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Getting Started

We provide help and assistance for first time users of the library and our services, including how to find books and online resources, which library to use, printing your work and much more.

Come along to meet us, September/October

Got a question about the library? Come along to meet us in our dedicated "Getting Started" spaces and learn all about our resources available to you.

We'll be at the spaces on weekdays from 18th September - 2nd October, between 10:00 and 16:00 in these locations:

Main Library self guided tour

Video: Getting started

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Science Library self guided tour

Video: Using Explore

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Using our libraries 

Which library should I use?

A valid UCL ID card will allow access to any UCL Libraries, several of which are located on the central Bloomsbury campus:

Information on opening hours, and details of libraries located away from the central campus are available.

You can also find the libraries using the general UCL maps

Where can I study?

Spaces can be found across UCL for quiet study or group work, including the Student Centre but please see our libraries and study spaces web pages for full details.

Where do I find resources for my subject?

There is a guide for each subject which provides information about resources that will be useful for study and research

Each subject or area has a specialist librarian who can help you get the most out of our libraries and resources.

Your induction programme will include a talk by your librarian followed by a tour which may be self-guided 

Your librarian may also offer subject-specific training later in the term or give a lecture as part of one of your courses.

More information on training and support is available via LibrarySkills@UCL

Our Skills in Seconds series includes a number of short films introducing topics such as subject searching in Explore and finding journal articles:

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How do I find books?

Search Explore to find books in our libraries by selecting 'Library catalogue' from the drop-down menu on the right-hand side, or by limiting your search to books as 'Type' of material from the results screen. 

The easiest way to search for a book is to enter author surnames and two or three key words from the title.

Explore will indicate which library or libraries hold the book,  and may include collection information in the shelfmark to help you locate it on the shelves.

If the item you want is not on loan but you can't find it on the shelf, please see our advice about where to look if it is 'Available' or has the status 'Shelving' in Explore.

As well as hard copy books we have access to many e-books which you can read or download by clicking 'View Online' in Explore.

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You can search Explore from any PC, laptop or other mobile device and there are also dedicated access terminals in the libraries. More information about Explore will help you get started. Guides are available to help you find material and staff can help you in all our libraries.

You may have online reading lists for your courses (your course tutors will tell you more). These have details of material that you may need to read before lectures or seminars. There are links to online material or links to Explore for location information.

Remember: if you refer directly to any published literature, images, films etc. in your essays or assignments they must be properly referenced. See our guides on References, Citations and Avoiding Plagiarism and to reference management tools such as EndNote and Mendeley.

How do I get online?

Use your UCL username and password to access resources at UCL such as UCL emailelectronic resources such as e-books, e-journals etc. and MyAccount in Explore to renew your books and keep track of your loans.

More information about getting connected is available on the webpages for new students.

The Bloomsbury campus has WiFi throughout (as well as in the libraries). There are also computer workrooms all over the campus and you can view the current availability of PCs via UCL Go.

Your username and password will become valid for using electronic resources after your enrolment process is completed.

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What about electronic resources?

As well as printed books, journals and audio visual materials, Library Services provides access to a wide range of electronic resources, including:

A range of databases will allow you to find journal articles, images, tv and radio programmes, maps, statistics and much more. Many of these are subject specific - see the relevant subject guide for further details. You can find more information on searching databases in our guide Finding Material for Study and Research.

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Remember: if you refer directly to any published literature, images, films etc. in your essays or assignments they must be properly referenced. See our guides on References, Citations and Avoiding Plagiarism and to reference management tools such as EndNote and Mendeley.

If you are using a PC in one of the UCL computer workrooms, access to the Library's electronic materials is usually automatic. If you are working elsewhere, you will need to log in using your UCL username and password.

Many courses also have electronic reading lists which provide easy access to key texts.

Your username and password will become valid for using electronic resources after your enrolment process is completed.

How do I borrow books?

