The UL’s change in borrowing policy spells disaster for finalists and undermines its promise to stock all necessary books.

Geeky as this might sound, the UL is one of the best things about Cambridge. For an overworked historian, it is a godsend to know that every book you need will be there. The librarians are (sometimes) helpful, and they serve nice (if overpriced) cakes in the tea room. Nothing could be better for an afternoon’s productive study. Or at least that used to be the case.

Last year, in a gargantuan folly, the UL opened up borrowing to all undergraduates. Previously, only post-grads and final year undergrads were able to remove books from the hallowed shelves of the UL. Now anyone can do it. And so chaos reigns.

Books: there when you need them? 

Let me give you an example. According to my (slightly dodgy) maths, in a normal week about ten people will do the same essay. They will all be seeking essentially the same books and so, apart from college libraries, there will be two copies: one in the faculty library and one in the UL. Once you reach third year, you should be allowed the luxury of taking said book home. Until then, you should enjoy your book within the confines of the UL.

The folly of undergraduate borrowing is compounded by having a recall system that is guaranteed to get the book to you after the essay is due. The UL should be a library of last resort. When you need it, it should be there. Sadly, too often, it is not. The crucial book has been removed by another keen student – who won’t be needing that book for a dissertation that counts towards their finals.

So please UL, remove undergrad borrowing to make the most important year for an undergrad that bit easier. We don’t always need to use the UL, but when we do, we need the books to be there.

  • Pedant

    You're not a third year…

    • JimJam

      Not really relevant mate.

    • Marge

      "overworked historian"

      oxymoron much?

  • Priority Peter

    Another set of strong opinions, well worded and put forward with utmost conviction.

  • Judge

    The UL: where dreams are lost and nightmares are found

    • Jury

      You've clearly never found the map room then

  • Maths?

    As a historian, really? 40 persons is the most that generally do any unit. These are split into 2 (2nd year) or 3 (1st year) groups. So we are talking about 20 people at any one time doing a unit. Each unit has about 20 sections, of which you do 8. The possibility of overlap is much smaller than you make it out to be, personally I've never had an issue. Especially as every book has at least 2 copies easily obtainable. There are certainly never 10 fighting over the same book.

    That said I get the principle, and the situation might be much worse for a non-historian. I'd say the problem is not the possibility of borrowing but a 2 week loan. Cut it to 2 – 3 days and I would expect any small problems to disappear.

    • Maths!

      Maths?…you're only focusing on the one subject. Simon's point is totally valid for other subjects, such as English for instance where the likelihood of having someone write an essay on the same topic as you is much higher. Essays aside, the context classes, or literary criticism classes that English students have to take often require the students to have read a particular chapter from a particular book for that particular class. And that book will only be available to the select 2 or 3 who have jumped on their bikes, cycled like madmen all the way to acquire the prized text!
      Hey Maths? I'm a hypocrite, woops.

  • Felix

    Mate, the UL is a great place to talk to girls about my dreams.

    • Maths!

      And after that chat in the tea room, your dreams may come true in a dark, dusty, aisle on the fourth floor, north front…

    • Hans

      Just 10 hours ago, my brother Felix commented on this article and was therefore obviously alive. How times change. I'll be strong.

      I love books and learning shit. Most of all, I love DOING shit.

  • Oxymoron

    Overworked historian? Really?

  • http://dymvue.blogspot.com/ Sarah Stamford

    It's unusual to hear a student complain about books being available for loan, it's usually the other way round, so Simon's comment is worth paying attention to. I presume the University Library carried out the usual proper surveys into demand for the change and how to match their stock to student requirements before they introduced the change, so perhaps someone will be able to respond to your post. In the meantime you can always speak to your College or Faculty Librarian if you have difficulty finding books you need. (Selwyn College Librarian)