Your college library is one of the most important resources you’ll have for your education. And yes, the library at your school will be full of books and other media that can help you research and learn in your area of study. There will also be plenty of study carrels and tables, where you can read, write papers, and cram for exams with your classmates. But you’ll find a lot more than the digital card catalog to guide you to the information you need—the most important resources at any college library are the people who work there. The librarians know the library’s contents thoroughly and by consulting the staff, you’ll learn to use the library efficiently.
Let’s use Luther College’s Preus Library as an example.
Research Help Desk
The librarians at the Research Help Desk can direct you to answers to just about any question you have, from how to locate a particular book to how to learn to style footnotes. For instance, the librarians will help you:
- Develop a research strategy for locating information on your topic
- Find answers to specific questions Locate books and other library material using the library’s online catalog
- Use the library’s print and electronic resources
- Select and evaluate authoritative information sources
- Find “quick” reference resources, including, style guides, English and foreign language dictionaries, thesauruses, and current atlases
- Help you locate journal articles in the library, online in fulltext databases, or through Interlibrary Loan
- Understand library services and policies
College libraries often have an archives section, useful for research with primary source materials. Archives often hold unique, specialized, or rare objects and both published and unpublished materials, which can be in any format. Some examples are manuscripts, letters, photographs, moving image and sound materials, artwork, books, diaries, artifacts, and the digital equivalents of all of these things. The staff in the Luther College Archives help students and faculty find and access materials, which are then usually examined in the Archives Reading Room.
Resources to improve student skills
Services that help students polish their writing, presentation, and study skills are also often located inside college libraries.
At Preus Library, the Norse Writing Center is available to all students who want help with their writing. The center is staffed by peer tutors who work in 30-minute one-on-one sessions to help students with:
- Paper assignments in all subject areas or courses
- Senior projects
- Job application letters
- Personal statements for graduate or professional schools
The Speech and Debate Center inside Preus Library serves as a tutoring center for students who want to improve their presentations for class. The center is staffed by specially trained, upper-level communication majors who can provide expert advice in speech preparation and delivery. These advanced students consult on:
- Audience analysis
- Topic selection
- Thesis development
- Organization and outlining
- Use of supporting materials
- Presentation aids
- Effective delivery
Speech and Debate Center staff will also record the speaker as he or she practices the presentation and will review it with the speaker to give constructive feedback and tips for improvement.
Study skills and tutoring
The Student Academic Support Center inside Preus helps students improve and develop confidence in their academic abilities. Among the center’s services are:
- Academic skill building
- Disability services
- Individualized support
- Learning Needs Assessment
The federally funded TRIO program also operates inside Preus Library, providing participating students with support and programming that promotes their academic success, personal development, and sense of community. Eligibility for this program is based on family income and/or status as the first person in the student’s family to attend college. Here are some of the ways that students benefit:
- A course that helps students understand the foundations of learning
- Access to TRIO grants, scholarships and financial education
- Collaborative academic, career, and financial advising
- Tutoring services
- Textbook and technology lending program
- Leadership development opportunities
- Graduate/professional school admission assistance
Digital tools and assistance
Of course, all this learning and developing and polishing is rarely done with a pencil and paper anymore. It all takes a lot of technology. And since college libraries are home to all types of digital media—e-books to podcasts—it makes sense you’d find technology help in the library.
The Technology Help Desk in Preus has staff to assist library users with all technology needs from connecting to the Internet to software or hardware repair and much more. There’s also a Digital Media Center for multimedia needs. Staff there help with media conversion, event recording or streaming, or classroom technology. A lab with high-end computers is available for photo, media, or video editing, and there is a studio with green screen and equipment for photo or video shoots.
So remember, that big building on campus with all the books also has living, talking resources who can add a lot of depth to your research and polish to your academic skills. You’ll get the most from your college years if you take advantage of all the library has to offer.