The Learning Commons


How do I use this website?

Always know that we want your experience with the Lapp Learning Commons and its resources as pleasant as possible. If you’re unable to find something, get lost online, or don’t know where to begin, contact us via email at yasmine.abou-el-kheir@ctschicago.edu or library@ctschicago.edu.

All currently enrolled students at CTS have access to the Learning Commons’ resources. The first time you use our physical resources, you will need to fill out paperwork. Any time you come to the Learning Commons, you will need to bring your student I.D. in order to check out materials.

Off-campus access to electronic resources

Online access to databases, ebooks, and streaming videos is available to all currently enrolled students. When accessing these resources from off campus, students must use their email address to login. You’ll use the first part of your CTS email address as your username and the password is your email password. For instance, if your email is jdoe@ctschicago.edu. Your username for the Learning Commons would be just “jdoe.”

Students who are taking a single course at CTS, auditing or for-credit, receive a separate login method via email.

Doing Research at the Lapp Learning Commons

Most research materials can be found under the Find tab on the main web page. Each sub-group is named after what you’d be looking for.

Find – Books at CTS” takes you to the local book catalog. Inside of it is all of our print books, print journals, ebooks, and A/V, including streaming videos. You can search by title, author, or keyword.

Find – Research Guides” takes you to our subject guides. These web pages include all of our library databases as well as freely-available web content that may be useful for your research. Occasionally, other guides of relevance are added (such as a how-to guide to Accessing eBooks).

Find—Databases A to Z” is exactly what it sounds like. All databases the Learning Commons subscribes to are listed alphabetically on this web page.

Find a Journal” takes you to a search screen for ejournal titles. Please note that this is not where you’d search for a topic. It’s only useful when you know what journal you want to look at.

So, if you have an article you’d like to read, such as:

Murphy, Timothy Charles. "The influence of socialism in Black and womanist theologies: capitalism's relationship as source, sin, and salvation." Black Theology 10, no. 1 (April 1, 2012): 28-48.

You would search for the title of the journal, Black Theology, rather than by the author’s name or article’s title.

I always encourage students to try databases they’ve never used before. For instance, if you’re doing research on the use of religion in politics, the ATLA Religion Database may not be the best place to start. If you were to go to “Find—Research Guides” and click on the Humanities research guide, you’d see that we recommend Academic Search Complete and Project MUSE Premier as great places to start for an interdisciplinary research topic in the humanities, alongside many other options. 

Tips when conducting searches

Whenever you’re doing research at the Lapp Learning Commons, the broader your terms are the more likely you’ll find a useful result. Always try to break your research question down to two or three main topic words.

For instance, if you were examining the ways in which churches have used hip-hop music in worship, your key topics would be: hip hop and worship. You’d only put those two concepts into the search box. If you were to get no useful results, you’d try related terms like church, liturgy, or maybe even rap (librarians and scholars sometimes categorize things wrong).

Interlibrary Loan

All students can request interlibrary loans of articles and chapters of books. Requests can be made inside of some of our search tools as well as directly by emailing library@ctschicago.edu.

Interlibrary loan of entire books is only offered to students in the Chicago area. Students outside of Chicago are encouraged to begin by looking to their local public library. If their local public library does not offer interlibrary loan services, please email the Learning Commons a letter from the local library confirming that ILL is unavailable to you. The Learning Commons will only then offer ILL of entire books to students away from Chicago.

If there’s a particular book you want but can’t find it in our catalog or it’s currently checked out, you are always welcome to email us at library@ctschicago.edu for interlibrary loan.

One caveat to this: students who are not in the Chicago area should utilize their local public library for interlibrary loan of entire books. The reason we don’t provide ILL of physical books to students outside of the Chicago area is because the turn-around time means you may have the book for three or four days before it’s due to be returned back to us so we can return it to the lending library on time. If your local public library doesn’t offer any interlibrary loan services, and you can provide us with an email from the local librarian stating they don’t provide ILL. In those instances, we will offer you ILL book delivery away from Chicago.

Any student, in Chicago or far away, can request an interlibrary loan of a book chapter or journal article. Requests can be made the same way as book requests.


Print reserves are maintained for all current course texts. These books may be checked out for a maximum of three hours at a time. Reserve books are only available at the circulation desk.


Because publishers put different types of requirements on electronic texts, some of our ebooks are really easy to access and others are much more difficult. You may need to create an account with an eBook provider if you are having difficulty getting the eBook to download. This is true for books on the Ebrary platform and for books on the EBSCO platform.


Encyclopedias can be found inside of the book catalog. Remember, encyclopedias cover broad topical areas so if you were interested in an encyclopedic entry for Gnosticism, you wouldn’t search for Encyclopedia of Gnosticism. Well, you could, but it’s unlikely you’d find one! Instead, search:

 Encyclopediareligion or try Encyclopediaearlychurch or encyclopediatheology

These searches are much more likely to return broad encyclopedias that include your topic. 

Finding books and journal articles all at once

There are three methods of finding both books and journal articles in the same search. Two of which CTS provides for you and the other is a service from Google. 

Search Everything: CTS subscribes to EBSCO Discovery Service, a new platform that allows users to search in one place all the content the Learning Commons either owns or subscribes to.  You can search for books, articles, streaming media and more across our catalog and all of our databases (e.g. ATLA, EBSCO, JSTOR, Project Muse, etc.). Not covered by this search platform are the Open Access databases listed in our Databases A-Z guide.

OCLC WorldCat Discovery is a search tool that integrates the library’s book catalog, eresource holdings, and a centralized index to scholarly journals and popular magazines that can be a great resource for a student just starting the research process.

Google Scholar is a tool provided by Google. It includes book and journal citations and even can tell you if CTS owns the eresource you’re looking at. Please take a look at the “Using Google Scholar” page on the Learning Commons website for more info on how to personalize Google Scholar.

Ask a librarian

Have a question for a librarian? Send it to us via a quick note!
Alternatively, call us at (773) 896-2450 or email library@ctschicago.edu

The library supports the informational instruction, research, and bibliographic needs of staff, faculty and students. Research questions can be sent to Research Help. It is helpful to know your research stage, resources that you have used, and suggested keywords.

Archival Research

The Learning Commons at CTS has several archival collections, of significance includes the: papers of G. Campbell Morgan and Anton Boisen. CTS Archival materials include documents from the Department of Research and related Chicago Survey papers and the institutional archive. If you are interested in any materials in these collections, please request an appointment with the librarian or assistant librarian. Please contact us at least a month in advance to access the archival collections.