Frequently Asked Questions


What does this word mean?

Our answer:

As you explore the Online Library you may come across technical terms which you don't understand. Here we'll try to explain what some words mean.

Athens - Athens (sometimes called OpenAthens) is one way databases will check that you are a registered student and allow you to access library resources. You may sometimes see Athens webpages - see the Why am I being asked to login with an OpenAthens account? FAQ.

Database - The Online Library subscribes to large collections of resources (including journals, ebooks, case reports, legislation, newspapers) called databases. The databases we subscribe to include ABI/Inform (ProQuest), VLeBooks and Business Source Premier (EBSCO). You can see a list of your databases in your programme gateway.

Federation - When logging in to a database you may be asked to select your Federation. The Federation you need to select is the 'UK Access Management Federation'.

Institution - This is another word for university. If you are asked for your institution, you will need to select 'University of London: Online Library' to login with your student portal password, or 'University of London: External System (Athens)' to login with your Athens password, but this varies between different databases. See our login guides for more details.

Journal - Academics and researchers conduct studies and write articles, which are then published in a journal. Every journal has a specific topic which the articles discuss. Journals often publish issues with new articles several times a year. Databases contain many journals, and you can find some journals in more than one database. To find out which database(s) a journal is in, take a look at our Journal A-Z.

Shibboleth - Logging in to access library resources with your student portal password uses Shibboleth. Like Athens, Shibboleth is a way to check that only registered students can access readings. If you see a link that says 'Login with Shibboleth', you might be able to login with your student portal password by clicking on it. Our login guides provide step-by-step instructions on how to login to the different databases.

Student Portal password - This is the username and password that you use to login to the student portal and the VLE. The username is usually your initials followed by some numbers, e.g. ab123. You can access all library resources using your student portal password (if you are a SOAS student, you need to use your Athens account). How you login using your student portal password varies between different databases, although often you need to click 'Institutional login' or select 'University of London: Online Library'. For more details, take a look at our login guides.

Summon - Summon is the Google-like search engine that allows you to seamlessly search almost all of the library collection. You can find the Summon search box on the Online Library homepage, and you can find out how best to use it on the Summon support page.