Relax! The Library is here to help

Though the next few weeks may prove to be busy, stressful and seemingly endless, we hope the Library can provide you with the necessary environment to get the most out of your study sessions and help you to relax and take a break in between!

Stress free environment

It may be impossible to ever achieve a truly stress-free environment, but we are aiming to keep stress levels to a minimum in the Library during exam term. There is plenty of tidy, quiet desk space available for you if you fancy finding a comfortable, more productive study spot. There are both large desks and carrels available for you to use if you fancy a change of scenery.ExamBooks

Books on study skills, exam technique, essay writing and referencing can found on display next to the self-issue machine. Please feel free to read or borrow any of these books as we don’t mind updating the displays when books are borrowed.

Take a break

Lots of you have been joining us for squash and biscuits every weekday afternoon at 3.30pm – the aim of these sessions is to encourage you to take a well-deserved break, rehydrate and refocus.ColouringIn

If you want to take a break but still keep the brain active, we’ve also got jigsaws and a chess set in the ground floor reading area. The jigsaw has already proved popular with a new puzzle on display already! If puzzles are just too taxing, why not try the colouring pages or simple origami to help you relax?PinterestBreak

A new board has appeared on our Pinterest pages filled with revision break tips, colouring pages and motivational quotes to help you whether you are in the Library or studying in your room.

Suggestions and feedback wall

The Library team are always looking for new ways to improve our services and support you through your studies, especially during the busy exam term. You will have noticed a blank flipchart has appeared next to the self-issue machine. We hope it will give you the opportunity to provide constructive comments about the Library – whether it is improvements, questions you would like answered or just to say something positive! We will add our responses to all comments made.

Library staff are always happy to help with any problems you may be having, whether it’s finding books, looking for past papers, creating your bibliography, or printing. Just ask!

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What to expect in the Library during Easter Term

During the Easter term, a number of temporary changes occur to make the Library a pleasant environment for everyone to revise and study.

orange squashSquash & Biscuits: The library will be offering squash (cordial) and biscuits downstairs by the main entrance at 3.30pm on weekdays during full term. Please feel free to come and join library staff for a drink, biscuit and a quiet chat. Please note that there may be a slight increase in noise during this time.

notepad_pencil3_hires2Leaving books and papers on desks: Three-day ‘in use’ notes are being replaced with 24 hour notes, so we can monitor and clear desks more quickly, and prevent desk hogging. We also ask that you keep papers, books, folders etc tidy when using a slip, and leave room on a desk for someone else to use it whilst you are not there. Anyone with a messy desk will get a ‘yellow card’ notice to tidy up. If no spring cleaning  occurs, belongings will be moved and replaced with a ‘red card’ notice.

Brew2Drinks: Only covered drinks should be consumed in the library, please do not bring in mugs or other containers without lids. No food should be brought into the library either. Please use your hunger to take a break from revision, fuel up and get some fresh air. You will then work better when you come back to the library!

PhonesPhones: Please also ensure your phones are on silent in the Library, and conversation is kept to a minimum.Exam usage of facilties

Missing the use of the Lower Study Room? Details of extra study rooms available in MAB for quiet and silent revision have been posted on the Library doors. Did you know that the library computers are equipped with all the same programmes as those in the Lower Study Room?

Don’t have any exams, or finished them all? Fantastic! Please respect those still revising and celebrate in style away from the library building.

jumping girl

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Accessing exam past papers

One of the five evidence- based tips for revising revealed in a study was to ‘practice the thing you will be tested on’. For example, if your exam requires you to write an essay, practice writing an essay and don’t just write out a plan. This iExamPapers1s why using past papers is recommended in order to practice your exam skills as well as your ability to recall information.

Unfortunately, we  have recently been informed that the online exam papers service has been taken down and is no longer accessible via the University Library link mentioned previously on this blog (see previous posts). Discussions have already begun about restarting the service and we will keep you informed of any further developments, but this may not happen within this academic year.

In the meantime, Homerton College Library holds bound volumes of past papers which can be photocopied or scanned. In fact, we have exam papers going back to 2002 – many more years than you were able to access online! You can find them on the first floor, on the shelves next to the computers. Each volume is categorised by subject, and exam papers are listed in order of Part and Paper number. If you can’t find what you are looking for, please just ask a member of staff and we will be happy to help.


If you would like to access online papers, many University departments and faculties hold their own exam papers online via their subject webpages on Moodle/CamTools or on their main webpage. If you cannot find these links, we would advise you to contact your department or faculty library staff as they will be able to retrieve the information easily for you.

Don’t forget, you can also download exam timetables for undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate examinations from the Student Registry website.

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Library Help: A helpful guide to using Cambridge Libraries

Library Help is a neLibrary Help2w tool designed by Cambridge Librarians to be a ‘one stop’ access point to information about how to use Cambridge Libraries and the facilities and services they provide. Though still in the early stages of development, it goes a step further than just providing contact details for Libraries, which can be found on Libraries Directory, but gives real insight and guidance into using other services such as research and study advice and IT support.

The site is eHow do iasy to navigate by selecting one of the main categories, such as borrowing, and you can then select a ‘How do I…?’ question and get a quick and simple answer. These FAQs are based on common enquiry questions which get asked daily at Library Enquiry Desks throughout the University and now they can be answered online through Library Help as well as in person.

