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Department of Computer Science and Technology

Library guides



Welcome to the Computer Laboratory library. The following notes are intended to assist new users in making full use of the wide range of resources available.


The library principally serves the staff and students of the Computer Laboratory, and therefore holds important research and teaching collections in computer science. All other members of the University may use the library for reference purposes on application to the librarian. Please note, however, that we are generally unable to provide material supporting specific proprietary software

Opening hours

At present the library is open and staffed between 9am and 5pm, Mondays to Fridays. The librarian is normally away for lunch from 1 until 2pm, and users visiting for the first time, or needing assistance, are advised to avoid those hours. Outside of these times all current members of the Laboratory, including part II undergraduate students, should be able to gain access with their university card. Other undergraduate computer science students may, with the support of their supervisor, apply to the librarian for access.

Location of collections

The library’s collections are housed in the single room of the library; either on the open shelves to the left of the main entrance, or, for less frequently used material, above the main sequence at the very top of the stacks. The contents of the open shelves are as follows:

Case no.Contents
1Book Locker (Undergraduate course texts)
2-7Monographs and other published material
9-10Oversize items
22M.Phil dissertations
23Computer Laboratory technical reports; Ph.D. Theses; Standards
24-25Tripos and Diploma projects

The shelves are numbered such that case 1 is to the left of the main entrance and case 2 is the other side of that shelf unit cases 3-4 the next unit and so on.


The principal public interface to the catalogue is known as iDiscover, and may be accessed from the web interface at: The interface to iDiscover will be familiar to anyone used to Web search engines. Please note that this system tries to present a single catalogue record for every holding of a particular title, and to group different versions of the same work together. This process happens automatically, so you may see several records for the same title. Similarly, it is advised that you ensure that the ‘Cambridge libraries collections’ option is enabled unless you explicitly wish to search for journal articles.

If you find a simple search produces too many results, then it may be worth trying the advanced search. This allows you to combine keywords from specified fields, and to further limit your search by location, material type, etc.

Finding an item

Having found the item on the catalogue, take a note of the classmark. For most books this will start with a letter between A and K, followed by two numeric designations. The second of these may be prefixed with L for items in the undergraduate collection, or by Z for oversized items. Please see above for the location of these sections.

Certain classes of material are not (at present) entered on the computerised catalogue and it will be necessary to check other sources to find such items:

  • Periodicals. These are not assigned a classmark, although in this case it is possible to check the catalogue to find if the library holds a specific title. The older runs of journals are simply shelved in alphabetical order by title. Most current journal subscriptions are online only, and you should check the University library’s list of electronic journals when trying to find a recent paper
  • Student’s projects. These include tripos and diploma projects plus dissertations from the M.Phil course. As this material is not on the main catalogue, users wishing to consult a project will need to check the online database, searchable from the library’s web site.
  • Technical reports. After report no. 575 the primary means of making technical reports available was online, with the library retaining paper copies for archival purposes only. Not all of the reports are catalogued, although most are, and readers are advised to check the list online at first before consulting the librarian.
  • Teaching material. Other items intended to support undergraduate teaching, such as past exam papers and lectures notes are also not catalogued. Most of this material may be found on the shelves or the table near the tripos and diploma projects. Ask the librarian if you have any difficulty locating what you need.
  • Seminar videos. A set of video recordings made of the Wednesday afternoon seminars is in the library, and are in the process of being entered on the catalogue. The set is complete from October 1995 and shelved in chronological order. Please ask if you wish to look at one of these tapes. Current seminars, however, are no longer recorded on video tape, but in some cases digital versions are available.


In addition to the above, the library also holds a considerable amount of archival material and miscellaneous reports. Most of these items are entered on the Union Catalogue, although the records are very brief, meaning that, in practice, you will only be able to search by author and title. In outline, this material includes items relating to the history of the Computer Laboratory and the early machines, papers by the earliest members of the department and other computer pioneers, unpublished reports up to the present time; and a small number of older books in infrequent use.

All of the archives are stored separately and any users wishing to consult them should ask the librarian. Please note that as some of this material is rare or fragile usage may be restricted.

Items not in the library

If you are unable to find what you are looking for on the catalogue, then there are a number of possibilities, namely:

  • The item you are looking for is included in the classes of material that are not catalogued, in which case consult the printed lists in the library, or ask the librarian.
  • If you are unsure of the details of the item in question, please ask the librarian for help, who may be able check the details from another source.
  • The item may be available in another library in Cambridge, particularly the Central Science library or the main University library. If you are looking for a paper in a journal, then it may be available electronically.
  • Titles of major importance, or likely to be of interest to others, may be suggested for purchase by the library.
  • As a last resort, if the item is not available elsewhere in Cambridge, or suitable for purchase, you may consider an inter-library loan. Please see below for further information.

Inter-Library loans

The library is also able to obtain books on loan, as well as copies of papers, from the British Library and other libraries. Although this is a useful facility for obtaining material in low demand which is not avaialabe in Cambridge, it is also relatively expensive. At present we are able to offer the service free of charge to staff of the laboratory, but, unfortunately, must make a charge to postgraduate and undergraduate students. If you have any further queries regarding this matter then please see the librarian.

