Logout of Your Elsevier Account to Get Library Access

I’m on sabbatical this year and, as a result, even more of my experiences accessing scholarly resources are happening from off-campus.

One thing that has been vexing me is the inconsistency in when I am able to get access to ScienceDirect articles full-text and when I cannot. It turns out there is a rather infuriating explanation for the problems I am encountering and a completely counter-intuitive solution.

TL;DR – if you are logged in to your ELS/Mendeley account, you must logout to get access to the pathway via your library from ScienceDirect.

Here’s the longer version with explanations and screenshots for documentation:

I am typically logged in to Mendeley when I am doing research (and as a reminder one’s Mendeley account is now the same as an ELS account).

The problematic situation starts from following a link that does not go through the library proxy server and that leads to a ScienceDirect page.

In Figure 1, I am logged in with my personal ELS/Mendeley account. My library does provide access to this journal but ScienceDirect doesn’t recognize that because there is no way to link my ELS/Mendeley account to my institutional access privileges.

When I click to “Purchase PDF” (already problematic because this is the link that should provide a pathway to the library, which is of course not a purchase for the user, but we’ll leave that aside for now), I am befuddled. Where is the option for checking for access via an institution?

Figure 1: No institutional pathway while logged in to an ELS/Mendeley account.


Fast forward through weeks of trying different approaches and usually only succeeding by going to the library website, logging in through the proxy server, and then navigating back to the article.

I had a moment of exasperation where I thought “what happens if I log out?”

Imagine my surprise that this was the key step. Log out and the option for getting access via an institutional library pathway appears (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Institutional pathway available if logged out.


I have reported this to Elsevier and have been assured that this was not intentional. I’m personally more interested that it gets fixed and I am also assured that will happen.

But, until it does, I thought I would share this as I suspect I may not be the only one who is encountering this problem.

While it is thoroughly counter-intuitive and incredibly frustrating, if you have an ELS/Mendeley account, make certain to log out of it if you want to access PDFs via the institutional pathway from ScienceDirect.