University libraries: the research remedy

Research topic: Evaluate the importance of domestic and foreign affairs in the shaping of U.S. politics in the 1790s.

Done yet?

Students here at the University are continuously placed in these situations. Essay topic upon essay topic, students must face the task of researching. But many University students unknowingly put themselves at a huge disadvantage, because they choose to face the research alone, with nothing but the unpredictable Internet.

I recently experienced the trials of such an undertaking. However, per one of my professor’s advice, I took a different route. She told me of some books I should use at Wilson Library. Personally, I’ve never liked libraries. But I like long research papers even less, so I decided to heed her advice.

I reserved an entire evening for my big trip to the huge Wilson Library on the West Bank with no idea of where to start, but I soon found that trip served as the aspirin to my research headache.

I found out that this library system has almost 6 million books, subscriptions to tens of thousands of journals and newspapers, millions of government documents and almost half a million maps. Plus, if they don’t have what I need, they have a free service that will get it from some other library. While this might seem like a daunting collection, there are also more than 300 staff members – 100 of whom are professional librarians – to assist you.

And assist they do. Walking into the library, I had no idea where to look for information, except for vague memories of that library tour during first-year English composition. Hmm, I wish I had paid attention. Anyway, I went to the reference desk and the librarian showed me the University’s comprehensive online catalog, MNCAT, to look up suggested books. Once I found the call numbers, she led me to their location in the government publications area in Wilson’s basement (and they have a section for everything, as I found out).

She showed me the copy center, where I made copies and jotted down some notes, and finally, I checked out the books I needed. Upon leaving, I was done – or so I thought. I hit one informational speed bump along the way – I had another research question. Were my efforts wasted? Was my “A” gone? Nah.

Remembering the librarian’s advice, I logged on to the University library’s Web site from my computer at home. I clicked on the link labeled “Ask Us” and was taken to a page where I could choose to e-mail a question or join a chat forum about the library. I typed my inquiry and sent it, thinking I would hear from them the next day. Instead, I got a response with step-by-step directions to different informational sources within half an hour.

I can attest that the University library system is the primary place for students to meet their informational needs. There are countless benefits to be had by using the resources and services offered.

I encourage you to go and check it out for yourself. Bring your homework. You’ll probably leave with it finished.

Stephanie Snyder is a University public relations student. She welcomes comments at [email protected]