Whether you’re stepping through the doors of a college as a wide-eyed freshman, returning back to school after a hiatus, or going to school for the first time as a middle-aged adult, you want to take advantage of everything your school has to offer. One of the most important free services you’ll receive as a student of any college or university is access to an amazing library.
You may be saying “The library? That’s so old school – I’m all about the internet! I can do all my homework AT HOME!”
That sounds good until you have a professor who wants a 2,500-word research paper and she says you’re only allowed to use scholarly articles as resources. What that means, is that Wikipedia (as awesome as it may be) won’t cut it. You need access to a database of academic articles. You need guidance. You need…your college library.
Still skeptical? Perhaps numbers and statistics will serve to better convince you. Professor Megan Oakleaf of Syracuse scoured through countless papers and reports that analyzed how college libraries affected things like graduation rates and retention. She went on to pen a report called “The Value of Academic Libraries.” Her conclusion was that “students who have participated in three or more library instructional episodes over the course of their college career have a significantly higher G.P.A.
Instructional episodes? Imagine, for example, that there are some very helpful articles floating around out there, but so far, you’ve only been able to find excerpts from them. The full text of those articles may be accessible through your college library. With a bit of training and someone to point you in the right direction, you’ll easily be able to find what you need. Your college library may offer an online tour or a self-guided tour via handouts. Take a tour so you can familiarize yourself with the library and how it works. You’ll be able to use it more effectively and save yourself some time.
Take a tour so you can familiarize yourself with the library and how it works. You will be able to use it more effectively and save yourself some time.
Meet Your Librarian
Thankfully, with access to your college library, you also get access to the guru of all library information—your college’s academic librarian. The librarian is the most powerful source of help and information at your disposal.
With a librarian to guide you, there’s a veritable treasure trove of information just waiting for you to dig it up. You can find news coverage of all kinds of events—whether they happened in the days before digital media and you need to look at newspaper footage that’s been preserved on microfilm or if they were reported by The New York Times just a few years ago. You’ll be able to sift through old manuscripts, look at old film footage, consult maps, or even listen to recorded audio. All of this is in addition to the countless number of books on the shelves. The librarian will also be able to teach you how to access and use the online database in order to access scholarly articles—something that you’ll be able to do from home once you know how.
Simply put: your librarian is your friend. Get to know them. Ask them questions. Let them help you—that’s what they’re there for. Many college websites will provide students with direct access to a librarian. For example, University of Vermont’s Bailey/Howe Library, gives you information for how to chat online with a librarian or contact them via text, phone or email.
A Room of Your Own
If you live in a dorm or in an apartment and have roommates, the library can also provide you with a quiet, still space where you can read, study, or just get some peace. If you’re serious about boosting your G.P.A., use a work space at your college library to insulate yourself from the world of ringing cellphones, chatty roommates and other distractions.
It’s also the perfect place to meet with study groups when you need to go heads-down and get work done as a team. In addition to quiet, libraries have large tables that are perfect for big groups of students to gather and work on projects. To be sure you’ll have the space you need, see if you can contact the library ahead of time to reserve a private study room for your group. These rooms will also allow your group to talk without worrying that the noise will distract other people who are trying to concentrate.
Where to Start
Now that you know what is available at your college library, you’re likely to be feeling anxious to get started on your next project and you may be wondering where to start. Never fear! For a general idea of where things are located, go to your college’s website and take a look at the section for the library. Often, there will be a link to a library map that will give you a general idea of the physical layout. And the library staff is always there to help. Here are some other ways you can make the most out of your college library.
As mentioned earlier, the internet alone isn’t an adequate resource for researching all your papers. However, it still has its uses and you do have access to it at the library. Whether you need to read up online for a class or simply want to spend some time relaxing and surfing the web, if you don’t have the internet at home, it’s nice to have a place where you can set up your laptop and get online.
Those scholarly articles that your professors are so big on? You’ll find an assortment beyond your wildest dreams via your library’s access to electronic databases. Talk to your librarian (or go to your library’s website) to learn how to access them. As a student, you’ll generally be given an ID and password that will allow you to log on. Once you’re there, you’ll be able to read, download, and print out an infinite amount of articles from scholarly texts and journals. One of the best parts about using these online databases is that they’re available for you to access 24 hours a day—making it much easier for you to get homework done on your schedule. Don’t take this for granted! Once you’re no longer a student, you’ll probably have to pay a fee in order to access such content. Take advantage of the value and access your studentship provides you.
One of the best parts about using online databases is that they’re available for you to access 24 hours a day—making it much easier for you to get homework done on your schedule.
Yes—your library will have shelves upon shelves of books. Whether you need those books for reference or want to check one out to read during your free time, you’ll likely be able to find what you need.
The Interlibrary Loan (ILL)
If you don’t find what you need, you can simply request it via the Interlibrary Loan (ILL) desk. They’ll look for that specific book at another library. If it’s available, it will be delivered to your college library for free. How long you’re allowed to borrow specific items varies from library to library; it could range from one week to as many as four.
In addition to online access to academic databases, your library’s website allows you to search through the library’s catalog, reserve books, borrow e-books, or access other resources.
Whether you’re looking for a good, free movie to watch on the weekend or are hunting for a documentary that will be a great resource for that paper you’re writing, your library may have what you need. They often have music, as well.
Printing, Copies and Supplies
If you don’t have a printer, you don’t have to run out and buy one. Simply go to your college library and use one of the printers they make available for student use.
Need to make copies? Perhaps you need to copy flyers or you’re working on a big presentation for class. Or maybe you’ve been studying for that big mid-term exam and need to copy some of the information you’ve found in library books or magazines. The library has copiers for you to use.
In fact, pretty much anything you need in order to work on a project or report will be available to you there—just ask. They’ll often have things like hole punchers, pencil sharpeners, scissors, staplers, and tape.
Go Team Library!
With all of this helpful information, hopefully you feel ready to walk into your college library and use it like you own the place. Go for it! Explore it. Learn about it. And use the skills of your librarian. You’ve got enough work to do already—why not use all your resources and allow your librarian to help you make it easier?