Fast Facts

Primo FAQ

What is Primo?

Primo is a search tool that allows you to find and access a wide range of print and electronic resources from a single search point. With a user-friendly interface, it has many design features to improve your research experience by making it more intuitive, seamless, and enjoyable.
Primo's unique features include:

  • Access to an endless number of external repositories, such as e-books collections, journal articles, and digitized images
  • Social software features, such as tagging and reviewing, to encourage knowledge sharing and creation within the TUG community
  • Ability to group alike records to avoid duplication in search results
  • Many other search and design features, including:

    • Facets (refinements or limits) for narrowing down search results
    • A "did you mean?" spell checker
    • Integration with Google Books search
    • The ability to limit search results to "available" and "online" resources
    • The option to sort search results by popularity, relevance, author, date and title.

Why should I "Sign in" to Primo?

When you sign into Primo, you are able to do the following:

  • Access external licensed databases. Some databases, like Web of Science, only show results and provide access to full text articles when you're signed in. Once you sign in, you can search and retrieve items from these additional resources.
  • Add items you found and queries you submitted permanently to your basket. You can save items from your results list to your basket and you can save queries that you have performed for future use.
  • Set alerts for your queries. You can set a query to become an alert, that is, to run automatically and send you email notification once it locates new items answering your search criteria.
  • Use library services. You can benefit from library services such as requesting or recalling items.

You can sign in to Primo with your UG central ID and password, or your ID card barcode number and your last name, by clicking the "Sign in" link at the top right of the screen. You should always sign out of Primo at the end of your session so that your searches remain private and your personal settings and basket cannot be accessed by anyone else.

Does Primo include everything in specific research databases?

Primo's vendor, ExLibris, works directly with publishers to obtain permissions to index specific journals, newspapers, and other serials. Publication data can come from any number of places: direct from the publisher, or from an intermediate database.
For this reason, we don’t know exactly what the overlap is between Primo Central’s content and the content found in specialized research databases. In some cases it might be close to 100 percent, in others, 50-75 percent.

When should I use the "Search" tab?

This tab searches all resources available through this search tool, including: books, e-books, journal titles, maps, videos, audio recordings, government documents, music scores, journal articles, newspaper articles, reviews, and conference proceedings.

When should I use the "Books +" tab?

This tab searches books, e-books, journal titles, maps, videos, audio recordings, government documents, and music scores available to University of Guelph, University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and other affiliated libraries.

When should I use the "Articles +" tab?

This tab searches journal articles, newspaper articles, reviews, and conference proceedings available through many of the library's electronic subscriptions.

What am I searching?

At present the complete TRELLIS library catalogue — the print and online collections of the TriUniversity Group of Libraries. Primo also searches the Primo Central index, a central database of online e-books, journal articles, conference proceedings and newspaper articles. Primo also includes the Hathi Trust Digital Library, a collection of 250,000 e-books from American research libraries.

Can I find articles in Primo?

Yes! Primo searches Primo Central, a central database which contains many electronic journal articles. The Primo Central database does not contain all of the journal articles TUG has access to, but it does contain a huge selection of journal articles. You can find articles by using the "Search" tab or the "Articles +" tab.

How is Primo different from TRELLIS?

Primo is a “discovery layer” and its whole reason for being is to search “stuff” and one thing it searches is the TUG catalogue, TRELLIS. TRELLIS is our “catalogue” and its whole reason for being is to store all of the resources held by TUG and it also provides very basic search functionality. Where TRELLIS contains only the physical things held by TUG, Primo also searches the Primo Central database of hundreds of millions of electronic resources and Hathi Trust. For electronic resources, Primo acts as an intermediary to route you to the electronic resources you’re looking for.

The Details view of Primo displays differently from the Full view in TRELLIS. For each record you have the option to link back to TRELLIS to see more bibliographic information.

Does Primo replace TRELLIS?

Since Primo is primarily a "discovery layer" it relies on TRELLIS as one of the sources for full bibliographic records. For this reason, Primo doesn't actually replace TRELLIS, since TRELLIS operates underneath the surface.

Why are there multiple links to TRELLIS in my Primo results?

Primo 'deduplicates' search results but TRELLIS does not. Let's say, for example, there are five copies of the book War and Peace in our libraries. When you search for this book in TRELLIS, you get five results. Do the same thing in Primo and you will get a much more streamlined response: just one result with the locations of each of these five copies all listed on one page. You will also see five links back to TRELLIS. This is because TRELLIS has five catalogue records for this book. If you are just looking for more information about the book, it won't matter which TRELLIS link you choose.

Can you give me some search tips?

For hints on how to narrow down your search, how to do Boolean searches, and for wildcard and truncation symbols, please see the Search Tips link at the top of the Primo search screen.

The book I want has been checked out. How do I know when it's due back?

Primo shows due dates for items. Click on the “Locations & Requests” tab. If we have more than one book in our holdings, and one of the books is checked out, there will be a due date for the book that is checked out. You will receive the book faster by putting a HOLD on the available book than by doing a RECALL on the book that is out. If we only have one item, then you must do a RECALL on the book that is checked out.

