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:

Law Library: Changes to opening times

As the end of semester approaches, you may be concerned about the hours the library will be open in the run up to exams. We’ve increased weekend hours as we get closer to the exam period by opening later on Sundays in December:

Monday 29th November 2021 to Monday 20th December 2021

Monday – Thursday 9am – 9:50pm
Friday 9am  – 6:50pm
Saturday 9am – 4:50pm
Sunday 12 noon – 6:50pm

There will also be changes to the opening hours over the winter break, as follows:

Tuesday 21 December 2021 to Sunday 16 January 2022

Tuesday 21 – Thursday 23 December 2021 9am – 4:50pm
Friday 24 December 2021 – Tuesday 4 January 2022 Closed
Wednesday 5 – Friday 7 January 2022 9am – 4:50pm
Saturday 8 & Sunday 9 January 2022 Closed
Monday 10 – Friday 14 January 2022 9am – 4:50pm
Saturday 15 & Sunday 16 January 2022 Closed

Normal semester opening hours will resume on Monday 17th January 2022. 

If you find the times above don’t suit your schedule for study, you may want to look at the Main Library opening hours, or for a complete list of library opening information please check the Library website.  

Visit the Law Library… virtually!

students exiting the Law Library building in Old College quad

Law Library exterior, Old College

As the semester gets going you may be keen to visit our beautiful Law Library at Old College to find materials, use a study space, or generally just soak up the atmosphere.

However we know that after the past year some students may be anxious about coming on to campus, and may be worried about what to expect. In order to help with that we’ve prepared a short Sway as a guide to the Law Library. It includes information on what’s in the collections, photos of the library, and links to other helpful resources you may want to use. You can find it here:

Law Library Library Orientation Guide

We’ve made different guides for each of our site libraries which you can find on the Library Orientation Guide page on our website. You’ll also find a guide to Using the Library Online, which we think will be helpful for our online or distance students, or those who are self-isolating or in quarantine.

Other preparations for visiting campus may include looking at maps ahead of time. Did you know we’ve got an interactive campus map? If you visit the Maps page and use the key to select the Layers tab, and then click the eye icon to make Libraries and Study Spaces visible, you can see all our locations across the city! We’ve highlighted the Law Library icon in the image below in pink.

Map of the central part of campus, with buildings highlighted in a variety of colours. Several black circles featuring white book icons are visible on the screen, to indicate the location of libraries.

We look forward to seeing you on campus soon!

Note: The Microsoft Sway platform uses moving images in their templates, and each of the above Sways use one moving image at the top of the page. If you require the information in an alternative format please contact us by email: law.librarian@ed.ac.uk.

Training: Welcome to the Library!

A pair of converse trainers stand on wooden boards, in front of a door mat which says 'welcome on board'. There are silver coloured bolts on the floor next to the mat which imply that this person is standing on a dock.

Image from PXfuel, licensed for re-use

It’s almost the start of the new academic year which means it’s one of the busiest times of year for Academic Support Librarians. We offer a range of introductory training sessions for students joining the university, and we have some bespoke sessions arranged for each level of study in the School of Law.

14th September: Postgraduate (online) – Using the University Library

22nd September: Undergraduate: Using the University Library

23rd September: Postgraduate (all) – Using the University Library

29th September: PhD – Sources, Materials & Bibliographies

These training events will all be run online using the Collaborate platform, and are often very popular. To find out more and register please use the MyEd Events Booking system and enter the titles above in the search box. Alternatively watch out for direct booking links being circulated via the UG, PG or PhD offices. We will also record these sessions and upload them to our Media Hopper Channel after the event.

When the semester begins we’ll offer one-to-one appointments which you can use to get additional advice to support your studies. These are also available to book via the MyEd Events Booking system, just search for “Literature search clinic” and select the Law specific event, or search for “Law” and select provider group “IS Library and University Collections” to find all our Law related training.

If you have any questions about these or any other training you’d like, please contact us by email: law.librarian@ed.ac.uk. We look forward to welcoming you (or welcoming you back) soon!

Event: House of Commons Library and Briefing Paper Research

If you are interested in legal information and the research that goes into official publications, you may find this upcoming event hosted by the Scottish Law Librarians’ Group to be of interest.

The Scottish Law Librarians’ Group Presents, in association with the Advocates’ Library, Edinburgh:

The House of Commons Library and Briefing Paper Research

Thursday 1st July 2021. 7pm-8.30pm

The SLLG Committee and Advocates’ Library are delighted to introduce the inaugural event in our new online lecture series which we hope will be of great interest to law librarians, legal professionals, law students and anyone with an interested in professional legal research.

David Torrance is an experienced researcher at the House of Commons Library and has worked on briefing papers relating to both Scottish Independence and current events in Northern Ireland.

In this talk he will introduce the work of the House of Commons Library, explaining the resources available, how research is conducted, and how briefing papers contribute to the work of the House. We will look at some of the briefing papers David has authored, specifically with reference to issues of relevance for legal professionals in Scotland such as the legality of an independence referendum. The event will also include time for questions after David’s presentation.

