Tuesday, February 9, 2016


We've all used them as students. But I have to admit that I never truly appreciated how much libraries can support their users in ways which I never utilised.

I imagine I am not alone in using libraries in a two-fold manner:

  • as a resource with access to books/journals/databases
  • as a study space

Throughout my PhD this was how I used the library. I had my spot where I sat with my friend and fellow PhD student (although not quite as diligently as he - I wasn't a 9-5, Mon-Fri type then!) for over three years. I found the information I needed and used the quiet space to research and write. And occasionally print!

But that was it really.

In my current secondment to UCL Library Services, I am meeting a wide range of people and learning about all the amazing things that library staff do to support their diverse users. I feel regretful now that I didn't utilise the expertise and knowledge of the library staff to the fullest while I was a student.

There is still the image of the stuffy librarian hiding behind a desk, merely stamping books and collecting fines. Which could not be further from the truth in an age when students are demanding more and more services deemed commensurate with high tuition fees, and the rise of student autonomy with self-service issuing machines for example. More and more, library staff are in front facing customer service roles, and subject librarians can do far more than just help you find the sources you need for literature reviews. 

Accessing databases you didn't know about, getting help with referencing styles and systems, support with formatting theses and dissertations, providing 1:1 sessions for information services training, and so much more.

Gone are the days of librarians with their noses in books, shushing any noises from students. I can speak as one who spent 3 years working on an enquiry desk - most of us want to help you to our upmost and share our knowledge and expertise.

Make use of all your library has to offer and your PhD process could be made much easier.

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