Frequently Asked Questions

Browse our FAQs by category or use the list of questions below:

Subject Categories

Hours, Location & Facts

Finding Books

Finding Journals


Interlibrary Loan (ILL)

Print, Scan, Photocopy

Where is the library located?

The Alumni Medical Library is located at 72 East Concord Street on the Boston University Medical Campus. For information on how to get to the Library, please refer to the maps on our Directions page or contact the Reference Desk at (617) 358-4810, or refquest@bu.edu, Monday – Friday, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM.

Can I use the Medical Library if I’m not part of Boston University or the Boston Medical Center?

Library Access Policy

The Boston University Alumni Medical Library is a private research facility that supports the educational, clinical and research needs of current Boston University students, faculty and staff.

Boston Medical Center (BMC) staff with current IDs may use library resources on site, check out books, and request Interlibrary Loan of materials not held by the BU Libraries.

For additional questions about Alumni Medical Library access, please contact the Reference Desk at (617) 358-4810, or refquest@bu.edu, Monday-Friday, 9:00AM-5:00PM.

Alumni Medical Library serves the following groups:

Boston University Students/Faculty/Staff and Researchers
with a current BU ID.

Boston Medical Center (BMC) Staff
with a current BMC ID. BMC staff may use online resources in-house, check out books, schedule consultations with research and reference librarians, and request Interlibrary Loan of materials not held by BU. Please note that access to the School of Medicine Building is only by card-swipe with BU ID from 7 p.m.-7 a.m. weekdays and during weekends and holidays: BMC visitors should plan accordingly.

Boston University Alumni
with a valid BU alumni card and photo ID. A patron without a BU alumni card should obtain the card online, or contact the BU Alumni Office. These guests must register in the Circulation Desk Visitor's Logbook, and are eligible to use the Library's resources in-house and to check out books.

Library Photography and Filming Policy

Prior approval by the Communications Office is required in advance of any photography or filming occurring in the Alumni Medical Library. No unauthorized photography or filming is allowed in the Alumni Medical Library.

Please contact the Communications Office as early as possible since scheduling and coordinating appointments and locations requires advanced planning. Please contact Gina DiGravio, Media Relations Manager, at (617) 638-8480, or ginad@bu.edu

The Medical Campus Communications Office will evaluate all requests and determine whether or not a request is approved. The Communications Office will review with the requestor the BU Medical Campus Policies and Procedures. The Communications Office will also determine whether or not the Alumni Medical Library is the most appropriate location on campus for a photography or filming need.

If a request is approved, the Communications Office will coordinate a date, time, and location with the Alumni Medical Library.

What forms of payment does the library accept?

Payment options include:

  • Check
  • Cash (exact amount only, we CANNOT make change)
  • Boston University departmental billing numbers
  • BMC Harrison Ave. campus or East Newton St. campus departmental account numbers accompanied by a purchase order
  • Credit Cards are NOT accepted

What are the Expectations for Library Usage?

The library consists of 3 floors with over 500 study seats in the L-Instructional Building. Each floor has different noise allowances to provide for group collaboration, quiet study and silent study.

Group collaboration

When the testing center is not in use, L-11 has 220 seats for group collaboration. L-13 has group study rooms with white boards and monitors. You can reserve the L-13 rooms for up to two hours at a time. Conversation at a reasonable speaking level is permitted in these rooms provided that you are mindful of the people around you.

Quiet study

The 12th floor is the main floor of the library. Here you will find the library services desk, your one-stop shop for checking out materials and for getting assistance. There are also computers, print materials, and study tables. With the exception of the area immediately around the services desk, the 12th floor is designated as quiet study. Conversations should be kept to a minimum.

Silent study

The 13th floor is the designated silent floor with 213 individual carrels and study pods. There should be no conversation and cell phones should be kept on silent. For those who need even more quiet, consider reserving an individual study room. Individual study rooms are also silent. There should be no conversation or Zoom meetings.

Food and drink

Food and drink are allowed on all floors. Food must be limited to individual snacks/lunches. Group study rooms may not be used for parties (such as with pizza or cake). Clean up garbage and report spills to the services desk.

The library is not a lab – lab work is prohibited in the library and rest rooms.

Regardless of floor, any disruptive persons or those who are disrespecting users, staff or space will be asked to leave. When necessary, Public Safety will be called and the appropriate dean notified.

How do I check if BU owns a specific book or journal?

Use the Library Catalog to determine whether a specific book or journal is owned by the Alumni Medical Library.

