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Ask a Librarian: Borrowing & Requesting Library Material

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Request a Literature Search

Need sources for your literature review? Struggling to find sources for your postgraduate assignment?

The Library can assist with a literature search, which is a systematic and comprehensive search for published, academic material on your specific subject/topic. How do you request one? Simply go to Request a literature search .The earlier you send your request the sooner we can assist! 

If you are experiencing issues in completing the form, please use this link.

Who may borrow or request Library material?

All registered Unisa students and staff may borrow and request library material, subject to the Library’s lending regulations.

Use the Library Catalogue to:

  • request books,
  • request or download copies of articles or law reports,
  • view and renew material you have borrowed

How many books can I borrow?

  • Undergraduate - 8 items including audiovisual items
  • Postgraduate -16 items including audiovisual items
  • Undergraduate music students - 12 items of which 8 may be audiovisual items
  • Postgraduate music students - 20 items of which 8 may be audiovisual items
  • Non-degree purposes, short learning programmes and certificates: 4 items (no audiovisual items)

Do I have to go to the Library to take out books?

You do not have to go to the Library to take out books. Material may also be requested online. More information on how to request material from the Library

Are there items I may not borrow from the Library?

Some library items may not be borrowed. However, such items may be consulted in the Library.

Examples of these items include:

  • reference works (e.g. encyclopaedias, dictionaries, yearbooks, law reports)
  • journals
  • archival material
  • items in special collections
  • art colour slides

Photocopies of publications that may not be borrowed may be obtained on request and in keeping with the limits laid down by South African copyright law.

I am looking for a book, what do I do?

To find out if the Library has a particular book in its collection, start with an author or title search in the Library Catalogue.

If the Catalogue shows that we have the book, you can request the book by clicking on the request button and the book will be posted to you.

If you look up the book in the Catalogue while you are in the Library, you will need to take note of the STATUS of the book - is it out on loan or is it available for loan? If the book is available, then you will need to note the SHELF NO and seek the book on the shelf according to its shelf number.

If you cannot find the book in the Library Catalogue, and you are eligible for interlibrary loan service (ILL) then you could request the book on ILL or suggest that the Library purchase a copy. More on interlibrary loans.

It is always helpful to attend Library training to enhance your Library skills.

What do I do if I cannot find the books I am looking for on the shelf?

There are a number of reasons why you would not find a book on the shelf. It is important to ask for assistance from Library staff.

Some of the reasons why you might not find a book on the shelf include the following:

  • it is already out on loan (always check the status of a book when you look it up in the Library Catalogue. If a book is out on loan, the status will indicate the due date)
  • you are perhaps in the wrong collection, e.g. the same shelf no range will appear in the Open Collection and in the Reference Collection 
  • a fellow Library user may be using the book at a desk in the Library or has taken it to the photocopying section to copy a few pages
  • the book may be waiting to be re-shelved after being returned to the Library
  • the book may be missing (if we are aware that the book is missing, the Catalogue will indicate the status as on search)
  • the book may be overdue (in which case the Catalogue will indicate the status as account sent)
  • the book is at the Bindery for books that are damaged (the Catalogue will indicate the status as bindery)
  • if the book is a loose-leaf publication it might be with staff for updating the loose-leaf publications because a new supplement has arrived. 

How long does it take for material I have requested to be delivered to me?

If the requested item is available in the Library, it may take up to 3 weeks to arrive depending on the method of dispatch that is used. More information about the request process.

How do I borrow library material?

There are a number of ways to borrow library material. As an open distance learning library, the Unisa Library accommodates both the student who can visit the Library in person and the student who cannot come to the Library to borrow books.

  • in person - you may fetch the book from the shelf and have it issued to you at the Lending Counter or you may prefer to use the self-issue machines. The first time you choose the self-service route, you will need to create a Library PIN to use when borrowing an item via the self-issue machine.
  • request online - via the Library Catalogue, search for the title or course code and submit your request.

It is always helpful to attend a hands-on library training session to acquire basic library skills.

Does the Library keep copies of prescribed books?

Students are expected to read prescribed material in order to master the subject matter of their courses.

Only limited stocks of prescribed books are available in Unisa.libraries, therefore students are required to purchase their own copies of prescribed books from the official booksellers.  No reservations are made for prescribed books that are already out on loan.

Students who have problems obtaining specific prescribed books from the booksellers should contact 

My postal address has changed. What should I do?

Inform the Unisa administration as soon as possible.  You can change your personal information on myUnisa.

Can I submit an interlibrary loan (ILL) request electronically?

Yes, interlibrary loan requests can be mailed to the following dedicated mailbox:

This service is limited to Unisa staff and registered Master's and Doctoral students.