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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Introduction to Research at the Library

Learn to think like a librarian! This guide is an introduction (or a refresher) to using the library to find books and journal articles.


The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Library is home to one of North America's largest and richest public research library collections. The library catalog is the first place you should look for books (both physical copies and ebooks), journals and magazines, video games, maps, and more!

This page will walk you through searching for and requesting books and media through the catalog. If there's something you need for your research that you can't find in our catalog, be sure to check out the next page on requesting materials from beyond UIUC.

Access Requirements

Please note that a library account is required to request books from the catalog, renew physical items you've checked out, and save materials. However, you do not need a library account to access ebooks or other electronic materials.

Your library account is tied to your I-Card; for help with your account, check out our documentation on creating an account.

For students in fully online programs, you can request a photo-less ID card and explore our guide for distance learners to learn more about access options for getting physical materials.

Searching the Library Catalog

To search the library catalog, start from the library's homepage,, then scroll down to the row of icons under the "Find Materials" heading.

  1. Select "U of I Collection" (the first option under "Find Materials"); this will open the library catalog
  2. Type keywords into the search bar to perform a basic, simple search
  3. Or, click on "Advanced Search" (to the right of the search bar) to search for an exact author, title, or subject
  4. Once you've performed a search, use the filters in the "Tweak Your Results" column to the left of your results to narrow and refine your search

To walk through a sample search and explore the various filters available, check out our short video below!

For a more detailed, step-by-step guide to simple and advanced searching in the library catalog with screenshots to guide you through the process, refer to our guide on Using the Library Catalog (linked below).

Placing a Request

Once you've found an item that interests you in the catalog, click on the title to open the record. If we have the resource in print, check the “Locations” section to see which library has it and write down the call number (listed beneath the library name), as you’ll need this information to find it on the shelf. To access a resource we have online, simply follow the links listed under "View Online > Full text availability".

If you can't or don't want to go to the shelves in person to retrieve the materials you need, you can place a request through the library catalog to have it pulled for you.

Log into your library account and select an option from the "Get It" section of the item record to request the physical item (which will be pulled for you and held for pickup at a library of your choice) or, if you only need a chapter or two, you can request a scan by selecting "DocExpress Scan a Chapter/Portion".

Practice: Hands-On Activity

  1. After viewing this page, start at the Library Homepage.
  2. Navigate to the Library Catalog and log into your library account.
  3. Locate an item of interest to you
  4. Practice placing a request (or, if you don't want to request it just yet, add it to your favorites by clicking the pushpin icon)