Skip to Main Content

Books & e-books: Finding books

Books and e-books

Guide last updated by Alice Tyson, November 2020

Need assistance?

Reference Desk hours:

Monday-Friday 9:30-17:00
Tel (0)20 7862 5790

Your comments

We'd love to hear your comments about this Research Guide.



Using the Library catalogue is the best way to find out what books we have in our collections.You can find information about both print books and e-books using the catalogue. 

This guide will explain how to search the catalogue and how to understand the book records.

See our "How To" page to watch a short video about using the catalogue to find books at IALS Library

How books are classified at IALS Library

At IALS library books are organised by jurisdiction or by subject and are arranged by author within this subdivision. They are represented by a classmark (sometimes called a shelfmark) - a combination of letters and numbers indicating their location in the library.

Books organised by jurisdiction have a classmark beginning with G followed by a number. These are then further subdivided by a letter, which may also be subdivided by a number;

e.g. GA2.C.8 COM

Books organised by subject have a classmark beginning with S, followed by a number and then followed by three letters which are usually the first three letters of the author's name (or of the title, if there are more than three authors);

e.g. SH5 DIC

A more detailed outline of the arrangement of books can be found in the guide Classmarks and the Location of Resources in the Library.


If you are looking for a specific book: title and author searching

If you are looking for a specific book, it is much quicker to look it up on the catalogue, find out its classmark and then go to the shelf, rather than to just browse through the books at the shelves. You can run a Title or Author search on the Library Catalogue, or a combination of both.

1. Go to the Library Catalogue and select Title or Author.

Title search:

Type the full title, you may omit the words "the" or "and"; for example, for the book called The law of international finance you would enter:

law of international finance

Author search:

Type the Author's LAST NAME first, for example:


McKnight, A

McKnight, Andrew

Once you've run your search, you can use the "Limit/Sort Search" option on the results page to modify your search.

2. Once you have located the record for the book(s) you need, note down the classmark and use the floor directories or the guide Classmarks and the Location of Resources in the Library to locate the item on the open shelves.

3. If your search is unsuccessful, try a keyword search.

4. If your search is still unsuccessful, check whether the title is held at another library (see Finding books not held in the Library below).


If you are looking for books on a topic: subject, keyword and classmark searching

If you are not looking for a particular item, but would like to check the library's holdings for a particular subject, run a Subject, Keyword or Classmark search on the Library Catalogue.

Subject search:

This searches across the controlled subject headings of each item in the library catalogue.

- Go to the Library Catalogue and select Subject.

Once you've run your search, you can use the "Limit/Sort Search" option on the results page to modify your search.

Keyword search:

This searches across the entire catalogue record.

- Go to the Library Catalogue and select Keyword.

Once you've run your search, you can use the "Limit/Sort Search" option on the results page to modify your search to include.

Classmark search:

If you know the classmark of the subject or jurisdiction, you may want try searching the catalogue using the Classmark option or searching the bookshelves directly. To find out the classmark try:


Finding the most recent edition

In many cases core textbooks will have a number of editions published in different years. Once a new edition has arrived in the Library the previous edition is removed from the open-access library shelves and placed in the Library's basement store. These earlier editions are identifiable by having a depository number for a classmark on the Library Catalogue. The most recent edition will have a recognisable Library classmark e.g. Short Loan or GA2.C.1 JOW.

In order to ensure that you have found the most recent edition when searching the Library Catalogue you should follow this procedure:

1. Submit your search as described above

2. Select 'newest first' from the sort drop-down menu 

3. Click on 'sort' button. This will list all of the items with the most recent edition at the top. If you find that all of the editions which your search turned up have depository numbers it may be worth re-submitting your search as a keyword search in order to find the most recent edition.



The IALS Library catalogue contains records of thousands of e-books. A link to access the e-book will be contained within the catalogue record. On the search results screen, you can identify which books are e-books by the symbol:

You can limit your catalogue search so that you only see e-books and not print books in your results.

1. Choose the option for Keyword - Advanced search

2. Enter relevant keyword(s)

3. Under Material Type select 'e-book'


E-book databases

Many of the large law databases to which IALS subscribes provide access to e-books. All e-books are individually catalogued and can be found via the IALS Library catalogue. Alternatively, you can search a database directly. Searching the database directly may give the advantage of being able to browse by subject area or run full-text searches for particular words and phrases.

The main databases with significant book content are:

  • Oxford Scholarship Online: OUP's law book collection of over 1,920 monographs
  • Cambridge Core: 3,145 law titles
  • Westlaw UK: 374 authoritative commentary titles
  • Elgaronline: 713 law e-books
  • Hart ebook collection: 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 e-book collections from Hart Publishing, which is a part of Bloomsbury Publishing (455 titles)
  • Oxford Legal Research Library: around 145 e-books
  • IBFD: international tax law titles
  • i-law: 73 maritime law titles
  • Beck Online: German law
  • HeinOnline: thousands of titles available in the Legal Classics collection, mainly US and UK historical titles
  • LLMC digital: mainly 19th and early 20th century foreign and international titles
  • Brill Online: international law books and human rights and humanitarian law books from 2006 to present.

All of these databases can be accessed through our Law Databases page and many can be accessed remotely too.

In addition to the above, IALS has secured access to individual e-books from a variety of publishers. They can be accessed from the Ebook Central link on the Law Databases page or from the individual book record on the Library Catalogue.


Finding books not held in IALS Library

If you need to locate titles which are not held in the library try the following steps:

1. Choose the option on the drop-down menu on the front page of the catalogue to search "All Collections (Senate House Libraries + SAS libraries)" and run your search again.

2. Check one of the many catalogues on the web which include the holdings of more than one library. This will save you time as you do not have to search many separate catalogues. Here are some suggestions;

You may need to visit another library to obtain the material which you need. Alternatively you may be able to obtain titles from libraries using the interlibrary loan and document delivery services offered by the library at your institution.


Recommend a book

If you are looking for a book that we do not have in our collection, you can recommend that we purchase a copy. We cannot promise to buy everything that is recommended, but we will consider all suggestions.

To recommend a book, complete the form on our website: Recommend a book