Visit to Cambridge Libraries - 30th June 2016 - Pictures and Points

It was a miraculously sunny day in Cambridge when the graduate trainees touched down for a packed day of library tours.

Christ's College

First stop was to Christ's College library, where we were met by Christ's graduate trainee this year, Nick Butler. Nick showed us around their modern working library, as well as their old library, which contains special collections from their most famous alumni, including Charles Darwin's letters and a first edition of Milton's Paradise Lost.

Nick explains the foundations of the old library, which was begun with a donation from the college's foundress Lady Margaret Beaufort.

Some of the library's special collections, including first editions of Milton's Paradise Lost and Darwin's The Origin of Species

Joseph explores the annex!

University Library

Next we headed to the main University Library, which this year is celebrating its 600th birthday. Here we met Claire Sewell, Research Skills Coordinator, who led us around the warren of reading rooms, basements, and most excitingly, the library's famous 17 storey tower, which holds the legal deposit material of yesteryear - mainly trashy Victorian novels. Claire explained the challenges that legal deposit libraries face today, with the amount of publications they receive rising every year.

The catalogue hall. The ornate doors leading to the reading room, as well as the building itself of course, were designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, who is responsible for such famous landmarks as Battersea Power Station and the red telephone box.

 Interior of the main reading room

Trainees come back down to earth after their trip up the tower

Corpus Christi College

After lunch in Market Square we headed past the the Corpus Clock - which is known as a 'time eater', intended to remind you of your own mortality, and on to the beautiful interior courtyards of Corpus Christi College. Corpus has two libraries, and it was to the Taylor Library first, a modern, open-plan library space first opened in 2008, where we were shown around by librarian Rebecca Gower. They allow 24 hour access and are equipped with group study rooms, a media suite and bean bags!

Across to the Parker Library, so named for the college's benefactor, Archbishop of Canterbury Matthew Parker, whose collection of over 400 manuscripts left to the college makes the library one of the greatest treasure troves for medieval manuscripts and early printed books in the world. Librarian Beth Dumas showed us around and explained the extensive preservation work required for these rare materials. She and her colleague also manage Parker on the Web - a digital library of every imagable page of almost every manuscript in the Parker Library, and build bibliographies for all the items in the collection. We were lucky enough to have time to see the current exhibition, which currently has on show gems like the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and one of  Anne Boleyn's letters.

Upstairs at the Parker Library

English Faculty Library

Lastly, we headed to the English faculty library, where we were given an insight into the role of the subject libraries, who operate in the 3-tier library system at Cambridge where students have the option of studying at their college library, faculty library or the main university library. We were given a tour by assistant librarian David, who showed us their specialised collections and described the efforts of the team to really understand their students' research needs - which includes Tea @ 3 - a daily cuppa so that students can take a break and chat with staff in an informal environment.