Library Services


Science Library review

7 November 2022

Kristy Campbell, IOE PhD Student, tells us why she recommends UCL Students should visit the Science Library.

Science Library entrance gates

When I first went searching for the UCL Science Library, I found myself marching the wrong way up Malet Place until I was stopped by a kind face outside Birkbeck who pointed me towards what I like to pretend is UCL’s answer to Diagon Alley (Harry Potter ref).

Entering the gates, I was greeted with a welcoming smile and a nod. I walked in awe through the student haven, busy with talkative budding scholars as they reflected enthusiastically on the classes they had just poured out of. Queues extended into the walkway as the clock struck lunchtime and the smell of coffees and pizza, and all things delicious whirled around infusing the area.

I tapped my student ID at the entrance of the building and walked into the great expanse of brightly lit up space. Unlike most of the libraries I have visited at UCL thus far, this library had a café, so you can guess my next stop.

There were a few of us in the café with laptops out enjoying a much-needed autumn afternoon steamy tea (admittedly, I also had a slice of millionaire shortbread). The atmosphere was just quiet enough to continue working in, with the occasional burst of laughter or loud sigh from a table of students catching up in their break. As people passed by outside, they would tap on the window at their peers, smiling and waving. Sitting in the café felt a little bit like being in a goldfish bowl, surrounded by windows looking out at the bustling and blustery outdoors and on the other side toward a hushed still media centre.

I stepped back into the great skeleton of the library, which housed what appeared to be a stream of study spaces above and below the mezzanine floor. The place was decked with computer screens, photocopiers, and a set of glorious vending machines with a serious selection of Mini-Cheddars and Nature Valley bars. I walked towards the Help Desk and asked, where are all the books?

Once more I was politely pointed in the way of my mystery location. With the knowledge that there were four floors of books to follow, I was relieved by the presence of the lift. The stairwell was a delight however, great wide steps lined with walls of varnished wood - all the colouring of a Bauhaus design, with the composition of a Mondrian painting.

This pleasure continued into the many library spaces; row after row of books, each room dedicated to another subject; multiple prints and editions organised neatly as far as the eye could see. I spotted Biology, Zoology, Psychology, amongst other -ologies! Door after door I was struck with more, taller shelves of archives, each time I felt like Alice in Wonderland but somehow found that I had entered Narnia.

The many study spaces were filled with students, who sat scribbling away behind books piled high. I was acutely aware of the silence, though I did bear witness to the intermittent cleared throat, a turned page, and the ‘ah-ha’ moment. There were group spaces, individual desks, students sat by bookshelves reading, study pods, and a postgraduate cluster. I spotted a number of notice boards on my exploration too, as well as some infinitely useful signposts as I disappeared further into the maze of collections.

If you want to delve into the Science Library properly, put aside a (very) long afternoon. I couldn’t recommend a better way to indulge in the feeling of being a student at UCL than by pulling up a pew in this treasured building. Whether you’re looking to borrow learning materials, print journals, or technical equipment, the library has it covered. There is a self guided virtual tour available on the Science Library webpage to prepare you for your visit, otherwise enjoy the adventure!

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