Remote access to learning from home

How to login to OpenAthens for remote access to all your library’s resources

18 December 2020 • Lauren Harding, senior marketing officer

Many institutions around the world now use ‘institutional login’ for access to online resources such as databases, journals and books. Our how to login to OpenAthens guide helps students and researchers to navigate how to get remote access to these valuable resources from home. Library customers are welcome to adapt this guidance for their library users.

How to login to OpenAthens via your institution

1. Before you start searching, login via your institution.

A search on your library portal or discovery search will give you access to all the resources your library subscribes to.

You won’t need to login again during your browser session (usually 8 hours).

NHS staff

If you work for the NHS you can access online resources using your OpenAthens account. To apply for an account, first check if you are eligible. Then complete the NHS England form. It can take up to 7 days to verify your new account if you register from home. When you have your OpenAthens login details, use this login page to access NHS resources. Need more help? Contact your NHS OpenAthens administrator.

Additional security

Some institutional staff and student employees may need to use multi-factor authentication to provide extra security and protect valuable data and information from being accessed illegally.

How to login to OpenAthens using guest access

Guest access may also be possible depending on your institution’s alumni and visitor policy. Please speak to your library to get access.

2. Many publishers host PDF versions of resources. Make sure you can access and download PDF files.

  • For PC users, download the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader.
  • MAC users need to set the default PDF viewing software to Adobe Acrobat Reader and not ‘Preview’.

3. Error messages on your browser? Here’s how to troubleshoot.

  • We recommend using the Chrome browser because it is supported by a wide range of resources.
  • Check your browser accepts cookies
  • Clear your browser history to clear history, cookies and cached files
  • Sign in again using your institutional username and password
  • Still no joy? Reset your browser to the default setting and login again using your institutional username and password

4. Get help from your library if you experience any problems getting access and if you would like advice about how to make the best use of online resources.

How to login to OpenAthens via a publisher or information discovery search website

This will be your experience if you don’t login to your institution first.

1. Login via a publisher or information discovery website.

If you go straight to a discovery search or publisher website you’ll need to look for ‘sign in’ or ‘login’ on the homepage. Click on this and look for the OpenAthens, Shibboleth or ‘login via your institution’ button. Publishers’ login and terminology varies widely, so look for similar terms.

2. Find your institution by using the search box. This will take you to your institutional login page where you can use your institutional username and password to login.

Not every publisher has a search box. Instead, some list the national identity federation your institution is a member of. It can be pretty hard to know which identity federation to choose in order to find and login via your institution. Check this list of national federations to see which nation your federation resides in and then select this federation from the list on the publisher site. Your institution may also be a member of the OpenAthens Federation which operates globally.

We strongly recommend you login via your institution first to avoid the confusing array of publisher login options.

3. Keep in mind that a search via Google, an information discovery search or publisher may display results that:

  • Your library does not subscribe to and you may not have access
  • May not have had the same reviews and quality checks as the one’s your library pays for on your behalf.
  • May take you to a pirate site which could compromise your personal data and privacy, and your institution’s security.

If you do not have access, ask your librarian if an electronic copy can be sent via inter-library loan. Alternatively, ask your library to take out a subscription so you can gain access to the resource.

A search on your library portal will help avoid some of these issues. 

Want a better user experience on publisher websites?

Contact publishers directly and ask them to:

1. Follow our UX recommendations for improved access to content
2. Implement the NISO-approved guidelines for improved access to institutionally provided information resources
3. Consider you for user testing of any changes to your access experience

Our special thanks go to the following institutions on which this advice is based:

• Canterbury Christ Church University: Top tips for accessing online library resources from home
• National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE): OpenAthens
• University of San Francisco: OpenAthens
• University College London: NHS OpenAthens accounts

Need help with remote access?

Are you are struggling to support your library users during lockdown? We’re here to help! Visit our remote access resource hub.

Visit the resource hub