your entry and exit times will be recorded by staff in the entrance hall for the purposes of test and trace.

  • Government guidelines state that face coverings should be worn in libraries and public reading rooms. We therefore ask readers visiting the UL to wear a face covering in all areas of the Library to keep everyone safe. We are highly sensitive and supportive to those staff and readers who are exempt from the expectation. Please visit the University’s Coronavirus Information pages for a helpful list of medical exemptions. 

  • You will see safety measures including social distancing reminders, one-way systems, hand sanitizer points and hand-washing facilities throughout the building.

  • If you require assistance with any aspect of your visit, let us know when you book and we will be pleased to help you. 


What services will be available? 

You will be able to:

  • Use the toilets. Washroom facilities are open with enhanced cleaning procedures. 

  • Use the tea room or courtyards as spaces to consume your own food and drink but no catering services are available other than a vending machine in the tea room for the purchase of snacks. 

  • Submit enquiries to staff. Although face to face enquiry points are not operational, staff will respond to email enquiries within the reading rooms. You can send an enquiry to the email addresses displayed on the desks and we will do our best to help you on the spot. 


You will not be able to: 

  • Use photocopiers or printers. You may be able to place a digital imaging request or use personal cameras.  

  • Visit the open stacks. These are not yet open but material can be requested for reference consultation in the main reading room or, for those with a Raven password, for borrowing via our Click & Collect service.

  • Use public computers or catalogue terminals.

  • Browse the shelves. Only pre-booked material will be available; please request in advance any items you want to use, including reference works from the open shelves in the reading rooms.


Is this the only way to access these collections? 

This is one of a range of ways for you to access non-borrowable library collections. You may find that your research requirements can be met through our other services.    

  • Ask a curator allows anyone with an enquiry about an item from our Special Collections to engage the help of our expert curators. They will be able to discuss your questions over the phone or via a video call, and may be able to check material on your behalf in order to answer specific questions.  

  • Scan & Deliver  enables  you to order free PDF scans of Special Collection items for personal research use, subject to relevant conservation approval and copyright permission.  You may also be able to order printouts of some non-print legal deposit items. (This service is only available to current staff and students (including ICE staff and students, and NHS partners.) 


Test and Trace

In addition to collecting contact details as part of our normal booking process, in line with guidance from the Department for Health and Social Care, we will ask you for your phone number and record the times of your visit in order to reduce the risk of a local outbreak of coronavirus. We will keep these details for 21 days. All personal data will be held in accordance with the Library’s privacy policy and with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). We will share your contact details with NHS Test and Trace, if asked, in the event of a fellow user or staff member testing positive for coronavirus. NHS Test and Trace will handle all data according to the highest ethical and security standards and ensure it is used only for the purposes of protecting public health, including minimising the transmission of COVID-19.