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Books & e-books: Finding books

Books and e-books

Related guides

Classmarks and the Location of Resources in the Library
A guide to IALS library classmarks for jurisdictions and subjects and the arrangement of materials in the library.

Jurisdiction Research Guides
A collection of legal research guides for specific jurisdictions.

International Law Research Guides
A collection of legal research guides for international law jurisdictions

Subject Guides
A collection of guides that introduce some of the key resources on different legal topics.

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British Library Catalogue
Search the British Library catalogue

Library Hub Discover
Search over 70 UK and Irish academic, national & specialist library catalogues

IALS Library Catalogue
Search the IALS library collections.

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Guide last updated by Alice Tyson, December 2023


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" videos  to watch a short video about using the catalogue to find books at IALS Library.

How books are organised at IALS Library

At IALS library books are organised by jurisdiction or by subject. Within jurisdiction and subject, the books are further alphabetically arranged by the author's name. All print books are given a combination of letters and numbers called a classmark (sometimes called a shelfmark). If you find a book on the library catalogue that you want to look at, you need to make a note of the classmark then find it on the library shelves. The floorplans can help you find the right area within the library.

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

How to find a specific book: title and author searching

If you are looking for a specific book, you can run a Title or Author search on the Library Catalogue, or a combination of both.

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 further refine the results.



How to find 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. The subject headings are chosen by librarians because they best reflect what the book is about.

Keyword search:

This searches across the entire catalogue record, including words that appear in the title and summary of the book.

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:


How to find 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 storage area. These earlier editions are identifiable by having a classmark that includes DEP or RES (meanding Depository or Repository). The most recent edition will have a recognisable Library classmark e.g. Short Loan or GA2.C.1 JOW.

To help you find the most recent edition, it is possible to order your search results by publication date.

  1. Run a search using the Library Catalogue
  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:

E-Book symbol

It is possible to 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.

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.


How to find books not held in IALS Library

If you need to locate titles which are not held at IALS Library, try the following places.

If another library holds the material you need, you should check their access arrangements before you visit.

Alternatively you may be able to obtain titles from other libraries using interlibrary loan or document delivery services offered by your own 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