UC Berkeley Library

Frequently Asked Questions

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Can I use VPN with any web browser?

VPN will work with any standard web browser that supports SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) - for example, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Netscape, or Safari. It will work over most types of Internet connection, except AOL.

How is VPN different from the proxy server?

The proxy server provides access to most licensed resources. However, some programs do not work with the proxy server. These require VPN for off-campus use: ARTstor (Macintosh only), JSTOR (Mac OS X), Luna Insight, the java client in UC Image Service, Loeb Classical Library Online, and the Connect function in EndNote.

Another difference is that the proxy server requires a one-time change in your web browser settings, then prompts you when you need to log in. VPN is a "client" software program that you download and install on your computer. You must run the VPN client each time you want to use licensed resources.

When should I use the proxy server or VPN?

Most electronic resources are licensed by The Library from companies in business for profit. The terms of our contracts with these companies stipulate that The Library allow only UC faculty, students and staff to use these materials.

Consequently, when you are off campus you will not be able to access many of the online journals and databases that you could access while on campus, unless you use the Library proxy server or Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Note: For technical and contractual reasons there may be some resources that are not accessible from off campus at all.

Who can use VPN?

To download and run the VPN software, you must be a current UC Berkeley student, faculty, or staff member with a CalNet ID. You can view a Network Service Eligibility Report describing your current status (those eligible for "Campus VPN: Full Tunnel" can use the Library VPN).

Persons not affiliated with UC Berkeley cannot use the VPN system, but can use licensed electronic resources via public computers in the libraries. For more information, see connect from off-campus.

What is VPN?

VPN (Virtual Private Network) is software that runs on your off-campus computer. After you log in with your CalNet ID and passphrase, VPN establishes a secure "tunnel" to the UC Berkeley network. When you use a VPN connection, your computer will have a UC Berkeley IP address instead of the one normally supplied by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). This allows you to use article databases, electronic journals, and other licensed resources found through the Library website and catalogs.

How do I find a dissertation from UC Berkeley?

The ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database indexes graduate dissertations from over a thousand graduate school and universities, and includes full-text access to dissertations published since 1997. The database also includes full-text dissertations from the University of California from:

  • September 1962 - December 1970 and
  • December 1975 - present

If you can't find a specific UC Berkeley dissertation on ProQuest, go to OskiCat and choose to limit your search to "Dissertations/Theses" using the dropdown on the far right of the search page:

If you're not on campus, and you are not a UC Berkeley student, faculty or staff member, you may be able to access UC Berkeley dissertations for a fee from ProQuest's Dissertation Express or, for items in our collection, using our photoduplication services.

See also: all electronic dissertation and thesis resources at UC Berkeley.

Why would a licensed resource lose all of its page formatting?

Browsers configured to use the proxy server must have third party cookies enabled to ensure that images and stylesheets called by the licensed resource are available via the proxy server. Loss of page formatting is an excellent clue that you do not have third party cookies enabled in your browser.

After logging into the proxy server via CalNet, why do I sometimes see a window with a "Connect to Resource" button?

Usually after you have logged in, your browser is redirected straight to the resource you initially requested. However, under two different circumstances, the proxy server instead displays a window containing a "Connect to Resource" button:

  • A few resources, such as the Biblioline databases, spawn a new browser window when they are invoked. This can cause problems, which we avoid by instead displaying the window with the "Connect to Resource" button.
  • When authentication takes place while you're in the midst of a search operation, you may be returned to a "Connect to Resource" form if the resource sends its search parameters using the "POST" method of data transmission.

In either case, clicking on the "Connect to Resource" button will usually get you where you're going.

Why do I have trouble using my browser's "Back" button beyond the CalNet login screen for the proxy server?

Logging in with a CalNet ID and passphrase triggers a series of exchanges among two campus servers and your browser. Unfortunately, if you try to use your browser's "Back" button to go back to a page you visited before logging in, this may cause you to see a message such as this:

  • Missing Data
    This document resulted from a POST operation and has expired from the cache. If you wish you can repost the form data to recreate the document by pressing the reload button.

Clicking on the "Back" button repeatedly may or may not get you beyond this roadblock, depending on your browser and what pages it has visited. Whatever you do, do not click on the "Reload" button.

If you want to move back to a page you viewed before logging in, a better solution is to use the tool provided in your browser for displaying a pop-up menu of pages you have visited. This can usually be done by clicking on the "Back" button and holding the mouse button down, or clicking on a small down-arrow or "Go" pulldown next to the "Back" button. The browser's "History" function may also be useful.

Why do I see warnings about going from secure to insecure (and vice versa) connections when logging into the proxy server with my CalNet ID?

Authentication via the CalNet proxy server is a complex process, involving several redirections of your browser between the proxy server and the campus authentication server, which use different security protocols. If your browser is set to warn you upon entering or leaving a secure environment, you may see such a warning when going through the steps of this process.

You do not need to worry about these messages. The only exchange of confidential information takes place when you enter your CalNet ID and passphrase, and that exchange is encrypted and highly secure. Your ID and passphrase are seen only by the campus's authentication server and are not transmitted back over the Internet, so your confidential information cannot be observed by any unauthorized third party.

You may be able to change your browser's security settings to eliminate these warning messages. However, please read the browser's help documentation carefully to make sure you understand the implications of this change.