What does 'Check library holdings' mean?

Some of your results might not show a location and call number, but this mysterious message 'check library holdings' instead. This means that Primo could not interpret the location of the item, and you should click on the 'Locations & Requests' tab for more information. For example, you might see 'no information available' and '1 copy claimed.' 'Copy claimed' means the item is still on order and not yet in the library.

What does 'Online access is restricted' mean?

One of the other libraries in the Tri-UniversityGroup consortium purchased this item, but your library has not purchased the access to it. To get access to this item, place a RACER request.

How can I tell if an online resource is restricted to a certain number of users at a time?

Restrictions related to online access are visible on the Details tab in the links section:

User restrictions

How do I request an item that's not in Primo? Where's the link to RACER (interlibrary loan)?

You will find a link to (interlibrary loan) Racer at the top of the Primo search screen.

How do I place a hold?

Sign in to PRIMO, then click on the “Location & Requests” tab within the item record. Click on "Hold" or "Recall". Follow the instructions on the screen. Choose HOLD for items that are NOT checked out; choose RECALL for items that are checked out.

If you did not sign in to PRIMO first, you will see "Sign in to request" beneath "Request Options" when you click the "Location & Requests" tab. Click here, login, then click either "Hold" or "Recall" to request the item.

Sign in to place a hold or recall


I'm trying to place a hold — why isn't it working?

You can't place holds on certain library items like videos, DVDs, and non-circulating books like books in Reference collections or books on course reserve. Check to make sure the item you want doesn't fall into one of these categories. You may also be trying to place a hold on an item that is lost or missing. Check the holdings to see if the status of the item is lost or missing or “not yet catalogued” by clicking on the “details” tab and selecting “more bibliographic information in TRELLIS”.

How do I request an article from affiliated libraries?

To get access to a journal article which is not available at your local Library, you'll be able to request it via RACER. In the Primo record, click on the 'RACER Request' tab.

How is popularity ranking calculated for the search results?

Popularity ranking is calculated by Primo's click statistics for record displays, GetIt, and e-Shelf. This means that the more an item record has been clicked and viewed, the more popular it is. You have the option to sort according to popularity using a pull-down menu located at the top of the search results section.

How does the "Did you mean" spell check feature work?

The "Did you mean?" spell checker feature checks your search terms against common spellings and then provides suggestions that could be useful, based on synonyms and a variety of other factors. For example, if your search term is "potatoe" Primo's "did you mean" feature suggests "potato." By clicking on the suggested query, Primo then provides search results for you to explore. The "did you mean?" feature makes Primo a more flexible search tool by catching any errors for you.

How does Primo handle duplicate records?

Primo combines duplicate records from the library's system into a single integrated record. By "de-duplicating" records in this way, PRIMO provides significantly less duplication of records within the search results, making search results easier to understand and navigate.

What is the e-Shelf?

The e-Shelf is a location where you can store items and search queries. From your e-Shelf, you can view saved items, as well as print, email, and export the records. The e-Shelf also enables you to save search queries.

You can save items to the e-Shelf by checking off the check box at the left of the title and clicking on the e-Shelf link at the upper right corner of the Primo home page, OR by using the “Actions” tab that appears at the right hand side in any of the Primo tabs. A drop down menu from the “Actions” link will include the choice, "Add to e-Shelf" Although you can save items as a guest, you will need to sign in to Primo to save items permanently.

You can save an entire page of results to the e-Shelf by using the "Add page to e-Shelf" link to the left of your search results.

Will my Primo session time out?

Your Primo session will automatically time out after 30 minutes of inactivity. You will be directed to a session time out page where you can reconnect to Primo.

When is Primo updated?

Primo is constantly being updated with the latest library items and current circulation status, so you will know immediately if an item has been checked out. Maintenance is performed weekly on Sunday mornings from 3-5 AM during which time Primo is not available.

Are there other libraries using Primo?

Yes. Presently, there are over 1000 libraries worldwide using or implementing Primo. Academic libraries with Primo pages that the Implementation Team has been actively following include:

Where can I submit comments or questions?

Submit comments and questions to the Primo Implementation Team using the feedback form embedded at the bottom of Primo's main page:

I can't access the [article, e-book, etc.] in Primo…

If you're searching Primo from off-campus, you will need to log in to your Library site first in order to access online resources.

I can't find [an article, book, resource] in Primo. Where can I find it?

Can’t find a book in Primo? Try:

  • Limiting your search results to “Resource Type: Book” using the facets on the left-hand side of the search results page
  • Doing an advanced search in Primo
  • Doing a “Title” search in Primo's advanced search

Can’t find an article in Primo? Try:

  • Signing in to Primo for access to more databases. The sign in link is on the upper right side of the Primo screen
  • Using an “exact” search under the Articles + tab to narrow your results
  • Some articles are not findable in Primo (it does not provide 100 percent coverage of our journal collections). To do a thorough article search, look up the journal title and determine if the Library subscribes to the journal. Then browse by year/issue to find the right article.

Doesn't look like the Library owns the item?

