Cite-Checker's Guide: Getting started on your library assignment

  1. Time-saving tips, including dictionaries of abbreviations
  2. Realistic expectations
  3. Library logistics
  • Ask your editor for any sources already obtained from the author or the library.
  • Communicate early and often with your editor and fellow staff about work already done on your footnotes. The Law Library Reference Desk is staffed by a rotation of eight librarians, and the librarian who assisted with a footnote at a first stage edit may not be there when you bring the same footnote to the Desk at a later stage. Sharing information saves time and avoids frustration.
  • If possible, bring the complete article text and footnotes when you come to the library. Context often helps to identify a source, and text and footnotes not assigned to you may be helpful for your footnotes.
  • Use the JULIUS online catalog of the Law Library, at, to find out what books, journals, etc., the library already owns.
  • Ask for assistance early and often at the Law Library Reference Desk in the Main Reading Room. Librarians can:
    • Suggest a strategy if you don't know where to start.
    • Help you decipher an abbreviation, using abbreviations dictionaries such as:

      Bieber's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations (Circulation and Reference KF246 .B46 2001)
      World Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations (Reference K89 .K38 1991).
      Cardiff Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations

    • Advise you on hard-to-locate sources.

    • Give you a pass to another local library (required for most academic libraries). Note: You have checkout privileges at NYU libraries only.

    • Articles Editors, note: The Reference Desk can provide time-saving assistance in advance for especially difficult articles. Please contact Jay Shuman, by email at, or phone at (212) 998-6310, at least one week before distributing the assignment. 

  • For sources not covered in the Bluebook or the style manual that you are using, and for hard-to-locate sources, use any information that you have (title, author, date, subject, etc.) and run a search in an online full-text journal database such as the WESTLAW TP-ALL database or the LexisNexis LAWREV library. Look for another article that has already cited your source. This is a way to get additional bibliographic detail, a hint about where or when the material was published, and a sample citation format.
  • Consult the rest of this Cite-Checker's Guide for tips on:
        Finding books
        Finding articles
        Interlibrary loan, i.e., what if it's not in the NYU Libraries?
        Statutes and constitutions
        International & foreign law
        Legislative history
        New York legislation
        New York court system
        New York City law
        US government documents
        United Nations materials
        European Union materials
        WTO materials
        Non-US law in English

It is difficult, if not impossible, for the library to obtain for you:

  • Newspaper articles
  • From another library: multi-volume sets, very recent material, reference and reserve materials, rare books and manuscripts, newsletters, pamphlets, or entire issues or volumes of law reviews, periodicals, and newspapers
  • Foreign laws in English (see Cite-Checker's Guide: Finding Foreign (non-U.S.) Law)
  • Drafts or internal documents that the author obtained through professional contacts, e.g., internal government agency memos
  • Material described too vaguely to be identified
  • Paper copies of materials that exist only online, e.g., WTO documents. If in doubt, a librarian can help you find out if a paper version exists. See also Bluebook Rule 18.

In addition, the library will generally not provide paper copies of material that the library owns in microfiche/film or in an electronic image format that is acceptable for cite-checking. UN documents are a good example. Although Bobst Library has the largest UN collection, the Law Library has an extensive microfiche collection of UN documents, plus access to a database of recent documents in image format. In the Law Library, photocopies from microfiche and databases are free. At Bobst Library, there is a charge for copies.

Paper vs. microfiche vs. Internet: The library staff fully understands and respects the need for official, authoritative, accurate, current, and stable texts of legal sources. All of the library patrons that we serve expect the same! Please be aware of the following options:

  • Microfiche/film is an exact image of the original, including page numbering. In NYU Law Library, you can make free copies from microforms. The Law Library has many essential sets in microfiche, e.g., UN documents, GATT documents, and Nineteenth Century Legal Treatises.
  • Image formats on the Internet, such as PDF, are also exact copies of the original with page numbering and graphics. For cite-checking, PDF copies, just like microforms, are accepted as legitimate substitutes for the original. NB: LexisNexis and WESTLAW have begun to provide PDF images of certain sources, such as public laws and cases.
  • On occasion, strange things happen on the web! If you find that an image version is missing any tables, charts, graphics, or annexes from the original, the Reference Desk can help you find out if an accurate version exists.
  • Any materials that you check out must be checked out in your own name. Special limited checkout privileges for materials that normally do not circulate can be arranged, but only by a senior editor.
    Contact Meredith Rossi by email at, or phone at (212) 998-6364.
  • You are responsible for all fines incurred in your name. See Circulation of Library Materials.
  • Because of limited space, library carrels and tables are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and you may not hold library materials there after you leave. All library materials on unattended carrels and tables are reshelved daily, and personal belongings are given to the Building Office in Vanderbilt Hall. Senior editors may contact Ron Brown by email at or phone at (212) 998-6303, to inquire about exceptions to this policy for limited periods of time.
  • What to do if the book or journal you need is not on the shelf? Check the carrels and tables nearby and the reshelving area in the BI stacks. Inquire at the Circulation Desk in the Main Reading Room about a search, or place a hold if the material is checked out.
  • What if the library does not own what you need? Consider an Illiad/Interlibrary Loan request.
  • Bobst Library policies and procedures are separate from those of the Law Library. The Law Library cannot pay your fines at Bobst.
  • Your NYU ID gives you access to the NYU libraries and consortium libraries (including the New School Fogelman Library and the Cooper Union library). Circulation and checkout policies vary at each library.
  • Access to non-NYU libraries:
    • Your NYU ID also gives you access to the Columbia Law Library and the Fordham Law Library.
    • Most other academic libraries require a pass; please inquire at the Law Library Reference Desk, in the Main Reading Room and at (212) 998-6600.
    • You will not have checkout privileges at libraries outside of NYU; you must use their materials onsite or request a book via Interlibrary Loan.