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Urban Studies & Planning: Intro to the Library

Recommended resources for doing research in urban studies and planning

Intro to the Library

This page is intended to give you a broad overview of major library resources and services and get you going in the right direction for many questions.

Library Basics

Library Home Page - two methods to search the library website: see graphic below

Course Reserves - find material that your instructor has placed on reserve for a class

Library Hours - including Geisel building, overnight study area, Biomedical Library building, Special Collections & Archives, and Audrey's Cafe

My Library Account - lets you view your checked-out items and their due dates; renew, hold, or recall items; see if an item you requested has arrived; save custom searches and have the results emailed to you

Library Floor Plans - show the layout of the Geisel and Biomedical Library buildings

Resource Locator - will help you figure out where to go in the library (and elsewhere for some items) for a stapler, whiteboards, color photocopiers, scanners, and much more

Searching the Library's website

There are two ways to search: the purple box at the top includes a drop-down menu to search the library website, all UCSD websites, or for faculty/staff. The red box searches only the library website; use the tabs to the left to limit searches to the library catalog, databases, research guides, etc.

VPN: Accessing Library Resources from Off-Campus

Most of our electronic journals/books, databases, and electronic reserve materials are restricted so that only current UCSD faculty, staff, and students can use them off campus. You will need to set up your computer to connect to these items using the VPN (Virtual Private Network).

If you need help with the VPN, it's generally better to contact the ITS Service Desk instead of the Library.

Printing, Copying, Scanning

Printing & Photocopying

Self-service printing and copying are available in Geisel and the Biomedical Library and use Imprints's IACCESS system. There is no ACMS / ETS printing in the Library.

For help with machines, ask at a library service desk or visit the Geisel Imprints window (main floor, east wing).

All copiers allow duplex printing. All black & white copiers allow copying to Letter, Legal, and Ledger (11x17) paper. The color copier has only letter-sized paper.


  • Black & white printing: 10cents/page (single-sided letter size) or 20c/page (double-sided)
  • Color printing: 40c/page (80c double-sided).
  • Black & white photocopying: 10c/page (single-sided letter / legal size) or 20c/page (double-sided or 11" x 17");
  • Color photocopying: 40c/page (single-sided letter size) or 80c/page (double-sided).  Note: the color copier in Geisel 2nd Floor West charges 40c/side even if copying in black & white.


Scanning in the Library is free.

Regular scanners are available in Geisel 2nd Floor East, a large format scanner in Geisel 2nd Floor West.

Scanners for 35mm negatives and slides are available in the Digital Media Lab (DML).

See more info about copying/printing/scanning.

Computers in the Library

Most Library computers require that you log in with an Active Directory account.

Computers are available in Geisel East and West Commons (main floor), Geisel West and the Geisel Tunnel (1st floor), and the Biomedical Library Commons (1st floor).

InfoStation computers are intended as short-term use and do not require log in. These are available behind the Info Desk and on floors 4-7 of Geisel, as well as other areas.

Be sure to save your files to a device or the cloud, or email them to yourself. Computers are rebooted every night and any data saved to the drive is erased.

You can see what software is available on library computers here.

See more info about computing in the Library.

Get Help from a Librarian

Librarians have Master's Degrees in Library and Information Science or a related field, and we're generally good at helping you find information - even if it's not within our own area of specialization.

You can usually find a librarian at the Research Assistance Desk in the West Wing of the main floor of Geisel from 10am-4pm Monday-Friday, who can help you with research questions and direct you to a specialist if you need more assistance. A student assistant is available at the desk for extended hours, and can help with basics like directions and computer/printing issues.

You can also ask for help by chat/email/phone/text. Hours vary for these services and you may be connected to a librarian from outside UCSD, but they can still get you pointed in the right direction or direct you to a UCSD librarian for follow-up.

If you need more in-depth help, you can contact the appropriate subject specialist directly.

Guides to Resources for Library Research

Subject guides - created by UCSD librarians to help users focus on resources for specific areas of study, such as Urban Studies & Planning or Chemical Engineering

Course guides - more focused than subject guides, pointing to resources the subject librarian thinks will be most useful for a specific class

"DIY Learning" guides - more general and/or interdisciplinary than subject/course guides. These include things like how to find data/statistics, images, primary sources, newspapers, etc.

The Get Started with Library Research guide offers information and guidance on general research issues like plagiarism, primary/secondary/tertiary sources, broadening & narrowing a topic, the difference between scholarly/peer-reviewed vs. popular articles, and how to read a call number.

Library Catalogs: Find Books, Journals, Media and More

There are four library catalogs you should be aware of:

  • Roger searches only for items held at UCSD libraries
  • Circuit searches for items in San Diego-area libraries, including UCSD, University of San Diego, San Diego State, San Diego Public Library, and San Diego County Library.
  • Melvyl searches all UC libraries; also includes Worldcat, searching libraries worldwide
  • HathiTrust - searches materials that have been digitized for the HathiTrust repository. Best for items in the public domain, e.g. older items (pre-1923) and government publications.

If you find an item that's not available at UCSD, you can usually request that we obtain it for you using Interlibrary Loan.

The Library is increasingly buying more books in electronic format. So, in addition to the catalogs above, I recommend familiarizing yourself with the Ebooks guide, which offers information about finding, using, printing, and downloading ebooks. Ebooks in other libraries' collections but not in UCSD's collection are not available for loan to UCSD.

Because urban studies is an interdisciplinary subject, books may be found in many different call number areas.  The primary call number range for general urban studies and urban planning books is HT101-395, which is on the 6th floor of Geisel. 

Library Databases: Find Journal Articles and More

"Database" can mean different things. Here, it usually refers to resources that the library buys subscriptions to...that can be journal articles, ebooks, data sets, etc. Our databases are listed alphabetically so that you can easily find and access a specific database of interest (e.g. Urban Studies Abstracts or JSTOR).

There are dropdown menus at the top of the page to find databases by subject or by type, but be aware this is still being developed and may not be comprehensive. I suggest instead that you use the relevant subject guides to find recommended databases for a specific subject area.

Useful Library Resources