Last update: April 4, 2016

There is a tremendous wealth of information and knowledge available through the UBC Library System.  If you are not a student, it can be harder to find what you are looking because the library system is set-up with students and academic researchers in mind. 

The Centre for Community Engaged Learning and the Irving K Barber Learning Centre have compiled resources and tips to support community organizations in navigating the library system to find the information you are looking for. 


Start with this tip sheet

This tip sheet will walk you through three key steps that are important to navigating the UBC Library System:

  • Step 1: Describing what information/knowledge you are looking for in a way that helps you know where in the UBC Library System to look;
  • Step 2: Understanding where to go to find this information and in what format do you need it in; and,
  • Step 3: Knowing what kind of access you can get to what is available if you do not have an official connection with the University (e.g. staff, student or alumni).

The steps are outlined in the tip sheet, but also on this webpage.  This webpage includes additional information and resources.

Step 1: What Information Are You Looking for?

Before you begin your search, we recommend you consider the following questions. These will assist you to scope and further define your research question before you start.

Step 1A: Answer these Questions to Start

  1. What do you want to know? What subject or disciplines does your topic fall within? Brainstorm key terms, geographic scope, are you looking for current information or historical or….?
  2. Why do you want to know it?
  3. How will it help? Why is important?
  4. Where and how could you collect that information? What formats do you prefer (print or electronic)? Are you able to come to UBC campus to use library computers to do your research?
  5. Who is responsible for doing this research and is anyone affiliated with UBC assisting you (e.g. students or partners)?

Write down your answers to the above questions by completing the following sentences:

  1. I want to learn about …
  2. Because I want to find out…
  3. In order to understand …
  4. My intended outcome of this research is…
  5. My timeline for doing this research is….


Step 1B: Try Turning Your Curiosity into a Research Question

For students trying to access information from the libraries, developing a research question is one of the best ways to narrow down the possible faculties or disciplines you should explore first for the information and knowledge you are looking for.

We recommend viewing this online tutorial aimed at students and try your hand at framing your own reference question.


STEP 2: Where Do I Find What I’m Looking For?

Information and resources within the UBC Library System are organized by faculties and/or areas of study – whether its journals and databases you can search online or the physical library branches themselves. Spending time with Step 1 will have given you some insight into where to begin your search.


STEP 2A: Start Virtually

The UBC Library catalogue is a good start.   By looking there first, you may find materials such as books, journals, and also open educational resources (such as government and policy papers, digitized photos, etc). 

Here are a few places to start your searching:

View this useful online tutorial for using Summon:


Tip: watch for resources that are open to “…users in the library”


View this useful online tutorial for using research guides:


  • The Irving K. Barber Learning Centre and UBC Library have selected a list of open access resources that are freely available.  Explore these resources here.


STEP 2B: Seek In-Person Library Help

A reference librarian is a great resource as well.  Sometimes it’s just helpful to reach out for some guidance and assistance.  It’s important to know what library branch to reach out to.

  • This online tutorial framed for students on how to plan their library research and gives some good insights on how to communicate with a librarian

  • Here is a link to maps and hours for the branches:
  • Below is a table that outlines each UBC library branch, their focus/discipline area, as well as their contact information:


Library Branch

Phone Contact

Subject Area of Specialty

Asian Library

(604) 822-2427

Asian languages resources (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indic languages, Indonesian and Persian)

Biomedical Branch Library

(604) 875-4505


David Lam Management Research Library and Canaccord Learning Commons

(604) 822-9400

Business and Management

Education Library

(604) 822-3767


Chapman Learning Commons, Irving K Barber Learning Centre

(604) 827-3909

Tutoring, Writing Support,  Peer Academic Coaching, Technical assistance

Music, Art and Architecture Library,  Irving K Barber Learning Centre

(604) 822-3943

Music, Art, Architecture & Landscape Architecture, Community & Regional Planning

Rare Books and Special Collections, Irving K Barber Learning Centre

(604) 822-2521

Rare Books, Chung Collection Exhibition, Historical Maps & Photographs

University Archives, Irving K. Barber Learning Centre

(604) 822-5877

University Documents , Photographs & Historical Materials, Records Management

Koerner Library

(604) 822-2725

Humanities & Social Sciences   | Government Publications & Data Services,  Maps, GIS Lab, Research Commons, Scholarly Communications and Copyright, cIRcle (UBC’s Institutional Repository)

Law Library

(604) 822-2275


Okanagan Library

(250) 807-9107

UBC’s Okanagan campus in Kelowna.

Woodward Library

(604) 822-2883

Engineering, Forestry, Health & Medicine, Land and Food Systems,   Science

X̱wi7x̱wa Library

(604) 822-8738

Aboriginal, Indigenous scholarship

STEP 3: How to Get Access to UBC Library Resources

The UBC Library offers basic reference assistance (Step 2B), access to online resources (Step 2A), and collections use and study are available to everyone in the UBC library branches, free of charge. 

If you want to borrow books, you might want to purchase a Community Borrower Card


Card Types


Community Borrower Cards for individual members of the public, non-transferable. Learn more here.

12 months from date of issue                       $120

4 months from date of issue                          $40

Senior’s rate for those aged 65 over         $40 (per year)

Institutional Borrower Cards for businesses, corporations, and government departments. Learn more here.

Initial card                                                   $250

Each additional card                                   $25

A-Card for UBC Alumni provides same privileges as community borrower card, as well as remote access to Academic Search and Business Source Alumni version. Learn more here.

A-Card                                                           Free Note: Authentication at Koerner Library (in Vancouver) or at the UBC Okanagan campus is required.


What Resources & Services are available to those not affiliated with UBC?

  • Basic reference assistance, access to online resources, and collections use and study are available to everyone in the libraries free of charge
  • Remote access to most online resources is restricted by license agreements to current UBC students, faculty, and staff only. For restrictions on specific databases, check online resource access restrictions
  • Most books can be borrowed for 2 weeks and renewed if not requested by other borrowers
  • Certain materials cannot be borrowed including course reserve items, journals, reference books, and videos subject to licensing restrictions
  • Interlibrary loans and Document Delivery requests are available as fee-based library services
  • The maximum number of items on loan at one time is 50
  • Fines are charged on all overdue loans

Where can I apply? 

Apply at the circulation desks of Walter C. Koerner Library (604-822-2406)

  • Remember to present one piece of government issued photo ID (BC Driver’s License or BCID preferred) and proof of a local address (e.g., bank statement, utility bill, or automobile registration)

I have the Information I’m Looking For, Now What?

Some further next steps:

  • Here is an online tutorial aimed at students on how to evaluate the quality and appropriateness of the resources and information they have found in the library system:

  • Here is a YouTube playlist of all the online tutorials for the UBC Library System.  There may be something additionally useful here to help you out.
  • Perhaps there’s an opportunity to engage with UBC students to support making sense of the information you have gathered.  Fill out a Project Request Form and describe how you think a student perspective might be valuable and we’ll be in touch.
  • If you have followed these steps and tips and are able to share with us a list of what you’ve found and give us feedback, we’d love to hear from you.  We are always looking to improve the resources we provide as well as hear if there are further ways to support community organizations access the information and knowledge here at UBC.

Contact information