Passkey: Clearing Up the Mystery

We have a guest blogger today!  Amy Blumenthal of Cornell University Library IT shares what goes on with Passkey, how you really gain access off campus and why sometimes it doesn’t seem to work (even though it’s not broken!)

Where to get Passkey, and basic information:

How exactly does Passkey work?

The off-campus Passkey bookmarklet helps you connect to databases and journals without going through the library web site.  It functions like a browser bookmark, except it contains JavaScript, which gives it a different sort of functionality. It does one thing – it takes the Web address (URL) you’re looking at and adds a prefix to it so it goes to the CUL EZProxy server.

For example. an off-campus user might start at Proquest using this URL:

Clicking on Passkey adds this to the URL:

Here’s the new URL, which will go through the EZProxy server:

This prefixed sort of URL is what’s behind the resolver links in the online catalog.

What does the EZProxy server do?

In very basic terms, it first checks the IP address of the user’s computer. If the computer is on campus, EZProxy drops out of the picture. If the computer is off campus, EZProxy accepts the user’s Cornell credentials, rewrites the URL, and sends the user to the page they wanted to go to. The aggregator or publisher sees we’re coming from a Cornell IP address (the EZProxy server), so they give access to the resource.

Here’s what a URL looks like once EZProxy has rewritten it:

If a user stays at the proxied Proquest site and uses Proquest’s navigation links, they’ll be able to view all the articles CUL has access to.  If they happen to look at the URLs, they’ll see in each of them. If they go to a different site –, for example – they’ll need to click on Passkey again so the site can be routed through the EZProxy server. Clicking once on Passkey does not make all subsequent URLs go through EZProxy. The user will only need to authenticate once, though, since their browser will remember their credentials.

I’m on campus – can Passkey help me?

No – since the request is coming from a Cornell IP address, there’s absolutely no benefit to using Passkey. Even if a user doesn’t go through the online catalog, the aggregator or publisher has the Cornell IP addresses and recognizes the user is coming from on campus.

I’m off campus and clicking on links in the Cornell online catalog. Can Passkey help me?

No – the links in the Cornell library catalog already go to the EZProxy server, so Passkey won’t add any extra functionality.  When in doubt, you can always start your journal search in the online catalog and that way you know you’re going to be authenticated.

I found a really cool article but the site says I don’t have access. I clicked on Passkey and I still don’t have access. Yet I know Cornell subscribes to it… Is Passkey broken?!

Sometimes the “sorry, no access” URL at the article’s site is the problem. Although Passkey rewrites the link properly, the link is actually to “sorry, no access” rather than to the article itself. Try moving up a level – for example, go to the page which has the journal’s table of contents, use Passkey there, THEN click on the article link.

I’m using the Cornell VPN. Doesn’t that put me on the Cornell network? Why do I still need Passkey?

Cornell’s VPN uses “split tunneling”, where only traffic to Cornell resources stays on the Cornell network. Traffic to off-campus sites (for example, the licensed electronic resources we subscribe to) is not handled by the VPN. Less traffic on the VPN helps it run more efficiently. Also, the VPN pool of allowed users includes more groups than the groups allowed access to our e-resources. For example, sponsored netids can use the VPN, but they can’t use our licensed e-resources. We need to limit access to the correct groups.

Thanks Amy for such informative details!  If you have questions about passkey, contact us here:

SAE Backfile now available, 1906 to present

The papers from the Society of Automotive Engineers are now available to Cornell users in full-text going all the way back to 1906.  One of the oldest Cornell published paper is “Temperatures of Pneumatic Truck-Tires” by Frank O. Ellenwood, 1922.

SAE Digital Library

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)  Digital Library provides access to thousands of SAE Technical Papers covering research in all areas of mobility engineering including ground vehicle, aerospace, off-highway, and manufacturing technology.

If you have any questions about this or other library resources, contact our Engineering Librarians.


Metadata Workshop! Describe your data.





Metadata Workshop
Thursday, February 26, 2015
Mann 160

How do you describe your digital data and document the steps you take to analyze it? Are your files sufficiently organized and have you created the metadata so that others can interpret what you’ve done? How well will you be able to interpret your own work three months or three years from now? This workshop will offer some best practices and specific strategies to adopt in order to identify, organize and describe your science research data for yourself and others.  Taught by Wendy Kozlowski, Data Curation Specialist at Olin Library and the Research Data Management Services Group.

