skip to content

Institute of Astronomy


Library Guide

Introduction and general information

This guide is intended to provide an introduction to all aspects of the library in the Institute of Astronomy. It is aimed at the regular user of the library, whether a member of the institute, or of another department within the University.

The Library is located on the Institute of Astronomy site in the old Observatory building.

Library Office is Open Mon-Fri 09.30-13.00 hrs ONLY.  Users should enquire before visiting to avoid disappointment.

The library is available to external readers during these hours, access outside these times being limited to members of the institute who may use all collections on open access. Visitors without an Institute Key are advised to make an appointment in order to avoid days when the Library is unstaffed and locked.

Library Catalogue (iDiscover)


Library users

All members of the institute are welcome to use and borrow from the library. If you have not used the library before, please introduce yourself before you borrow items for the first time.

Postgraduate students and staff from other departments within the university may also borrow from the library. We regret that, in order to maintain the availability of the collection for our own staff, we may have to restrict the loan period.

Undergraduate students may use the library for reference facilities, but may not borrow, except with permission from the Information Manager. There are collections of the books on the astrophysics reading list kept permanently available in Room B and in the Hoyle library area.

Any others engaged in bonafide research who wish to use the library for reference purposes should apply to the Information Manager.


Collections and their location

  • The main collection of books is housed in room A and the Annexe, together with physics, mathematics and computing books in room B.
  • There are two sets of Undergraduate textbooks one set is in room B, the other in the Hoyle Building. Please do not borrow these books so that they are always available for student use.
  • Current periodicals are held in room C, with an overflow each side into rooms B and D.
  • Star atlases and catalogues are found in the Michael Penston Room, while some large format atlases are in drawers. Please ask a member of staff if you wish to consult this material.
  • Newsletters and annual reports from observatories are in room D. Some of the older copies may be located in the Michael Penston Room.
  • Slides and videocassettes are located in room G. The slides are arranged using a special classification scheme, details of which are located next to the slide collection.
  • Closed-runs of periodicals and observatory publications are in the Michael Penston Room.
  • For DVDs ask in the Library Office.
  • The Researcher Development collection is located in the Hoyle Building libray area.

If you wish to consult other collections which are not listed here then please ask the Information Manager.


The Hoyle Building library area

A small duplicate collection of books and journals is held on the first floor of the Hoyle Building. New books are placed on display here every month. There is also the Researcher Development collection (formerly Transferable Skills), a set of Undergraduate reference books and a display rack.

Finding an item

With some exceptions (eg. the offprint collection), all items within the library are entered on a computerised catalogue, searchable with iDiscover. You will find computer terminals in rooms A and C from which you may access the catalogue. From a computer terminal in the library, select the 'iDiscover' option at the top of the screen, or from any other terminal with a web browser access .

To perform a simple search, enter the term you wish to search under, then click on one of the options, eg: author, title, etc. If you wish to combine terms from more than one field, separate them by the word 'and', then click on the 'search everything' option. Once you have found the item take a note of the 'call number' and location which are shown at the bottom of the catalogue record.

If you are looking for a periodical title, then the alphabetical list on the wall in room C may be quicker.

As the stock in the library is being re-catalogued, there are at present two classification schemes in use. All books in the main collection will have a new classmark: a subject number followed by the first three letters of the authors surname. The sequence is shelved in firstly in numerical order, and then alphabetical order. Periodicals and other items will have an old classmark: a room letter, the case number and shelf number. Case numbers run in a clockwise direction around the room, with shelves being numbered from the top down.

If you cannot find an item on the shelf, then you may check who has borrowed it by using the card file in room C next to the computer terminal. Loan cards for books are filed in alphabetical order by the authors name; those for periodicals by title. If the item is not on the shelf, or not on loan, then please ask a member of library staff.

Borrowing an item

Most items in the library can be borrowed, the only exceptions being books in the reference collection, the undergraduate collection, periodicals on the display rack and new accessions on display in room A. The reference collection and undergraduate textbooks are clearly marked Not to be taken from the library.

