Library Basics - A Guide for New Users
New to McMaster Library? Here's a quick overview of some of the most common things a new user needs to know.
Need Help? Just Ask!
You'll find our tutorials and guides in the Research Help section of the website. Check it out!
Here are a few specific support resources you might find useful:
Try one of these guides
Jump to more information about:
Obtaining Material from Outside McMaster
When McMaster Library doesn't have the book, article, or other item you need, you can borrow it from another library through a process we call Interlibrary Loan (ILL).
We use a system called RACER to borrow from other libraries. You sign up for RACER using your barcode on your ID card.
Video: how to sign up for RACER
Video: how to request an item from RACER
Books will be delivered to Mills Library, and articles are sent to your email.
You can also borrow in person from outside libraries.
Course Reserves Revealed
eReserves is our new electronic course reserve system that allows instructors and students to have one single access point for all reading materials. This system ensures your content is made accessible and copyright compliant.
Materials are placed on reserve by instructors or library staff to make limited resources available to as many students as possible.
Limited loan periods apply and overdue fines are charged.
Finding reserves for your course
- Start at the Course Reserves page
- Browse the list or Search. Searching can be done by course or instructor's name
Viewing the list of items on reserve
- Click on the course and the list will display.
- The call number and current status of each item on reserve will be listed (as well as any copies in bookstacks).
Obtaining reserve materials
- Give call numbers and valid ID card to staff at the Library Services Desk
More Information about Reserves
Distinguishing between Discovery, Catalogue, Databases and Online Journals
Using the Discovery option simultaneously searches McMaster's library catalogue and the contents of several subscription and open access databases. Discovery is not a comprehensive search of everything available through McMaster libraries and may contain results for items not owned by McMaster. You may need to search other resources such as the Catalogue or RACER/ILL to find all relevant material on your topic. For more extensive information, a Guide to Discovery is available.
The Library Catalogue option searches all owned items such as books, journals, films/streaming video, equipment, databases of articles etc., at a number of McMaster libraries. Library Catalogue results should all be available at McMaster libraries in some format (print, online, microform, etc.). Article titles can’t be searched using the Catalogue only search. When using the Catalogue-only search, search using the journal's title or by topic and use the journal's search or navigation to find your article. Using the Catalogue : Find Books or other materials by Title or Topic
Using the Databases tab gives access to online searchable collections of research materials purchased by the McMaster University Library. These usually contain articles but may also contain data, images, patents, videos or other relevant materials. You can choose to Search or Select by field of study. Field of study results include Best Bets. Best Bets are librarian recommended databases for particular fields of research subject areas. The Database Browse link (located under the main search box) allows for selecting a database by the type of information a database carries or by User Type as well as an A-Z browse. Selecting A Database video.
E-Journal tab is best used when you are looking for a specific e-Journal. Used to find online full-text journals, magazines and newspapers. NOTE: If a particular publication is not listed here, try searching our Library Catalogue by Journal Title as it may be found in the libraries in another format.
Zoning in on Where to Study in the Library
Our libraries are made up of different study zones.
To find your space, look under the :
- Silent Study Zones - no talking, no cellphones. Absolute silence.
- Quiet Study Zones - minimal noise, but more spaces to sit
- Conversation-friendly Zones - non-disruptive talking is acceptable
- Group Study Zones - large tables to allow for groups to converse
- Group Study Rooms - bookable rooms allows for groups to plan and focus
Getting Help - A Handbook
McMaster Library offers a number of ways for you to get assistance for whatever you need.
- Visit us at one of the library service desks. Staff can collaborate with you on locating the resources you need or direct you to additional assistance.
- Request a one-on-one research consultation with a librarian
- Ask a Librarian chat service - look for the link located in the bottom right corner of every page
- Email us email@example.com
- The Research Help page is structured to guide you as you progress through your research, from planning to publishing.
- Library Guides: a good place to start. Here you'll find general guides to help you with your research skills, and course specific guides to help you with relevant resources and services.
Phone our Service Desks:
- Mills: ext 22077
- Thode: ext 22000
- Innis: ext. 22081
A Primer on Printing and Technology
All printing in the library uses the cloud-based PrintSmart system.
How it works:
- Login to your PrintSmart account using your MAC ID
- Select 'Add Funds' - choose an amount starting at $5, and pay with Credit or Debit
- Print from any library computer or your own device to one of our networked printers
- Log into the machine of your choice with your MAC ID
- You can use any of our printers for copying/scanning as well
Print, Copy and Scanning Rates & more information
Making the Most of My Library Account
- Best bet to Access your account is using your barcode (29000xxx) number and a pin. If you need assistance in setting up a pin, library staff can help– online, in person or by phone.
- Renew your books – no need to bring them in. Select Checkouts in the left navigation bar. All books except reserve materials can be renewed (unless they have been recalled) in your account OR in-person.
- Using the ‘My Lists’ function allows you to create lists of links to the library materials you are interested in. Especially useful for keeping links to e-resources and e-books you want to reuse or refer to, since the library has over 1 million e-resources and many of our newest resources are in e-format.
- Books you have requested from another borrower (a "recall") or to be retrieved from the shelves (a "request"), will show under Holds. You will be emailed once the item is available for you. See the video for the Request/Recall process.
- Fines/Fees will show any fines you have incurred at the library before they are billed to your university student account. Fines may also be paid using the Food for Fines program – contact your library.
- Preferred Searches can only be created by logging into your account from the Classic Catalogue. You can choose to receive a weekly e-mail listing new items matching your search. Preferred searches will locate items added to the Library Catalogue, but not journal articles or other content.
- For more information about My Account and renewals
Borrowing for Beginners
- Current students, staff, and faculty can borrow from any of our libraries using their student/staff ID card.
- To figure out what books the library has, you can search the Library Catalogue.
- There's no limit to the items you can borrow. Undergrads can borrow books for 2 weeks. Grads/staff/faculty get 3 months..
- You can keep items for longer - renew using My Library Account.
- Bring your books to the Library Service Desk to borrow them, or do it yourself using our Self-Checkout machines.
- We also loan items, like cameras, electronics, whiteboard markers, headphones and more! Equipment Inventory
Not currently enrolled or working at Mac? We have borrowing options for you, too.