Library Advice from a Librarian for College Freshmen

Page content

1. Ask a Librarian

Librarians are there to help patrons. If you have a question, please do not hesitate to ask a librarian. Without patrons to assist, librarians are out of a job. Yes, we may have answered the same question a hundred times before, but we have not answered the question for you. We also do not assume that you know everything about using the library. In fact, if you did, librarians would again be out of a job. So, visit the physical reference desk, send us an email, or give us a call. Some libraries even offer IM and text message reference services. Just don’t be afraid to ask. Anything from the simplest directional question to the most complex inquiry for information or resources, librarians are here to help you.

2. Buy Your Own Textbooks

Libraries understand how expense books, especially textbooks, cost. We spend large chunks of our budgets on books and other materials for you to use. However, most college and university libraries do not buy the textbooks required for classes. First, textbooks are expensive. Most libraries do not have unlimited funds. Buying enough textbooks for every student in a class is not a priority. Second, the first patron to get to it would check it out, making the book no longer available to any other student in the class or any other patron. Sometimes a professor will place a textbook on reserve; however, reserve books typically can only be used in the library for a specific length of time. So, although librarians empathize with the high cost of textbooks, you are better off buying your own.

3. Not Just Books

The library is no longer just a place to house books. First, the library has many other materials available including print periodicals, online databases, magazines, newspaper, other online resources, government documents, maps, CDs, DVDs, popular fiction, and artifacts. As one of the last public spaces, the library is also a place to spend time at. Many students use the physical library for individual and group study, to practice presentations, for research, to use other library resources, and to just hang out. Some libraries have even made snacks and beverages readily available in the form of cafes and coffee kiosks inside or nearby the library. Many libraries also offer rotating displays and lectures to patrons and the public. The contemporary library is not just about books, so investigate the other services and uses available at your library.

4. On the Internet

Although many foolish optimists of the 1990s predicted that everything would be available for free on the Internet by the twenty-first century, this simply is not the case. Many materials such as books are still only available in print. Although the advent of the Kindle and other eReaders has increased the market for electronic books, eBooks are not free, and most libraries are still negotiating how and if to provide access to patrons. Many periodicals and serials are also available electronically; however, some are only available in print, and all cost money. And, what is available on the Internet for free is generally not authoritative, at least to the level that is necessary for academic and scholarly research. So, yes, most of the time you will need to use the library, whether physically or virtually, to find the information and sources you need because, no, not everything is available free via the Internet.

5. Librarians as Teachers

Librarians are here to help you. This does not mean that we know the answer to every question off the top of our heads. Librarians do, however, know and understand the tools and resources to find information and will often strive to teach patrons these same skills. Do not be surprised if the answer to a question like “Do you have this book?” is something along the lines of “Let me show you how to look in the catalog.” As much as librarians like helping patrons find information, we also want to equip those patrons with the tools and knowledge to use the library on their own without having to go through a mediating librarian every time. So, be prepared to learn something the next time you have a question for your librarian.

The college or university library is often a startling revelation to the college freshman who is used to a public or school library. By heeding these library tips from a working librarian, freshmen can expect a better initial experience in the college or university library.


  • All suggestions courtesy of the author, Heather Marie Kosur