Library 101: Things I wish I had known…

SCONULDuring your first weeks at University, it feels like everyone is competing to fill your brain with information. It is all crucially important and gradually your head feels like it might implode. Here’s what our current users wish that they had known when they first started…

A sense of panic sets in as you realise that for the last 5 minutes you have been looking at the wall behind your Head of Department’s head while they are talking about the process for getting an extension on an assignment, and pondering whether you can get away with leaving your laundry another day or two (quick sniff… yes, probably). Then it is someone from the Library. You relax a bit. If you don’t pay full, 100% attention to this bit, it can’t be so terrible…

Fast forward a term or 5, and, several assessed essays down the line, you wonder whether it mightn’t have been a good idea to listen. You have often found that the books you wanted were out on loan, and wonder how you were supposed to read the set materials… You have battled through the mass of information on the web, with a sneaking suspicion that there was guidance on an easier way finding academic sources.

So, to help you – we have asked our lovely band of Library Associates (recruited this year from English and History), to tell us what they wish they had known in week 1, term 1, year 1… Here are some of the things they said:

“I wish I’d known that there was an online directory for available books and a café on the bottom floor!” 

Well – always good to know about the café! You will likely spend many a happy break there, topping up your caffeine before returning to your studies. And yes, the Library catalogue, Library Search – quite a lifesaver really, as it tells you exactly what books, journals, theses and other documents we have here at Warwick. It also allows you to request a hold on those infuriating books already on loan, so that they are returned and held especially for you. Getting started early using this will really help!

“I wish I had known more about the various schemes like Article Reach; perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I wish we’d had another session, or perhaps an easily accessible space online, to reiterate this information later on in the term. I think most people end up forgetting about fundamental features of the Library like this because of the social pressures of first term.”

We do recognise that a lot of the information you are given in week 1 simply won’t stick, and we don’t blame you! Please do remember that we have lots of support and information on the Library website, including specific pages with help for your subject area. Article Reach may be one for later in the term or year, but it is a fantastic resource to use if you need a journal article that we don’t have at Warwick.

“The wealth of information available on the library homepage, both subject specific information and information regarding SCONUL.”

Schemes such as SCONUL, which allow you free access to other university libraries, can be invaluable when you come to researching for assessed essays, dissertations and projects and you are home for the holidays. Great to know you can use your local university library in vacations!

“I wish I had understood the relevance of the library and how to use it in terms of my subject, and also had a better grasp on how to use and cite electronic resources provided by the library. I’m pretty sure that in first year, I used Google books for the majority of my essays and didn’t submit a single essay with entirely correct citations!”

Getting to grips with what academic information is and how to use it, is an important part of adapting to university life. It’s no longer okay to find information on a website or on Google books and include it in your essay, without first considering who wrote it, who published it, when and why. The Library’s recommended academic databases will help you get quickly to academic sources that are more likely to be useful and trustworthy. Understanding the strict academic conventions of referencing is also a challenge, but we have plenty of information to help you with that on our Library referencing pages.

We will be hearing more from our lovely Library Associates later in the term. If you have any advice you’d like to share, add it to the comment section below!


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