Library FAQs

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The purpose of this section is to provide responses to comments and queries which are sometimes raised about the library. But before doing so, it is worth outlining two principles which may be regarded as the context for the guidelines which follow:

The first principle is:

Ask the librarian. If the system isn’t working for you, it is always worth asking the librarian if there is a way round. Sometimes users make assumptions about what is and isn’t possible: it is always worth checking to see if your assumptions are correct. Furthermore, although all libraries need rules in order to operate fairly, in a small library it is easier to be flexible, and while you shouldn’t take the law into your own hands, it is always worth asking to see if an exception can be made.

The second principle is:
The library operates on the basis of trust, and that trust extends to how you behave in the library. Rather than try to legislate for all eventualities, we rely on you to behave with consideration for other library users. Some guidelines on particular issues are offered below, but in the absence of guidelines, we ask you to use the library with appropriate consideration at all times.

“The catalogue says a book is available, but I can’t find it on the shelf”.
This is a common comment, and sometimes it is true that a book is “missing”. On those occasions, my advice is to fill in a Missing Books form (available from the Help Desk or the Librarian’s Office) and I will do a thorough search for it. But often there is another explanation, and these are the most common reasons for not finding a book:

  • The book is on loan (Status information is available on the catalogue).
  • You are looking on the Main Shelves, but the book is a Pamphlet or a Quarto (oversize) and therefore shelved at another location (Location information is also available on the catalogue).
  • The book is on one of the re-shelving trolleys. When a book is discharged, it is placed on one of two trolleys, one in the Main Library (001-263) and one in the Stack Room (264-999), to await re-shelving. Books on the re-shelving trolleys are available for loan.
“Am I allowed to leave books on a desk to come back to?”

The short answer is: within reason. Clearly if you pop out for a short break it is unreasonable for you to have to return all your books, but you also need to consider other users who a) may wish to use your study space, and b) may be looking for books which – according to the catalogue – are available for loan. Here are some guidelines for users who wish to occupy a single study space for multiple sessions.

  • Always leave your study space tidy i.e. in such a state that another library user can use the study space if necessary. In the case of the student computers, you should always log off between sessions.
  • If you have borrowing rights, it is preferable that you borrow (i.e. self-issue) the books you wish to use, so that the catalogue accurately reflects their loan status. If this would take you over your borrowing limit, please have a word with the librarian.
  • If you are leaving books on a desk overnight, please leave a note in a visible place with the following information: your name, today’s date, the loan status of the books. The librarian reserves the right to clear from desks all books which are not on loan, or where this information is not available.
“I would like there to be more copies of books which are on reading lists”

Another common comment. Inevitably a library cannot buy a copy of every reading list book for every student. In consultation with tutors the library buys what we think is an appropriate number of multiple copies (where available), and places one copy of core texts on the Reserve Shelf so that one is always available in the library. The other copies are usually given a 7-day loan period. Sometimes tutors will advise students to buy their own copies. The library is also beginning to purchase e-books where available, but it should be noted that most titles on current reading lists are not available as e-books for library loan.

The reservations system is designed to help students access texts in high demand, but it needs everyone’s cooperation to work effectively. Here are some guidelines for helping the system to run as smoothly as possible:

  • Use the reservation system to plan ahead.
  • Return promptly books which have been reserved by another library user. If you come in once a week, return your books as early in the day as possible.
  • Collect promptly books which are awaiting collection. If you come in once a week, check the Reservations Table as late in the day as possible. It is in no one’s interest for books to sit unclaimed for a period of time.
  • Talk to the librarian. Sometimes I don’t receive reading lists, and sometimes I receive them late – you may be able to help me!
  • Be prepared to be flexible. Reading lists are usually designed to give you some choice. Ask your tutors if you need advice on how essential a particular book is.
  • Be patient. The system isn’t perfect. Your feedback is helpful.
“It irritates me when there are people carrying on a conversation in the library, or talking on their mobile phone”

Understandably. While we don’t have a rule of silence in the library, we do expect people to respect the need of other library users for a quiet space to study. If you are being disturbed, you are quite entitled to ask those concerned to have their conversation elsewhere, or to ask me to do so.

The rule on mobile phone use is the same in the library as in the classroom or chapel. In other words, if you really need to have your phone switched on so as to be contactable in case of emergency, it is best to have it on ‘vibrate’ mode, and you should take it outside the library promptly if you need to speak.

“Can I reserve books for collection?”

The system allows you to reserve books which are "available". However we discourage you from doing this unless you are requesting the postal service. This is because it could confuse library users on site. However if there are multiple copies and some are on loan and some are not, then you are welcome to place a reservation which will be satisfied when a loaned copy is returned.

“What’s the point in reserving a book when it isn’t due back for several weeks, especially around vacations when even 7-day loans seem to be on a long loan?”

It is true that once we get to within a week of the beginning of a holiday period (vacations and half-terms) even 7-day loans are issued to the beginning of the next term or half of term. But don’t assume that books will not be returned before their due date. When books are reserved, the borrower is notified that their book has been reserved, and while I do not insist on the book being returned early, nevertheless most borrowers make a point of giving priority to the reserved book and returning it fairly promptly. So – no guarantees, but it is worth trying.

“Can I bring food into the library?”


“Can I bring a drink into the library?”

Water in a sealed container (flask, bottle, or mug with a lid) is permitted, but no open liquids, no tea, no coffee, no soft drinks – only water.

“The system doesn’t allow me to borrow more books until the books I have returned have been discharged, which is frustrating, especially when the librarian isn’t available to discharge them. Why can’t I discharge my own books?

Actually the system does allow you to borrow more books. It is true that the books you have put in the Returns Box have not yet been discharged from your record, but nevertheless the system is very gracious and will allow you to borrow books beyond your borrowing limit (you will need to watch the screen carefully and acknowledge the messages which pop up). As elsewhere, the system operates on the basis of trust.

The decision to allow library users to self-issue only is a library policy. It is not a technical limitation. Because the library is unstaffed for much of the time, and because many library users are occasional users, the idea is to keep the self-use functions as simple as possible.

“But what about if I want to borrow a book that is in the Returns Box?”

A book in the Returns Box has not been discharged and is therefore not available for loan. I appreciate that this may be frustrating if I am not available to discharge the book for you. For this reason I recruit student volunteers who have the necessary permissions to discharge books on my behalf at specific times when I am not available, including one volunteer from each of the Track 2 year groups to cover Tuesday evenings and residential weekends.

“I’m so sorry, this book is overdue, how much do I owe you?”

There are no fines for overdue books. When a book becomes overdue, you have six days “grace” during which you can continue to borrow and renew books, but after seven days your borrower record will become blocked and you will have to ask the librarian to sort it out for you. Notifications of overdue books are sent out by email on a weekly basis.