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The basics
Study abroad : Once you arrive

What do university libraries offer?

There’s so much more that a university library has to offer than just books and desks. Find out more about the services they offer.

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Say the words ‘university library’ and immediately an image of a large, silent open space with rows of bookshelves filled with hundreds of books come to mind. This image isn’t wrong, but it isn’t complete. A university library has so much more to offer than just books and desks. The library is often the heart of a university, or if a university were home, the library would be its kitchen. 


Comfort, ease, and accessibility


A university library is a place where many students go every day for quite extensive periods. Today’s libraries offer such things as, comfortable seating areas for relaxing, excellent lighting, heating and ventilation and enough power sockets to connect students’ laptops and devices. Some even have areas where you can buy a coffee and have something to eat while you’re working.


Virginia Tech cafe

Virginia Tech cafe.


Universities, such as Virginia Tech, have spent multi-million pounds/dollars in refurbishment projects to bring their libraries in line with the needs of their tech-savvy, diverse and resourceful users. These refurbishments aim to increase study spaces for individual students and students planning and working on group assignments together.


Libraries must also be accessible to all students, and many have designated study rooms for students with accessibility needs, software programs, and other IT facilities to support a wide range of disabilities.




As you might expect, access to books, journals, databases, and other resource materials is key to a successful faculty and a successful faculty library. With class sizes increasing, there is greater demand for copies of books and journals, so libraries must have the budgets to invest in these.


Here’s an example of the number of resources available at the various libraries belonging to Oxford University.


As well as traditional books and journals, universities have a vast selection of electronic books, journals, and resources for students to access. E-journals, e-books, videos, images, and sound resources are all available for students to access to help you with their learning, research, and assignments.  


Library services


Perhaps more surprising are the other services the faculty library can offer. Aside from printers and photocopiers, today’s libraries also have academic skills and development support services to help students acquire the academic writing, referencing, presentation and public speaking skills needed at the undergraduate level.  


If you get feedback from your professors asking you to develop your critical thinking skills or your writing skills, the support services section of your faculty library can help you with these areas. 


Some libraries hold regular workshops, webinars, and Q&A sessions both online and face-to-face. Here is an example from the University of Manchester, United Kingdom.  


Students also benefit from library support services and drop-in sessions where students show up and don't have to book a specific time slot. These sessions help students with a range of things, including:


  • subject-specific database searches
  • finding evidence online
  • using reference management software
  • research skills and writing dissertations


Some university libraries also offer one-to-one tutorials with a tutor or online videos.


Support for academics


Libraries are also there to serve faculty members in the planning and delivery of course programs and content. They ensure that the resources required for each taught module are available. If they're not available, then library staff will help teaching staff order the resources they need in advance.


Specialised teams in university libraries support professors in creating reading lists for course modules and can help the teaching team provide core training to students. This training can cover the basics of how to conduct research, where to find sources, and which databases to use. The library can also provide training in specialist searches for postgraduate and PhD students. 


As you can see, the services university libraries offer are many and varied. Next time you sit at the study desk in your library, plug in your laptop and access your learning materials, remember there’s a great deal of time, money and a huge support network of library staff that make your experience as easy and comfortable as possible. 


Images of some of the most amazing libraries in the world.


UNAMs Mexico City


University of California San Diego





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