Cambridge University Library

From Academic Kids

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Cambridge University Library
The squat 12-storey tower is used as storage and has no reader access
The squat 12-storey tower is used as storage and has no reader access

Cambridge University Library is the centrally administered library of the University of Cambridge in England. It actually comprises 5 separate libraries: the University Library main building, the Medical Library, the Betty and Gordon Moore Library (Centre for Mathematical Sciences), the Central Science Library (formerly the Scientific Periodicals Library) and the Squire Law Library. It was housed in the university's 'Old Schools' near the Senate House until it outgrew the space there and a new library in the west of Cambridge was built. The large site on the western edge of Cambridge city centre, is now nearly opposite Robinson College.

The library was built between 1931 and 1934 under architect Giles Gilbert Scott to match the neighbouring Clare Memorial Court (part of Clare College) and bears a marked resemblance to his industrial architecture such as the Bankside Power Station. Its tower stands 157 feet (48 metres) tall, six feet shorter than the top of St John's College Chapel and ten feet taller than the peak of the famous King's College Chapel. The library has been extended several times. The main building houses the Japanese and Chinese collections in the Aoi pavilion, an extension donated by Tadao Aoi and opened in 1998. There are over 5.5 million books and pamphlets in the library, and more than 1.2 million periodicals.

As a legal deposit library, it is entitled to claim without charge a copy of all books, journals, printed maps and music published in Britain and Ireland. The library is open to all members of the University of Cambridge (although first years, second years and University Assistants only have reference access and cannot take out any books). As is traditional amongst British university libraries, research postgraduates and academics from other UK universities are allowed reference-only access to the library's collection, and members of the public can apply for access with an academical letter of introduction and on payment of a fee. The library is unique amongst the UK's legal-deposit libraries in allowing some categories of reader (for example Cambridge academics and postgraduates) to borrow from its collection. The library is mainly used for reference as the Cambridge colleges have their own libraries for use by undergraduates. It has a well-used 'Tea room' in which full meals or snacks and beverages are available.

Several of the UL staff are academics and scholars in their respective disciplines and there is a display case of their publications in the Library. One of these is Noboru Koyama who is in charge of the Japanese collections and wrote a book in Japanese which has been translated into English as Japanese Students at Cambridge University in the Meiji Era, 1868-1912: Pioneers for the Modernization of Japan [1] ( (published September 2004, ISBN 1411612566).

Most students refer to the University Library colloquially as the UL. On several occasions, less respectful names have been used, with several students and articles appearing in student newspapers claiming that the main building resembles a phallus.

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