Helpful student volunteers recently participated in focus groups at Homerton and Wolfson in order to test the navigation of the site to ensure the resource is as intuitive as possible. Our Librarian, Liz Osman, was able to pass on to the Library Help team some great feedback which will influence further development, and I am sure the volunteers appreciated the mountain of cake that was provided!

So whether you are in Cambridge or want to access Library resources at home in the vacation, it is worth checking Library Help for an answer. If you are still unsure, the Library team are on hand to answer any enquiries you do have in person or via email.

We would welcome any feedback you have from using Library Help (which is still in beta testing) so if you have any views on the site, please follow the link provided on the front page of Library Help.

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End of term already! Library services during the Christmas Vacation

Christmas Tree 02 Watercolour by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig, Flickr

Christmas Tree 02 Watercolour by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig, Flickr

For most of the vacation period, Homerton Library will remain open with 24 hour access to the Library. Here, you can shelter from the Christmas shopping crowds and take a look at our Christmas book displays – rare and new!

The only time it will be closed for all students and staff will be from 5pm on Christmas Eve (Wednesday 24th December) till 8 am on Boxing Day (Friday 26th December) when the entire Mary Allan Building will be closed.

The Library will be unstaffed from midday Christmas Eve 24th December till Tuesday 2nd January, so unfortunately the book boxes will not be emptied and shelved and any IT issues cannot be resolved during this time. For the rest of the vacation, it will be staffed as usual so please pop in with any questions you might have been saving up for a quiet moment or for any help you may need.

You probably will have noticed if you have borrowed a book since Friday 28th November that we have started Vacation borrowing. Any items borrowed now will be due back on Monday 15th January so you can keep the items and take them home for the holiday period (just remember to bring them back!).

HeritageRENEW2It is also worth checking the return date of any books you currently have on loan before you set off on your travels. You can easily renew books online through Heritage by logging in using the V number on the back of your Uni card or you can use the self-issue machine in the Library. It is worth noting that items which have been reserved by other readers cannot be renewed so best to check your items before you leave Cambridge. Hopefully, this system means that everyone has the opportunity to have access to the items they need throughout the holiday period but if you are struggling to get access to any resource, please contact the Library via email or in person.

Not in Cambridge? You can still use the Library

  • You can access over 5,400 titles in the Cambridge e-book collection at home as well as at Homerton through LibrarySearch and Heritage Online. 135 titles have just been added to the collection which covers all Triposes and all you need to get hold of the full text is your Raven password.
  • Don’t forget that our blog also contains slideshows and tips to help with improving your research and academic skills as well as getting ahead with dissertations and research projects.
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What would you like to find? The conundrum of the catalogues

Cryptic terms such as Newton, Heritage and lego sherlock and watsonLibrary-Search probably first appeared at Library inductions where they may have seemed quite puzzling, but each is referring to a Library catalogue. With access at home or on campus, the catalogues are the fastest way to locate an item; whether you have a reference to a resource or wish to discover new items in the collection by subject or author.

A great student suggestion from the last Library Survey was a poster which explained the differences between the catalogues used by the University of Cambridge (aka the secret reason we have so many!) So, we listened to your suggestion and here is the finished result!

click map

Heritage Online Catalogue





If you want to select a catalogue by the resources you need or the libraries you can access, just follow the coloured pointers on the poster to select the recommended catalogue to use.

Each catalogue has its own helpful features which suit different search preferences so it is worth spending a couple of minutes to find out what works best for you (-no magnifying glass needed!).

The best features are summarised in the text box under the catalogue logo which directly links to each catalogue.

You can find a copy of this poster displayed near our search terminals in the Library and also on our Pinterest page if you want to refer to it at any time.

Further Library mysteries solved

Top SecretThe mystery of the Library codenames
Solution: The number on the spine of the book is otherwise known as the shelfmark so this is the bit you need to write down in order to hunt for that book. Make sure you include both the numbers and all the following letters.

Top SecretThe mystery of the coloured boxes
Solution: If you search Heritage for a Homerton Library book, then you will see the class (subject category) is highlighted in a coloured text box. This matches the colours used on our floor maps of the Library which you can puzzle over on the end of the shelves next to the Enquiry Desk.


Problem solved!

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(Originally posted on :

BrowZine is a new tablet application (iOS & Android) where you can browse, read and follow thousands of scholarly journals available to you thanks to the University’s subscriptions or on open access.  All in a format optimized for your iPad or Android tablet.

• Browse titles by subject to easily find journals of interest
• Easily view table of contents of current past journals
• Create a personal bookshelf of favourite journals
• Share with other researchers by posting to Facebook and Twitter

BrowZine’s now on trial for Cambridge users until 30 November 2014.

Search for “BrowZine” in your app store and download the app for free or go to

When you first use BrowZine, select University of Cambridge from the drop down.

Enter your Raven userid/password.

And Enjoy!

To learn more, please take a look at this short (two minute) video

Next time you use the app, you won’t need to login again – you can browse and read our journals in full text, set up Alerts for new issues and save articles or send their references to a reference manager like Mendeley or send to Zotero, Dropbox or several other services to help keep all of your information together in one place.

We really want to know what you think of BrowZine – We think you’ll love it but we won’t know unless you tell us – so please send a message to

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Getting started: Printing and photocopying services – the basics

One of the most frequently asked questions by new students at the Enquiry desk has been about printing. Therefore, we have decided to post this brief introduction to printing as a quick reminder for when you need to print quickly and haven’t got time to ask!

