Tips for new students using the library (from those who know)

By Molly Minturn | August 28, 2023

Students are back on Grounds, classes are in session, and the Library is here to help. As a UVA student, you can use the Library to access books, journals, databases, makerspaces, and media equipment. You can contact a librarian any time of day through the Ask a Librarian portal or explore Library spaces to find a favorite study spot for years to come. And you can meet new friends by joining the Library Student Council, which is holding its first interest meeting of the year this evening, Aug. 28.

Students working in the McGregor Room in the main library.
Students work in the McGregor Room, a beloved study spot in the main library, which will reopen in the spring semester. (UVA Library photo)

“Students should join Library Student Council if they are looking for a way to get more involved with UVA Library, or if they are interested in all the things libraries do,” said Haley Gillilan, UVA’s Undergraduate Student Success Librarian. “We meet every other Monday to discuss topics in the library science field, network with librarians, and make friends with fellow readers. Every year we design and host an escape room in a UVA Library space, so those who are interested in puzzles, reading, and technology should think about joining us!"

Hallie Terry and Lauren Askew both joined the Library Student Council as first-year students in the fall of 2019. After organizing a successful escape room program that fall, they were gearing up for many more social events when the COVID pandemic hit. “We continued to develop relationships in the midst of that challenge,” Terry said. “Going through that experience, I now deeply value community, relationships, and finding ways to serve others.” Both women graduated from the University in May.

Hallie Terry and Lauren Askew
Left: Hallie Terry; right: Lauren Askew. (Contributed photos)

We asked Terry, who plans to be a librarian, and Askew, who majored in material science and engineering, what advice they have for incoming students about using the Library. Here are their tips:

Don’t be afraid of it

Terry: The Library can seem overwhelming, or only something you need for class assignments or projects, but the Library can be used for so much more! You can host movie nights and explore the video collections, you can check out fun books to read, and not just academic books. Just let yourself explore and you’ll find so much! (Did you know that you can get board games through the Library too?!)

Explore the physical spaces

Askew: Find your niche study space — be sure to check out more hidden-away spots like the Fine Arts Library and the Music Library.

Terry: The Fine Arts Library is great! It’s further out than libraries like Clemons or Brown, but I worked there for a semester, and quickly learned what a great space it is. It also has some of the most interesting books that you’ll find in the UVA Library collection, so I highly recommend browsing the shelves and finding a few new things.

Check out the databases and media labs

Askew: Know that the Library gives you access to more than a thousand databases. I used these for engineering papers I had to write. Check out the Robertson Media Center and the Scholars’ Lab, currently on the third floor of Clemons. The makerspace and the 3D printers and virtual reality headsets down there are super cool. You can even rent cameras, light kits, and iPads. Your tuition is helping to pay for a lot of this stuff; you are allowed to use it!

Join the Library Student Council

Terry: Some of my favorite memories in the libraries revolve around my involvement in Library Student Council. Hosting our annual escape rooms in different libraries has been such a fun experience and has allowed me to be able to get to know a different side of the libraries and see how many things they can offer beyond just a simple study space.

[Note: Library Student Council is holding its first interest meeting tonight, Aug. 28, at 6:15 p.m. in Clemons 407. It meets every other Monday evening throughout the year.]

Just go

Askew: Just go to the Library. Just, go. The most helpful piece of advice anyone could have given me my first year was just this: You’re allowed to be here. Just go do stuff, try new things, and remember that the Library system is a safe space.

Gillilan [Undergraduate Student Success Librarian]: Remember that there is a staff person behind every book, online link, and study space, making it all work together. Everything you see at the Library or click on the Library website is supported by the Library team. We’re all here to support your research and interests as a scholar in our community!