How to Use a School Library


School libraries provide students with valuable academic resources and entertainment. Books, journals and special collections are all available to help students improve their research. Popular fiction, magazines and films are also on hand to help students unwind after studying. Taking advantage of these library resources is simple, once you learn how to find and check out materials. But if you ever run into trouble, don't forget the librarians are there to help.

Things You'll Need

  • Student identification card or proof of attendance
  • Get a student identification card from the admissions office or students' union. If you need your books before your student ID is ready, collect documents showing your school admission and attendance. Most school libraries require a student ID card, but may make temporary exceptions if you can provide paperwork proving you're a student.

  • Present your identification or paperwork to security staff at the entrance of the library. If security is not present, proceed to the librarian's desk.

  • Show your identification to the librarian and ask if you can begin borrowing books now, or if you need to sign up for a special library card. If you need a library card, fill out the library card request paperwork provided by the librarian. The library will likely provide you with a temporary library card while your paperwork is processed.

  • Ask the librarian to clarify what library privileges your status entitles you to. The amount of books you may check out, how long you may keep books, where you may request books from and whether you have access to special collections may depend on your department and level of study.

  • Search for your books in the library's catalog system. Almost all libraries have their databases cataloged on computer systems, accessible from library computers. Entering an author, subject, title or keyword into the catalog database will bring up information on relevant books. If you find the computer catalog confusing or have trouble logging on, request help from the librarian.

  • Write down the location and call number of any books you're interested in that are listed as "available" or "in stock." Large school libraries may have books stored in multiple sites. If your book's location is listed in another facility, ask the librarian for help requesting the title. Some books may be listed as in "the stacks," a storage area. Most stacks are attached to the main library building and are accessible to the public, but some are staff only. If you have difficulty locating the stacks or are unsure if you're allowed to enter, ask staff for help.

  • Use a map of the library's shelving system to locate your books; maps can generally be found posted on the wall or on library pamphlets. For example, if your book's call number is 398.23, go the area of the library zoned for books in the 300s. Each shelving unit in the 300s will be divided into small categories, for example, 300 to 314.9. Find the shelves that contain the 390s, then scan the books until you locate 398.23.

  • Take your books to the checkout counter and present your library card or ID to the librarian. Return the books by their due date in good condition or face fines.

Tips & Warnings

  • In most schools, student IDs double as library cards and you won't need to apply for one.
  • Some private schools and universities allow members of the local community to use their libraries if they provide proof of address.
  • Most school libraries have introductory seminars at the beginning of the school year, where they teach new students how to use the library and sharpen their research skills.
  • Books from school libraries may be recalled from you early if a senior department member requires them.
  • Underlining, highlighting and making notes in library books may lead to fines. More important, it makes it difficult for people with visual disabilities to read after you.
  • Some books, such as rare books and reference books, cannot be checked out and must be used in the library.

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