This is an online event which will be hosted on Zoom. A link to the event will be sent out to registered attendees two days prior to the talk. The event will be recorded and a link will be circulated to attendees along with additional resources relating to David’s work following the event.

Register on Eventbrite

Re-Opening of the Law Library

As many of you know the rules on lockdown have begun to change. From the 26th April 2021 this means that library services can offer more access to premises – including the Law Library.

It is not a return to business as usual!

Staff and students will be able to access the premises and collections, with self-issue machines being available so that self-service borrowing can resume.

All users will need to adhere to the rules relating to Covid-19 restrictions including physical distancing, wearing a face covering (unless exempt) and the booking of study spaces before coming to the library. Full details on study spaces and how to book is available on the Study Spaces pages.

The opening hours are available at the Law Library pages.

As access to the library starts the Click & Collect service will come to an end, but any requests made before the 19th of April will still be processed.

For students who have not had the opportunity to visit the Law Library this short presentation will give you an idea of what is available during usual service: Law Library Tour

The Library staff look forward to seeing you again!

The problem with ebooks

Two hands enter the screen, one from each side of the image. One is holding a smartphone which has a book spilling out of the side, the other has a pile of paper currency which is being offered in exchange.

Image from mohamed_hassan via Pixabay

Working and studying through the Coronavirus pandemic has meant that we’re more reliant on ebooks and other electronic resources than ever before. As much as we would have liked for this to be a seamless transition to hybrid learning, it’s been a struggle throughout the year to make sure that we have access to all the essential materials you need for your coursework.

One of the reasons that we’re not always able to provide ebook access is that publishers do not always make their material available electronically. They may do this for a number of reasons, one of which is that they are worried they will not make the same amount of profit from print book sales as they usually would. They may also make the price of the ebook much much higher than the price of an individual print book to compensate for this potential loss of sales. For us in the Law school, we have found problems where publishers make books only available if you purchase access to an entire database of resources, often for hundreds of thousands of pounds, when we only need access to a handful of ebooks. This is not a realistic way for us to purchase access – budgets for resources are limited and getting tighter every year.

Some academic librarians in the UK have joined forces to launch an investigation into this spike in ebook prices and limits to availability because it is seriously affecting the courses that universities are able to run. You can read more about this campaign and the open letter sent to the UK Government asking for support here: https://academicebookinvestigation.org/ 

More recently, this campaign has had some publicity in national newspapers including this article in The Guardian by Anna Fazackerley, ‘Price gouging from Covid: Student ebooks costing up to 500% more than in print’:  https://www.theguardian.com/education/2021/jan/29/price-gouging-from-covid-student-ebooks-costing-up-to-500-more-than-in-print

Last week it was announced that the Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) has petitioned the Competitions and Markets Authority to investigate this issue:
https://academicebookinvestigation.org/2021/02/04/chartered-institute-of-library-and-information-professionals-cilip-formally-petitions-competition-and-markets-authority-cma-to-investigate-practices-of-academic-ebook-publishers/ 

We wanted to draw your attention to these items so that you’re aware that action is being taken at a national level, and that librarians and academics are working hard to ensure that higher education institutions are not held to ransom over ebook access. The issues we’re facing here in Edinburgh are not unique, but they are very worrying.  We hope that the investigations that are now being proposed will result in fairer and more equitable access for all in future.

If you’re worried about ebook access to core material for your course please speak to your course organiser or email us, law.librarian@ed.ac.uk.

What is a Legal Deposit Library?

When speaking to students who live in Edinburgh library staff tell them that they can join the National Library of Scotland (NLS).

At the minute that’s not strictly true – as the NLS along with all other libraries are under restrictions. But why do we say it would be good to consider joining when we have so much in our own libraries?

The main reason is that the NLS is a Legal Deposit Library – but what does that mean?

The NLS is one of six Legal Deposit Libraries in the UK. A Legal Deposit Library is governed by specific legislation:

The Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003
Irish Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000
Legal Deposit Libraries (Non-Print) Regulations 2013

This legislation allows these six libraries to claim a copy of any work published in the UK and Ireland, either in print or electronically as identified under the legislation. This includes more than just books and journal articles- but also newspapers and some content from the worldwide web.

So you can just imagine what they have on their shelves and servers! If you are interested in finding out more go to the information pages on the NLS:
https://www.nls.uk/about-us/legal-deposit

For law in particular, this has a great significance in Scotland. The National Library of Scotland was founded from the collection of the Faculty of Advocates’ Library, a private members’ organisation which is still considered to have one of the finest collections of Scottish Law material in existence.

From its formal opening in 1689, the Advocates Library in Edinburgh rapidly developed into the finest library in Scotland. Following the introduction of the Library’s legal deposit privilege in 1710, its book collection grew at an ever-increasing rate.

The Advocates Library gradually came to be seen as Scotland’s national library in all but name. In 1925, an Act of Parliament formally established the National Library of Scoland. The Faculty of Advocates then gifted its collection — with the exception of legal material — to the country.

(National Library of Scotland, ‘Advocates Collection’)

We have such a wonderful opportunity for access to rare and unusual material from having both the Advocates’ and NLS collections just around the corner from our campus, and so we highly recommend students take advantage of the resources they have available.