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Accessing Resources

Cambridge libraries: accessibility & disability

A guide to library accessibility services for students

About Cambridge libraries

There are over 100 libraries in the Cambridge library network (you'll probably only use a few of them), occupying very different styles and ages of buildings and presenting different challenges from an accessibility perspective. For example, there may be narrow spaces between shelves or books shelved over two metres high in some libraries, so some users may require assistance. Conversely, many libraries provide different seating (e.g. adjustable chairs) and desk (e.g. standing) options to cater to different needs and preferences, and lifts may be available to improve access.

Below are some pointers to available information about physical access to libraries. As information may go out of date easily, if you have questions or concerns about access to library buildings and facilities please contact the relevant library using the contact information in the Cambridge Libraries Directory before you visit.

University Library

The University Library website provides information about access to the University Library building as well as services for disabled library users. There is also a University Library AccessAble listing within the University's AccessAble site.

Practical information before you visit

If you would like to prepare for your visit to the UL, see our Practical information for your visit. To get some idea of what it is like inside we have a 360-degree walk through of the UL (some things may have changed since this was created).

Assistive Technology RoomPrivate study rooms

Do you need a distraction-free place to study, or somewhere you can talk with an assistant or use speech-to-text without disturbing others? The UL has three bookable private study rooms: one for registered disabled students and two for general use. You can also contact the Libraries Accessibility Service to discuss your needs.

Hand dryers in toilets

Most of the toilets in the University Library have hand dryers, and some are very noisy. The dryers in the toilets on the first floor landings (near the Alpha and Beta lifts) have been switched off and replaced with paper towel dispensers.

Faculty & departmental libraries

Faculty and departmental libraries are generally located within the building that houses other facilities such as lecture theatres, teaching rooms, labs etc. Faculty and department buildings are listed on the University of Cambridge's AccessAble site, and in most cases library information is included. Search the University of Cambridge section of AccessAble for your department or faculty to find out how accessible your library is.

College libraries

Access information for the 31 Cambridge colleges is available from the Accessibility & Disability Resource Centre. Library information is included.

In addition, detailed access guides are now available for 16 Cambridge colleges via the University of Cambridge AccessAble site.

Special Collections

Some libraries in the Collegiate University house special collections including rare books and manuscripts. These materials are often kept in separate spaces. Rules or processes for consulting the materials may differ from other parts of the libraries, and there may be more restrictions in place in order to safeguard the materials.

Search the majority of archives in Cambridge using ArchiveSearch.

If you need any reasonable adjustments when consulting special collections materials or spaces, please contact the Libraries Accessibility Service. We will consult specialist staff to find out what is possible.

Extended opening hours

Most college libraries offer extended opening hours including Sundays. Some offer 24-hour access.

The University Library and the faculty and department libraries do not offer Sunday or 24-hour access.

Cambridge University students can apply for Reference access (i.e. no borrowing) at Anglia Ruskin University Library (Cambridge site) on East Road, near Parkers' Piece. The library offers extended opening hours, including 24-hour access during term time. Please check their website for details.

At busy times priority may be given to Anglia Ruskin students.

Apply for Reference access to Anglia Ruskin University Library (allow two weeks to process)


Many libraries offer height-adjustable desks. In the UL there are four in the North Reading Room and two in the North Reading Room corridor.

Other available equipment varies from library to library but may include:

  • Coloured overlays
  • Coloured paper
  • Wrist rests
  • Laptop stands

Please contact the Libraries Accessibility Service to suggest equipment that you would find helpful.

Information out of date?

Information about buildings, services and facilities can go out of date quickly. If you discover any incorrect information on any of the websites linked from this page, please send us an email. We will contact the site owners and ask them to update their pages.

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