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Information for Dept members

Access to the Library

The Plant Sciences Library is situated on the ground floor of the building. It is accessed either from Reception or from the Tennis Court Road lobby. The Library doors are opened by validated University card : Validation is done in the Department’s Accounts Office on the first floor.

Staff, postgraduate students and Plant Sciences Part IIs have 24-hour 7-day-a-week access.

The University cards of Part 1Bs taking modules in the Department can be processed so that they can be used to enter the Library via the Tennis Court Road door from 8.00 am to 9.00 pm every day. If this is not done as part of a group at the beginning of the academic year, you can go to the Accounts Office on the first floor to have your card activated.


The layout of library stock is admittedly confusing, because space is limited. The Library is divided into Bays [1-8 downstairs and 9-15 upstairs]. The stock shelves meander round the Bays in an initially confusing manner, so…
All shelves have a label on them somewhere [usually at the top], which will look something like B12 [Books, 12th stack] or J15 [Journals, 15th stack] - these should help with finding items, as the order of the shelf numbers reflects the order of the books/journals.


  • Bay 1 is a Quiet Study Room, accessible to everyone;
  • Bay 2 is also a Quiet Study Room, accessible to everyone;
  • Bays 3 & 4 have been combined to form a flexible study area where you can work in groups if you need to;
  • Bay 5 contains the stairs that lead up to Bays 9-15, and the photocopier, which can also be used as a printer and scanner;
  • Bay 6 houses the library staff desk and, behind it, a small study area, which is also sometimes booked for supervisions;
  • Bays 7 and 8 house computers

In addition the Bays hold library stock – Bays 2 – 5 and the corridor house books; and Bays 6 – 15 house journals. A slightly less general key to the layout can be found on the Finding things page. A plan of the library will be provided on this website once stock relocations are complete.

Some groups of incoming students are given brief Library tours or demonstrations of information sources, but these are of course always available informally, so please ASK.


The librarian [Christine Alexander] is responsible for the day-to-day running of the Library. She is normally physically present only on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, from 8.30 am – 12.30 am. At other times she is in the Genetics Library in the building next door, and can be contacted there. You can probably use the Library without help, armed with the information on this website, but please do ASK if you have any questions or need help – the easiest way to do this is to e-mail The telephone extension is 33930. The Genetics Library extension is 33973.

Professor David Coomes is the Academic Librarian; ie he is in overall charge of the Library.


There are 6 PCs in Bay 8 but only those on the right-hand side as you walk in are free-access : Part IIs have priority on those on the left-hand side. There are another 8 computers in Bay 7, but these are only available to Part IIs during term-time.

There is no special area for laptops : you may use your laptop anywhere in the Library, depending on whether you need access to a power socket or network cable. A network box is sited in the Library, so connection to the network is very good, but if you experience problems you are encouraged to use Eduroam. Please contact if you need help with setting up.


The photocopier in Bay 5 is now used as our networked printer, but you need an account to be able to use it [contact ]. Some categories of users will also need to purchase credit in advance from the Accounts Office to be able to print.


The Library photocoper is in Bay 5, just on your left if you enter from Reception. You can use it with your University card [information to follow]. There is another copier, with far more functions, in the room just to the right of the kitchen, on the first floor, but it requires a code.


Many of the journals you need to read are likely to be available online, University-wide. Some titles, and older runs of volumes, are only available as paper copies: in fact the Plant Sciences Library has a very large number of non-current journal runs. Some titles are available as both paper and online.
The current issue of a journal can be found in the combined Bays 3/4, just to the right of the door from Reception. Older issues are generally in alphabetical order, beginning in Bay 6, and continuing upstairs.

At the moment the online catalogue cannot be relied on for journals, and we have not posted specific location information online because of continuing moves.

It is advisable to access online journals via the University Library e-journals list. That way you can determine which years/volumes we are entitled to. If you are in the cam-domain, you should not be asked for a password. Outside the cam-domain, some titles are accessible via a Raven password [obtainable from the Computing Service]. Some titles are not accessible outside the cam-domain at all. Many users are confused by the route of access to a paper – Please do ASK for help.


All books on the open library shelves may be borrowed, except those on the shelves to the right of the staff desk, with a yellow ‘Reserve’ sticker on their spines – these must remain in the Library. Any item removed from the Library must be signed out in the book on the Library staff desk, fronting Bay 6. All books [even very old ones] are searchable on iDiscover. Some categories of books [floras, taxonomic works, monographs on individual species] are now held at the Sainsbury Building. This is also where you will find the Simpson Collection of British Floras. Please ask in the Library about access to these items, or contact Herbarium staff directly.

Very few science books are currently available to us as e-books : An e-book will pick up on iDiscover  if we do have access.

Inter-Library Loans and photocopies from other libraries

If the item you want is not available electronically, and not held in the Plant Sciences Library, the next step is to check if it is held in another Cambridge library – use iDiscover to check across all libraries.

If the item does not seem to be available in Cambridge, ask the librarian to get it for you. A straightforward loan or photocopy from the British Library will probably arrive in 4 days. Please note that we must currently request paper copies of journal articles and not pdfs. Other libraries within the Cambridge system will not lend books to the Plant Sciences Library, or send photocopies – you are asked to go there personally. The Betty and Gordon Moore Library can scan some scientific periodicals if they hold them, but there is a charge, and many items are currently in storage and inaccessible. See their website for information.

Other Libraries in Cambridge

Because most of the information you need can be accessed online, you may not need to use other libraries. However, it is useful to know what is available.

The old Central Science Library is now closed, because of the redevelopment on the New Museums site. Most of its holdings have gone into a 'dark' store - ie they are not accessible or retrievable. Please ask if you pick up a reference from the catalogue telling you the item you need is in Temporary Storage: We will probably have to obtain it from another University.

The Medical Library may be of interest, depending on your specialism. Again, you can visit this library if you show your University card.

To use the University Library you must have your University card activated in their admissions office, for which making an appointment is advisable. See their information page on eligibility before visiting.

Most of the other smaller subject libraries, such as Biochemistry, or Genetics, will allow you to visit, make photocopies, and even borrow books. It is always best to contact them first.

Please remember the librarian is there to help – Do ask!

Contact details

Please use e-mail if possible :

Dept. of Plant Sciences
University of Cambridge
Downing St, Cambridge CB2 3EA
Phone : 01223 333930

Librarian : Christine Alexander
Academic Libn : Prof. David Coomes