Uni Libraries – I’m all confused!

Uni Libraries  –  I’m all confused!

University libraries are generally extensive and are located in huge buildings, like Newcastle University Library (UK) in the picture to the left. With thousands of students on campus each day, studying a wide array of subjects, the library has to stock a vast amount of material. If you think of the course you are on, and lets say there are 50 people on your course, with hundreds of courses throughout campus – that means for sure that there is going to be a huge resource in your university library (or even libraries). I know my old university Lancaster had two libraries. One ‘regular’ library and another being the Ruskin Library. Whilst the latter wasn’t useful to me (as it contained specific research material) it was to many on the campus.

Access to resources

You’ll want to get to know your uni library as soon as you start your first week on your course. That means if you haven’t been to the library yet, then it should be on your top priorities list to do by the end of the week – we’re getting close to November, and before you know it you’ll have had Christmas off and be back, getting ready for exams. It’s super easy to get access to a uni library; all you need is your student number, they’ll generally take a digital photo of you (so you don’t need to get a passport sized one) to put on your card. After you’ve got your card you’ll be able to access all the resources the library has.

Resources have their limits

Although there are many, many resources in university libraries for students, you will find that any one resource will be limited – such as a book on buyer behaviour that is recommended from your lecturer and is a ‘key text’ in your reading list. If you don’t reserve the book, or get there before everyone else, then you may have to wait to get information from that particular source. Many libraries do have short loan books (some 4, 12 or 24 hours) and you’ll generally find there will be one or two copies for ‘reference only’, meaning they can’t be taken out of the library. Will this help if there are 20 people looking for the same book though? I recommend you take a look at Competing for resources on getafirst’s blog for more information.

How many resources?

With the huge amount of information contained in your university library, and as a newcomer to the academic society, you may have become confused about where to look for resources and which ones to use. This is a valid and favourable point of mine; having 30 subject guides to resources – books, journal articles (both paper and online), databases, e-books, new articles, the Internet and more – didn’t break it down anymore for me – I was confused with what the library offered me as a student. You could say that studying a business and management based degree that I should’ve chosen the management section guide to look in, and I did; but it also occurred to me that I should be looking in other areas, such as psychology (marketing and buying), marketing and law. To diversify my understanding of a subject, and gain a deeper understanding of what theorists were portraying. I’ll be reviewing this area of how to research, and explain how to compete with others on your course, by reviewing how to progress in your course through researching and writing ‘outside of the box’.

Types of resources


There are generally thousands of books in a number of different categories. Every library will have an online catalogue that will be search-able, for keywords, titles, the ISBN number (unique book reference), and author name – it’s similar to an Amazon search. This should also be accessible to you anywhere in the world, so if you’re an international student and visiting home, but want to search for and reserve books for when you return, you should be able to this at the touch of a button.

More libraries are moving away from holding paper based journals and using subscription services, such as Business Source Premier and Emerald (part of Athens). However, you should find some sources on law, history and geography (in paper form), as these subjects generally remain static. Magazines are also available, dependant on your university, and may have one or two articles that you can use.


Websites, although not only accessible via your library, this type of resource can be a valuable tool to get quality information (depends on source material though). Many links on your library’s intranet site to outside sources can be considered as trustworthy, together with the major newspapers, such as the times, telegraph and the guardian. Other sites, that could be a little ‘hit and miss’ will appear when you search for information – only understanding and trial and error will tell. More incite into online material and how the Internet can help you will be posted in the weeks to come.

Opening Hours

You will usually find that college/university libraries are very accommodating and have (in recent years) adapted to the ‘open 24 hours’ way of thinking. No, they’re not going to be open at 3am in the morning when you’re struggling to write your essay and need another resource, but, they’ll generally be open from 9am through to late evening, around 11pm/midnight (during the week) and until 8/9pm at the weekend. Remember though….. they will usually limit opening hours during the holidays/vacations and out of semester time – always an annoyance for masters students and it’s always best to check the timings – but hey uni libraries are getting a lot better!

Always remember…. library staff are there to help, they’ve probably been there for quite a while and know the resources (even the online ones), so ‘pick their brains’ if you’re stuck, or in need of information.

The Discussion

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