Make an interlibrary loan request using RACER.

When I do a search in Primo, I get many results. How can I refine my search to find exactly what I'm looking for?

Searches in Primo often yield a large number of results. To help find what you’re looking for faster, try these search tips.

Use the precise search options in Primo:

Try Phrase Searching
Primo allows for phrase searching with the use of “ ”. The query “teacher education” will find results with that phrase.
Try the Advanced Search
Use the advanced search to search within the title, author, ISSN, ISBN, publisher, subject, and tags fields. You can also limit your search by publication date, resource type, and language.
Refine Your Search Results
Use the "Refine My Results" options on the left-hand side to limit by Resource Type, Subject, Publication Date, Author, Language, and more.

How does Primo compare to Google Scholar?

Primo and Google Scholar are both search engines that let you quickly search across a massive index of scholarly information.
Primo Central and Google Scholar search different bodies of scholarly content. There is overlap, but there is content findable in Primo Central but not Google Scholar, and vice-versa. The two search engines perform relevance ranking in very different ways.

Some features unique to Primo:

  • Results are reflective of the TUG collection — as a library patron, you have access to mostly everything you can find in Primo.
  • Find print/physical material in the Library collection — Primo contains all of our Library Catalogue records and can be used for finding print material and media in the library.
  • Useful search refinements:

    • “Limit to articles from peer-review journals”
    • “Limit to items in a specific library location (University of Guelph, Laurier, Dana Porter Library, Davis Centre Library etc.)”
    • Select item records to email, print, cite, export to RefWorks/EndNote

Some features unique to Google Scholar:

  • “Cited by” information — e.g. “Cited by 402 publications"

How does Primo relevance ranking work?

Primo’s sophisticated relevance ranking algorithm is a 'trade secret' of the software developers at ExLibris, so we are unable to explain exactly how it works. However, it usually gives priority to "exact title" matches on your search keywords.
For instance: a search for "practical grammar" will return items with the exact title "practical grammar" at the top. A search for "the practical grammar" will return almost identical results, but with priority given to titles with "the" in them.

How do the facets in the search results work?

Facets appear on the left-hand side of the search results screen and can help you to refine your search results.
By clicking on any of the facet values you can limit your search results to only results with these values.
Facets are dynamically generated from the top 200 relevant results. The number for each value is taken from the full set of results.
This is an example of facets:


Can I select more than one facet?

You can select more than one facet value in the same category by clicking on "More options".

Can I exclude a facet?

You can exclude a facet value by clicking on "More options". Excluded facets will show at the top of your search results with a strike-through the word:

Exclude facets

How do I remove a facet?

You can remove a facet by clicking on the "x" beside the facet choice at the top of your search results:

Remove facets


What is the difference between including multiple facets using the "More options" link and selecting one facet at a time?

Every time you select a facet you are narrowing your results.

More options

For example if you select "Computer networks" in the example above you will get a new set of results that have the subject heading "Computer networks."

Refined by

You now have a new set of facets for that result  with a new set of facets so that you can narrow even further within that set of records.

However, if you chose the "more options" link you can include more than one facet at a time:

More options include exclude

Now you are asking Primo to give you all of the records with "Computer networks" as well as all of the records with "Mass media." You will get the 213 records with "Computer networks" and you will get the 180 records with "Mass media". The number of results might not equal 393 exactly because some records will only have "Computer networks", some will only have "Mass media" and some may have both subject headings.

It's not clear why an item was returned in my search results?

Primo includes article citation information as well as full-text information for some online resources. It may be that the search term is matching somewhere in the full-text.

Can I switch between tabs and keep my search queries?

When switching between tabs only the search terms stay. The drop down selections available in the "Books +" and "Articles +" tabs don’t carry over.

How is peer-reviewed determined in Primo?

Primo Central uses a list of peer-reviewed journals supplied by SFX (GetIt!) to determine what is peer-reviewed.

What is personalized ranking?

Personalized ranking is an optional feature in Primo. You must sign-in to Primo to use this feature. You can find this option under My Account – Personal Settings.

Personalized ranking tells the Primo software a little bit about yourself so that it can adjust the relevancy ranking of article searching results. For example if you do a search on "depression" and you are a nursing student it should prefer nursing articles over psychology articles.

Will Primo change over time?

The Primo software is expected to change and improve as new features are implemented and new content is added.
The Primo Central database is an example of “software as a service.” The Library has a license with the vendor ExLibris to provide the Primo Central database for the Library’s collection. In this sense, it is more similar to the Library’s various article databases (e.g. Web of Science) than it is to the Library’s Catalogue system (a locally-hosted software system that experiences major but infrequent upgrades).

Do I need to “Connect from Home” / “Off-Campus Login” to search Primo?

To search Primo complete holdings, you will need to "Connect from Home" in two instances:

  • When you're off campus
  • When you're on campus and are using a laptop with the wireless network

If you're using a wired computer on campus, you will not need to "Connect from Home/Off-Campus Login." 

How can I give feedback?

Provide feedback using the “feedback” link at the bottom of any page in Primo.