The iDiscover catalogue allows you to search for books and other items stocked by libraries, including electronic books and journal articles, and to see and renew items you have on loan.

Advice on catalogue searching

The iDiscover catalogue includes facilities for advanced searching, filtering of search results, and detailed guidance for users.

If you need advice on searching iDiscover, or you do not find the books on the shelves as expected, please do not hesitate to ask Library staff. Remember that books shown as being on the shelf may be in use at a desk without having been borrowed.

Please do not "Login to iDiscover" on the Sidney Library catalogue screens beside the self-service desk, as your account could be accessed by other users after you leave.

Armchair Corner

You will find here novels by such authors as Khaled Hosseini, Frances Hardinge, Rachel Kushner, and Kazuo Ishiguro, as well as poetry, popular non-fiction, and various books by Sidney alumni.

In many cases books will be in this collection because they were shortlisted for a major prize, eg the Man Booker Prize or the Women's Prize for Fiction.

There are also a number of issues of Granta Magazine, in case you fancy an escape into fiction without embarking on a 400-page novel.

All books from the Armchair Corner are issued and renewed for 30 days at a time, regardless of the dates of term, and do not attract overdue charges unless requested by another user.

If you prefer light fiction - crime, horror, etc. - you should approach Cambridgeshire Public Libraries. Your family home does not need to be in Cambridge or Cambridgeshire to join, and you can even join Cambridgeshire Libraries online.


Books are generally borrowed by using the self-issue system, which allows borrowing at all times, although there will be a period, somewhere around 1.00am or 2.00am, when the University Library switches the system off and re-starts it. If you need to borrow at that time, or at any other time when you cannot get the system to work, please use the paper slips provided.

Most books are borrowed for 14 days at a time. DVDs are borrowed for one week. Other exceptions include items from the Armchair Corner. You can note the due date at the time you issue the book, and you will receive a reminder as the due date approaches. You can also log in to iDiscover to see what you have on loan.

DVDs can be borrowed only when the Library Office is staffed. Find the empty box on the display at the foot of the Spiral Staircase, and bring it to the Office. We will exchange it for the duplicate case which contains the disc.

You may have up to 30 books on loan at any given time, but during the first hour of vacation borrowing, please restrict yourself to 10 books in order to keep the queues reasonably manageable.


Books may be renewed using iDiscover. Books which have been recalled may not be renewed, and all items should be brought back to the Library Office after 3 renewals.

Unlike some libraries, we do not automatically renew books until the borrower's graduation date. Our process of borrowing, renewing and returning keeps books in active circulation, and allows them in due course to be discovered again on the shelves.

On the last Wednesday of term, all books are normally due for return, but since 2020, the computer system has allowed them to be renewed instead. It would be very helpful if books could be returned to the Library Office (you can borrow them again if you wish) if they have been on loan for a long time - if you know you have renewed them more than 3 times, for instance.


If Library staff are in the Office, please hand books directly to them. They can then return them on the system immediately, and put them out for shelving. Items awaiting shelving can be borrowed exactly as normal.

If the Library Office is unstaffed, please return the books at the self-service desk, according to the instructions there. If you prefer, books can be left in the "Returned Books" cupboard beside the Library Office. In that case, please protect the book(s) with padded envelopes, or put rubber bands around them. Both envelopes and rubber bands are provided, and will help protect the books as they fall into the cupboard. The cupboard will be opened, and the books taken out and returned on the system, as soon as Library staff return to the Office.

If you are returning DVDs or CDs it is best to hand them to staff, or leave them in the Library pigeonhole at the Porters' Lodge, since a falling copy of Kandel's "Principles of neural science" could probably sink a punt, never mind crack a DVD.

Vacation borrowing (if in operation)
  • Everything except books from the Armchair Corner should be returned by the last Wednesday of termVacation borrowing begins at 12 noon on the last Thursday of Michaelmas and Lent terms, and at 1pm on the last Thursday of Easter term.
  • Please observe the last Wednesday return date, which may not be reflected in the due dates on iDiscover.
  • Items borrowed from the last Thursday onwards will be due for return, or possibly renewal, on the first Wednesday of the following term. Due dates will be updated manually by Library staff where necessary.

The purpose of vacation borrowing is to provide fair access to books which are about to leave Cambridge for the vacation, by having them all returned and shelved, and opening the Library / allowing borrowing at a known time. Please return everything by the last Wednesday of term, so that the whole process runs smoothly for everyone. If you need to retain a book in order to complete an essay etc please contact the Librarian in advance. Changing circumstances of the pandemic are likely to affect the process described above.

Recommendations and requests

Use the online form for book recommendations or email Library staff. Please bear in mind that the Library buys things mainly for the Foundation Year and Part I of the Tripos, so cannot cover all the needs of Part II or Postgraduate courses. Recommendations become requests if you indicate that you yourself wish to use a book which you think should be in our stock.

Recommend a book etc to the UL

Recommendations submitted to the UL for books, journals or databases may also be referred to your department's librarian as part of the decision-making process.

Please see the University's guide to document delivery services, which may be helpful to you.


Items already in stock, but not on the shelf, can be recalled. This will shorten the item's loan period, and the user who has it will have to bring it back earlier than they expected. We will monitor the system for such recalls, but you are strongly advised to contact Library staff anyway, since we may be able to arrange faster supply than can be provided by the recall process alone.

Please note that if you are reluctant to recall a book, we cannot give you the name of the person who has it, even if you strongly suspect that you already know. What we can do is to advise them that you are interested in seeing or sharing the book, and leave it up to them to reveal themselves by contacting you, if they wish. If you are a member of Sidney Sussex, you will find a web form for transferring borrowing from one user to another on the Library section of Sidnet, should you and the other user agree to do that.

Guidance on requesting and renewing on iDiscover (PDF 828 KB)

Inter-library loans

If the thing you need is not in stock here, not in stock elsewhere in Cambridge, and not available for us to buy, you still need not despair. The UL can probably help with an Inter-library loan. A similar service may also be available via your department's library - it would certainly be worth checking.

Current charges (subject to change)
  • Overdue books and DVDs are charged at 25p per day.
  • Overdue books and DVDs recalled by another user are charged at 50p per day.
  • Charges for lost / damaged Sidney books are dealt with under the Library Regulations.
  • Charges for photocopying / printing done by Library staff, comb binding and postcards can be paid in cash at the Library Office, or added to the user's College Bill, as convenient for the user.