“I’ve topped up my U-Pay account, can I use that money to print?”
The U-Pay system is used mainly for buying food in College and isn’t used for printing credit. Homerton is part of the ‘Common Balance’ print ecredit system (mainly known as ecredit!). You can use your ecredit to print and photocopy at lots of locations throughout the University, not just at Homerton.

“How do I get ecredit?
You can add credit to your ecredit account (minimum of £5) using a bank or credit card online at There is also a shortcut on the MCS computers in the Library: Start > All Programs > Account Management > eCredit. You can also check how much credit you currently have in your account.

“How do I use my ecredit to photocopy?”
Our new photocopier allows you to use your ecredit balance for photocopying. You just need to bring your University card with you to activate the photocopying machine. It will bring up a screen which shows you your Cambridge ID number and current balance. Just make sure to log out afterwards (unless you are feeling particularly generous of course!).

“Which printer do I select?”
We have one printer in the Library (an A4 HP Color Laserjet) located on the ground floor next to the MCS computers. You can print either from your own computer via the wireless network using the Papercut application or from any MCS Mac or PC workstation located on any floor. Just select the correct printer from the print menu for either black and white (Hom_Lib_BW) or colour printing (Hom_Lib_Col).

“How much does it cost?”
It costs 5p to print or photocopy a black and white side or 25p for each colour side.

If you are still unsure, please do come and ask during staffed hours (9-5) or via email.
For more information, you can look at our IT guide or pick up a paper copy to take away with you when you are next in the Library.

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Welcome to the Library: PGCE students

A warm welcome from the Library team to all new PGCE students who have recently started their studies at Homerton. Hopefully, you are now starting to settling into the course and finding your way around the College and the Library.

Reading area

Reading area

Last week, most Homerton PGCE students attended a talk by our Librarian, Liz, who gave a brief introduction to the Library and what services and facilities we provide. Since then, the Library has been very busy as many PGCE students have explored the Library. Though the Library is accessible 24/7 using your University card, you will need to register your card to borrow any resources from the Library. The beginning of term is a good time to register before deadlines begin to get closer and time gets more precious. Why not pop in to the Library during staffed hours (9am -5pm, Monday-Friday) and register your card? It really does only take two minutes!

Homerton Library is a fantastic facility and resource for you to use and any member of the Library team is here to help and support your use of the Library throughout your studies. If you have searched our catalogue (Heritage) and are unsure of where to find a book or haven’t quite worked out the self-issue machine yet, please just ask and we will be happy to help. We also do not mind tackling a more challenging topic or query. You can always contact us by phone, email (library at or Twitter too if you are not in College.

We look forward to meeting you all in the Library!

For a useful brief introduction to the Library, have a quick read of our new user guide

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Meet a new member of the Library team- Rosie

I’m Rosie Austin, the new Senior Library Assistant at Homerton College library.


You will be able to easily find me at the main Enquiry desk so please come and say hello or ask any question or query. I am happy to show you where something is located in the Library or search for an item on the catalogue to make it easier for you to develop your learning and make use of all the resources available to you. There is no such thing as a silly question (and we have probably heard them all before anyway!).

It might not be as popular as wanting to be an astronaut, but I have always wanted to be a Librarian ever since I was a child. After reading all the children’s books in the town Library, I was lucky to meet a fantastic Librarian who helped encourage my love of reading and sparked my interest in Librarianship. I enjoy the focus on customer service and thrive on finding out new pieces of information so I am glad that I continued to pursue a career as a
qualified Librarian after completing my History degree.

Prior to beginning work at Homerton, I worked as a solo secondary school librarian. As well as answering every question imaginable, I helped introduce young people to the wonders of quality literature, how to navigate a library, and improve their research skills. Selecting and cataloguing a wide variety of picture books and keeping up to date with current trends in Children’s and Young Adult fiction was essential in order to run a happy library and I look forward to continuing this at Homerton.

I will also be sharing any new additions to our Library collection via Pinterest and tweeting about news and updates to the Library. If you are interested, please join the conversation by subscribing to the blog or Twitter. You can find us @homlib. We are happy to hear your feedback on the Library services and how we can help support your learning throughout your time at Homerton.

Librarian stats

Favourite book: Possession by A.S Byatt because of the amazing description of the London Library
Currently reading: Eleanor & Park by YA author Rainbow Rowell because I love her other books including the popular book Fangirl, and I was lucky enough to meet her recently on her UK tour (you can borrow a copy of Eleanor & Park from the Children’s Literature collection at Homerton).
What I do in my spare time: Crochet, watch bad disaster movies and visit libraries on holiday.

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Comments from the survey

Thanks again for all the comments in the Library survey. They are really the most helpful part to improve your Library experience. I’m going to use this blog post to address comments and requests from the survey. I will address a couple of items raised by a number of people in separate posts.

The temperature of the library/too stuffy  temperature

The library can get stuffy at times, but you are welcome to open windows or use the fans located on the upper floors to deal with this. All we ask is that when you leave you close and turn off what you have opened and turned on, to prevent the library getting cold overnight.

Power sockets

There were some comments about power sockets not working on tables upstairs. This is an ongoing issue when the socket fuses blow. Please let us know which table is affected so we can report it to maintenance.

Harsh lighting

I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do about the lighting in the Library at present. You may find that some seats or areas are more or less brightly lit than others to suit your needs.

Use doors on upper floors

Sorry, this isn’t going to happen. The doors on the upper floors only exist as emergency exits.