Borrowing and returning books

All current members of the department, staff and students, may borrow from the library. Titles from the undergraduate collection may be borrowed for a maximum of 3 days, or over the weekend if taken out on Thursday or Friday. Any other monographs from the open shelves may be kept for two weeks. Please note that certain classes of material, particularly journals and tripos projects may not be borrowed. Similarly, external users will not normally be granted borrowing rights.

Before borrowing for the first time you will need to see the librarian who will be happy to register you on the computerised circulation system. To do so, please visit the library at any time while it is staffed, and show your University card which you will require for all subsequent transactions. Once registered, users may use the circulation terminal (opposite the main entrance to the library) to borrow items. Full instructions are available next to the computer.

Although we do not charge fines, please make every effort to return books promptly to avoid inconvenience to others. You may either bring items back directly to the library and leave them in the tray on the counter, or use the book drop facility in ‘the street’. It is usually possible to renew items if you need them beyond the initial loan period, and this may now be done remotely in iDiscover, by using the ‘my library account link’, as well as in the library.

If you have any problems with the circulation system, then please see the librarian during normal opening hours. Outside of these times, if you are unable to complete a transaction on the automatic system then please write your details, and those of the book clearly on the sheets kept next to the circulation terminal.

To return items please bring them to the library and leave them in the tray on the counter at the enquiry point, or, outside of working hours, use the book drop facility in the entrance hall, near the library corridor.

Electronic resources

Not surprisingly, the field of computer science is well supplied with electronic resources, mostly available on the World Wide Web. The full range of resources available is beyond the scope of this guide, but the list below will give some idea of what is available:

Electronic journal subscriptions are managed by the Journals Coordination Scheme, and most titles should be accessible from any computer on the University network. Access from home is often possible using Raven authentication. Please ask the librarian if you experience any problems with electronic journals.

Additionally we have access to the entire ACM and IEEE digital library packages. These offer a large number of important journal titles and conference proceedings within computer science. Online access to the book series Lecture Notes in Computer Science, published by Springer, is also available. Please note that these collections are partially supported by contributions from the Engineering department, and the Central Science Library.

Because of the huge quantity of material available online, it can be difficult to find the information you are looking for. As a starting point, the library’s own web pages have links to a number of useful resources, and are regularly revised as new material becomes available. Beyond this, a listing of electronic journals and other resources is available from the web pages maintained by the main University library. If you are trying to obtain details of a computer science journal or conference paper then you may find the Trier Bibliography (DBLP) useful. The ACM guide to computing literature may also help. Finally, as a last resort, try one of the well known Internet search engines, but be prepared for long lists of sometimes unrelated information. In this latter case, if you are looking for academic material, then Google Scholar is often more focused than its more general counterpart.

Equipment in the library

In addition to computer terminals for accessing the library catalogue and internet, the library also houses a photocopier, comb binding machine and video casette player.

  • The copier is located on the rearmost table and is free for all users. Please note, however, that it is intended for low volume use and you are asked not to abuse this facility. Full instructions for using the copier can be found with the machine
  • The binding machine may take a little practice to use effectively, and is easily damaged by incorrect use, so please ask for help or refer to the printed instructions if you’re not sure. Take especial care to ensure that you insert the plastic comb in the correct orientation. Also avoid punching too many sheets at once. A supply of combs in various sizes, and cover sheets are kept near the machine.
  • The television and video is provided solely for users wishing to view recordings from the library's collections. Please remember to use the headphones provided to avoid disturbing other readers, and to unplug the television when you have finished. Please ask if you need any help.

Access for disabled persons

We endevour, as far as possible, to provide the same facilities to all readers regardless of any disability they may have. The library is fortunate in being situated on the ground floor of a modern building, making wheelchair access relatively easy, while disabled parking is available immediately outside the main entrance to the building. It is respected that disabilities can take many forms, and any disabled users are invited to contact the librarian prior to their visit to discuss their needs. Similarly, wherever possible, the librarian will be happy to provide any assistance you might need to access the collections. General information and advice for disabled students is available from the Disability Resource Centre, who also maintain access guides giving details of the facilities available in departmental libraries.

Library rules

We ask that readers respect the library and its other users. In particular, please observe the following points:

  • Please keep noise to a minimum by switching off mobile ’phones, disabling sound on laptops, and talking quietly if collaborating with another reader.
  • Please do not eat or drink (with the exception of plain water) in the library as accidents can easily happen.
  • Return items to the shelves, or to the librarian when you no longer need them. Additionally, please do not leave personal belongings unattended for any prolonged period of time.
  • If borrowing items then please return or renew them promptly at the end of the normal loan period.

Using other libraries

There are over 100 libraries within the University, so even if we cannot help you directly, another library may hold the resources you need. If you are working in a subject related to computer science, then you may find the collections within another department useful. Also, undergraduate students will find that their college library holds at least some titles from the reading list. This can be a useful source for obtaining those books in heavy demand.

To find out more about the library system in Cambridge as a whole, and to find details for individual libraries, use the gateway. For help with study skills such as using the catalogue, and performing a literature search you may find the CamGuides pages useful. Finally a collection of guides to library resources and services for specific subjects can be found at:


If you have any questions or suggestions relating to the library then please feel free to ask the librarian, presently Nicholas Cutler, who may be contacted by any of the following means:

In person:during normal opening hours
By telephone:(01223) (3)34648
Via e-mail:ncc25 “at”
In writing:The Librarian,
Computer Laboratory,
William Gates Building,
J. J. Thomson Avenue,
CB3 0FD.