The main staircase in OWL library - Photo: © John Cairns -

Facilities & Services for Students

Opening hours

The working libraries are open as follows:

Term-time and vacation opening hours

Old Warden's Lodgings (OWL)

  • Daily, 07:30 to 02:00
  • OWL is staffed Monday to Friday, 09:00 to 12:00 noon and 13:00 to 17:00

Mob Lower Library

  • Daily, 07:30 to 02:00

Members of Merton College

All members of Merton College are automatically registered to use the College Library.  Please contact a member of staff if you experience any difficulties using your University card to borrow books.

Non-members of Merton College

The College is happy to provide reference access to current publications not held in any of the University libraries.  It essential to contact the library in advance of your visit to arrange an appointment. Please bring your university card with you.

Facilities and current collections

"In general over my whole degree course I have really loved working in the college library especially OWL; it has a friendly atmosphere and staff are generally helpful. Will miss it when I leave!"
Undergraduate Classics finalist, 2013

The working library is in two locations.  Current books, periodicals, and DVDs for use by members of the college are housed in both the Old Warden's Lodgings (OWL) in Merton Street and in the Lower Library in Mob Quadrangle (Mob). The Old Warden’s Lodgings is an impressive Edwardian building that retains domestic features, such as the original fireplaces and window seats, which make for a welcoming, pleasant study environment. The windows in the Mob Library look out onto the Chestnut Lawn. WiFi in both libraries provides convenient access to the internet. Both libraries provide multi-function machines for photocopying, printing, and scanning.

Priority is given to keeping library collections up-to-date, with an emphasis on main texts for undergraduates and taught postgraduate courses. All members of college are encouraged to suggest books for purchase, and staff are happy to help locate useful resources in print or digital formats and to provide access and assistance with the use of archives, manuscripts and special collections.

In addition to the main collection of academic material, the library has smaller collections for lighter reading and student interest: recently-published prize-winning books, an Equality and Diversity collection containing non-academic works on gender, sexuality, disability, race and religion, and books on academic skills and welfare issues.

The Upper Library in Mob Quadrangle preserves its beautiful 16th-century furnishings, and includes an exhibition area featuring changing displays from the college’s historic collections. Tours of the Upper Library are free for Mertonians and their guests; check with the Lodge for days and times.

Consultation of special collections

Archives, Manuscripts, Early printed books, other special collections

If you would like to schedule a research visit to consult manuscripts, archives, rare books or other special collections, please complete the research visit request form indicating the material you would like to consult. Please provide full descriptions, titles or reference numbers, where known.

4 September until mid-November 2023: many early printed books will not be accessible during this period due to conservation work being undertaken on the library’s windows.  It is essential to contact library staff before planning a visit in order to check whether the items you wish to see will be available.

Research consultations normally take place Wednesdays – Fridays, 10:00am–12:00 noon and 1:30pm-4:30pm. An appointment is essential and places may be limited at busy times of year (for example, during the first half of July). Please also be aware that research access in Trinity Term is very limited, and researchers are advised to contact the Librarian well in advance of their planned visit.

Please read the rules for readers (also available in PDF format) and our guidelines on the use of book supports (also available in PDF format) in advance of your visit.

Imaging services

Ordering Images

Digital images, photographic prints, slides and transparencies for private study and for publications may be ordered by completing the Application for Photographic and Digital Reproductions. You will then be advised of options and charges relating to the format of reproduction you require.

Permission to Publish

Permission to publish images of items in Merton’s collections must be requested by completing the Publication Permission form or Electronic Publication Permission form. Permission requests made directly via email cannot be accepted. Please note that 'publication' refers to publication in any media, including websites. General conditions relating to publication permissions are listed on the relevant forms. All requests must be approved by the Governing Body of the college which meets three times per term and you are advised to make such requests well in advance of publication deadlines.

Reader assistance & support

Merton College Library aims to provide the best access possible for members and readers. The library reading rooms are split between Mob Quad and the Old Warden’s Lodgings (OWL). Mob lower library has step-free access, though the small computer room is accessed via one small step. Access to the ground floor of OWL from a street-level entrance can be arranged on request.

Prospective students or visitors with disabilities who have queries about the facilities and services available are invited to contact the Deputy Librarian.

Further access information about Merton College can be found in the University Access Guide.

Equipment available for use

The following equipment is available for use:

In OWL (by self-issue machine unless otherwise stated):

  • 11 coloured sheet overlays
  • 10 coloured reading rulers
  • 3 magnifying glasses and 1 magnifier on a stand
  • 1 magnifying sheet
  • 1 magnifier on stand
  • 1 ruler magnifier
  • 2 whiteboard kits (A3 size)
  • 2 lumbar support cushions
  • 2 square cushions
  • 2 metal laptop stands
  • 3 desk lamps (LED, dimmable) – 1 each in History, Classics/Philosophy, Sciences/Modern Languages and Law
  • 1 portable hearing loop – kept behind enquiry desk
  • 2 portable disc drives (USB) – please speak to staff to borrow one
  • 2 pairs of headphones - please speak to staff to borrow a pair
  • 1 USB keyboard
  • 1 USB mouse
  • Single-use earplugs
  • 1 electric height-adjustable desk (in OWL computer room)
  • 3 biochemistry kits
  • Wooden bookstands can be found in most reading rooms
  • Colour paper for printing (available on request)

In Mob:

  • 1 tabletop standing desk
  • 1 electric height-adjustable desk
  • 2 desk lamps (LED, dimmable)
  • 1 metal laptop stand
  • Colour paper for printing (available on request)