Finding information when you’re in college is going to be different than doing high school research. It’s likely you will rely more on library resources and less on Google. Library subscriptions to scholarly journals, online resources and books will meet your college research needs.
Visit your university library early in the semester to find out what’s available on your campus. Here are five common ways a college library can help you make the grade.
1. Reliable online resources accessible from anywhere, anytime
Access and convenience are top priorities for college libraries these days so they subscribe to databases, which provide access to thousands of newspaper, magazine and scholarly journal articles your instructors will require for research assignments. Ebooks and streaming videos are other online tools many college libraries offer. As a student, you’ll be able to login to these resources with campus supplied password information from the luxury of your dorm, virtually 24/7 from most university libraries.
2. Reference services available 24/7
It used to be you had to go into a library to ask for help from a librarian, but not anymore. College libraries provide reference support in a variety of electronic formats. Tech-savvy libraries will allow you to ask your research questions by e-mail, text or through a live chat. Finding answers to your questions this way is convenient. But remember, you can also go into the library to speak to a librarian in person. Many college libraries have librarian subject specialists who have particular knowledge in a field and can help you locate in-depth information on a topic.
3. Use the study rooms
Almost every student needs a study room at some point, either at midterms or perhaps just before finals. Group study rooms provide students with a place to discuss and prepare for group projects, exams and other assignments. Ask about the room reservation policies for your library. Sometimes it’s first-come, first-served while other libraries provide online reservations. Thinking ahead can make a big difference since these rooms fill up fast during test season.
4. Take advantage of course reserves
Many instructors require their students to read more than one textbook or a difficult to find article for their class. To save you money and provide convenient access, instructors will often place a book or journal article on “reserve” in the library. This usually means you will be able to read the book or article within the library for a particular period of time. When your time is up, you simply return the item, which then makes it available for other students. Sometimes reserve books and articles can be accessed virtually, which eliminates the borrowing time limit for even more convenience. Instructors often tell their students when they have placed an item on reserve, but not always. So it doesn’t hurt to ask. Who knows … your instructors and the library just might be able to save you money on books.
5. Get an interlibrary loan
There may come a time when you are looking for a book or article that your college library doesn’t carry. In this instance, you’ll want to find out if your library provides interlibrary loan, which will enable you to request articles and books your library does not own. Generally, these articles and books can be ordered and delivered to you through e-mail or to the library within 10 business days for free!
All college libraries have different policies so you’ll want to find out the specifics at your campus library.
Coleen Meyers Martin is the coordinator of outreach services at Oviatt Library at California State University in Northridge, Calif. (www.csun.edu).