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Law: Using other libraries

The SCONUL access scheme

SCONUL Access is a scheme which allows many university library users to borrow or use books and journals at other libraries which belong to the scheme. 170 universities and other higher-education institutions in the United Kingdom participate in SCONUL Access.

SCONUL Access enables part-time, distance, and placement students, as well as staff and researchers and taught postgraduates, to borrow material from other university libraries or simply to use the libraries as a place of study. Undergraduate students may use libraries within the scheme for reference purposes only.

To find out more about the scheme, who is eligible, how it works, and to apply, visit: http://www.sconul.ac.uk/sconul-access

Searching other libraries' catalogues

Before visiting another library, especially if you will be travelling any distance, you should check their library catalogue to make sure that the items you want to use will be available for you to look at. In some cases it may be necessary to pre-order items in advance of visiting as they may be held in an off-site store.

All university library catalogues are available online and there are also several co-operative schemes which make searching easier by allowing you to include more than one library catalogue in a single search. Information about some of the main catalogues, and cooperative schemes, which you may find useful when searching for material for a project are listed below.

Search25 is a service provided by the M25 Consortium of Academic Libraries. Search25 enables simultaneous access to over 50 university, college and musuem library catalogues in London and the South East. This means that you can search for particular titles across the major university libraries in the London area. When you find a library which holds the item you are looking for, it is worth searching again on that library’s own catalogue (linked from the Search25 page). This will allow you to check whether the item is on open access (some libraries may hold materials in remote stores which you need to request in advance) or whether a journal includes the year you need. You may find that a journal is only held in electronic form, in which case it may not be available to students from other universities.

Most staff and students can use the M25 Consortium libraries under the terms of the national SCONUL Access Scheme. You should note that not all of the M25 Consortium libraries are within the SCONUL Access Scheme.

The main catalogue contains records for over 57 million books, serials, and other documents. Other specialist catalogues are available.

COPAC is a union catalogue which provides access to over 80 merged online catalogues of the major research libraries in the UK and Ireland including libraries such as those of Oxford and Cambridge as well as the British Library.

The Serials UNion CATalogue (SUNCAT) for the UK research community is a free tool to help researchers and librarians locate serials held in the UK. It covers over 100 UK libraries including the British Library and some of the major university libraries

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Document Delivery

It is unlikely that any single library will be be able to supply all of the materials that you require for your more specialsed research work, be it an undergraduate or postgraduate dissertation. You may request a copy of any book or journal article not currently held by the University Library by using the Document Delivery service.

There is a limit of five current requests. No charge is made to the user for placing requests except for renewals of loan books (£4.65 per renewal, per item).