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Research Help: How Do I... Guide

How Do I... Guide

How do I search for a book?

You can search for books using the Library Catalogue.  You can search by title, by author, by keyword, by subject or by call number.

The About the Library Catalogue page provides an overview of search features and functionality. You can, of course, also ask a librarian for assistance if you have any questions.

What is included in the Catalogue?

The Library Catalogue will help you find books, e-books, journals, magazines, newspapers, government publications and A-V materials such as music CDs and films on DVD. 

What is not included in the Catalogue?

Articles. You cannot search for magazine, journal or newspaper articles in the Library's catalogue. You can use the library's databases to search for and access articles. See How do I search for articles?

Some older books. Some very old items can be found only by searching the Library's card catalogue. The card catalogue is located in storage in the R.P Bell Library. Please ask a Librarian at the Research Help Desk if you would like help searching the card catalogue.

WorldCat Discovery Services

WorldCat Discovery Services is WorldCat's new (beta) search interface bringing together FirstSearch and WorldCat Local.

More details will be available soon.

How do I find a book in the Library?

Most library materials* are arranged by subject according to the Library of Congress Classification scheme.  This scheme allows materials of similar content and topic to be shelved together.

To find an item in the Library, search the Library Catalogue and make note of both the Call Number and the Location. 

  • the "Location" will tell you in what section of the Libraries the item is shelved (Reference, Book Stacks, Reserve Room...)
  • the Call Number will allow you to pinpoint the precise placement of the item on the shelf (sample call number: PS 8501 .T86 Z588 2006)

Once you know the call number, refer to the Library Directory to find out on what floor the item is located.

  • The Library Directory provides a list of what is located on each floor of the Library.
  • The Floor plans on the Library Directory page provide a pictorial description of the arrangement of materials in the building.

For more information about the Library of Congress (LC) Classification Scheme, please see Understanding Call Numbers on the Research Tips page

* Some exceptions apply: Current issues of journals and newspapers received in print are displayed alphabetically in the current display shelving.  Back issues of all journals are shelved according to call number in the journal stacks.  Some titles may only be available on microfilm. The University's main microfilm collection is housed in the Microform Room on the ground floor of the R.P. Bell Library.

How do I find items on Course Reserve?

All items on course reserve may be found by using the Library Catalogue.

Once in the Catalogue, click on Course Reserves. You then have the option of searching for materials by: Instructor, Course Name, or Course Number.

Once you have identified the item(s) that you need, simply ask for it at the Access Services desk.

Items on course reserve in the Music Library are also accessible via the Library Catalogue; ask for them at the Music Library Access Services desk.

When requesting items on course reserve, please ask for the item by AUTHOR, and specify whether it is a book, a photocopy, or a binder.

For more information, please see Course Reserves on the Services & Facilities page

How can I get materials not available or accessible at the MTA Libraries?

Research materials (including books and articles) that the Mount Allison Libraries do not own or to which we do not have electronic access may be requested via Interlibrary Loans (ILL).

To place an ILL request, please read the instructions on the Interlibrary Loans page and then complete the ILL web form (accessible from the ILL page).

The Inter-Library Loans Department is located at Access Services in the Main Library.

Mount Allison students and faculty may also borrow books in person from other university libraries by obtaining a CAUL card.

How do I search for articles? 

You can search for articles published in journals, magazines and newspapers using Library Databases such as JSTOR, Project Muse or Science Direct.

What is a Library Database?

Databases permit you to search for articles published in scholarly journals, magazines and newspapers.

The Mount Allison Libraries provide access to over a hundred databases. Some are subject- or discipline-specific (such as PsycINFO) while others are multidisciplinary (such as JSTOR).

Getting Started

To search for article, go to the Find Articles page.  From there, you can access the A-Z List of Library Databases

You can then browse a list of indexes and databases by Title or by Subject.

If you're not sure which database to search, use the drop-down Subject menu and click on the subject area most relevant to your research.

How to Access/Get the Articles Uncovered by Your Search

Many library databases provide full-text access to articles. When the full text of an article is available, you can access the full article directly from the database you used to find it.

Some databases do not provide full-text access to articles. They simply serve as indexes that help you discover and identify articles on a topic. The article may be available in print format in the library or in digital format in another database.

To find out if the article you want is available at the library, simply look up the title of the journal (or magazine or newspaper) in which it was published in Journal Finder or in the Library Catalogue.

  • For example: to find an article that was published in National Geographic, look up National Geographic in the Library Catalogue or in Journal Finder.

A Two-step Process

It can sometimes be helpful to think of the process of searching for articles as a two-step processs:

Step 1:  Identify relevant articles and the journal/newspaper/magazine in which they were published.

  • You can do this by searching Library Databases.

If the database you are searching does not provide the full text of the article you want, move on to step 2.

Step 2: Find out where the article is available

  • Search the Library Catalogue or Journal Finder to determine if the Library has print or electronic access to the journal, newspaper, or magazine in which the articles appear. 

