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Library Frequently Asked Questions, Answers

I'm taking a class through the College of Extended Learning. Why can't I establish my PIN?

Some College of Extended Learning students must come into the Library once to register in person before establishing a PIN. Please come to the Book Pickup & Checkout counter on the 1st Floor of the new Library building.

I have a question regarding my Library fines.

If you need to speak someone about your fine, you can go to the Book Pickup & Checkout counter, or call 415-338-1552. You may pay the invoice at the University Cashier's (Bursar's) Office.

To view your current fines, log into your Library Account You can also renew books via your Library Account; if they are overdue, there will still be overdue fines assessed.

Where do I go to begin my research?

To begin your research, ask a librarian for help or look over the Find and the Research Assistance sections of our web site.

Where are magazines and newspapers?

Some magazines and newspapers are in the Periodicals Department of the Library and some are available electronically via our web site. For help, please read Finding Articles or speak to a librarian.

What can I do when InvestiGator says a book is "available" but it is not on the shelf?

Check nearby shelves to see if it might be misshelved, then check the "Sorting Area" where books wait to be reshelved after use. If you have checked several times and still not found it, go to the Book Pickup & Checkout Counter.

How do I find SFSU Master's Theses using the online catalog?

Search the Library's InvestiGator catalog via the Theses search.

All Master's Theses have call numbers that begin with AS 36 (year) and the Special Education dissertations have call numbers that begin with AS 35 (year). Beginning about 1990, theses call numbers include a code for the department; for example, AS 36 1995 BUS for a degree in management, accounting, etc. (MBA). You may browse by L.C. call number in the InvestiGator Catalog. All Masters Theses and Dissertations need to be requested online and will be delivered to the Book Pickup and Checkout Counter when the Library is open.

Where are college catalogs from SFSU and other schools located?

The current SFSU catalog (Bulletin) and Bulletins back to 1994 are available on the web at Class schedules are available at Recent printed SFSU college catalogs are also located in the Periodicals Department. The oldest SFSU catalogs are located only in Special Collections & Archives. For catalogs from other colleges, please visit the web sites of those colleges or try the Library's database, College Source Online.

I need to get a course description from a class I took at SFSU in 1971-1974. What can I do?

Old copies of the SFSU Bulletin (course catalog) are located in Special Collections & Archives. You can make copies of the course descriptions from those bulletins when Special Collections is open (see Library Hours).

Why can't I access the electronic databases from off-campus?

The Library's electronic databases are purchased on a subscription basis, much like an individual would purchase a software license. As such, the database companies restrict access to their databases to currently enrolled SF State students, faculty, and staff. You must be identified as a user from one of these groups before you can have access to the databases. For more information, please see Off-Campus Database Access.

How do I obtain an SF State e-mail account and/or access to the Internet at home via SF State?

San Francisco State University provides free e-mail/Internet accounts to students, staff, and faculty of the University. To sign up for a SF State e-mail/Internet account, go to the Division of Information Technology (DoIT) Account Services web page at:

After you have an account, you can use the wireless Internet while on campus. Or when you are off campus, if you wish to get access to the Internet via SF State you will have to change the settings on the operating system software (usually Windows or the Mac OS) on your computer. Instructions are available on the "Getting started with your SFSU Internet Account" web page at:

To access your SF State email, please visit

I am a graduate of San Francisco State University. I pay $45 a year for services, including use of the Library and the ability to check out books. My question is how do I get access to the Library's electronic journals and databases?

Although the fee you pay to the Friends of the J. Paul Leonard Library or to the SF State Alumni Association) entitles you to borrowing privileges, use of the listening and viewing stations in Library Media Services, and use of subscription databases while in the Library; it does not include off-campus access to those same databases, and does not entitle you to an SFSU e-mail account. This limitation is from University policy (regarding e-mail) and legal restrictions in our database licensing agreements.

As an alternative to SFSU Library electronic databases, may we suggest that you try the San Francisco Public Library at: You will need an SFPL library card to access their databases from home, but you can get an SFPL library card at any San Francisco branch library for free if you live in California.

Is it possible to access full text journals from off-campus?

Anyone can find out what journals are available, but only SF State students, faculty, and staff can access full text articles and journals from off campus.

Where is the Main Collection?

The Main Collection is the Library's collection of books with call numbers A through Z, a small selection of the most requested or popular titles are on the Library shelves. All other items must be paged and will be delivered to the Book Pickup and Checkout Counter when the Library is open.

Where is Reserve Services?

Reserve Services items can be obtained from the Book Pickup & Checkout Counter. Faculty can drop off items to be put on reserve at Digital Scholarship Center, Room 80.

Where is the Lost and Found area in the Library?

Check at the Book Pickup & Checkout Counter for lost and found items. Found items are forwarded to the University's Lost and Found in the University Police Department at regular intervals.

To protect against theft, keep all of your personal items with you at all times.

Where are the drinking fountains and bathrooms in the Library?

Drinking fountains are located near the bathrooms.

Bathrooms are located near the Book Pickup & Checkout counter. They are indicated on the Library map.

Why are my requests for new materials not being ordered?

The mission of the Library is to first and foremost provide materials which support the curriculum. Your requests are reviewed by our Subject Librarians in light of academic needs and funds.

Requests for additional copies of titles we already have in the collection are evaluated against existing circulation statistics (including interlibrary loans) and available funding.

Titles must also be available from the publisher for us to order them. For example, we are unable to order titles that are not yet published.

Who was J. Paul Leonard?

The library was named for J. Paul Leonard to honor the University's fourth President who was chief executive at SF State from 1945-57. The Board of Trustees of the California State University and Colleges, in naming the Library, recognized "the central role played by Dr. Leonard in establishing the Lake Merced campus." Leonard presided over the move from the Upper Market Street campus to the present site. Groundbreaking for the first building took place in 1949, the Library was built in 1952 and the campus was formally dedicated in October 1954. (Campusmemo, August 2, 1976)

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