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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 Novanet

Novanet pulls together resources from multiple sources and displays them in a single list of relevance-ranked results. 

Unfiltered Novanet search results may contain:

    Print books & e-books

    Journals & articles

    Conference proceedings

    Newspaper articles

    Theses & dissertations

    Government publications

    CDs & DVDs

    Music scores

Novanet also search the collections of other Novanet libraries. Novanet is a consortium of libraries that includes all universities in Nova Scotia and Mount Allison.  As a result, Mount Allison students, faculty and other patrons can search and get access to books and other materials available in the Mount Allison Libraries collections and beyond, through other Novanet libraries.

For more information and an overview of Novanet search functionality, see Which Search Tool Should I Use? and Novanet Search Tips. You can, of course, also ask a librarian for assistance if you have any questions.

How do I find a book in the Library stacks?

Need help browsing books in the catalogue? Ask a librarian!

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 Novanet and make note of both the Call Number and location within the library (such as General Collection, Reference Collection, Bell Acadiana Collection, etc.). 

  • the "location" will tell you in what section of the Libraries the item is shelved.  General Collection refers to the regular books stacks.  Reference Collection refers to books on the main floor of the library.  Items in special collections, such as the Bell Acadiana Collection, may be requested at the Access Services desk. 
  • 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. This directory is also posted on all stairwell doors.
  • The Floor plans on the Library Directory page provide a pictorial description of the arrangement of materials in the building.

For a quick intro to reading call numbers, check out this brief guide:

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 journals received in print are shelved according to call number in the journal stacks (ground and basement levels).  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. Government publications (located in the basement) are organized by a different call number system that groups documents by authoring body. 

How do I find items on Course Reserve?

All items on course reserve may be found through the Course Reserves link in the Library's Quick Links box, or by selecting Course Reserves in Novanet. 

You have the option of searching for materials by: Instructor, Course ID (e.g. RELG 3311), Course name, or Course department. Use the drop-down menu under "any fields" in the left of the Novanet advanced search box and scroll down to see these search options.

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 Novanet; 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?

The Mount Allison Libraries belong to the Novanet consortium of libraries that includes all universities in Nova Scotia. Novanet searches collections at Mount Allison and also searches collections of other Novanet libraries. Certain materials not available at Mount Allison may be available at other Novanet libraries and may show up in your Novanet search results. Items available at other Novanet libraries may be requested by clicking on Place a Hold in the Get It section of the Novanet item record. 

Research materials (including books and articles) not available at the Mount Allison Libraries may also be requested via Interlibrary Loans (ILL).  Our Interlibrary Loans (ILL) department gives the Mount Allison community access to library collections around the world. 

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? 

The Mount Allison Libraries subscribe and provide access to over two hundred databases, most of which allow you to search for and access journal, magazine or newspaper articles. 

Some databases are subject- or discipline-specific (such as PsycINFO) while others are multidisciplinary (such as JSTOR).

A new version of Novanet was launched on May 17, 2022.

Novanet now searches all databases but Novanet search results may sometimes differ from search results in individual library database.  For example, certain databases offer search features and options not available in Novanet.

Novanet can be a good place to start searching for articles on some topics but it does not replace searching individual library databases.

The A-Z List of Library Databases is a list of all of the databases the Mount Allison Libraries make available for your use.  You can browse the list 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

Novanet and many library databases provide full-text access to articles. When the full text of an article is available, you can access the full article on the screen, usually with just one click.

Some databases do not provide full-text access to articles. These non full-text databases 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 one of the library's full-text databases, simply look up the title of the journal (or magazine or newspaper) in which it was published in Journal Finder.  Many databases will make this step easy by providing a "Find @ MTA" link. 

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

Some journals may only be available in print format.  To find out if a journal is available in print at the library, look up the journal title in Novanet. 

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.

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 Journal Finder (or click on the Find @ MTA link, if available) to determine if the Library has full-text access to the journal, newspaper, or magazine in which the article appears.  Search Novanet to check if the journal is available in print at the library. 

