Common problems in online access to journal articles and solutions to solve them.

To troubleshoot access to online journal articles via the Health Sciences Library (HSL), follow the steps outlined below.

Determine your level of library privileges
Consult the HSL Access Policy to determine your level of library privileges. Remote access to library subscription databases is limited to current Columbia University faculty, students, and full-time staff. Any users that fall outside of those categories must access library subscription resources while on-site during staffed hours.

Start at the Health Sciences Library’s homepage
The database links provided on the HSL’s web page will search the library’s subscription resources and connect to the full-text of journal articles, so always start there.

For example, to search PubMed (, use the library-provided link and the search results will include a “Columbia eLink” that checks the library subscriptions for full-text access.

Check the CLIO record(s) for journal holdings
Search CLIO, the online catalog, for the journal title of interest. CLIO will list the journal coverage dates and access methods. Online library journal subscriptions are sometimes available through an “aggregator,” a database that provides access to a number of titles. This means that going to the journal website directly, even when on the Columbia University network, will not allow you to access full-text articles.

For example, journals from the American Heart Association (AHA), such as Circulation Research or Stroke, are available via our Ovid database subscription. Going directly to the AHA journal sites will result in a pay wall when trying to access full-text articles.

If the catalog record in CLIO indicates the library does not have a current subscription to a journal, place an interlibrary loan request for the article.

Check if the article is actually a conference abstract
Conference or meeting abstracts are typically published as a set in the full proceedings, not individually. Some databases (Web of Science, Embase) include conference abstract citations, but the “Columbia eLink” connection will likely not find the individual abstract you’re looking for since it is grouped and indexed with the other proceedings. So if the material needed is an abstract, search for the conference or meeting title in the needed journal.

Use Mercury when on a mobile device onsite
Mercury is the Medical Center’s secure wireless signal. To access full-text resources while using a mobile device on campus, you must use Mercury.

The other wireless signal, guest-net, has a known issue where the UNI/password authentication step is skipped and users cannot access the full-text of subscribed content.

Consider using the VPN when off the Columbia network or working from NYSPI
The CUIMC IT VPN is a method to connect to the Columbia University network from a remote location. The VPN is not generally required to access library resources, except the following NewYork-Presbyterian provided resources:

  • Lexicomp
  • Micromedex
  • UpToDate

Additionally, the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) network uses a firewall that may block access to library subscription resources. Users located in NYSPI should consider connecting with the VPN to access material.