More computers

We will look into the possibilities for more computers in the Library, but finding table space may be difficult. If all the computers are taken on the ground floor don’t forget about those on the upper floors, or the quiet study room in the Cavendish Building that has some too. If you don’t think there are enough machines around College entirely then please report this to IT.

Mac not logging in

We were informed in the survey that one of the Mac machines was not logging on. Please report problems like this to a member of Library staff or IT so that they can be resolved as quickly as possible. If the problem occurs overnight you can email or leave a note on the enquiry desk for us.

Double sided printer

We know it is a frustration that the printer in the library no longer does double-sided printing. A new printer has been on order for quite some time now, but there have been some issues with supply. We will continue to chase this up until we have the new one installed.

Printer paperpaper

We always try to ensure that enough paper is left by the printer to last until staff return to the library. This may not have worked recently due to the printer not providing double sided printing. Apologies if this has caused a problem to you. We are leaving extra paper out.


We were asked for a guillotine. We have a paper cutter that lives at the back of the library on the ground floor. It was moved there from by the photocopier as it can be quite noisy. We will ensure there are some signs telling you where to find it.


English students love the beanbags available at the Faculty, and have asked for similar here. We don’t have a budget to buy any extra furniture at the moment and, being 24/7 I’m not keen on providing anything which is too appealing to sleep on – much better to make it to your bed!

Desk on ground floor

We were asked about the possibilities of a desk on the ground floor to assist any users with mobility issues. We have a portable table, which is currently laid out to create extra study space for Easter term. We will look at locating it permanently on the ground floor as a study area, with priority given to those with mobility issues.

Desk hogging

A few respondents mentioned the hogging of desks. We have different procedures that come into force for Easter term to try to ensure there is study space available, and we continually monitor this to look for further improvements. We welcome further feedback. For the rest of the year, we will try to monitor desk tidiness a bit more.

Wifi signal

There are small areas in the library where the wifi signal is poor due to the architecture of the building. We already have two routers in the library in an attempt to improve signal. We will mention the report to IT, but the quickest answer may be to move seats. If you know of anywhere that is always a problem please let a member of library staff know so we can pass this information onto IT.

Information bookletsinfo

This year a range of information booklets are available from the top of the drop boxes. You can also find online versions on this blog, under “Library guides and leaflets”. If there’s something we haven’t covered that you’d like to see in leaflet form please let us know.

How to request items

We have a request book that sits on top of the enquiry desk. You can fill in details of anything that you would like the library to buy, and we will let you know our decision. We do want to look into having an online form available too, but for the moment please use the book.

More renewals/renew on machine

We were asked about allowing more renewals than currently. It is unlikely we will do that as the current policy of renewals already means you can keep a book for over a term if it isn’t requested. We will look at extending the grace period that you can renew books online once they have become overdue. We were asked about making it possible to renew on the self-issue machine. This is possible by going into the Account screen, but we have now made this clearer by renaming the button on the front screen to “account/renew”.

Information about new books

Details of what new books have been purchased can be seen on our Pinterest site and you can also see new books on the Heritage catalogue, by looking at the What’s new section on the main page (though this includes anything recently added to the Library, which may include donations of older material etc). We also sometimes have small displays of new books on the ground floor.

Enough copies

We always try to ensure there are adequate copies of key books available across subjects. We always try to act when we can see there are a lot of requests for a book, or when we are told that it is in high demand. But if that isn’t clear, we will assume we do have enough copies. Please tell us whenever there’s a problem getting hold of a book and we’ll see what we can do. Don’t forget that you have access to other libraries too though, and if they have a copy it will be quicker to go and borrow that one, rather than wait for one we buy to arrive.

Books disappearing

It was mentioned that books in some subjects disappear. Please let us know if you can’t find something that should be on the shelf, as we can then look for it, and even replace it if necessary. We also have a special handheld device that can go in search of hidden books, but we need to know they’re missing first.

Comprehensive DVD sectionCD

We know that some users borrow a lot of DVDs, and that’s great. We are always looking for new films and tv shows to add to the shelves. However, we allocate a small percentage of the budget to non-academic DVDs (ie those not on reading lists) and once that is spent then that’s it for the year. Let us know what you’d like to watch and we’ll try to ensure we’re buying the right stuff.

Focusing wider than part 1

It’s nice to see that some respondents think we should look to provide resources beyond Part 1 of courses, but I know students in other subjects would disagree. At present the provision across Part 1 is varied by subject and certainly not comprehensive throughout, so we need to continue focusing on improving Part 1 in all Triposes before we can consider a wider remit.

Academic skills session in Michaelmas

We hope that the introductory academic skills session which we gave this year can be moved to Michaelmas term next year, and thus prove more timely for freshers.

“No information available” when looking at catalogue

If you use LibrarySearch to look for items (rather than the Heritage catalogue, which is only for Homerton) any items Homerton does have will come up saying “no information available”. This confusing phrase simply means that the catalogue can’t tell you more about our copy of the book eg whether it is currently on loan or not. We can’t currently do anything about creating a live link between LibrarySearch and Heritage so the phrase will remain but when you see it remember the following: 1) we do have a copy of that item 2) you can check if it’s on the shelf using Heritage or by contacting the College Library.

Poster detailing differences in catalogues

This is a great suggestion and we will look into providing something nice and visual.

Inter-Library Loans for books not available in Cambridge

This is not a service that we are currently able to provide at College Library level, but the University Library does offer an inter-library loans service for any items not available in Cambridge. More information available here Don’t forget, if the book is in just one library in Cambridge contact the Librarian, as usually they will allow you access to read it.