Your UCL ID card is also your Library Card and you'll need it to gain access to UCL libraries and borrow material at the library desks or using self service machines.

Search for books (see above) using Explore, our online search tool, and when you have found the location of a book, go to the shelf and take it to a self service machine to borrow it with your ID Card and your PIN which is 4 digits representing the day and month of your birthday (DDMM)..

There are fines for late returns so be careful to note due dates and check your account online regularly.

Video: Using self-service machines

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How do I renew my books?

There are fines for late returns so be careful to note due dates and check your account online regularly.

You can check your library account within Explore - click on 'My Account' in the top right hand corner of the Explore screen. This is where you can see which books you've borrowed and renew them by logging in with your UCL username and password

You can also renew your books by telephoning the library or in person at any Issue Desk/Help Point or self service machine.

Can I print, photocopy or scan in the library?

All libraries on the Bloomsbury campus have machines where you can print, photocopy and scan to your UCL email account by swiping your ID card. You receive £12 free credit per year for printing and photocopying. You can top up your credit with cash at machines in the library, or with a credit or debit card online.

More information on photocopying, printing and scanning is available.

Video: print @ UCL - Guide to printing, scanning and copying 

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How do I get help?

Staff are available to help you with your enquiries throughout UCL Libraries while specialists can assist you at dedicated Reference Desks in the Main and Science Libraries.

You can also make enquiries by phone or email.

Subject specialists can answer in depth enquiries in person, by phone or by email.

You should receive a Library Essentials guide when you enrol; if not you can pick one up in any library along with many other guides

UCL Library Services offers a range of training courses to help with your studies. 

For more information see our Getting Help pages.

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What do all these words and phrases mean?
  • Abstract - a summary of a work such as a journal article
  • Article - a text published within a journal
  • Bibliography - a list of references consulted in writing an essay or other document
  • Catalogue - a list of resources such as books and journals held in libraries which is available in Explore
  • Citation - a work mentioned in a document such as an essay or journal article
  • Database - a searchable collection of texts or references to published literature, including journal and newspaper articles, conference proceedings, reports, government publications, books, etc.
  • E-book - a book which can be viewed online which can sometimes be downloaded
  • E-journal - a journal which can be viewed online, and from which articles can be downloaded
  • Electronic resource/E-resource - material that is available electronically which includes books, journals and databases
  • Explore - a tool for finding books, journals, articles etc. in print and electronic formats. Explore contains the whole of the UCL library catalogue of books and journals, but also much more besides
  • Full text - complete articles and other works often available in specialist databases
  • Holdings - the volumes or issues of a journal that are held in our libraries or in Store
  • Journal usually published in regular issues and focused on a particular subject area with articles by individuals or a team of authors. Another name for a journal is periodical
  • Keyword - a particular word which can be entered into a search box to find related resources
  • Loan type or loan period - the length of time a book can be borrowed, or in the cae of  'Reference' which cannot be borrowed
  • Open Access - research material such as theses which is freely available in a repository such as UCL Discovery
  • Peer reviewed - works such as journal articles which have been examined by expert editors who may  have sugested amendments before publication
  • Periodical - another name for a journal, abbreviated as "Pers" in UCL's Library Catalogue
  • Plagiarism - Using other people's work without acknowledgment or attribution
  • Resources - material available in print or electronic form which includes books, journals, audio-visual material, theses, and databases
  • Shelfmark - the series of letters, and sometimes numbers, which you will see on the spine label of a book which helps you to find it, along with others on the same subject
  • Source - a work where information has originally been found
  • Store - our storage facility outside London which sends material to various libraries daily on request
  • Subject Heading - a tag in a catalogue or database which makes finding related material easier
  • Subject Liaison Librarians - Experts responsible for specific subject collections in our libraries who can also recommend the best resources for research and show you how to use them
Contact us

Do ask in our libraries if you have any queries in person. There are a number of other ways to get in touch:

To keep up to date with all the latest Library Services news, check the news feed on our homepage or follow us on Twitter.