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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.


Even though the University of Illinois has a huge library, you are bound to identify some materials you need for your research that we either don't have or that are already checked out. This page will explain the options available to you for accessing materials from other libraries in the state and around the world!

Note: Before requesting materials from another institution, you must check the U of I Collection (our catalog here at UIUC). If you request material from another library that we already have available here on the shelves, your request will be rejected.

Books Beyond UIUC

Infographic showing successively larger catalogs nested: first, a book representing the UIUC catalog, then an outline of the state of Illinois (representing the I-Share catalog), and then a world map outline (representing WorldCat).The diagram to the right shows the three-step process for finding books (also summarized below):

  1. Start by checking the U of I Collection.
  2. If we don't have the material you need, check the I-Share catalog - I-Share is a group of other academic libraries in Illinois that have borrowing agreements with us.
  3. If a book is not available in Illinois, the next step is to search WorldCat, which allows you to search the holdings of libraries worldwide and request them through a service called Interlibrary Loan.

The most important thing to remember is that you should never pay for a resource without talking to a librarian first! Chances are, we can help you find it through another institution even if we don't have a copy here at UIUC.

I-Share Collection

I-Share is a network of over 90 academic libraries in Illinois that lend materials to one another. Items that are not available or checked out at U of I can usually be obtained through I-Share. As a UIUC library card holder, you can request materials held by other I-Share institutions and have them sent here, to our library, for pick-up!

Note for online students: If you're an online student, but you live near another I-Share institution, you can also check out books directly from the I-Share library closest to you. For more information, see our guide for distance learners.

Searching I-Share

Screenshot showing that I-Share Catalog is the fifth option above the search bar in the local UIUC catalog search.

The I-Share catalog can be accessed directly through our local catalog. Simply click on the fifth option at the top of the page, "I-Share Catalog." You can also change the drop-down menu next to the search field to "All I-Share Libraries" from "Library Catalog".

Requesting Through I-Share

An item available for request in I-Share will have a list of the institution(s) it is located at, along with an option to request under "How to get it" by clicking on "Request from I-Share Libraries." You must be signed into the catalog to see this option. 

Screenshot showing that "Request from I-Share Libraries" appears under "How to get it" in an item record with a list of libraries that hold the material beneath it.

Access note: Please be aware that electronic resources listed in the I-Share catalog that are owned by other libraries can only be accessed by people affiliated with that library.

Interlibrary Loan

If a book is not available via I-Share, your next step is to use Interlibrary Loan (often called ILL). You can access your ILL account from the library homepage under the "Borrow Materials" tab. 

Check out our page on Interlibrary Loan for a reminder of what items can be requested and a step by step guide to placing a request.

Please note that this service can only be used to request books not at Illinois or in the I-Share network, and article photocopies that are not held in print or electronically by the University of Illinois. If you are not sure if you should be using ILL, Ask a Librarian.

Practice: Hands-On Activity

  1. Search for the item The Black Maria: Poems by Aracelis Girmay in the Illinois catalog. If you can't locate it, repeat your search in the I-Share catalog.
  2. How many I-Share libraries own The Light Ages: The Surprising Story of Medieval Science? At which libraries is it currently available?