When choosing which university or college to attend, international applicants tend to think about planning campus visits, communicating with faculty members, contacting admissions officers, checking information about the location and asking family and friends for advice. But few people think about researching the role university libraries play in campus life.
In fact, if international students knew how to get useful information about the university library, the college search process for applicants would probably be easier and maybe even more fun. There are several things prospective international students should know about the role of the library on campus – and what to look for before they arrive.
1. It’s your future study space. No matter which country you come from, and even if you claim you enjoy studying in your cozy dorm or a cafe, you will most likely still end up in the library quite often. You’ll frequently need a book, to complete homework or meet members of your project group.
Check out the study areas in the library. Not everyone is lucky enough to visit the campus before making a decision, especially as an international applicant. But if you can’t visit, you can still get a sense from simply visiting the library website, which will give you detailed information about open hours, rules governing quiet spaces and policies for reserving rooms, equipment and facilities.
Most school websites will also provide photos of study spaces for your reference. Keep an eye out for things like comfortable desks and chairs or an on-site cafe or snack bar. These seemingly trivial and irrelevant details actually will determine how comfortably you can study in the library.
2. It’s a potential source of academic support. It goes without saying that university libraries should provide sufficient academic resources for students, but library services might vary according to the different location, size or even emphasis of the institution. It is especially important for graduate school applicants to investigate if the library has a good collection of materials in the field.
Although almost all university libraries nowadays use interlibrary loan, some institutions are able to get books really fast, while some others might make students wait for weeks or months. Library services such as search engines, databases, technology and media support, bibliographies and references are all crucial in modern day university life. Finding this information from the university library website can help choose a campus that will meet your academic goals.
3. It may offer work-study and scholarship possibilities. Many, many international students find their first on-campus job in the library as student librarians, working at the checkout desk, redistributing books or assisting with cataloging in their native language.
This is a great opportunity for international students to learn to work in a different culture. And some libraries also provide scholarships for academic achievement.
4. It’s a source of community information. Campus life includes both learning in class and getting to know the world. Many university libraries also extend their services to the entire community, meaning not only students, staff and faculty, but also to nearby residents, companies and schools.
For international applicants, browsing the announcements of library events and activities can help you understand the extent to which the university community embraces diversity and offers multicultural events, and how comfortable you might feel if you chose to blend in and participate.
In short, it is really important to examine the interaction between the university libraries and the whole campus life. If you feel there is good library service with a rich schedule of events, this is a clear indication that the institution could fit you well.