The library is a home away from home for many college students. If you ask an admissions officer or a high school guidance counselor about things to do when you visit a college, among the activities that they’ll recommend is to visit the library. When you’re there, stroll around and observe. Can you see yourself spending a lot of time there? It’s likely that you’ll be doing just that.
Some of the most fundamental benefits that colleges and universities offer to students are associated with their library systems. Below are the results of a survey of students regarding the library-related activities that they engage in:
|Access the databases online||51%|
|Use printed reference materials||39%|
|Meet with a study group||34%|
|Check out books||29%|
|Use books that faculty have placed on reserve||22%|
|Review job and career resources||19%|
|Attend library events||10%|
|Read non-circulating materials, e.g., periodicals||8%|
|Take classes on how to use the library’s resources||5%|
Source: Cengage Learning
Librarians track student use patterns and then seek to satisfy needs. In this manner, libraries develop a more accommodating environment for students. Brown University librarian Harriette Hemmassi notes that, “We’ve made our library spaces more inviting, more personal. When you come in, you get the sense that someone cares about you as a student in that environment…that’s really important.”
What should you consider when touring a school’s library? It’s a good idea to approach the library staff with questions. “More and more college libraries have shifted to become service-oriented,” says Cindy Fisher, an experience librarian at the University of Texas at Austin who helps new students transition into college. “Think of some things you might need as a student and ask the librarian at the reference desk what kind of resources their library system offers.”
Observe the atmosphere and aesthetics of the main library. Do the facilities seem comfortable, easy to use, and attractive? Many colleges and universities have multiple libraries, one of which may be a more social environment than the others. Visit them all if you can, although this may be difficult in some cases. For example, Harvard’s collections are housed in over 90 libraries, most located in Cambridge and Boston but others as distant as Washington, D.C., and Florence, Italy.
Check out the library system’s website and digital resources. We’re in the information age and academic libraries are on the cutting edge of technological advancement. From digital archives to specialized search engines, many library systems can help you find just whatever you’ll need in connection with your assignments and research. Also, since libraries operate on a fixed schedule, it’s important that you understand their remote access services because they’ll be the only resources available to you after hours.
In the past, the number of volumes in a library was a key consideration for scholars in choosing a university. Today, with the vast resources available to everyone through the Internet, it is not as critical a factor. But the annual budget of a school’s library budget is significant enough to note. It helps you to understand how well the school will be able to maintain their current library services and improve on them.
The Association of Research Libraries compiles a list of university libraries with the highest annual expenditures. The top 25 institutions and their expenditures are listed below for the 2015-16 school year. Four Ivy League institutions are among the top 10 along with New York University, also a private nonprofit university. The other five universities in the top 10 are public institutions. One Canadian university, the University of Toronto, is in the top 25.
Top 25 Research University Libraries by Expenditures (2015-16)
|3.||University of Michigan||$74,702,421|
|5.||University of Toronto||$65,954,319|
|6.||New York University||$64,888,392|
|7.||Pennsylvania State University||$59,242,593|
|8.||University of California at Los Angeles||$58,114,938|
|9.||University of California at Berkeley||$55,984,751|
|12.||University of Texas||$52,916,981|
|13.||Ohio State University||$47,357,887|
|14.||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||$47,304,323|
|15.||University of Pennsylvania||$46,905,095|
|16.||Texas A&M University||$46,860,833|
|17.||University of Southern California||$46,485,868|
|20.||University of Washington||$44,407,936|
|21.||University of Minnesota||$43,705,622|
|22.||Johns Hopkins University||$42,324,171|
|23.||University of Virginia||$42,110,533|
|25.||University of North Carolina||$39,810,164|