Registration free but requested:

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Meet n’ Greet with your librarians – over coffee and cookies










Tuesday, February 17, 2015
10am, Clark Learning Suite (former Physical Sciences Library)


Join us for casual cookies and coffee – and bring your non-academic career questions!  Anne Poduska, PhD in theoretical chemistry from Cornell, will be on hand to answer any questions and provide on the spot coaching about finding jobs and career possibilities outside the Ivory Tower.


Join us at our Open Access Conference this spring!

Open Access Conference

March 30, 2015, 9am-3pm

ILR Conference Center 423 (registration required)

Please join us for a conference on Open Access right here at Cornell! You will hear from faculty on open access initiatives going on at Cornell as well as from university counsel and librarians on copyright issues pertaining to open access. Faculty from Biomedical Engineering and Veterinary Medicine will share their experiences with open access, and discuss the pros and cons. This conference will be of special interest to those in veterinary, biomedical and engineering sciences. Registration is free and limited to 35 people. Breakfast and Lunch included.

Please register here.

Topics and presentations will include:

What is OA?
Author’s Rights
Predatory Publishing
COAP Funds
Been There, Done That: My Experience with OA (panel)


Sponsored by the Veterinary and Engineering Libraries at Cornell.  Please contact Jill Wilson (jew248) for more information.

Added Access to Online Encyclopedias

The Cornell library has added access to the following encyclopedias, most of these have quarterly online updates:

Encyclopedia of Polymer Science and Technology, Wiley. Online resource covering 15 volumes. Includes the complete text of the third print edition, plus the classic second edition called the Encyclopedia of Polymer Science and Engineering.

Wiley Encyclopedia of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, edited by John G. Webster. 14,000 articles spanning 24 volumes; 64 categories.

Wiley Encyclopedia of Operations Research and Management Science, ed. By James J Cochran

Encyclopedia of Electrochemical Power Sources – ed. Jürgen Garche, Elsevier, online resource covering 5 volumes

 Let us know of any questions or concerns.


Coffee Hour Book Talk at the Math Library – Save the Date

The Mathematics Library presents:

Mircea Pitici

Interpreting Mathematics, Counterfactuals, and the Paradox of Reward

Tuesday December 9, 2014 at 4pm
Malott 5th Floor Lounge


Mircea Pitici (Cornell) will describe how he uses the vast literature on mathematics in his Writing in Mathematics seminar, how it relates to the Best Writing on Mathematics series, and how it matters to his teaching of mathematics and worldview.

One copy of the recently published The Best Writing on Mathematics 2014 will be awarded in a raffle.

 Coffee and Refreshments will be served.

Congratulations to Leah McEwen!

thumbnail_LRMphoto2014Please join us in congratulating Leah McEwen, Chemistry Librarian at Cornell.  Leah has been appointed to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry Committee on Publications and Cheminformatics Data Standards by being elected one of only 10 Titular Members of the Division Committee chosen by the Titular Members, Associate Members, and National Representatives.  This prestigious honor comes with paid travel expenses to committee meetings mostly held in Europe and rarely given to librarians.  She was sponsored for this position by several CINF colleagues and a Cornell faculty member active in IUPAC.  The assignment fits directly into her research on the future of chemical information and the role of chemistry librarians contributing to the long-term stewardship of chemical information (and her own personal long-time goal to actively participate in IUPAC).

Well deserved!



BOOK SALE – starts Monday, 10/27/14 at Math Library

saleUPDATE:  Starting Wednesday, 11/19/14, all books are only $1! 


The Math Library is having its semi-annual book sale starting one week from today on Monday, 10/27/14 at 9:00am.


All books are $5 and we accept cash or check only.  You can find the sale just inside the math library (Malott Hall) by the print periodicals and current exhibit.



Forget an umbrella? We’ve got you covered.

We at Cornell University Library are excited to announce that circulating umbrellas are available for checkout at ALL library circulation desks!  Here are the details about the umbrellas:

  • 3 –Day loan period
  • Billed for replacement three days after due date – $35
  • No overdue fines or renewals
  • Can be returned to any library on campus.

NOTE:  Umbrellas are not available at the Clark Hall Study Space or Carpenter Hall Study Space as there are no circulation desks in these spaces.

Questions?  Just ask!