Please note that certain databases provide full-text access to some articles but not others. If the full-text of the article you want is not available, then simply move on the Step 2.

What to do if the article you want is not available at the library (step 3)

If the article you want is not available at the library, you can request it using the library's interlibrary loan service.

How do I search for films or videos?

You may search for films and videos using the Library Catalogue, the same way you would search for a book (see How do I search for a book above).

To limit your search to only films and videos, use the Limit by Type drop-down menu on the Advanced Keyword Search page and select DVD or Video, depending on which format you are looking for.

You can also limit your search to films and videos when performing a Keyword Search by including the word "videorecording" as part of your search.

  • For example: hitchcock and birds and videorecording

For DVDs, include "dvd" as part of your keyword search.

  • For example: david lynch and dvd

How do I renew my books?

You may renew your books in person at the Access Services Desk or by phone by calling 364-2568 (R.P. Bell Library) or 364-2561 (Music Library). 

You may also renew books online using the Library Catalogue. 

To renew books online, access the Library Catalogue and click on "My Account."

Enter your Student or Employee ID number in Alternate ID field (including the initial zeros) and your Library PIN.

  • If you don’t know your Student/Employee ID number, simply present your ID card at the Access Services Desk at the Main or Music Library and we will be happy to give it to you. ID numbers may also be obtained by logging into Connect@MTA.
  • You may obtain a Library PIN at the Access Services Desk if you do not already have one. 

Image of the My Account Log-in Page

Once this information is entered, you will have access to your Patron Account Information and may be able to renew the items listed in your account, providing that you have not exceeded your fine limit, that your books have not been requested or recalled by another patron, and that you have not exceeded the number of allowable renewals (varies by item).  After you have completed the renewal process, you should verify that all of the records for the items you wanted renewed have been updated

For more information, contact Access Services Staff at 364-2568 or or the Music Library at 364-2561 or

Why are most library databases restricted to Mount Allison students, faculty and staff?

In order to access these databases from off campus, you need to prove that you are a member of the Mount Allison community. When you're off campus, this means logging on with your user ID and password.

Why isn't the article I want available online?

Not all of the databases to which the library provides access include full-text content. Also, those databases that do include full-text content don't always have the full-text for all volumes and years of a given journal title.

In some cases, the library may have a print subscription to a journal, magazine or newspaper.

The simple answer is that not everything is available in digital format. Certain scholarly and non-scholarly publications remain accessible in print only.

Remember that you can use the library's interlibrary loan service (details above) to request articles (and books) that are not available at the Mount Allison Libraries.

Why can't I find any books/articles on my topic?

It's entirely possible that you have stumbled upon a topic that has received very little scholarly attention. If the topic is very new (for example, if you are working on a recently published novel or a story that has just recently appeared in the news), then there may be little published on the subject.

Other factors to consider include where and how you are searching.

Where have you been searching?

  • Have you tried searching for both books and articles?
  • Which databases have you searched?
  • Is the database you've chosen appropriate for your topic?
  • Are there other databases you might also try?
  • Have you tried searching other library catalogues?
  • Have you limited your search to only those databases that include full-text articles? (if so, see Why isn't the article I want available online? above).

How have you been searching?

  • By title? Have you tried alternate spellings? Dropped the initial article (The, An...) from the title? Double-checked your citation information?
  • By author? If searching for books in the library catalogue, have you entered the author's last name first? (Twain Mark rather than Mark Twain).
  • By keyword? Have you tried using different keywords (synonyms, related words, alternative spellings...)?  Sometimes, the first words we choose to search for a topic may not be the same ones used by the author – try thinking of as many different ways to describe your topic as you can. See the Preparing a Search Strategy guide for more details.
  • By subject? Have you found at least one book (or article) on your topic? If so, take a look at the Subject Headings (or descriptors: terms assigned to a record to describe what it's about) – you can click on these to find other books in the library catalogue (or other articles in the database) on the same or similar topics. The bibliographies of books and articles that you've already found can also be helpful: they might including additional sources (books and articles) that may be of interest to you.

How can I donate books (or other materials) to the Library?

Please see Library Gifts in Kind: Information for Donors on the Library Policies page.

How do I connect to the University's wireless network?

Wireless network access is available in the Library to Mount Allison students, faculty and staff.

Please see the Computing Services Department Connecting to the Mount A Wireless Network for instructions on how to connect.

How do I find an answer to a question not included here? 

Ask a Librarian! 

You can speak to a Librarian in person at the Research Help Desk or in the Reference Librarians Office (Room M11, Main Floor) in the Library; by phone by calling 364-2564; or ask your question by e-mail by sending a message to or

During the fall and winter terms, you can also ask questions using the library's live chat service.

Contact details for all librarians is available on the Ask a Librarian page.

Updated Sept. 2018 / LL

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