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Survey requests

Thanks to all of you who responded to the Library survey. I look forward to using the data to see how we are doing, and what we can do for now post-it note

As a first step, I thought I’d respond to some of the purchase requests that you put down. We will look into getting as many as we can, where they are available. I’m afraid for some older texts we may have trouble sourcing even a second hand copy, but we’ll do our best.

If you’ve since thought of something you’d like to request there’s still an easy way to tell Library staff. There is a request book on top of the enquiry desk where you can fill in all the details of anything you’d like us to buy.

There were a number of items on the survey which we do have in the Library, and I list them below, alongside their classmark so you can find them on the shelf. A few are very new additions, overlapping with the survey, but others we have had for some time. You can always check the Heritage catalogue as we are constantly buying new material. And do let us know if there aren’t enough copies of a particular book so we can get more where possible.

A couple of people mentioned wanting more book rests. I know this is something that some students value highly, but we have had problems with a number of rests being taken from the Library and never returned. We’ve also had at least one that was dismantled, with only part of it being found. Unfortunately this behaviour does not encourage me to spend more Library budget on them at present.

Titles the Library has:

Grande Grammatica Italiana di consultazione (Salvi and Renzi, 2001) – 455 GRA, all 3 volumes
The Dialects of Italy (Maiden and Parry, 1997) – 457 DIA, also available as an ebook
A Linguistic History of Italian (Maiden, 1995) – 450.9 MAI
Books by Amartya Sen – We have a number of titles, please put any specific requests in the request book
Early Irish Myths and Sagas (Harmondsworth, 1981) – A891.6 EAR
The Complete Sagas of Icelanders I-V (Hreinsson) – reprinted as The Sagas of Icelanders: a Selection, Jane Smiley, A839 SAG – we will look into getting the earlier edition if possible
The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Political Thought – recent acquisition, 320.09 CAM(3)
Unsettling Narrative, Clare Bradford – recent acquisition, children’s literature collection 809.89282 BRA
History of Life, R Cowen – 560 COW
Up (Disney) – multimedia collection, 791.4334 DIS(UP) – this is hard to find using the basic search as the title is a common word, best to limit the search to DVDs
A Mad, Bad and Dangerous People, Boyd Hilton – 942.07 HIL, also available as an ebook
The Making of the Modern Self, Wahrman – we don’t have a copy yet, but it is available as an ebook
A History of the Vikings, G. Jones – 948.022 JON
The Cult of the Saints, Peter Brown – 270.2 BRO, also available as an ebook
Surfaces, Attard and Barnes – 541.33 ATT
A Visit From the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan – E813 EGA(VIS)
Parade’s End, Ford Madox Ford – D823 FOR(BOD3) – within an anthology of works
Hercules DVD – multimedia collection, 791.4334 DIS(HER) – if it isn’t the Disney version that was wanted please fill in the request book with details eg director.
Engineering Data Books – Reference section 620 CAM – these are now up to date

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CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medal shortlists 2014

The shortlists for the 2014 Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals were announced yesterday. We have several of the shortlisted books already, and the rest are on order and should be on the shelves very soon. Update: all of these titles are now in the Library except ‘The Dark’ by Lemony Snicket & Jon Klassen, which is still on order.

The Carnegie Medal shortlist:

The Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist:

Have you read any of the shortlisted books? Which would you like to see win?

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Using the Library during Easter Term

The Easter vacation has arrived, and with it are a number of temporary changes in the Library to hopefully improve everyone’s ability to revise and work there.

First of all, from Monday 17th March, the 3-day slips used to keep books and papers on tables will be replaced by 24 hour slips. Any piles that do not have an up to date slip will be removed to trolleys positioned by the stairs on each floor.

When you leave any material on a desk, whether books, papers or other belongings, they should be left neatly in a single pile, allowing the rest of the desk space to be used by someone else. Untidy piles may be tidied or moved to the trolleys by library staff. We will leave a note if we have done this.

Please be aware that the desks and computers are for the use of all students, and are not reservable for extended periods of time. Also, whilst we appreciate you may wish to have good luck cards or other personal items around you whilst you study, please tidy them away into your pile when you leave for the day.

water bottleFood and drink rules remain the same (only bottled water allowed). We will remove any other items down to the Library office, where you can reclaim them. This includes, but is not limited to, cans of energy drinks, crisps, biscuits etc. Squash and biscuits at 3.30pm on weekdays will start from Tuesday 22nd April. This is your one legitimate excuse to eat biscuits in the library, though only by the door!

Particularly throughout this approaching revision period, please respect all other users of the Library and keep noise to a minimum. Conversations should all be taken outside and phones should be on silent. During the College quiet period it can be a disciplinary offence to disturb your fellow students. During squash and biscuits sessions noise levels may rise slightly for a few minutes, but anyone wanting a proper break and conversation should collect their refreshments and head outside.

biscuit stack with books

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Exam success and study skills

Easter Vacation is drawing near and many of you will be starting to think about exams and revision. We are here to help!

Study skills guidesSome of our borrowable study skills guides are displayed by the self-issue kiosk, and you can find more in our Quick Reference collection (classmark 378).

We have also created a Research Methods & Study Guides board on our Pinterest page for new additions to the collection.

We have a variety of University Counselling Service leaflets on the table by library entrance for you to take away, including topics such as procrastination, perfectionism, and coping with exams.

