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Physics: WELCOME 2020/21

The safety of library users and library staff is paramount, and at the heart of all of our recovery planning.

To make our library services COVID-secure, we are operating fewer services, and the means of accessing them has changed. For the time being, we can only offer services to current students and members of the Department of Physics.

The library is not currently open for drop-in visits or general browsing.





 How does the service work?

  • Start by searching iDiscover for the item you need, perhaps limiting by library, to ensure you’re focusing on books held in the Rayleigh Library. There’s help on using iDiscover here.
  • Once you’ve identified the book you want, you'll have to fill the online Click and Collect form to submit your item request.  When asked which library you would like to borrow an item from, please select Ryleigh Library(Physics) from the dropdown menu. The form lets you request up to 5 books at a time.
  • Library staff will contact you by email to confirm when your books are ready to collect, or if there is a problem with your request.

Select a time slot below in which to collect pre-ordered books.

You must have had a confirmation email from the Library that the items you have ordered are ready for collection before you book a collection appointment


A Scan & Deliver service, to enable our users to order scans of Rayleigh Library materials to be sent direct to their mail inbox, please email us to 


Drop Boxes

You can return library items, by hand, to the drop box outside the Rayleigh Library entrance

There are drop boxes on the Sidgwick Site, the Medical Library, Moore Library and University Library. Books returned to the drop boxes may take a short while to be removed from your account.

Postal book returns

Recent graduates, staff leavers and Visiting Scholar leavers are now able to return library books by 'Freepost' to the University Library for forwarding on to their home library.

University Library books, Faculty and Departmental Library books and College books can all be posted back if eligible users fill out this form to request a pre-paid returns label to return books by freepost.

Individual parcels must not weigh more than 20kg and must not be larger than L 61cm x W 46cm x D46cm. Users can ask for more than one label if needed.

Other remote users can still return items by standard post to:

Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge. CB3 9DR

If not already registered with the Rayleigh Library, all users should complete a registration form before borrowing books. You may also have to re-register if any of the details alter on your university card, such as your status and expiry date. To download and complete the form to bring to the library click on Library Registration Form.

Undergraduates may borrow up to a maximum of:

  • 4 books at a time with an initial loan period of 7 days, from the the Student Library (SL) or from the main Collection, after which all loans will automatically renew until returned to the library
  • Borrowed books may be requested by another library user during term time only

University Staff, University PhD and Masters students may borrow up to a maximum of:

  • 10 books at a time with an initial loan period of 28 days after which all loans will automatically renew until returned to the library
  • Borrowed books may be requested by another library user during term time only

Visiting Fellows and Scholars may borrow up to maximum of:

  • 5 books at a time with an initial loan period of 28 days after which all loans will automatically renew until returned to the library
  • Borrowed books may be requested by another library user during term time only


Our location on the University of Cambridge Map


The Chief Library Assistant is Nevenka Huntic, the Library Assistant is  Ana Maria Aricescu, and the Academic Librarian is Dr Richard Batley or by e-mailing .

You can also contact us on  Twitter  and  Facebook



The Rayleigh Library houses one of the Nation's foremost physics collections and is situated on the first floor of the Bragg Building next to the Museum. It has study places for more than 70 readers, some of which are reserved for undergraduates. There is a common reading area next to the display of current periodicals.

Although the primary role of the Library is to support research and teaching in the Department, it also caters for a wide base of users. The growing importance of interdisciplinary research is recognised, and the Library therefore tries to take the varying needs of all its users into account.                                                                           

Books: There is a collection of about 20,000 books in the field of physics and related subjects. The books are arranged in unique class order within two separate collections, the Main Library and Student Library. Whilst the Main Library is open for all users, the Student Library is provided for undergraduate students only.

In addition the Rayleigh Library houses a significant historical collection of physics books dating from its foundation, which includes the original works of James Clerk Maxwell and books from his personal collection.

eBooks : Access to the full text of some online physics books can be obtained via the iDiscover or they can be searched via the University Library's ebooks@cambridge: Find ebooks. Click on the recommended link to view the full contents of the book.

Journals and Series: The Library stocks about 16 current journals on the open shelves, and maintains a substantial collection of older journals in the accessible stack room. Series are cataloged as books and are located within their various subject classes.

Electronic journals: Access to Institute of Physics and American Institute of Physics journals, plus access to others via the University Library iDiscover e-journals search

The Napier Shaw [Meteorology] Library: consists of a further historical collection of works, plus some current journals.

Other services

We aim to assist all new and existing users and visitors to make to most of our services and facilities.

  • Information is provided about courses for users conducted by the University Library. The courses enable users to make the most of the information provided by the iDiscover catalogues and the electronic resources that are available.
  • Self-check system is available for borrowers to issue and return books.
  • Inter-library loans may be requested by members of the Department. 10 are allowed per year without charge.
  • Basic information searches can be conducted by staff.
  • Computer connections exist to the on-line catalogues, databases, and on-line journals.
  • Wireless access points are available for connection.
  • A photocopier is available for black and white A4 and A3 pages at a cost of 5p per A4 sheet.
  • Access exists to a colour printer.
  • 6 study carrels can be used for more private reading.
  • A reading area is situated next to current periodicals and newspapers;
  • Copies of past exam papers can be found in the Student Library area.

CamGuides: information and digital essentials

CamGuides is a set of resources for students beginning undergraduate, or taught Master's, degrees at the University of Cambridge.

Both CamGuides for Master's and Camguides for Undergraduates are designed to help students prepare for their studies in Cambridge, regardless of their subject or college. They focus on some of the academic and information practices and skills that students commonly engage in, or require, for their degrees.

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