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Department of Physics

The Cavendish Laboratory

counter and shelves



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.


Because of the closure of the Bragg building, where Rayleigh library is located, the library had to suspend some services.


BOOK RETURNS (currently suspended)  

Cambridge University Library is happy  to receive returned books from all library users, and especially those who are graduating in the near future. There are several options available to you whether you are in Cambridge or elsewhere.

Drop Boxes

The Medical Library and Moore Library each have a dropbox for returning books from any Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medical Libraries.

For returning University Library (UL) books, there is a drop box at the foot of the UL steps.

Books returned to the drop boxes may take a short while to be removed from your account.

University Library books can be returned by post to

Cambridge University Library Returns

West Road



We recommend using a tracked service.

If you are a recent graduate, member of staff or visiting scholar in the UK who has now left the University and are unable to return to Cambridge, you can request a pre-paid returns label to return your books by freepost. You can post items from the UL, Faculty and Department libraries and colleges using this service.

If you are a recent graduate, member of staff or visiting scholar outside the UK who has now left the University and are unable to return to Cambridge, we can send you instructions on how to request a refund for postage. You can post items from the UL, Faculty and Department libraries using this service.

The University Library team will be happy to accept all posted library books and will distribute them to their home library as soon as it is feasible to do so. Books you have returned may subsequently remain on your library account for some time after you have posted them. 

SCAN & DELIVER (available)

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 

CLICK AND COLLECT (currently suspended) 

Please use the Moore Library for Click & Collect Services on their library website

 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


How are you ensuring my safety and the safety of library staff?

  • We are minimising handling of books and all other materials.
  • We hope this service will allow you to enter and leave the library quickly.
  • Your books will be waiting in a bag on the table by the entrance of the library so that if you wish to wait 24hrs before using them, as a quarantine measure, you’re able to do so.
  • Please wait at a 2m distance from any other library members collecting books at the same time – only one reader is permitted in the collection area at any one time.
  • A washing station is available, just inside the library lobby area, please sanitise your hands on arrival to collect your books. 
  • Please wear a face covering when you enter the building.
  • We request that you do not use anti-bacterial wipes on any library books as this may cause damage, but encourage you to wash your hands regularly since library books are a shared resource.


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



To request that a book be purchased, please use the Cambridge-hosted Qualtrics book recommendation form here:


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 takethe varying needs of all its users into account.   

Reading Lists Online (LEGANTO):  is a new way of working using a system called Leganto which can easily be integrated with Moodle courses, iDiscover and Library purchasing workflows. It allows items on lists to link easily to online resources, as well as linking to the iDiscover catalogue records for print items. It encourages well-structured lists with priorities clearly signposted, and many other features to assist students and academics, whilst ensuring an efficient provision of resources by libraries.                                               

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.

 Cambridge LibGuides to library and information resources

Cambridge LibGuides are online web pages created by librarians to help you perform various tasks, such as using library resources or researching topics.

Here's an A-Z list of the guides for your subject that are available through the Cambridge LibGuides service.

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.

[CamGuides image]

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