Cambridge University Library:
A journey around the world mind
Cambridge is home to one of the world’s greatest libraries, and to a network of outstanding specialist and College libraries. Cambridge University Library has been amassing its collections for centuries, through legal deposit and generous benefaction. It offers unrivalled rights of access within Europe. As a teaching and research library, it sits at the heart of academic life. As a resource of international importance, its beneficiaries span the globe. It is in the vanguard of shaping advancements in information technology as it applies to scholarship: multimedia, for this Library, ranges from bone to blogs.
The Library offers opportunities for support and involvement that will appeal to anyone susceptible to the power of the word. Here are just a few of them.
As one of the only such institutions in the Western world that remains un-named, the Library represents a unique opportunity to recognise an exceptional benefaction in perpetuity. For centuries, the University Library been at the heart of the quest to understand our world and ourselves through scholarship - and so it remains today. Astonishing in the quality, significance and sheer scope of its collections, it is the nerve-centre of learning and information at Cambridge, and has a visionary blueprint for a combined print and digital future.
This Library is one of the gems of the civilised world.
Dame Joan Bakewell (Newnham, 1951), Writer and broadcaster
Built up over eight centuries, the Library’s collections are superb. From Chinese oracle bones of the 2nd millennium BC to scientific e-journals of the 3rd millennium AD, its 100 miles of shelving house over 6 million printed volumes, 400,000 musical items and 4,500 books printed before 1501, as well as a growing library of e-publications. Support for the acquisition and organisation of new materials is required to ensure that the collections retain their vitality and excellence, and for the skilled preservation of some of the most rare and engaging collections of written materials in history.
I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore … while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
Isaac Newton, whose papers form one of the Collections available via DSpace@Cambridge (see below for details).
I remember wonderful days spent in the University Library … working, thinking, and sometimes just gazing at the beautiful ceiling in the Reading Room.
Baroness Julia Neuberger (Newnham, 1969)
Reading is the act which brings books to life. As much a place for people as it is for books, the Libary provides some fine rooms in which to read and think, each with its own distinctive sense of place and purpose. In recognition of the generosity of benefactions to support the very fabric of the Library, naming opportunities exist for rooms including the Main Reading Room, famed for its superb collection of over 7,000 volumes, renowned for its elegance, and loved by its users.
To the reader, what makes a library great is the quality of its service as well as of its collections. With an average waiting time for a book of just 20 minutes, the service provided by this Library is unparalleled. And what the reader sees is just the tip of the iceberg. Behind its 100 miles of shelves are the 350 staff who acquire, catalogue and preserve this vast terrain of knowledge, and help its users navigate it. Opportunities to support these expert and dedicated people range from endowing the curatorial posts, to supporting internships for rising stars.
Although technology is vastly changing their roles, librarians are still seen as ‘trusted agents’, and their role as navigators of the Internet will be critical to everyday life.
Stephen Abram, Micromedia Proquest
Anyone with access to the web and curiosity about humanity can access the Library’s digital collections. The Darwin Correspondence Project exemplifies the importance of free public access. Projects at the head of the queue for digitisation include the Royal Commonwealth Society Collection – a remarkable documentary record of empire and powerful evocation of a bygone age, and the revelatory Genizah Collection of ancient manuscripts. The queue for digitisation is long while funding is short. With support, we can do so much more to exploit the potential of digital technology to advance scholarship and its essential precursor: educational engagement.
DSpace@Cambridge is about freedom of access to knowledge. The project is playing a key part in a quiet revolution in academic publishing, in which the UL is a leading protagonist. With its vast capacity for making available and organising material from audio-visual files to scientific research (including experimental data directly from the laboratory), DSpace is one route by which, increasingly, knowledge is being publicly disseminated. Funding is required to exploit the full potential of this project to transform scholarly communications.
Increasingly, [libraries are] the means of electronic access to the knowledge of the world.
Dr G E Moore, Founder of Intel and Benefactor of the Gordon and Betty Moore Library
This is a place devoted to wonderment, where children have come face to face with a “brave, bad man” (Oliver Cromwell), and time-travelled from the first children’s novel to the present by way of animal stories, moral fables, fairy tales, fantasy, adventure, and novels about coping with school, parents and (other) problems. Adults have followed the Footprints of the Lion (Isaac Newton), celebrated Milton’s poetry, and witnessed a breathtaking display of over 200 illuminated manuscripts. Funding is required to support the Centre, which does so much to bring people over the Library’s threshold, and into the world of the book.
At the moment that we persuade a child, any child, to cross that threshold, that magical threshold into a library, we change their lives forever, for the better.
Barack Obama, 2005
Walking around its mile on mile of corridors, you know you are walking around the world mind.
This Library is one of the gems of the civilised world: it houses treasure troves of great and rare manuscripts; it restores and conserves damaged pages with immaculate care; it opens its vast and ever increasing collections to all who love books. It serves the written form of the language...with unsurpassed dedication."
Dame Joan Bakewell (Newnham, 1951), Writer and broadcaster
The desultory pleasure of browsing the University Library, indulging a passion for wandering through stacks of unknown treasures and marvelling at the ocean of knowledge that lay undiscovered before me, was one of the most gratifying experiences of my University days.
Stephen Fry (Queen's, 1978), Writer, actor, comedian
The most accessible collection of literary treasure on this side of the Atlantic.