Getting resources not available in the Law Library Collections

Image of books stacked on a small table in the foreground on the mezzanine of the Law Library, looking out across a room full of students studying in the Senate Room (out of focus).

Books stacked on a table on the Law Library mezzanine. Photo by Sam Stills, copyright University of Edinburgh.

We often get asked by students how they get access to a particular item that we do not have in the Law Library collection. So here are a few ideas about how and where to get access!

Online or in print?

Some items are available both online and in print, others are only available in one format. It is worthwhile searching to see if the item is available in another format.

It’s useful to check on the databases (especially Westlaw, Lexis and HeinOnline) to see if we have online access. Although some material from these databases is added to DiscoverEd- not everything is!

Some print copies of key texts are in other libraries across the university (as well as the law library) so it may be that the item you want is available in another location.

  • For items outside the central area you can place a hold and collect them centrally.
  • For items held in the central area you need to visit the holding library and borrow from there.

We do not add all print journal article details to DiscoverEd, so if you cannot find the article online then it’s worthwhile looking to see if we hold the print journal.

Scan and Deliver

If you cannot come on to campus (you are studying online or perhaps self-isolating) then you can request a scan of a book chapter or journal article be emailed to you. There are limits (due to copyright law and if it has been requested previously) but the service has been well used during lockdown periods.

The library does not post out books to users, so if you want a full print book you would need to come in and borrow the item. Full detail of the service are at:

Interlibrary loans

Interlibrary loans (ILLs) are where you request an item and we see if we can borrow it on your behalf from a partner library. On campus students can request journal articles and book chapter scans and also print books (which will be collectable from a campus library). Online students can request book chapter scans and journal articles.

For journal articles and book chapters we request a scan and send it via email. There is a limit per academic year about how many you can request, but usually the amount is sufficient. The library does not post out books to users. Full detail are at:

Borrowing locally from another library

If you are living in/near Edinburgh then joining the National Library of Scotland might be an option. The National Library has access to the Advocates Library collection, which is an extensive legal collection.  Full details of how to join are at:

Requesting a purchase for the library

Students can request that the Library purchases an book for research or study. The Request a Book scheme (RaB) has been running for several years and the majority of the items requested have been purchased. Library staff may get back in touch with questions or suggestions depending on the item and the cost, but more often than not items are purchased. Full details are at:

If there is a journal that you think the library should get then contact us on law.librarian@ed.ac.uk to chat it over.

More details on each of these services and more are available on the Library webpages:

Session Cases: Celebrating 200 years of Scotland’s prestigious law report series

A row of leather bound books fills the frame from left to right. The title 'Session Cases' and the year are embossed on the spines. The leather is blonde and each spine has a red and black square.

Session Cases volumes 1971-1982, image courtesy of the Supreme Court Library team, SCTS.

This year the Scottish Council of Law Reporting celebrates 200 years of publishing Session Cases, Scotland’s most authoritative law report series. From the SCLR website:

The Session Cases law report series contains all the key appellate decisions, civil and criminal, from the Court of Session and High Court of Justiciary in Scotland together with selected cases decided at first instance.

Also included in Session Cases are all decisions, as issued, on Scottish appeals to the House of Lords and to the Privy Council. All judgments are reported in full.

The judges who gave opinions (judgments) in each case have the opportunity to review the report before it is published – this gives Session Cases its unsurpassed authority in Scottish courts.

The first case ever published in Session Cases was Rev. Wm. Strang v Wm. McIntosh (1821) 1 S.5, dated 12 May 1821. You can access a copy of this case via our subscription databases Westlaw or Lexis Library UK, via the Law Databases page. If you’re not familiar with using these databases we have a recording of a session on Using Legal Databases available here (22 mins) There’s more information about SC and other law reports available via our subscription services on the Law Subject Guide ‘Law Reports’ page.

To mark this anniversary the Scottish Council of Law Reporting is running a poll to determine readers’ top three cases featured in Session Cases. They don’t have to be the most important cases, legally, but may be just a quirky case or one that has caught your interest. You can vote for your cases here: SurveyLegend Survey.

Another way SCLR marked this milestone was by creating a postgraduate research scholarship available to students in Scottish institutions studying Scots Law. The inaugural recipient of this award was Shona Warwick, a PhD candidate at Edinburgh. The scholarship will contribute to her tuition and living costs as she completes her PhD thesis on Leases and Licences in Scotland. From the SCLR headlines page describing Shona’s research:

For commercial landlords and tenants in Scotland, the common law, rather than legislation, is the source of most rules. Yet, despite its widespread practical importance, a lack of research has left the common law regarding leases and licences to occupy riddled with uncertainty. Through a historical study, this research sheds light for the first time on some of the most fundamental unanswered questions: it evaluates which occupancy agreements can be validly created, and how their formation requirements differ.

The announcement of Shona’s success featured in the Scottish Legal News bulletin in September last year. Shona is also the winner of one of the two Scottish Universities Law Institute (SULI) Scholarships. Congratulations Shona!