You can’t argue with what the books say, right? College students who know what their college library offers are more likely to earn a higher GPA than students who never enter its hallowed halls.
While checking out books or using the library’s study rooms to cram for a test are familiar ways students use their college library, you may be surprised to find out that your college library offers a host of tools to help you succeed that you may not have considered.
Subject specialists are librarians with advanced degrees — for example, in engineering, nursing, women’s studies, philosophy, or fine arts. Check your library’s homepage. Subject specialists are listed with their subject categories, office phone number, and email — so it’s easy to make an appointment.
Ray Pun, a reference librarian at New York University, recommends that students partner with a subject specialist “to create interesting projects like GIS mapping, data management, or digital scholarship.” They’ll know what databases to consult for your research project, and can steer you in the right direction, offering you tools you never considered to help push your ideas to the next level.
Use Google Books like a virtual card catalog. Google has scanned millions of books — most of them from academic libraries — that are searchable. Books that are out of copyright are available in full-text, but most books only allow you to see a small snippet of the book’s content.
Most college students by this point are very familiar with using search engines like Google, and it’s a good first step if you’re still getting acquainted with your library’s digital catalog. Check out if the book you need is available on Google Books, and then use your library’s catalog to find out if it’s available. If your library does not have a copy, you can use interlibrary loan, and your library will borrow it from another library for you.
College libraries offer workshops throughout the academic year to help students become better researchers, and to make the best out of their college experience. Be on the lookout for opportunities to learn a new skill at the library.
For example, at a data workshop you can learn data management skills, or different ways to conduct quantitative or qualitative research. Learn how to use a dissertation database to explore the most current research being conducted in your field. Or take a class to learn how to use the library’s subscription databases to identify company news, industry trends, and explore career options using Harvard Business Review.
It’s past closing time, and you need one more fact to add to your research paper. Use your college library’s “Ask a Librarian” chat feature. Most academic libraries offer a 24-hour reference desk. Even if your library does not have the feature, it’s easy to find a librarian somewhere in the world who can answer your specific query.
For example, the New York Public Library has a fully operational 24/7 reference desk. You can chat live or text your research question, and a librarian is on-hand to help you find the answer you need.
Need a camera for your sociology project, or access to Illustrator or InDesign for your publishing course? Even if you just need to use a printer or a scanner, it is a good idea to find out if your library has an information commons or a specialized workstation to help you get your work done.
Libraries are at the cutting edge of technology, so find out what technological resources are available for you to use. Depending on the size of your university, it is likely your school has a Mac lab, or access to sophisticated software to visualize data, or video editing tools to make a professional presentation.