As always, speak to a member of staff if you have any questions or problems. If you’ve come across a great study guide and would like to recommend it as an addition to the collection, drop us an email at, or fill in the request book at the enquiry desk!

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Research Survival Guide: Slides, links and resources

‘Research Survival Guide: Mastering Your Dissertation or Project’ was an Academic Skills session we ran on 19th February. The slides and links to resources mentioned during the session are below, and we have written up the content of the session in a series of blog posts which are also linked to below.

Links to blog posts:


  • Literature Search Plan – you may find that filling in this plan helps you to structure your literature search in a methodical way.
  • Reference Template – keep a record of the books and articles you are reading so that you have all of the details you need when it comes to referencing them.


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Research Survival Guide Part 3: References and bibliographies

This post follows on from Part 1: The Literature Search and Part 2: Evaluating Resources

Once you are starting to find sources to support your dissertation, you need to think about how you are going to credit these sources in your work.

In this post we will explain why referencing is important, how to go about it, and show you some tools that will make it all a lot easier.

In a Varsity survey, 49% of students admitted to plagiarising while at Cambridge. Some of the reasons given included heavy workloads and pressure to meet deadlines, but many of the people responding to the survey said it hadn’t been made clear to them what counted as plagiarism and what was okay. 13% did not know that failing to cite their sources would be considered plagiarism. If you use someone else’s ideas or argument, whether it is directly quoted or paraphrased in your own words, whether the other person is an author or one of your friends that you have collaborated with, you must give a proper acknowledgement to that person.

The reason for this is that all academic writing is a dialogue. Your arguments will have more weight if they are supported by other authors. You are building on other people’s work so you must give them credit, and give enough information that your reader could follow up the reference to find out more. In turn, you would expect to get recognition for the hard work you’ve done yourself. One day in the not too distant future your dissertation, thesis or articles you write may be being quoted by others, including students.

There are lots of different referencing styles you can use, which will differ in how the references are laid out on the page, the punctuation and so on. Whichever style you use the purpose is the same, to acknowledge wherever in your essay you are using someone else’s ideas. However most departments will have a preferred referencing style. Check with your departmental secretary or department library if you are not sure.

Referencing requires two things. Firstly, you need in-text references. These can either be in brackets in the text itself, or you can use footnotes or endnotes.

In-text referencesFootnotes and endnotes are pretty much the same thing, footnotes come at the bottom of each page and endnotes all come together at the end of the document.

As well as in-text references whenever you cite a source, you will also need a list of all the sources you used when researching the essay. This is called a bibliography, and it will usually come right at the end of the essay with any appendices.

BibliographyA lot of people leave referencing and the bibliography until last, doing it right before they hand in their essay. But it is so much easier if you keep track of references as you go along. When you’re making notes, every time you write down a quote or jot down a paraphrase of the author’s argument, also make a note of where it came from and the page number. Every time you read a new article or book on your topic, make a note of all the details you will need to cite this source in your essay. This is the information you need to jot down:

  • For books… author/editor, full title, page numbers, publisher, date and location of publication, edition
  • For essays/chapters in an edited work… author and title of the essay/chapter, editor of whole book, full title of the book, page numbers, publisher, date and location of publication, edition.
  • For articles… author, article title, page numbers, journal title, date, volume/issue/number of the journal.
  • For websites… author, date of publication, website title, full web address, date accessed.

As you can see, you are giving your reader enough information to find the exact passage you are referring to if they want to read more. The exact format of your references will depend on what style you are using, so find out what your department’s preferred style is. You can then have a look at a style guide to see what the exact format should be for each different type of source.

You can keep track of your references manually, and you may find this template useful for recording your references. Other methods for keeping track of references manually include index cards, or a spreadsheet or word document. If you’re keeping your list in electronic form I’d recommend keeping it in cloud storage for example Dropbox or Google Drive, so that you can view it and add to it whenever you like, from any computer.

However another option is to use a reference management app that will do all of the hard work for you. It will even create your bibliographies automatically. There are lots of tools available, all of which do a similar thing with various bells and whistles. At a basic level, a reference manager is a database of your references, which will allow you to easily export them into bibliographies. Zotero and Mendeley are two of the most popular free options, and they’re quite powerful little programmes.

Both Zotero and Mendeley have the following features in common:

  • Desktop application – Windows/Mac/Linux
  • ‘Cite while you write’ plug-ins for the most popular word-processing programmes
  • Ability to create groups to share references, PDFs, comments etc. with peers
  • Back-up and synchronisation across different devices

The main difference between these two is the interface, and you’ll probably naturally prefer one over the other. However these other feature differences are worth noting:

  • Zotero is alternatively available as a Firefox extension (data is still stored locally)
  • Mendeley has an official iPad/iPhone app, with 3rd party apps available for Android. No official Zotero apps, but 3rd party available for both Android and iOS.
  • Mendeley has a PDF annotation feature.

This table gives a detailed comparison of 5 different reference managers, including Zotero and Mendeley.

We have made a screencast of Zotero in action, so you can get an idea of how easy it is to drop references into your essay and create a bibliography at the end. (This is the Firefox add-on version of Zotero with the Microsoft Word plug-in. Other versions will look slightly different but do the same thing.) For best results view full-screen and in HD (click on the settings wheel in the bottom right and select 720p or higher).

Clicking on the Zotero icon in the bottom right corner of the browser window opens up your reference database. Every reference you’ve ever saved is stored in your library, and you can also sort them into collections, which allows you to group references for a particular essay together.

