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Library Collections and Finding Items

Library Collections and Finding Items

An overview of the library’s physical and electronic collections, and how to search for and find items in the library.

Our collection of around 30,000 books primarily supports undergraduate and taught graduates across all subjects. We are continually reviewing and improving the collections and we encourage students to make recommendations for new books or additional copies.

Below are a selection of the books newly added to the Library:

Reading Lists

Reading lists may be a very short selection of key texts or extensive lists of almost every work on a particular topic. This can be daunting and you may be left wondering where to start. A very useful introductory guide to Reading Lists and their potential pitfalls can be found via the CamGuide article, UG CamGuides: How do I find books and articles from a reading list?

Reading Lists Online gives easy access to electronic versions of your reading lists, with live locations and availability of print copies, and links to electronic books, articles and websites, videos and digitised chapters.

Some items may still be available at Magdalene's New Library even if the library is not listed on Reading Lists Online, because we have a different version or edition so double check by searching iDiscover.

The following videos on Searching for a Specific Item and Browsing a List provide a useful guide.

Searching for a book in iDiscover

The first step to finding a book in our collections is to look for it using the iDiscover website.

iDiscover is the University-wide catalogue that searches for items across all of the Cambridge Libraries. There is also a dedicated iDiscover computer on the Second Floor of the library.

There is a LibGuide available explaining how to use iDiscover and includes several useful introductory videos.

To search for an item type in part of the title/author into the search bar. You can limit your search to items in a specific library using the drop down menu on the right.


When you see the item you want in the results list click on the title to see the list of libraries which have a copy. From that list click on the name of the Library you want to borrow from.


The ‘Status’ will tell you if it is on the shelf.

The status will be either:

  • Item in Place = Book is available on the shelf to borrow
  • On loan (with due date) = Book is out on loan to someone else
  • In Transit = The book has been requested and is waiting to be picked up by the requester

For futher information about borrowing and about placing requests on items which are on loan please see the Borrowing and Managing your Library Account page.

If the status is ‘item in place’ make a note of the number/letter sequence next to the Library name – in the example above this is 4.O.493. This is the ‘classmark’ and is the number which tells you where the book will be in the Library.

If an item is shown as ‘Item in Place’ but you can’t find it on the shelf please let a member of the library team know.

Finding an item on the shelves

To find where a book is in the library you need to know the ‘location’ and ‘classmark’ sometimes also called ‘shelfmark’.


There are a number of locations in the New Library:

Main Library: Ground, First or Second Floor of New Library

Wigglesworth Law Library: Located in the Wigglesworth Law room on the Second Floor of New Library

Oversize: Located on the Ground Floor, facing the noticeboard.

Reserve Collection: Please ask staff if you need any item of Reserve Stock.

Pepys Library/Old library: Items kept in the historic Pepys Library/Old Library. Please contact the Pepys Library to request access to these items:

Library Map

Maps of the Library are displayed on the walls. If you have any problems finding anything, please let library staff know.

There is an online version of the Library Map.

A printable map leaflet is also available:

Item locations

The Library is classified into the following broad subject areas and subdivisions. Please expand each section to see the detailed subdivisions in each section.

The collections with their classmarks are colour coded on the Library map.

General Collections

On the Ground floor you can find the General Reading, Study Skills, Welfare & Wellbeing, Board Game and AV Collections.

For more information about these collections and to browse them online please see our Accessibility and Welfare page.

Academic Collections

Below are the numbers for each broad subject, the subdivisions for each subject can be downloaded below:

1. Archaeology and Physical Anthropology

2. Classics

3. Human, Social and Political Sciences

4. English

5. Economics

6. Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics

7. Geography and Earth Sciences

8. History

9. Law and Criminology

10. Mathematics, Physics and Engineering

11. Natural and Medical Sciences

12. Philosophy

13. Land Economy

14. Theology, Religion and the Philosophy of Religion

15. Architecture and History of Art

15.A-L Duncan Robinson Donation

16. Music

17. Education

18. Cambridge, Magdalene College, Parnell collection & miscellaneous

Reference Books, Journals and Past Exam Papers

Electronic Collections

Access to e-books, e-journals and databases is provided by the University Library, mainly via iDiscover. You will need to be logged in to iDisocver to access e-resources on your own devices.

Please email us if you are having problems accessing any e-resources.


The University of Cambridge has access to over 1.5 million e-books from a wide variety of publishers and platforms.

E-books appear automatically in iDiscover search results but you can select the ‘Articles and online resources’ button above the search bar to limit your search to e-resources. If an e-book version of a title is available there will be a green ‘Online access’ link displayed under the item details:


Some e-books will appear in red text because they are e-legal deposit which means for copyright reasons they can only be accessed using specific computers at the University Library:


Further information and help with e-books can be found on E-books Libguide.

e-Journals and Databases

Journals are listed on the University Library's e-journals webpages. You can search the list by title, subject, supplier, or citation.

You can search for journal articles using iDiscover by selecting the ‘Articles and online resources’ button above the search bar.

You can also browse by Journal title by selecting ‘E-journal search’ in the black header bar on iDiscover.

Please note that the journal article may be available from several different sources and each might provide different coverage or time spans.

Databases can be browsed by selecting Databases A-Z.

Lean Library

The Lean Library is a very useful tool that automatically detects the articles that you can access through a Cambridge subscription when you're on other websites e.g. Google, Bing, Baidu, PubMed, etc.

More information about how to use this extension can be viewed in this YouTube video, Lean Library – Light up your library. Anytime. Anywhere.