How to Use Your Library Like a Pro at Florida State

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Like many of us, I have a research paper due by the end of the semester. I think the paper needs to run at least 10 pages long (who actually remembers all the details) and I have yet to start. I need lots of sources for my annotated bibliography, but where to find them? Do I need scholarly journals or old newspapers? Has anyone written about the subject so I can build on their theory? These questions, along with many others, will fly from any student’s mind when the time comes to embark on one of the greatest student endeavors. Where’s the best place to find answers? As always:

The library.

I visited Strozier Library at Florida State University to find out just what’s available for students like me and like you, too. I spoke with Jeff Phillips, a Student Success Librarian to get the skinny on all the cool stuff at Strozier. “As a student,” he explained, “I was constantly using the resources at Strozier Library. I was able to complete an entire media project only using Strozier Resources. I checked out the camera to film, reserved the audio room to produce the sounds clips and used Sony Vegas editing software to produce the project.  It is wonderful to be able to complete an entire assignment without having to purchase expensive technology.”

Already Strozier starts off strong, but let’s get into detail.

First off, let’s talk about online options.

Research Guides

If you kinda know what you’re looking for, and you want to get started on your own, check out all the subject-based archives online from the comfort of your own couch/bed/café/bar. You’ll see 66 subjects to start off your search. Click a subject heading and a drop down menu subtopics appears. As you narrow down your results, FSU’s website will show you which librarian specializes in that topic, along with a link to email them directly with any questions that come up. If you just want to browse through, for example, some African American Literature titles for your upcoming paper while watching the new season of House of Cards, click the “Literature” link.

Ask A Librarian

This nifty feature allows any student to ask quick questions about research material via text, email or even a chat window. Experienced librarians staff this service during most business hours. This is a great option if you have a few short questions and don’t have the time to come into the library in person because FSU towed your car again. After farming Wikipedia with no luck, live chatting with a specialist could make all the difference. And if all their answers lead to more great questions you can…

Schedule A Consultation

For those days when, day after day, you stare at your blank Word document, cursor blinking in derision at your inability to even try to begin, schedule an appointment with a librarian. A specialist in your area of study has the knowledge and experience to uncover sources that won’t show up on Google. It takes about 48 hours, but it’s well worth the wait to get some one-on-one time with an expert.

Librarians like Jeff provide wonderful, knowledgeable and free resources to all students and warmly assist you with anything you need. That’s their job and more importantly, their passion. “My favorite part about being a Student Success Librarian is the great interactions I have with the FSU community,” Phillips said. “I am able to show students the numerous ways that library services are able to make their academic life easier and introduce them to the plethora of free resources available at the library.”

But Strozier, and many other school libraries, offer other neat resources that you wouldn’t even imagine.

Citation Management

Now that you’ve talked to your librarian and gotten all these great resources, how do you keep track of them all? FSU offers free access to citation management tools like RefWorks that keeps track of all your journals, books, papers and other sources. It can even create a bibliography in any style you choose just by exporting the data right off the search page. This tool is fantastic when you’re on your fifth hour of research, your sixth glass of Evan Williams and your 20th hour of being awake and all you want to do is lie down and shut your eyes. Go ahead and create a free RefWorks account and all the dusty volumes that would normally disappear into the shelves stay safely categorized in your personal account. “The ability to have software assistance when creating your bibliography, as well as a centralized location to store links to your research saves an abundance of time and anguish,” Phillips said.

PS: If you didn’t already think FSU was f–king cool guess what?

Take Advantage of Tons of Free Stuff

Did you know FSU students can download free Microsoft Office 365? Yeah, it’s free. I’ve been a student for a freaking decade and just heard about this. Stop paying for Word. Just get it for free.

For your creative projects, libraries like Strozier let you borrow cool stuff like cameras and projectors. “As a student, I was constantly checking out items from Strozier to save money. Cameras, projectors, headphones and DVDs were all advantageous to my academic life. This is especially beneficial if you only need the item once for a special project.” You want a sick digital camera for two days? How about a projector for a film party? Or maybe you just want to see what a Nintendo Wii is like? You can borrow all of that stuff for free from Strozier. Just make sure to bring it back on time. Those late fees pack a punch.

You already paid for all these free amenities and millions (really, millions) of books, papers and journals with your tuition. Take advantage of what’s there. It’s there for you, and it’s cool af.

Stephanie Boggs is a seasoned couch potato, cheap wine enthusiast and, somehow, a senior at Florida State University.

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