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Using the Law Library 101: How to Find Books and Articles Using the Law Library Website

How to Find Books

To find a book, go to the home page of the Law Library's website where you will be able to access two online catalogs: the Library Catalog and the WorldCat Catalog.

  • The Library Catalog contains the records for the books, journals, media and databases at Cornell.The Library Catalog is designed to function in essentially the same way as a Web-based search engine--by keyword. You do not need to omit initial articles in titles or change the order of an author's name. On the search results page, you can use the options on the left side of the results page to refine your search. For more information on how to perform a search using this catalog, press here.
  • The WorldCat Catalog will search library holdings worldwide. Similar to the Library Catalog search process, use simple keywords as you would on a Web search site. Note that global WorldCat results may include many resources not owned by Cornell University. You may be able to obtain these items using Borrow Direct or Interlibrary Loan.

How to find Journal Articles

To find a journal or newspaper article follow the directions for finding books, but search using the journal or newspaper title. Retrieve the journal or newspaper in print or electronically, then search for the specific article within the journal or newspaper.

Most journals can be accessed electronically through databases where you can search by article title or author name within that journal, or you can simply browse by volume and issue numbers.

Search Tips for Journal Articles: Summon

The Journal Articles search box uses the Summon search engine to search approximately 800 million items, including but not limited to:

  • scholarly journal articles
  • newspaper articles
  • ebooks
  • audio files
  • video files

It draws from many full-text and article-indexing databases as well as digital repositories from colleges, universities, research centers, and other open-access archives on the web.

Keep in Mind

  • Summon searches many but not all library resources
  • Comprehensive or targeted searches should be done in subject specific databases
  • The library catalog is not indexed in Summon. Use the Library Catalog to search for print books and other physical items that are not included in Summon search results.

Request Free Document Delivery Service (SCANit)

The Law Library provides SCANit, a free document delivery service, to Cornell Law students and faculty. Students and faculty who would like to make a SCANit request should first obtain the material by reqesting the item to be scanned be delivered to the law circulation desk.  Once the material has been obtained, students and faculty can send in a ScanIt request.

Scanned items are delivered electronically in PDF format within two business days of the request.

How to place a request:

1) Obtain your material: Locate the item in the library catalog, then use the 'Request' button to have the item delivered to the Law Library circulation desk from any library on campus.  If the material is not available at Cornell, request it through either InterLibrary Loan or Borrow Direct.

2) Request Scan:  Once you receive an email informing you that the item you requested has arrived at the circulation desk, forward that email to with instructions regarding which pages are to be scanned. 

The scanned item will be delivered to you electronically via email or Box within two business days. During periods of high volume requests (e.g. during sourcing assignments), requests will be filled as staff time permits.  If your request is part of a pattern of requests that violates copyright (e.g. you request multiple chapters of the same book), your request will be denied.

SCANit requests are subject to Fair Use restrictions.

How to Check Out Library Materials

Not all library materials are available to be checked out. You can find relevant information on the catalog records under "Status" or "Location".

"Not Charged": The item can be checked out UNLESS the location is "Law Library Reference (Non-circulating)." Reference collections, including most dictionaries, encyclopedias, and newspapers, are non-circulating.

"Charged": The item is checked out. You can either put a "Recall" on this item or you can borrow it using Interlibrary Loan or Borrow Direct. It can take up to two weeks for an item to be recalled.

"Law Library Reserve": Go to the circulation desk to check out items on reserve (including course reserves and study aids). All reserve items can be checked out for 2 hours on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you check out a course reserve item when there are less than two hours before the circulation desk closes, you can keep the item and return it within 2 hours after the circulation desk opens the next day. You can check out up to 4 course reserve items at one time.

Don't forget to bring your Cornell ID to check out library materials.

Use Call Numbers to Locate Library Materials

All library materials can be searched in the catalog and retrieved by using call numbers. Call numbers are the unique identifiers for all library materials. You will find call numbers in the catalog record and on the spine of most books. Sometimes you will find them on the front cover of the item as well.

What do all the numbers and letters stand for?

Here, LAW stands for the law library. The next two lines "KZ 6260" describe the subject of the book. The next line ".L44" usually describes the author name. The last line is for publication year.

To locate a book by call numbers, you need to read it accordingly:

FIRST, look at line 2. Letters are arranged alphabetically. For Example, K comes before KA.

NEXT, look at line 3. Numbers are arranged numerically.

THEN, look at line 4. Letters are still in alphabetical order but numbers should be read as decimal numbers. For example, .L44 should be read as L.44 and it comes after .L356 (L.356).

After you find the item in the catalog, you need to find it by its call number and bring it to the circulation desk for check-out. Most circulating items can be found in the stacks throughout the law library. Reserves and reference collections are in the reading room and in the third floor stacks.

The call number map will guide you to the stacks to find items using call numbers.  Please refer to the image at the bottom of this page. The map is also available in the law library reading room. 

Call Number Map

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