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 or in any library database (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 in Novanet, the same way you would search for a book (see How do I search for a book above).

To limit your Novanet search to only films and videos, use the Material Type drop-down menu on the Advanced Search page and select Video/Film.  To limit your search further, include one or more of the following as keywords: DVD, VHS, video*.

Streaming Audio and Video

The Libraries also make available a number of streaming audio and video databases, such as NFB Campus, Kanopy and more. 

These databases include documentaries, feature films and educational videos which may be viewed online.  The complete list of streaming audio and video databases can be found by selecting Streaming Audio & Video from the Database Type drop-down menu on the A-Z List of Databases.


How do I renew my books?

You can renew your books online by signing into your Novanet account. You may also renew your books in person at the Access Services Desk, by e-mail, or by phone by calling 364-2568 (R.P. Bell Library) or 364-2561 (Music Library). 

You can use your account to:

  • See what books you have checked out
  • Renew books and other items you have borrowed
  • Request books from other Novanet libraries, such as Dalhousie, Acadia, and Saint Mary's. Click here to see a full list of Novanet libraries.

To log into your Novanet account, click the My Account / Renew Books link on the main page of the Library website, or go to

Please note that sign-in procedures have changed:
  • For MtA Students, staff, faculty:  Sign in using the same username and password you use for your MtA email, Connect and Moodle.   
  • Community patrons:  If you know your user name (barcode number) you can use the “Forgot my Password” link to create a new password.  

Once you are signed in you 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 simply need to show 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 simply because there hasn't been time for scholarly work to be completed and published. 

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 (such as the catalogues of larger university libraries)? 
  • 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?  Double-checked your citation information?
  • By author? If using Browse Search in Novanet, 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 an author writing about that topic – 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 Novanet (or other articles in databases) on the same or similar topics. The bibliographies of books and articles that you've already found can also be helpful: they might include sources (books and articles) that will 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?

Please see the Computing Services Department's How to Connect to Wireless page for instructions on how to connect to the University's wireless network.

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

Ask a Librarian! 

You can reach us 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 May 2022

Off-Campus Access to Electronic Resources

Why is off-campus access different?

Access to subscribed library resources is easy when you are using a university computer or the campus wireless network. The library gives publishers information about our campus networks when we set up a subscription for the university. When you are off-campus, you need to log in to your account to identify yourself as associated with Mount Allison University. This is required by the terms of the licenses we sign with publishers.

How can I get access off-campus?

There are two approaches to getting access to electronic resources from off-campus.

1. Start from the library website or catalogue:

If you click on a link from the library website, such as a database in the A-Z List of Databases, you will be asked to log in with your MTA account. From that point on, your access will be the same as it is on campus.

2. Start from a publisher website and use the MTA Libraries Off-Campus Bookmarklet

If you usually start your search from a publisher website, or click on non-library links, you can use the off-campus bookmarklet to sign into your MTA account. Follow the instructions for installing the bookmarklet below. Once it is installed, you click on the bookmarklet to get to a sign-in screen when you are visiting a publisher website. You will be returned to the website and at that point your access will be the same as it is on campus.

Install the off-campus bookmarklet:

Note: You will have to set your browser to show the bookmarks or favourites if that is not your default setting. Bookmarklets are bookmarks that contain JavaScript commands, so JavaScript must be supported for the bookmarklet to function.

How to use the MTA Libraries Off-Campus Bookmarklet:

Click on the bookmarklet when you are at the website for a licensed academic resource for which the Libraries has paid. Every time you open a new tab, click on the bookmarklet. You won't have to log in on every tab - clicking on the bookmarklet again just extends your login session to the new tab.

If Mount Allison University Libraries and Archives does not license and pay for the content on the site, you will get an error message. This message means that the website is not set up as a MTA library resource. In those cases, requesting the item through ILL (if there is a cost) or browsing without the bookmarklet (if freely available) is the best approach.

If you have any questions about the MTA Libraries Off-Campus Bookmarklet, please contact Elizabeth Stregger, Data and Digital Services Librarian.

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