skip to content

Cambridge University Library

A row of roof girders crosses the image horizontally. To the left of the image is a row of shelves containing pigeonholes.
Monday, 4 September, 2023

We’re preparing for around six months of essential repair work on the roof of the West Room.

The West Room, next to the Main Reading Room, is a staff area where we receive and process items for Cambridge University Libraries and the Storage Facility in Ely. The additional services that our staff run from this part of the library are Document Delivery and the fetching of items on behalf of library users.

We will relocate staff and resources whilst the roof is repaired, but these services will be maintained throughout.


What you will see during the repair works

  • In the week beginning 4 September, a temporary builders’ compound will be set up in the Lodge car park (at the south side of the UL). This car park will be out of use for the full duration of the building works, however the disabled bays in the Lodge car park will remain accessible and available to use.

  • Once the contractors have set up the compound, they will then construct scaffolding close to the staff entrance at the back of the Library and over the West Room Roof. Full construction of the scaffolding is expected to take around six weeks. There will be some noise disruption, mainly within the first two weeks of construction. Every effort will be made to keep this to a minimum, and our Reader Services team can help you find alternative workspace away from the disruption.

What is already underway

  • In June, staff from our Collections Logistics & Services team moved out of the West Room. Some have relocated to the north corridor outside the Reading Room. Doors to both ends of the North Reading Room corridor are now closed, and the area is accessible only to staff for the duration of the roof works. You'll find signage to help you to take different routes on the first floor of the library.  

  • In late Spring, we moved the non-borrowable unbound journals that were previously stored in West Room pigeonholes to our Library Storage Facility in Ely. You can find and order this material to the Main Reading Room, in most cases via iDiscover. Items may take a few hours to arrive from the Storage Facility; items can usually be fetched on the same day if you place your request by 10am.


We ask for your understanding of the fact that there are many factors involved in delivering a project of this scale. We'll update you with any developments to enable you to plan your visits to the UL.

Although the planned timeframe may be subject to changes, we currently expect that the repair work will take place over six months once the the builders' compound and scaffolding have been installed.   



The changing role of the West Room

We aim to make our growing collections available to you in a flexible and accessible way whilst we continue to look after them and maintain our historic building.

This means you will see that the use of space in the University Library and our Storage Facility in Ely is continually evolving.

The West Room is now used only by staff, but if you used the library before 2020, you may remember that it was previously been open to readers to consult material including non-borrowable books, newspapers and periodicals.

In recent years, we’ve reshaped our spaces and services to accommodate major developments, including the opening of the Library Storage Facility in 2018, which is capable of holding in the region of 5.5 million items, and rapid changes in user needs during and after the pandemic. 

The location of the West Room has made it an ideal space to manage material that moves between the libraries and the Storage Facility, and to house the teams that develop and run services for document delivery.

Changing the use of the room has also enabled us to return other beautiful, well-equipped spaces in the building to users - the Study Hub on South Wing 3, which was for a time used by staff to process material moving to the Library Storage Facility, is now a highly valued user space to study solo or in groups.  

Items that were previously consulted in the West Room are now accessed in the Main Reading Room or in the Rare Books Reading Room. We’re working to ensure that you can use iDiscover to find and order the majority of these items, including the unbound journals which used to be stored in West Room pigeonholes.

Ordering electronically enables you to plan to use the material you need independently, and also enables our staff to process items efficiently.

Of course, our Reader Services team in the Main Reading Room are always available to support you with finding and using material.     


This page was originally published on 25 April 2023 and has been regularly updated.