UL: Give Us Our Books Back!

The UL’s change in borrowing policy spells disaster for finalists and undermines its promise to stock all necessary books.

Geeky as this might sound, the UL is one of the best things about Cambridge. For an overworked historian, it is a godsend to know that every book you need will be there. The librarians are (sometimes) helpful, and they serve nice (if overpriced) cakes in the tea room. Nothing could be better for an afternoon’s productive study. Or at least that used to be the case.

Last year, in a gargantuan folly, the UL opened up borrowing to all undergraduates. Previously, only post-grads and final year undergrads were able to remove books from the hallowed shelves of the UL. Now anyone can do it. And so chaos reigns.

Books: there when you need them? 

Let me give you an example. According to my (slightly dodgy) maths, in a normal week about ten people will do the same essay. They will all be seeking essentially the same books and so, apart from college libraries, there will be two copies: one in the faculty library and one in the UL. Once you reach third year, you should be allowed the luxury of taking said book home. Until then, you should enjoy your book within the confines of the UL.

The folly of undergraduate borrowing is compounded by having a recall system that is guaranteed to get the book to you after the essay is due. The UL should be a library of last resort. When you need it, it should be there. Sadly, too often, it is not. The crucial book has been removed by another keen student – who won’t be needing that book for a dissertation that counts towards their finals.

So please UL, remove undergrad borrowing to make the most important year for an undergrad that bit easier. We don’t always need to use the UL, but when we do, we need the books to be there.

University of Cambridge