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Off-Campus Access Instructions (Proxy Help)

EZProxy (for off-campus access to restricted electronic resources).


What is a proxy server?

A proxy server is a technical solution for a legal problem--the problem of how to provide desktop delivery anywhere on the Internet to restricted, licensed, electronic information. With the proper equipment, Internet connection, and training, electronic information can be much easier to search and retrieve than conventional print resources; many library patrons prefer electronic resources for these reasons. However, contrary to popular opinion, much scholarly, peer-reviewed electronic information is not free; it must be purchased from vendors who license access to their electronic information.

Sometimes copyright holders of electronic information will sell licenses to access their products over the Internet to a university or other institution only if users who access their products can be verified as affiliated with the purchasing institution; licenses can allow access to electronic information in a variety of ways. Some of the more common methods are:

  • By providing the information on physical medium--like CD-ROMs--that can be limited to one machine or a series of machines.
  • By providing passwords to gain access to the information on the Internet and periodically changing the passwords.
  • By restricting Internet access to computers with specific IP (Internet Protocol) numbers, thus limiting access to a campus or building.
  • By restricting access through a proxy server.

Each of these licensing restrictions poses problems for library patrons who want to access electronic information.

  • Using a physical medium like CD-ROMs means access is limited to a single user who must find the proper equipment and software to handle the format, which presents a great number of permutations.
  • Passwords that frequently change are difficult to distribute to a large number of patrons (each of whom must be verified as affiliated with the institution) and must be redistributed each time they are changed.
  • Restricting access to specific IPs means patrons must use a computer with an approved IP address--this usually means using a computer in a specific building, computer lab, or campus.
  • Using proxy servers means a patron needs to use a browser that handles proxy protocols properly and configure it for proxy use or access information from specified web pages.

Despite the disadvantages, a proxy server can offer wide Internet access to the large number of electronic resources made available through the UK libraries.