Skip to main content Skip to footer

The Ashby Library


During Michael Stoker’s presidency (1980-1987) and to honour Eric Ashby, a founding and honorary fellow of Clare Hall, a special-purpose library was created in Elmside that overlooked the Fellows’ Garden; funds for this venture were provided by Obert Tanner, a generous benefactor of the college, who had also provided funds for the Ashby lectures.  Formerly, this area had been dubbed the ‘magic room’ on account of the activities of the original owner of the house, Walter William Rouse Ball, a Cambridge mathematician, and lawyer, who founded the Pentacle Club in 1919, one of the world’s oldest magic societies. His legacy survives in the beautiful stained-glass windows incorporating magical words and numbers.

At the outset it was decided that the library would be dedicated to celebrating the scholarship of the college, that is the published books, and, in some exceptional cases, papers written and edited by fellows, life members and students. The rationale for this decision was that the university library was only a stone’s throw away and other departmental libraries with specialist literature were within range; moreover, the college was of postgraduate status with at the time only a few doctoral students. Thus, by its very nature, the library reflects the intellectual pulse of the college and the academic personalities of many past and present distinguished scholars.


Currently the Ashby Library comprises approximately two and half thousand books mainly donated by past and present members of Clare Hall.  The wide-ranging research interests of both fellows and students are well reflected in the multidisciplinary nature of the books. Any member who is the author or co-author of a book is invited to give a signed copy to the College.

The Ashby Library has an annexe (Gillian Beer House, West Court) that holds three important collections: The Cass Collection (846 CUP volumes) covering a wide range of disciplines across the Arts and Sciences; The Consciousness Collection (300 books) charting the history of 70+ years of research by the world’s leading experts into the nature and mechanisms of consciousness; and The Tanner Lectures on Human Values (31 volumes).

The Ashby Library also holds an extensive collection of academic English books that support the development of study and academic writing skills. We are grateful to Emeritus Fellow Dr Rosie Luff for her development of this collection and donation of many of the titles to the library. The holdings in this collection are located in the library foyer.

Using the library

The library provides an attractive and comfortable workplace for a limited number of Fellows and students (about 25 individuals). There are power sockets and WI-FI throughout the library and its vicinity. Given its open plan, members are asked to be considerate of others and to understand this is a quiet area. Food and drink are prohibited in the library.

There is 24-hour electronic card access, 7 days a week, throughout the year for Clare Hall members.

Organise your library slots via Booker.

The books are arranged alphabetically by author starting with the cabinets immediately to the left of the entrance into the Ashby Room. A to M are in the Ashby Room, while N to Z are housed immediately outside. Large volumes are held with Study 11 (S11) within the Ashby Room. Please explore the library catalogue for further details.

Borrowing and returning books

In order to borrow a book, please complete the below form. Books can be borrowed up to four at a time for a loan period of two weeks. Books can be renewed by email. Non-members may use the library by arrangement; however, non-members are not allowed borrowing rights. This is in accordance with the library borrowing policies of other College Libraries of the University of Cambridge. Books can be returned to the library by depositing them in the box on top of carrel number 9, by the library entrance. Please contact us for any further assistance required.

Ashby Library book borrowing form

Books can be borrowed up to four at a time for a two-week loan period. Loans can be renewed for up to 30 days unless required by another reader.

MM slash DD slash YYYY
Clare Hall affiliation(Required)