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Library Technology Support: Off-campus access settings

To keep clients up-to-date concerning developments related to library e-resources, systems, databases and applications.

Guidelines and recommendations for off-campus workstation settings

Unisa Library subscribes to many valuable information resources and research databases. Before attempting to access the information resources or databases and the Library Catalogue, off-campus clients need to have certain hardware, software and settings in place. Clients need to:

  1. Have the recommended hardware, software and Internet connections
  2. Download the required free software, such as Adobe Reader, and other software
  3. Possibly change some settings on their computers
  4. Register on MyUnisa, claim their MyLife email address and activate their password 

The solutions we recommend might involve changing some of the security settings on clients’ PCs. Please note that the configuration of individual PCs and / or Internet browsers may affect their ability to transfer and display information correctly. It is entirely up to clients whether they keep these changes in place after they have completed searching our information resources. 

Steps taken by Unisa Library to ensure security

Unisa Library would like to assure clients that our technology, connectivity, security and authentication systems are all working optimally. We are committed to client privacy and we ensure this commitment in a number of ways:

a) Https secured pages on the Library Catalogue

The Library site and your access to e-resources is protected by VeriSign SSL digital certificates. Using Secured Sockets Layer (SSL) technology, the personal information of clients is encrypted as it is passed to and from us. Clients will need to click YES on the Security Information box whenever this information box appears.

The 'https' in the URL of the My Library / Renewals / Login pages means that the pages and any personal information is protected.

b) The use of cookies

The Library web site requires that cookies be enabled on clients’ PCs. The site is divided into public and private (secure) pages. Public pages are solely informational resources and clients will not be asked to provide any personal data to access these pages.

Cookies (devices that are used to track client information) are used on public pages in order to enable client sessions. For example, a cookie might track which database is visited and then store the database home page as a cookie for quick retrieval. No sensitive information is tracked by these cookies and these cookies expire very soon after clients leave the site.

c) The use of personal information

The Library does not provide client information to any third party. All information provided on our secure, private pages is used for internal purposes only, mainly to gather usage statistics.

Pages on which clients are asked for personal information are completely secured by our use of SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer. SSL encrypts any data clients provide and the data is thus made inaccessible to anyone who is not authorized to view the information.

  a)     Hardware (minimum standards – any improvement on these standards should be considered)

  •  Computer with a Pentium 4 processor, running at 2 GHz, 512 MB RAM (1028 – 2086 MB is recommended)
  • Laser or ink-jet printer

 b)     Modem

 We strongly recommend an ADSL line. A 56 KB modem may be used but the response times and downloads will be extremely slow with possible time-outs. This may be costly in the long run. We recommend 192 KB minimum.

 c)     Local Internet Service Provider

 Clients need sufficient email capacity to ensure that emailed articles are not rejected by the service provider. 1 GB cap is the minimum requirement and this should be adequate for study and research purposes. It offers spare capacity for other non-study related activities.

 d)     Software

  • Browser 
    • Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 or higher (Internet Explorer 9+ recommended) - Free download available at
    • Internet Explorer (IE) is the standard browser of Unisa. Most Library databases are designed to be viewed on Internet Explorer and they may lose functionality when other browsers are used. 


 Equipment that does not meet these requirements may not produce the desired results and will frustrate efforts to access the information resources needed.

 If Clients are unable to access the electronic services available, they are welcome to send the request for assistance via Ask a Short Question. If clients are unable to download full-text documents, they are welcome to request printed copies by completing a book request or a journal article request online form. 

The following explanation refers to IE version 9.0 and might look slightly different depending on the client’s version of IE.

To check the settings or to make changes, go to “Tools”  on the menu bar and select “Internet Options”. The Internet Options screen has 7 ‘tabs’. Click on each of the tabs mentioned below and make the recommended changes to the settings in order to have the correct set-up for your browser:


 a)     General Tab

 The ‘Temporary Internet Files’, ‘Cookies’ (or) ‘Cache’, and ‘History’ files should be cleared regularly by clicking on the “Delete” button under the “Browsing History” heading.



After clicking on the “Delete” button, the “Delete Browsing History” window will appear. Select or check the “Temporary Internet Files”, “Cookies”, “History”, “Download History”, “Form Data”, and “Passwords” check boxes and then click on the “Delete” button and follow the instruction to delete your history of previously visited web sites.


  b)     Security Tab

 JavaScript must be enabled on the Internet browser because the Library Catalogue system uses it to dynamically create a client’s lists of requests, exports and loaned items, and to view electronic resources.

