Now Open: The Mina Rees E-book Detective Agency

Working from home — including teaching, writing, and studying from home — only works if you have the tools to do it. For many of us in the GC community, the tools are books, some of them printed on paper and tantalizingly close (right there on Fifth Avenue!) but as inaccessible as if they were in Atlantis. Interlibrary loan can still get journal articles and book chapters, but physical copies of whole volumes can’t be delivered.

Some of those resources you’ve lost physical access to have electronic versions. Can you get an e-book if you can’t put your hands on the tangible book?

You may be aware that scholarly publishers — and even some mainstream publishers — are opening up some or all of their online resources in response to the COVID-19 outbreak’s having closed libraries. But which publishers? Which titles? We are working to keep our E-book Collections guide up to date with information about expanded access, but it’s entirely understandable if you have trouble determining what’s accessible and what isn’t. The publishers themselves don’t always make it easy to figure out, and these temporarily available titles aren’t in our library’s searchable catalog.

We are on the case, and we’ve created a new avenue for you to get help finding e-books. Make a request for an e-book search! We’ll do everything in our power to track down the e-version of the book you need. Even if it wasn’t accessible last week, it might be this week, so go ahead and ask.

Before you get too excited, we do have to caution you that not every book has an e-book equivalent. But if we can’t locate an electronic edition, we might be able to help you find another resource, or resources, to fill the gap. Consult your subject librarian and make an appointment to root out other options.

If you’d like to be able to do this detective work yourself, we’d love to teach you. Sign up for our upcoming online workshop, and watch this blog for more detailed information about what we do.


Photo illustration: ulleo (book) and geralt (code) via 

About the Author

Katherine Pradt is the Adjunct Reference and Digital Outreach Librarian at the Graduate Center.