When you are on a webpage which has information that you might want to cite, an icon will appear in the address bar. For example when you are looking at a book on LibrarySearch or Amazon, a blue book icon will appear. When you are looking at a journal article on JSTOR or reading an article on the Guardian website, an article icon will appear. Clicking on the icon will add the reference to Zotero. You will now find it in your unfiled items, and you can drag it into a collection.

There are cite-while-you-write plug-ins for all of the common word-processing programs, which allow you to drop the references into your essay while you’re typing it. Whenever you want to insert a citation you just click a button in the toolbar and a window will pop up with options for choosing the referencing style you want. Then you can search for the reference you want within your library, and in seconds the reference is there in your essay.

At the end of your essay you need to include a bibliography with all of the sources you used. Again, Zotero makes this very easy. As you’ve grouped your references into collections for each essay, you can just right click on the collection folder and generate a bibliography of everything in that collection. You can choose the referencing style, and you have the option to save the bibliography as a new file, print it, or copy and paste it directly into your essay.

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Research Survival Guide Part 2: Evaluating Resources

This post follows on from Part 1: The Literature Search

Once you’ve gathered results you need to consider what to do with them. In most instances there is no way you can read everything on the list, and some of it won’t turn out to be relevant. So, ask first, is it for an essay or for a dissertation? This will impact on how many sources you should look at.

You then need to evaluate your sources.

For books and ebooks use Heritage or LibrarySearch to find copies. If you are unsure whether the book will be useful, take a look at the ebook where one is available. This will save having to get hold of a physical copy of the book from the Library.

Ask questions such as:

  • Why was the book written? – was it to inform, to persuade, to entertain, to teach or to provide an overview of an area?
  • Who published the book? – was it a university press, commercial publisher, government, professional association, a campaign group?
  • Is the book well organised? Do the contents or index indicate you are likely to find material you need?
  • When was it published? Consider the date if this is relevant to your subject. For English literature, history, theology, age may be no barrier to good content, for science subjects and law etc., making sure you have the most up to date information on the subject is key to a good piece of work.
  • Has the book got a bibliography? If so, does it cover primary sources? If you find a good book that has a bibliography don’t forget to use that as another source for finding useful material.
  • For what sort of audience is the book aimed? i.e general reader, students, specialists, researchers?

Many of the questions above apply equally well to journal articles. We recommend accessing articles via LibrarySearch+, and within the results you can limit your search to ‘peer reviewed’ articles which have been evaluated by other academics. You can also use the options on the left to limit your search in a number of other ways, including date ranges.

Peer-reviewed journals in LibrarySearch+

Bear in mind that the majority of articles in LibrarySearch+ are available to you, but for some you can only access an abstract. Again, if in doubt ask a librarian to avoid paying wherever possible.

In some subjects, particularly the social science subjects, you made need to find more current information than journal articles can provide. Newspapers are a good source of recent information, and you can find newspaper articles on LibrarySearch+ and also through the LexisNexis database.

Bias in newspapers is definitely to be considered, particularly political bias. Most papers are fairly openly and obviously in support of one political party over another, so bear that in mind and look at multiple sources rather than relying on just one.

Google and Google Scholar can be incredibly powerful tools for gathering together resources that might be useful for your literature search. But what you need to recognise and compensate for, is that Google, and even Google Scholar, have no academic filters. They will bring you results, but with no indication of how trustworthy or accurate the contents are.

However you can use Google’s Advanced Search to limit searches. A particularly good one for some of you will be to limit the results to sites with certain web address endings such as and .edu for University sites, or .gov, for official government sites. .org sites are more complicated – they tend to signify charities or other non-profit organisations, but this does not mean the content is without quite heavy bias at times.

So what can you do when faced with websites that you need to assess?

Let’s say you need to find out information about Homeopathy. A quick google search will bring up lots of results, including quite a number of official sounding bodies. Let’s have a closer look at some of these sites to see how you can assess them.

Start off with some of the same questions you asked of a book:

  • Why was the site written?
  • Who wrote the site?
  • When was it last updated?
  • Who is the target audience?

Let’s start with Wikipedia:

Homeopathy article on WikipediaWe’ve got a long article here, but in the opening paragraphs we can see homeopathy described as “nonsense, quackery or a sham”. That’s a fairly good indicator of the attitude of this article, but of course bear in mind that many people can edit this page, so the bias of it may change at intervals. Usually Wikipedia notes at the top of a page if the article seems to be particularly contentious, but don’t assume because the information is crowd sourced and indeed well-referenced at times, that it is entirely correct. It can change in an instant.

So how about the NHS, their page must be neutral surely?

Well yes, pretty much, but of course the NHS bases its opinion on scientific evidence and medical opinion, hence their description of homeopathy as a ‘treatment’ in inverted commas…

Homeopathy page on the NHS websiteSo what about other official organisations?

The Homeopathy Research Institute has an entire research database listing relevant articles:

Homeopathy Research InstituteBut consider, what journals have these articles been published in? And are they peer-reviewed or likely to have a bias. Also, does this research database contain references to any articles which give negative conclusions?

How about other groups with a viewpoint? The 10.23 group has a clear bias that you can’t miss…

10.23 Group websiteTheir information is one-sided and not referenced with any sources. However, it may be worth taking note of their mass overdose protest as a form of evidence against the effects of homeopathy.

