E-journals and databases are made available by the University Library, and are accessible University-wide [in the biosciences, exceptions to this are rare]. The UL listing of e-journals gives details, and will provide the solution to most access problems.
The Q&As below represent the most common questions I get asked :
Q : What passwords do I need?
A : The only password you need is your Raven password, which is issued by the Computing Service. See http://www.cam.ac.uk/cs/docs/faq/n5.html if you don't have one, or have forgotten yours. We no longer use Athens passwords. The Departmental password issued by the Computer Officer is completely separate, and not related to accessing e-resources.
Q : Why can't I access the paper I want? I'm working in the Department and I keep getting asked for a password!
A : If you are in the cam-domain, you should not be asked for a password if we have access. There's only one exception to this rule for biosciences users - Web of Knowledge. For other sources, a password interface probably means that the University does not provide electronic access to that title; or that we don't have access to that particular year; or that access to the year you need is not provided through the aggregator you have hit on.
The best solution is to go to the UL list of e-journals and check access. Sometimes access to different years is available on different databases, or we don't have access to the most recent issues. All will be explained if you check the UL list!
Here's an example from the UL list:
The journal of cell biology [0021-9525]
Highwire Press Free - Avail from: 1962 till present Most recent 6 month(s) not available : Available on and off Campus
Highwire Press Journals - Avail from: 1962 till present. Access: Available on Campus. Off-campus access available through Raven password or VPDN connection
JSTOR Biological Sciences Collection - Avail from: 1977 until: 2008 : JSTOR does not include current issues. Access: Available on Campus. Off-campus access available through Raven password or VPDN connection
PubMed Central - Avail from: 1962 volume: 12 till present Most recent 6 month(s) not available
What the above indicates is that the only resource that will provide access to the current issue is the Highwire database appearing second on the list. If you had found your reference to the paper on PubMed, chances are you would have been automatically directed to PubMedCentral, and thus it would seem as if you did not have access at all. Accessing via the UL listing therefore helps you locate the appropriate database.
Q : I'm at home and I cannot access a paper
A : Most providers now allow access off-site, through Shibboleth authentication with a Raven password. However, it is not always clear how to get to the Raven interface. Often there is a link in small letters underneath the main password box which says something like 'alternative log-in'. Following this link might give you a choice of 'Shibboleth' from a drop down menu - Choose that and then University of Cambridge. If that does not appear, look for 'UK Access Management Federation' as a choice and from that select 'University of Cambridge' from the list. However, all this can be avoided if you enter the publisher's site via the University Library listing
A very few publishers will not allow off-campus access - you need to check the UL list to be sure. If this is going to present major problems for you, consider VPDN access, organised through the Computing Service.
Q : I've found a great paper on PubMed/Google Scholar but I can't get to it
A: PubMed and Google Scholar are great services, considering they are free, but that means they don't necessarily 'know' exactly what the University of Cambridge subscribes to - so a link may dead-end when in fact we have access. Preferred links would be to free-public-access databases like PubMedCentral, where issues for the last 6 months, last year or even longer, are usually not available. Check the UL list.
STOP PRESS : As of summer 2013, however, there is a version of PubMed that links to Cambridge holdings at http://tinyurl.com/campubmed
Q : The journal I want / issue I want is not available online
A : The University could still have a paper copy. Check LibrarySearch for a location. If none of the Cambridge libraries have the item you need, we should be able to obtain a copy from the British Library. Please ask about this.
Basically, a lot of problems can be resolved by the simple measure of accessing the resource via the University Library listing, whether for the databases where you search for references, or for electronic journals themselves. See the general page at http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/eresources/index.php