 Click on the ‘Security’ tab, then Click on the “Custom level…” button, scroll down to “Scripting” and make sure that the “Enable” radio button is selected for ALL entries in that category and then click on the ‘OK’ button.



c)     Privacy Tab

Several Library databases use pop-up windows as an integral part of their operation. The Library Catalogue maintains clients’ login sessions by using a temporary browser-based cookie file. Clients’ computers must therefore be able to accept these cookies. The Pop-Up Blocker should also be disabled.

How to enable cookies:

Click on the ”Privacy” tab, then move the slide to the MEDIUM setting and de-select the radio button “Turn on Pop-up Blocker” at the bottom of the screen under pop-up blocker, and then click on the “Apply’ then “OK” buttons respectively.


If clients retrieve an empty screen when trying to access a database, or if they receive a “Validation Expired” message, it could be due to the cookies setting being too high. A known problem is that large PDF files in the Library Course Material collection (also known as e-reserves) do not open if the cookies’ setting is set on Medium.

If clients are unable to download a PDF file from the e-reserves they could try changing the cookies setting to Low until they have downloaded the article(s) required.


d)     Content Tab

“Content Advisor” is one of the main causes of login and record display problems. We recommend that clients disable “Content Advisor” completely





 Click the “Enable” button, and then click on the “Approved Sites” tab. Type “” and “” in the “text field”, and then click on the “Always” button. Click on “Apply” and then "OK" to save the changes.




e)     Advanced Tab

SSL and TLS are security features that have been added to the Library Catalogue to safeguard clients’ personal details. SSL 2.0, SSL 3.0 and TLS 1.0should all be enabled.



Clearing the cache and cookies in a web browser helps resolve issues with a database by deleting saved data in the browser that is no longer needed. It can also help improve website load times if the cache is large.

Clearing cache and cookies in current browser versions

Each browser has unique instructions for clearing the cache and cookies. Instructions for current versions of commonly used browsers are listed below.

Students need to claim their free myLife email account on the myUnisa site so that they have a valid email address in their Library records. Students should join myUnisa and then go through the process to claim this email account. The Reset PIN Request works through the myLife email account. Please see the myLife FAQ if you have any queries about the email account. There is also a comprehensive step-by-step online tutorial to guide students through the process of claiming their myLife email accounts on the myUnisa site and links to help documents on the JA-SIG CAS Single Sign-On screen

a)     The client’s own service provider might not provide enough bandwidth (rate of data transfer), resulting in time-outs

b)     The client’s workplace computer or network may block access:

  • The security settings on the workplace’s firewall might create difficulties.

               Examples of errors resulting from a firewall problem may include: 
              - “The address you are trying to access is invalid”  
              - “You are not authorized to view this page”  
               - “This page cannot be displayed”

  • The workplace might be using an older version of Internet Explorer or a different browser.
  • The workplace’s IT Department might have blocked large files (between 2.5 and 10 MB or more) or PDF attachments of full text articles that clients try to download.
  • The workplace does not want non work-related Internet traffic on their network and places a low priority on it.
  • The settings on the workstation may need to be changed as employers enable or disable various settings on employees’ workstations. The privacy settings, for example, might not be set up to accept cookies.
  • A personal laptop connected to an employer’s LAN may be firewalled and access to the library systems could be blocked. Clients could try to disconnect from the LAN and use a high speed data connection.

 Clients will need to discuss the following points with their employer’s IT Department:

 Find out what the employer’s policy is on internet usage for non-work-related business, such as studies, personal use, and others, as well as check if the following URLs are permitted:

 Clients must also check whether the employer’s IT Department has a list of sites that are blocked.

c)     Unisa

  •  Unisa’s bandwidth is heavily used during registration periods and this may cause slow access and time-outs during this time. Occasionally the network might go down over weekends while the ICT Department are busy with maintenance or other work
  • Unisa’s Internet providers TENET and Neotel can also be slow occasionally
  • Database vendors’ downtimes might also prevent access. Clients should consult the library’s homepage for notices regarding the scheduled downtimes of any of the databases.

 d)     Anti-virus programs

 Clients with home security protection software programs should make sure that their browser of choice is “white-listed” or “allowed” by their firewall. Check the settings of the anti-virus program and other cookie-blocking software installed on the computer as most of these programs are set to block cookies. If necessary, clients will then need to change the settings to allow cookies

 e)     Internet Cafés

Internet Cafes are not recommended for accessing databases and links to articles or downloading articles because students report slow response and download times with frequent time-outs and this adds to the expense of their sessions.