To borrow a book or periodical, complete a loan card, with the required details and your surname written clearly. Where there is more than one copy or edition of a book add the copy number (found on a green label on the spine). You can find trays with blank loan cards in the rooms A,B,C, Michael Penston, outside the library office and in the annexe.

Please try to return books as soon as you have finished with them. However, for all members of the institute, the maximum loan period is three months. After this, you should bring any book you wish to renew to the library office. You can also renew books online using iDiscover. To return a book place it in the black tray in room C, do not replace it directly on the shelves or remove the loan card.

The standard loan period is 28 days, but renewals are also available.

If necessary, transfers of an item from one borrower to another are possible. You should complete a new loan card, and underneath your name you should clearly state the name of the original borrower. Please do not alter or remove the original card.

Books not on the catalogue

If you cannot find the title you require on the catalogue, there are a number of possibilities:

  • If you are not sure of the exact bibliographic details, then ask a member of the library staff who may be able to help you find the item.
  • If you think that the title is an important one, then please consider suggesting it for purchase. We welcome suggestions from any library user: either speak to any member of staff, or send an e-mail message to
  • Alternatively, we may be able to obtain the item from another library, either on loan, or as a photocopy. Please ask in the library office if you would like us to do this.


The library also has an extensive collection of offprints of astronomical papers from periodicals not normally held by us. These items are not all entered on the computerised catalogue, but have their own card catalogue in room G (work is ongoing to catalogue all this collection onto Newton). Cards are filed in a single alphabetical sequence by the name of the author, or, in the case of anonymous publications, by the issuing body. Each card has a classmark which refers to the numbered boxes, or will be stamped "ask librarian", in which case you should ask in the office if you wish to consult the item.

Other services


There is a self service photocopier in the library, located near the main entrance. Members of the institute making copies for teaching, research or administration may do so free of charge. Other library users, and those making private copies are asked to pay 3 pence per sheet. In this case you should also fill in the copying register and pay at the library office or reception when you have finished. Please be aware of the terms of the copyright license displayed next to the copier.


An extensive collection of slides is housed in the Michael Penston Room, providing a resource for illustrating lectures and talks. All slides are entered on the computerised catalogue and may be borrowed by entering details in the book near the collection. The institute has facilities for making printed copies of a slide if necessary. Please ask if you need this.

Microfiche and CD-ROMs

There is a small range of titles, principally star catalogues, on Microfiche or CD-ROM. There is a microfiche reader in the Michael Penston Room, and CD-ROMs may be borrowed for use at a computer terminals within the institute. In addition, some journals have been issued with supplements on 'fiche or CD-ROM, in which case they are shelved along with the main journal.

Films (VHS and DVD)

These are held in the Library Office.  Films in DVD or VHS format can be borrowed, providing the borrower agrees to the following rules:

  1. Films may be borrowed on a short-term basis by registered Library users for their own individual private study and non-commercial research.
  2. Films may be borrowed by registered Library users and shown to an audience of University staff and students. Such a showing must be for educational, instructional purposes only. No fee(s) may be charged for the viewing.
  3. Films may not be shown to the general public.
  4. No copies of a film may be made in any format or media. Digital rights management measures such as copy control mechanisms embedded in the media may not be removed for any purpose.

Electronic resources

The field of astronomy is particularly well served with online databases, the most important of which can be accessed via the library's web page.

In addition, major journals are available online, usually without needing a password (from any machine within the institute). For the small number of services which requre a password, normally a University Computing Service Raven account is required.

Library rules: Short Summary

The library rules are displayed on the notice-board in room C, the important points are summarised below.

  • Do not remove any item from the library, even for a short period, without having completed a loan card.
  • You are responsible for any items borrowed in your name until they are returned. Please ensure that if you pass a library book on to someone else a new loan card is completed.
  • To prevent accidental damage, please do not consume food or drink in the library.
  • Please do not hold meetings or supervisions within the library, without first obtaining the Information Managers consent.