So what are we to conclude? Well, for homeopathy at least, most websites have an intentional or discrete bias, so looking at a number of sites is advisable. This will be true for any even slightly contentious topic – consider political research into the Arab Spring, the continuing, though discredited, furore around the MMR vaccine and autism, or even historical portrayals of prominent figures like Richard III.

It’s important to ask why a webpage has been created? What is the motivation of the author? And it’s always worth clicking around a few pages of a site to understand their argument or confirm their neutrality. If there is an about us or FAQ page that may quickly provide you with that information.

What else? These days, the design quality of a website says nothing for the credibility of content, lots of people have the ability to put together a shiny website. Neither does the web address. A healthy level of cynicism is the best way to approach websites, even something like the BBC.

One final thing to note with websites. Statistics in particular are something to be wary of online, unless coming from an official website (and even then keep a critical head on as to how they may have been manipulated to show the best result), or from a website clearly citing their sources or numbers. Wherever possible try to locate the raw data from which the statistics have been derived. Remember, 74% of statistics are made up on the spot.*

*that may have been made up.

Read on for Part 3: References and Bibliographies

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Research Survival Guide Part 1: The Literature Search

You all use libraries and electronic resources to complete work for supervisions, so you may feel quite confident in your ability to find material – but how often are you simply finding material from a reading list provided to you? What we want to do in these blog posts is give you extra tools to ensure that you find as much material as possible for your dissertation or project but also for your general weekly work.

Let’s first think about where you are going to be looking for material.

For physical material, like books, the University library catalogues are the best place to start. LibrarySearch collates information on material held in most of the libraries across Cambridge. You will have access to your College Library, departmental or faculty Library and the University Library. You may also be able to gain access to other departmental or faculty libraries if there is material they hold that you can’t otherwise read. The same may be true of College libraries as well. The best thing is always to contact a library and ask whether you can come to look at the material – the worst that can happen is they say no, but often they will say yes.

Ask us to buy books!If there is material that is not available anywhere in Cambridge it’s also worth talking to faculty or departmental librarians, and your College librarians about whether it is something they would purchase or could order in using an inter-library loan. A lot will depend on how expensive an item is and whether it is in print. In College libraries we tend to want to buy books that will be of use to a number of students over the years, some more obscure texts are usually better placed in faculty libraries.

For electronic material there is nothing wrong with starting to search using Google or Google Scholar. Both will bring back an awful lot of references, but bear in mind that not all results may be freely available to you. If there is an article or database that you can’t seem to access do ask a librarian so we can check whether you can get free access. Whatever you do don’t get your credit card out before double-checking!

Particularly in some art subjects, also consider whether there are primary sources that you can access. For History of Art that might be a visit to the Fitzwilliam Museum, for Music or English lit there might be something in the University Library, or for History don’t forget that there are practically as many archives as libraries in Cambridge.

So let’s start the literature search. When you are starting a dissertation or project, perhaps even before you settle on a title, you will need to do a thorough literature search. Firstly, is there enough material relating to your subject for you to be able to produce the piece of work required? If your literature search only turns up a couple of articles, perhaps that is a topic for PhD-level research instead! You need to ensure that the topic you choose is realistic. Your supervisor may steer you on this to some extent, but looking at what has already been written round the subject will also give you a good guide. There’s no need to make life difficult for yourself from the start!

If you set yourself a really broad topic, there will obviously be a lot more literature out there to sift through. It’s very unlikely that you can read everything, so a bit later on you need to be discerning. But first of all you need to cast your net as wide as possible to find everything that might be useful. Then you can filter it down.

Knowing exactly what to search for can be tricky. Randomly putting search terms into the catalogue as you think of them is not the best strategy! In order to show you have a good grasp of your topic, you will need to conduct your research methodically. Think about your research topic – what question are you asking? Or, if you don’t quite know yet, what is your topic area. Break the research question or topic down into the key concepts that you will need to search for, like this:

Concept map for literature searches

Think of different ways to express each concept. Identify synonyms and variant spellings to make sure your search is as thorough as possible. Consider whether American or European researchers use slightly different terms.

Here’s an example:

Concept map for literature searches - example

In the example above there are question marks after ‘youth’, ‘adolescent’ and ‘teen’. In Heritage or LibrarySearch the ? is a wildcard character so if you search for Teen? you will get results containing the words teen, teenage, teenager, teenagers etc. If you were to put the ? at the start of the word you would get results including thirteen, fourteen, fifteen etc.

At the start of your literature search, make a list like this (You can use this template to help you), and use these terms to search the catalogue. Go through the list methodically, crossing off search terms when you have exhausted them. You will almost certainly come across new terms while you are reading, which you can add to the list. You may also want to note down any specific authors or journals that you are already aware of in your research area, authors’ names in particular can be very useful search terms.

If you are getting too many irrelevant search results you may need to refine your search – think about whether the terms you are using may be too general.

On the other hand if you’re not getting many results or aren’t getting any at all, try removing keywords or choosing a more general term. And don’t forget to check your spelling!

And remember there are more resources out there for you than books – consider journal articles, newspaper reports, databases, Google scholar, the web. Depending on your topic you may need to look quite widely.

Read on for Part 2: Evaluating Resources

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Navigating the Information Jungle: Slides, links and resources

‘Navigating the Information Jungle’ was an Academic Skills session we ran on 5th February. The slides and links to resources mentioned during the session are below, and we have written up the content of the session in a series of blog posts which are also linked to below.

Links to blog posts:


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