St John's College Oxford
Most books in the College Library and other materials are discoverable using the Oxford University search interface, SOLO. This also provides access to many electronic resources.


The best place to begin searching for resources in the College Library, or indeed most other libraries in Oxford, is SOLO. SOLO is the single search interface for most of the resources provided and paid for by the University's various libraries. Among other things it allows you to locate and access:

  • books and journals in print 
  • electronic editions of books 
  • electronic journals and full text articles
  • databases and other electronic resources

It is advisable to use SOLO over Google when looking for Oxford University resources as it provides more targeted retrieval (you won't have to wade through as many results), and it will either grant direct access to the resource, or ask you to login with your Single Sign On, without asking you to subscribe to the resource separately.

Searching SOLO

To search for books, journals, DVDs, etc. enter your search terms into the search box at the top left of the screen. There are various ways of making your search more accurate and a lot of help describing how to do this on the interface (any queries please ask Library Staff for help). If you want to search for books in a particular library, say St John's, use the drop down menu just next to the search box to do this - the default is a search across all the University's libraries.

search tips 1

Once you've entered your search terms and clicked on the 'Search' button you will hopefully get a list of results. Usually this will be a mix of electronic and print resources. If an item in the list has a 'View online' tag as the first tag underneath it there will be an electronic version available - simply click on the tab and follow any instructions to access the item (you may need use your single sign on, particularly if you're not using a University computer). If an item has a 'Find & request' tag and no 'View online' tag then it's only available in print (some items have both 'View online' and 'Find & request' options and can be accessed electronically or in print). Use the 'Details & links' tab to get more information about an item if you want to check it's definitely what you want to consult.

Search results in SOLO Detail of a list of results in SOLO showing both 'View online' and 'Find & request' options.

To see how to locate an item that is only in print click on the 'Find & request' tag: this will generate a list of libraries where a copy is available. Click on the appropriate library (say St John's) and you will be provided with a list of the available copies in the Library, each with a 'shelfmark' (a code indicating where the book is on the shelf) and an indication of whether you can borrow it or not. Check whether it is possible to borrow a book by looking at its 'Type/Status' ('Available' means it should be waiting on the shelf, a date means it is out on loan at the moment and you may need to recall it if you need it urgently or wait until its returned, 'Confined' means it cannot be taken out of the Library, 'Missing' means it's disappeared). Then take a note of the shelfmark which will tell you where it is in the Library. 

SOLO Search 2 Search results showing how to find a location on the shelf and whether a book is available.

St John's Library shelfmarks

A shelfmark (sometimes also called a 'classmark' or 'call number') is a code showing where an item is in the Library sequence of books. It appears on the catalogue and on a small label at the bottom of the spine of each book. The system used in St John's is an in-house system and usually follows the pattern of an abbreviated code for the subject area (e.g. CHEM - Chemistry,  ENGL - English, ENGIN - Engineering, POL - Politics, etc) followed by a number which relates to a topical breakdown of the subject, followed by three or four letters which are usually the first letters of the author's or editor's name. So, for example, Biochemistry by B.D. Hames would have a classmark 'CHEM / 70 / HAM', and to find it you'd locate the Chemistry section, then within that look for the books on biochemistry (at number 70), and then within that look for the author name filed alphabetically. Some sections of the Library have variants of this with four lines or two lines but they function in much the same way. The historic and special collections have their own shelfmark systems and you will need to consult library staff should you wish to look at items of this type. 

There are plans of the Library to help you locate subject areas.

Databases & Ejournals

As well as books SOLO also provides access to full text articles from the many ejournals subscribed to by the Bodleian Libraries, as well as numerous databases of differing sorts and subject areas. There is a lot of more detailed help available on the interface to help you discover these, but to find articles from ejournals you could click on the tab 'Articles & More' to search for items, although it's also advisable to search the ejournals by title via the link on the top right of the interface. OXLIP - the University's listing of databases is also available via a link in the top right of the interface.

Things not on SOLO

Although SOLO attempts to provide a fairly comprehensive listing and unified interface for searching material available in Oxford, some things might not be listed. If you don't retrieve a result you were hoping for it may be worth checking and conducting your search again just to make sure this is accurate, or varying it slightly just in case the item is listed slightly differently from your expectation, but the most obvious reason for an item not being on SOLO is that none of the libraries in Oxford have it. If this is the case you have several options:

  • Try to locate an item in a library outside Oxford and ask them about access. 
  • If you locate an item in a UK library it may be possible to get them to send it, or a copy of a relevant chapter, to Oxford using the Bodleian Libraries' Inter-Library Loan service. This usually requires payment of a fee.
  • You may be able to request its purchase by one of the Oxford libraries. The College library takes recommendations for books, DVDs, etc., particularly those relating to undergraduate study, from members of St John's. Purchases of this type are strictly at the Librarian's discretion, but if the item is not unavailable, prohibitively expensive, overly specialist or entirely unsuitable then such requests will be seriously considered. 

Not all material types are listed on SOLO. In the main the catalogue is designed for published material, so most manuscript material or archival material is not included, and you will need to apply to the particular holding library for advice on locating items from this type of collection. It is also worth bearing in mind that SOLO is a work in progress which means that some collections or sets of material are not yet included - very new books may take some time to be processed, and sometimes large historic collections are yet to be, or are in the process of being, catalogued. If an item appears on SOLO but is only available in another College library you will usually need to make an appointment with the relevant library to consult the item.