In the Library Catalog, search for the book’s title or author. Print and electronic holdings will be displayed. For print, the record will indicate which BU library owns the book, and whether it is checked out or available on the shelves. Look for “Medical” on the book record to identify books that are owned by the Alumni Medical Library.

In the Library Catalog, search for the journal title: if it is a common word (like “Blood”) it may be helpful to check ‘journal’ under ‘material type’ on the right hand side. Print and electronic holdings will be displayed. Be sure to verify that library holdings include the volume and year for which you are looking.

Will the Library purchase a particular book or journal?

Make a book or journal purchase recommendation using this form.

BUMC students, faculty and staff are invited to submit book and journal purchase requests. Book and journal subscription purchases are made based on several criteria including: an evaluation of the requested material’s subject scope, indexing, and cost; library collection development policies; Interlibrary Loan data; analysis of the overall collection; and the availability of funds. Book requests are reviewed on a weekly basis and may be submitted at any time. Journal requests are reviewed annually and should be submitted prior to July 1 to be considered for the next calendar year subscription. For additional information about purchase requests, please contact a reference librarian at refquest@bu.edu or (617) 358-4810.

I can’t find the book/journal I need. According to the Library Catalog, it should be on the shelf. What can I do?

If you can’t find an item on the shelves, come to the Circulation Desk and let us know. We can check to be sure the item isn’t misshelved, missing, etc. If we can’t find it, please fill out the Missing Item Form so that we can search for the missing material, update the Library Catalog record, and replace the missing item if necessary. When you fill out the Missing Item Form, library staff begin searching for the material. If it isn’t found within one week, we’ll do a free interlibrary loan for you.

Use this link for information on other Library Catalogs that can be used to locate books.

What can I do if the book I want is already checked out to another patron?

Contact the Circulation Desk at (617) 358-4902 and ask to have the book placed on “hold”. When it is returned, library staff will contact you, and you can then check out the book.

How can I renew a book?

You can renew books through the Library Catalog:

  • Go to the Library Catalog at BU Libraries Search
  • Click on the Sign In link, located in the upper right corner of the page.
  • Sign in with your BU ID and password, then click on “My Account” to view your checked out materials and renew them if desired.

Note that if another user has placed a ‘hold’ on an item, it cannot be renewed.

Other options:

You can fill out our Book Renewal Form to request that staff renew items for you, renew books in person at the Alumni Medical Library service desk, or telephone Circulation at (617) 358-4902 during our business hours and ask to renew books.

What fines do you charge for overdue books? What about blocked records?

What are my options for getting a book or journal that isn’t owned by the Medical Library?

There are several options for obtaining books, journals or journal articles not owned by the Alumni Medical Library:

  • If you want to go to another Boston University library, you can use BU’s Library Catalog to determine if the title is owned by a BU library. You can access all BU libraries and borrow any materials that are available to circulate.
  • If the title is not owned by BU, you can also check WorldCat to find another library where the book or journal may be held, and visit that library in person to access it. You may visit any of the Boston Library Consortium libraries with a BLC card and view or copy an article you need, or check out a circulating book (not all books are available for checkout). Access policies vary at academic libraries, so if you find the title in a library that is not a member of the BLC, contact that library first to ask about making arrangements to visit and view the material as a guest researcher.
  • If no nearby libraries own the journal, or you are not able to travel to them, another option is to order a book or article via interlibrary loan. Submit your ILL request using the Order Articles and Books form and we will try to find a library that owns the item and have it sent to the Medical Library for you.

Do you have a listing of all of your journals?

Because our journal holdings records are updated frequently, we do not produce a list of journal titles. Instead, all of our journal holdings are included in the Library Catalog. Use the Library Catalog to do a “title” search for the name of the journal for which you are looking.

If you need to find a listing of journals by subject, you can also use the Library Catalog. For example, if you want to know what journal titles we subscribe to on dermatology, you can do a “subject” search for dermatology using Advanced Search in the Library Catalog. Then use “Limit/Sort Search” to select for “Journals” to see a list of journal titles. Please contact a librarian at refquest@bu.edu if you need assistance.

Where are your journals shelved?

Most of our journal collections are electronic and can be accessed online. The Medical Library’s print journal collection, containing historical volumes and titles not available online, is stored offsite. Please submit a request for article(s) you need using the Order Articles and Books form. There is no charge for this service.

The Library Catalog indicates which journal years and volumes are in print, as well as which volumes are owned by particular BU libraries. ‘Lacks’ notes indicate missing volumes or issues.

