Things I Wish I’d Known: Graduate Reflections on using the Library

Photo: Paul Dodds

As a recent graduate from Edinburgh, you can imagine I’ve spent the summer reminiscing and reflecting on my time at university. Over my four years studying Geography I spent a lot of time in the Main Library, whiled away hours on DiscoverEd, and thought I had the whole library thing down. Reader, I barely scratched the surface.

For the past few months I’ve been lucky enough to intern with the Academic Support Librarian team at the university. I have found myself learning things about the Library I wish I’d known sooner – and remembering things that I discovered during my studies that made it all a bit easier.  

This blog will cover some ideas for how to get the best out of the Library, where you can go to broaden your reading and research, and things that will make studying easier (*cough* reference manager *cough*). 

So, to save you some time, here are six things I wish I’d known sooner about the Library…

1. Find your Subject Guide ASAP

Subject guides are your one-stop shop for finding resources relevant to your subject. You’ll likely find a ton of ideas for places to look for reading material, as well as study advice and exam prep resources. You’ll also find your subject’s Academic Support Librarian (ASL) there, who you can contact if you have any queries about finding resources. Can confirm, they are the coolest.  

2. There are amazing things in the Main Library you might not know are there… 

I was pretty chuffed to discover the boiling water tap on the fourth floor (bring your own tea bags!), so imagine my thrill when I found out there’s a place in the Main Library where you can learn to use amazing tech, make (almost) anything, and borrow equipment – for free! If you haven’t already heard about the uCreate studio, follow the link and sign up for an induction immediately. You don’t need to be doing any kind of STEM studies or be a computer whiz, anyone can go and learn from the amazing team. Why are you still here – go sign up 

Wolfson Reading Room, CRc. Photo: Paul Dodds

On the subject of amazing things in the Library, the Centre for Research Collections (CRC) must be mentioned. Hidden away on the sixth floor, the CRC is the main space for anyone using the university’s cultural and heritage collections. You can view some of the collections online (find artarchives, and musical instruments!), and you can book to use the space for viewing collection items for research. You might even be lucky enough to have a class in the Digital Scholarship Centre. They often host amazing exhibitions so keep an eye out for those too – for some, you don’t even need to leave the house, head online! 

3. Enrol on LibSmart 

Do you struggle with finding resources? Does referencing send you into a spin? Do you find yourself drowning in research material but unable to write an essay? Then LibSmart is the hero you’ve been holding out for. LibSmart is a self-enrol course you can take on Learn that will teach you how to get the best out of the Library.  

LibSmart I is a basic overview of using the Library, whereas LibSmart II is great for Honours students and those doing dissertations. There’s something for everyone, wherever you are in your studies.  

You can take the courses at your own pace, so you can fit it around all your other activities. I have the excuse that this wasn’t around when I started my course, you do not – go sign up and be better than me.  

For more information, check out this introduction to LibSmart:

4. Use Resource Lists  

Photo: Paul Dodds

Resource Lists is an amazing site where you can access tons of reading lists from courses across the university. Just sign in with your University Login and start browsing. The lists link to DiscoverEd so you can easily access the things you find.  

One of the best things about university is challenging yourself and going beyond your academic comfort zone. When you find yourself wanting to research a topic you are unfamiliar with, or you are starting your dissertation research, Resource Lists can be a good place to start. You can find courses relevant to your topic of interest, and access reading lists created by an academic in that field.  

They’re also great if you’re just nosy.  

5. Request a Book 

If there’s something you desperately need for your studies, and the Library doesn’t already have it, it is possible to request resources. Of course, not every request will be possible, but the librarians do their very best and often requests come through. So don’t be shy – if you need it, request it 

6. Reference Managers

Something I really wish I’d figured out sooner is reference managers. Reference managers like Mendeley are free and easy to use. There’s also EndNote, which you can get free support and access to through the university. Using a reference manager will save you a lot of time and energy. Suffice to say I was late to the reference management party and, believe me, I felt like a fool (a fool!) when I realised how much they ease your workload. I’ll get off my soapbox now.  

Thank you for reading. If you are new to the university, I hope some of this advice helps. The main thing to take away from this is that the Library is more than a building – it’s a huge collection of resources that you’re lucky enough to have access to, in-person and online, so make the most of it! 

Good luck and have a wonderful time! 

Maddie Cayley


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *