Box of delights: Make the best of your email address

People working in a libraryYour academic email address can get you access to all sorts of useful and entertaining services. Here’s how to access some of them.

The value of an email address

Few people in academia know quite how handy their online credentials – having at the end of their email address – can be. Most university and college libraries and computer services departments have subscribed to numerous useful services that you can benefit from, even if you’re not using them for your study or research. Most are easily accessible once you’ve logged in to your academic account through services like Shibboleth or Athens, where you enter the name of your institution as well as the same username and password you use to log-in to a campus PC, wifi and email, although procedures can vary. Ask at your library’s help desk if you need help with this.

Box of Broadcasts (BOB)

Box of Broadcasts is a massive streaming database containing every television and radio programme broadcast through Freeview since 2006 plus much more besides.  For some new students, that means everything since they were six years old, all the documentaries, drama, comedy, music and films. Here’s a selection of programmes about Ada Lovelace and here’s every episode of the BBC’s Horizon, with some episodes dating from the 1970s. To access BOB, visit Learning on Screen, click Sign In, and once you’ve gone through the institutional log-in procedure, you’ll be asked to register. Your account allows you to keep a watchlist and store playlists for anything you might find on BOB.

Television and Radio Index for Learning and Teaching (TRILT)

BOB is a product of the British Universities Film & Video Council (BUFVC) and partially built on their Television and Radio Index for Learning and Teaching (TRILT) project which collects scheduling information for TV and radio broadcasts since 1923. TRILT is useful if you’re searching for a film or programme which isn’t yet on BOB, but may have been recorded by the BUFVC in the pre-streaming days. If you need to see a program that’s not on BOB, you can ask for it to be uploaded from an actual video tape. There’s also an option to schedule alert emails, sent up to ten days in advance, about a programme you might like based on your search terms. TRILT is accessible using the same academic log-in procedure as BOB.


Kanopy is a streaming service much like the BBC iPlayer or Netflix which is open to users of some public libraries and, luckily for us, academic institutions. Depending on your university or college’s subscription, it offers access to hundreds of films including the Criterion Collection, theatrical documentaries and thousands of documentaries and lectures. You can also use Kanopy to access The Great Courses, US-based lifelong learning content provider. Unlike BOB, Kanopy is also available as an app across numerous devices including Amazon Fire, Roku, Android and iOS. Access is initially through an institutional log-in, then you can create your own account with your own email address.

Scopus, SciVal and Web of Science

Every subject has a key database of academic journals and periodicals and for STEM, this means Scopus and SciVal from Elsevier and Web of Science from Clarivate, although there are plenty of others. The principle for all these websites is the same – access to the latest and historic academic papers on surgically searchable subjects, plus runs of a particular journal if you prefer the methodological approach. Although if you are already aware of the article you’re looking for, perhaps if its mentioned on a reading list, it might be quicker to search in Google Scholar, click through, then log-in directly through the journal’s own website.

Press Reader

If you’re searching for some lighter reading, Press Reader provides digital access to thousands of current newspapers and magazines from a hundred or so countries on every topic imaginable – the science and history section currently has three hundred and two titles. Visiting Press Reader is slightly trickier than some other sites.  Unless you’re on campus (where special ‘hotspot’ access is often available), you may have to find Press Reader in the catalogue or database sections of your institution’s website and click through from there.

Free software

Most universities have free software available to download through the computing/IT services area of their website, some of which is for use only on campus computers, but in plenty of cases you can also use it on your own laptop or home PC. Quite a few universities have licensing deals with Microsoft, so you might be able to access include Windows 10 and/or Office 365 with nothing more than your usual academic email credentials. Such marvels are usually to be found under the ‘software’ menu option on a computing/ IT services website, or you can contact your IT help desk to see what they may have available for you.


Access to these services varies from institution to institution, so if you can’t log-in, contact your library’s enquiry team and let them know that you’re interested in access. Equally, your library may have subscribed to other services we’ve not listed hear, so it’s well worth spending a few hours exploring your library and computing/IT services websites to see what else is available. New avenues of research and learning will all be there waiting to be discovered.

By Stuart Ian Burns

Stuart Ian Burns is a writer and qualified librarian who works in academia.

Posted in Navigating Academia.

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