What databases are available through the Alumni Medical Library?

The Alumni Medical Library Databases list includes a wide variety of databases, both free and through BU subscriptions. These cover various medical, dental and public health topics.

How can I get help with searching a database?

Please see our Tutorials page for instructional materials on searching some of the most popular databases. You can also always contact a librarian for tips on searching a particular database.

What is interlibrary loan and how does it work?

The Medical Library has cooperative sharing agreements with thousands of libraries around the country. Interlibrary loan, or ILL, is a process by which libraries lend materials to each other. When you need a book, book chapter or journal article, you request an ILL, and our Interlibrary loan staff make arrangements to have the materials sent here from any one of thousands of libraries. We first attempt to find a library in the Boston area with which we share materials regularly. If the item isn’t owned locally, we’ll then attempt to find it within New England, Northeastern U.S., and so on.

ILL requests should be submitted using the Order Articles and Books form.

Electronic materials (articles and book chapters) will be emailed to you. Print book ILLs may be picked up at the Library Circulation Desk, Monday-Friday 8:00am-6:00pm. After 6:00pm and on weekends, please check with the Circulation Desk to make sure a full-time staff member will be available to assist you with your ILL pick up.

Who is eligible to use the library’s interlibrary loan service?

The Alumni Medical Library will obtain interlibrary loans for students, faculty and staff of the Boston University Schools of Medicine, Dental Medicine, Public Health, and the Boston Medical Center only.

If you are faculty, staff or a student of a school on the BU Charles River or Fenway campuses, please request your interlibrary loans through Mugar Library.

If you are not affiliated with Boston University or any other university or institution, your local public library may have an interlibrary loan service available to you.

I ordered a book via interlibrary loan. Can I have it sent directly to me instead of having to pick it up at the library?

Most libraries do not do third party lending. In other words, libraries will loan materials to other libraries, but not directly to other libraries’ patrons.

If you request a journal article or book chapter through interlibrary loan, an electronic copy is sent to the Alumni Medical Library as the borrower, and we will email it to you.

When you request a book via interlibrary loan, the book is actually loaned to the Alumni Medical Library, and we in turn lend it to you. Therefore, you must come to the Library to pick up the book.

For more information, contact ILL at (617) 358-2352 or illmed@bu.edu.

How do I print/scan/make copies in the Medical Library?

I can’t get into a book/journal/article in the electronic collections. What is the problem?

Faculty, staff and students of the Boston University Medical Campus can use BU Libraries online resources from any computer with internet access using a BU username and Kerberos Password.

If you are having trouble accessing materials, please try the following:

  • Make sure you are going to the resource through BU via the BU Libraries Search interface or an Alumni Medical Library link. You should see ezproxy.bu.edu in the URL. This verifies to the provider that you are affiliated with Boston University and have access to materials BU has paid for.
  • Clear your browser cache. (You can find instructions with an internet search for “clear cache [name of your browser, i.e. Chrome, Firefox, etc.]”.) BU websites use cloud computing, and on occasion a browser may get “stuck” linking to an incorrect version of a URL. Clearing the cache allows your browser to go the link “fresh” (a bit like restarting your computer). Trying another browser entirely may also help.
  • For journal articles, double-check that BU has online access to the year you are looking for. In some cases, we own online access to a range of years (for example, 1996-2010), but earlier and/or later issues may not be available. Note that some journals also have ’embargo’ periods for the most recent years, so these may not be available.
  • Certain collections limit the number of users who can access a title at one time (i.e. STAT!Ref or ACP Medicine). If you see a message like “seats filled” or “user limit reached,” this means the maximum number of people are already accessing that title. Please try again later.
  • If you are a BMC Resident and you are receiving a “user group error”, your BU username and Kerberos password may have expired. Please follow the instructions at the Computer Lab’s Accessing Library Resources page to renew your password.
  • These additional EZproxy tips from BU IT may also be helpful.

If you are still not able to access the material after trying the above troubleshooting tips, please contact refquest@bu.edu with the item(s) you are having trouble with and the specific error messages you are receiving, and our reference librarians will look into the problem.

If you find the issue is that BU does not have institutional access to an item you need, you may use the Interlibrary Loan form to request a copy for personal use.

Have a question that isn’t answered here?

Contact a Reference Librarian at (617) 358-4810 or refquest@bu.edu for additional information. You can also contact the Circulation Desk at (617) 358-4902, or the Library’s Administrative Office at (617) 358-2350.