Decoding Ebook Collections: How to be Confident about what we Hold

Frequently Found Frustrations

Have you ever been stumped in our catalog by coming across an ebook record that looks something like this?

Catalog Image

An example of an ebook that is only available through City Tech (click the image above to see details live in the catalog)

Ebooks can be particularly tricky to navigate in our catalog. Because we share resources and books with other CUNY schools, you might assume that any, or all ebooks can be accessed by any CUNY student. Thus, try as you might with your Graduate Center credentials to open the ebook pictured above, and you won’t be let through. We know that this can be a frustrating experience!

Decoding the Catalog

There are reasons for these complications: our electronic collections, although new and digital, are still built much in the same way that our print collections have been. Just like each CUNY library buys books for their shelves with their individual budgets, each school buys or subscribes to collections of ebooks. Sometimes we purchase the same books for all of the CUNY campuses, and sometimes only one school has access to a particular series or title–as with the example above, sometimes only one school might purchase of the ebook version of a particular text. Thus, ebooks are campus-specific resources.

Only when you find an ebook that has the name of your school in the “holdings” section of the catalog (pictured in the images included here on the far right), will you be able to open or use that ebook. For example, someone affiliated with the Graduate Center only has access to ebooks that, display the “holdings” as CUNY (because all of CUNY has access to these titles) or the Graduate Center (which just the Graduate Center purchased).

Catalog Image

An example of an ebook that is available to all of CUNY (click the image above to see details live in the catalog)

The other reason why the catalog is crucial in this whole process is that we purchase ebooks from many providers that work through a variety of different platforms. The catalog is the place that you can always go to see what books are accessible electronically, no matter what publisher they came from or what platform they work with. Each ebook title can be found in the catalog as well as through logging into the publisher or vendor’s site directly.

In Short: Ebook Access is Campus-Based

For Graduate Center affiliates, unless you see “CUNY” or “Graduate Center” listed under holdings in the CUNY catalog, we don’t have access to an ebook. Your access to ebook titles depends on which campus you belong to (or which campuses!).

(If you have multiple CUNY affiliations, just be sure to use the same username and password for your login when you open an ebook that you would use for that campus. i.e. if you click the Brooklyn College link, use your Brooklyn College username and password to open the ebook).

A Few Simple Search Tricks

  • If you only want to find ebooks that you can use when you search the catalog, you can limit your search to the holdings of just your campus (on the front page of the GC Library website, under the “Catalog” tab, choose “Graduate Center” instead of “All CUNY” in the right-most drop-down before you hit the search button).
  • Another alternative way to search is to go directly to our collections of ebooks that the Graduate Center holds through our Ebooks Guide or on our A-Z database list.
  • Beyond what the GC licenses and makes available, there is also an ever-widening array of open access ebooks. (Don’t forget that titles published before 1923 are part of the public domain!)
  • As stated above, be sure you are using the correct login for an ebook–if you click the Graduate Center link from the catalog, be sure to use your GC login information (not your username and password from another school).

Alternative Access (for Ebooks not Held by the GC)

If you have your heart set on an ebook that is only available elsewhere (say, like the ebook in the first image above, the title is not a CUNY-wide or Graduate Center title), here are some alternate ways to get access to the text:

  • Go, in person, to the library that holds the ebook that you would like to read. If you are on-site at that library, you should have access to the ebook no matter which school you are affiliated with. (Although not all ebooks are built alike–even if you can read some, you might not be able to print, save or download. Ask a librarian for help if you’d like more information about an individual title.)
  • Check to see: Is the item available in print anywhere at CUNY? If so, you can place a CLICs (inter-CUNY, through the Catalog) request to have the book sent to you, or you can go to that library directly to check it out.
  • Item not available at CUNY? Make an Interlibrary Loan (ILL) request for the book. Since getting ebooks through ILL is not possible (see this article or this one for more on the overall terrain of ebook lending), ILL will find the print copy for you that would get to our library the quickest.
  • Place an ILL request for a portion of the book. Often book chapters or partial sections of a book can be scanned and delivered electronically. If you only need a small part of a book, or if you’d like a portion of the book faster than the physical item could be delivered, request a book chapter via ILL.
  • If you would like help with this (or any of the above), remember you can always ask a librarian!

About the Author

Alycia Sellie is the Associate Librarian for Collections at the Graduate Center Library.