The Maitland Robinson Library

Due to COVID-19 the library has been closed since Friday 20 March 2020. 

Library access during Michaelmas Term 2020

We are currently working on plans to make our resources available through a Request & Collect service.  We hope to be able to open the space up to readers further down the line once appropriate precautions are established and in place. 

Outstanding loans

All of our library books can be returned to the Downing Porters.  You may also return our books using the University Library’s returns service.  Books can be taken to two drop boxes on the Sidgwick site, indicated on this map or the UL’s drop off point which is open 10.15am-3.45pm.  All of these will accept Downing library books but there may be additional delays in our receiving items returned via the UL.  These delays will not incur fines.


You will not be liable for any fines currently showing or those that may have accrued whilst staff have been furloughed and the library has been closed.  All fines from this period will be waived.

2020 leavers

If you have left Cambridge but still have Downing library books we will be very grateful if you are able to return the books to the College by post or courier

No special arrangements for these returns are currently in place but please check this page for updates in the coming weeks.

Further information and help

The building

The Maitland Robinson Library was designed by Quinlan Terry and opened in 1993.  It is a private library, available for use by all current members of the College.

The library catalogue

The library catalogue can be accessed via the OPACs (online public access catalogues) in the library and it is also available online: (a Raven password is required).  When searching the catalogue use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to increase search results and for greater precision.

To reserve books or view and renew your current loans you will need your 'Reader code'.  This can be found on the back of your University card under the barcode.

NB: Downing library books are NOT searchable on iDiscover but you can find a vast range of online resources (including many full text ebooks) and other information through the iDiscover portal.


  • ‘Cataloguing’ books: ask staff if you want to use a book listed as 'cataloguing' - either pop in or email and we will make it available to you as soon as possible.  There are many books in the process of cataloguing and we want to know which ones to prioritise for you!
  • The MFD is now in the basement book stacks.  You will find it just inside the door furthest from the lift.
  • The library welcomes purchase recommendations for books for your studies.  You can find book recommendation forms at the front desk, or email the College Librarian:  If you find that many of your core texts are not held by the library it may be useful to send us your reading list, if possible letting us know how many Downing students are taking the paper.
  • Short library induction tours can be arranged by speaking to library staff or emailing  Individuals or small groups (especially tripos-based) are welcome to prearrange tours.  Drop-in inductions will also often be possible during staffed hours, please ask.
  • We have a number of ex-library and donated books that are free to collect.  You will find them to your right as you come into the library through the revolving doors. 
  • In response to readers’ suggestions the library has purchased a number of wooden book rests for use within the library.  You will be able to find them in the shelving units facing the lift on the ground floor (within the staff area) – do help yourself (and please box & return them when done)!
  • We are receiving various periodicals via the SCR, including The Economist, New Scientist, New Statesman, Spectator and others. These can be found on the reverse of the new books display, near the self-issue terminal - back issues can be found by lifting the display shelves.

Computer facilities

There are MCS computers on the ground and first floors (two on each floor).

Readers can bring in personal laptops. Sockets are available in the floor throughout the library.

The library is a wireless environment with Eduroam and UniOfCam access.

A combined printer, photocopier and scanner (multi-function device, or MFD) is located in the basement book stacks. Instructions are available here or at the library front desk.

Borrowing and renewals

The pre-set borrowing limit is 20 books; to borrow more please come to the issue desk during staffed hours.

During full term the loan period is two weeks (until 'return of all books day' each term, see below). Books can also be borrowed over the vacations and are then due on the first Monday of full term.

Books can be renewed online through the library catalogue until they become overdue. Once the due date is passed there is a three-day grace period before fines are applied.  Fines are charged at £1 per book per week, and go on to your College bill.

Please contact library staff, by email or in person, to request a renewal of overdue books. This can also be done by replying to overdue notification emails.

Where in-demand books are required over the vacation, advance notice to the library can be helpful in ensuring there are enough copies for everyone.  Please email the College Librarian as early as possible:

Unless you have made arrangements in advance (emailing, please return all loans by the last Wednesday of full term, ‘return of all books day’.  Holiday borrowing will begin the following morning at 10am.

Opening times

The library is open 24 hours a day – access is with a valid University card.

Staffed hours: weekdays 9.30am – 5.30pm (excluding lunch).

Weekends during full term will be staffed by student library supervisors from 11.30am – 5.30pm.

Certain services, such as access to locked cabinet books, are only available during staffed hours.

Outside of full term the library continues to be staffed for the most part between 9.30am - 5.30pm, albeit more variably.


Alumni and other visitors with an interest in the College may at times be permitted to view the building’s interior, particularly the central staircase and the archive exhibitions.  Consideration for library readers will be paramount at all times and access will be allowed only with a minimum of disruption.  University term dates can be found here, and should be taken into account when considering a visit.  Please bear in mind that it is a locked library so you will need assistance to enter.

For requests to view rare books or manuscripts, as well as any other questions and queries, please email the College Librarian: