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All registered library users can book to consult Special Collections. 

Please make sure you have registered or renewed your library card before booking an appointment.

Which collections can I access?  

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


Please note, you will need to request in advance the items you want to consult, using the form below. You won't be able to order Special Collections material on the day of your visit. During your visit, you will also be welcome to browse the open shelves and, if you have borrowing rights, you will be able to select material to borrow.


How do I use this service?      

Special Collections

Book to consult Special Collections material

Click above and complete the form listing the material you would like to consult. 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 if necessary to clarify your request. 

We will confirm that your material is available and will invite you to book an appointment to visit the Special Collections Reading Room. You will need to wait for us to send this email confirmation to book an appointment; appointments cannot be booked in advance of this notification.

Please note that, due to the level of demand for the service, we will not reply to your request immediately.  We aim to respond within 24 hours, but that is not always possible.

If you are not yet registered with the University Library or your membership has expired, please visit our library membership pages for details of how to register or renew your library membership in advance of your visit.

Special Collections Reading Room sessions are available 9:30-13:30 and 14:15-18:15 Monday-Friday, 9:30-16:00 on Saturdays. 

Seating capacity has been reduced in line with guidance on maintaining a Covid-secure environment.


Non-borrowable modern material

You no longer need to book a seat to consult non-borrowable modern material.

However, you do need to order the material in advance so that it is ready for you to consult in the Main Reading Room; learn more on our page, Use the modern collections.


What do I need to know before I arrive? 

Please be aware of the following points: ​

  • Please bring only the essential items you need for study into the Library.

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

  • The UK government has emphasised the ongoing need for personal responsibility in the management of COVID-19 infection. The University of Cambridge seeks to follow this government advice while continuing to recommend caution and considerate behaviour to reduce the risk of further disruption and illness. Full details are available in the Vice-Chancellor’s statement.

    In the interest of minimising the risk of local transmission, and out of consideration for others, the University strongly encourages the following behaviour if you plan to use our libraries:

    • take a test if you have symptoms of possible COVID-19, including minor symptoms.
    • if you receive a positive test result, follow advice on self-isolation.
    • you are encouraged to use face coverings in public University spaces unless exempt.

Further guidance is available.


What services will be available? 

You will be able to: 

  • submit enquiries to staff via email. Although face to face enquiry points are not operational, staff will respond to email enquiries. You can send an enquiry to the email address displayed on the desk and we will do our best to help you on the spot.  
  • browse the Library's collections on the open shelves and select material to borrow (if you have borrowing rights).
  • browse the reference collections on the shelves in our reading rooms.
  • use the toilets. Washroom facilities are open with enhanced cleaning procedures. 
  • use the Locker Room to leave coats and bags. Please only bring essential items into the Library.
  • take a break in the courtyards, Tea Room and spaces outside the library. A vending machine and water fountain is available in the Tea Room.  
  • buy hot drinks and snacks from VG Coffee outside the library entrance, Monday-Friday. Cambridge FoodPark is at the University Library 12pm to 2pm on Fridays. Check the FoodPark website to find out which truck is visiting, place your order and pay.
  • place a digital imaging request or use a personal camera.  


You will not be able to:  

  • bring food or drinks including bottled water into the Special Collections Reading Room. Find Special Collections Reading Room Handling Guidelines here
  • order additional Special Collections material on the day of your visit.


Image by @AlicetheCamera for Cambridge University Libraries