Tab Tries: Loony Libraries

Bored of the UL, CLAUDIA LEONG takes a walk on the wild side and visits some of Cambridge’s looniest libraries.

| UPDATED anglia ruskin anglia ruskin university library cambridge libraries Elsie May Widdowson keynes library medical research council human nutrition research library mrc-hnr the british antarctic survey library Union society library

Fed up of seeing the same old faces in my college library, and having been trapped in the UL’s endlessly revolving doors one too many times, I decided enough was enough. A new form of procrastination was needed. With over 100 libraries in Cambridge to choose from, why not consider visiting somewhere totally obscure?

Anglia Ruskin University Library

Address: Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB1 1PT

Opening Hours: Monday to Thursday 08:30—20:50 Friday 08:30— 16:50 Saturday 10:00—16:50. No staffed service on Sundays.

Good news if you’re at Homerton! Or if you just fancy a trip to the other Other Place. The Anglia Ruskin University Library is about as far from Homerton as the UL is from the rest of us. Being rather elitist, the Anglia Ruskin library will only admit Cambridge University students as “members of the public.” You have to apply in person and fill in a form about as detailed as a CRB check to get reference access.

Tab Tip: The library is segregated depending on the noise level permitted in different areas. If you’re being disturbed in the “Quiet” or “Silent” zones, you can text your location to 0784 716 8896 as part of the “Text a Talker” scheme and a librarian will ‘come and deal with it’. Ominous.


Medical Research Council Human Nutrition Research Library

Address: MRC Human Nutrition Research, Elsie Widdowson Laboratory,120 Fulbourn Road, Cambridge, CB1 9NL

Opening Hours: Monday to Thursday 10:00—15:00

With an address as long as its name, the MRCHNRL’s winning no points for concision. It’s the UK’s biggest research institute on human nutrition though, so perfect if you’re into all that sciency stuff. The special collection includes copies of publications by Elsie May Widdowson who made significant contributions to the field of lactation research and breast milk substitutes. Admission typically requires application to the librarian – fill out that form if you’re obsessed with breasts.

Tab Tip: The research centre also conducts nutrition experiments on people living in Cambridge – if your student loan is dwindling and you fancy a free meal (beware, some of them forbid alcohol consumption!) sign up to volunteer for one of their projects. It’s all in the name of science right?


Union Society Library

Address: The Cambridge Union Society, 9A Bridge Street, Cambridge CB2 1UB

Opening Hours: Monday to Friday 09:00—17:30

Apart from being a place for the rich and famous to argue with each other, and having one of the most affordable bars in Cambridge, the Union Society also houses the Keynes Library. Right at the top of the building, with pretty cool views, it claims to contain the largest collection of fiction in Cambridge besides the UL. What’s in the English Faculty you may ask? The Union library’s catalogue is accessible via Newton, but you have to be a Union member to enter the library or borrow books. Alternatively, disguise yourself as a book and wait for someone to return you.

Tab Tip: Late returns “incur a fine at the discretion of the librarian” – as if the Union membership cost wasn’t expensive enough!


The British Antarctic Survey Library

Address: Natural Environment Research Council, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge, CB3 0ET

Opening Hours: Monday to Thursday 09:00–17:30 Friday 09:00–17:00

One for the penguin lovers. If you’re interested in geology, geophysics, glaciology, climatology, meteorology, upper atmosphere physics, marine, terrestrial and freshwater biology with a particular focus on the polar regions (try saying that all in one breath!) then this is the library for you. Research workers and students are welcome to visit, but prior arrangement is needed.

Tab Tip: Despite the official opening hours, you’re advised to phone or email before visiting because the library isn’t always open. I wonder why?