The Freshman Guide: University Libraries
I always found it surprising how many people I talked to my freshman year that rarely visited the library or utilized their myriad of resources. The library is a really great resource on campus, and it made my freshman year easier and much more interesting. It might seem a bit intimidating at first, but once you understand it you’ll find that it can become a valuable part of your Penn State experience.
The main library hub at University Park is the Pattee and Paterno library, located on Curtin Road near the Nittany Lion Shrine and Rec Hall. It is home to nine libraries as well as the Knowledge Commons and MacKinnon’s Cafe. There are also four branch libraries: Architecture and Landscape Architecture (111 Stuckeman), Physical & Mathematical Sciences (105 Davey), Earth & Mineral Sciences (105 Deike), and Engineering (325 Hammond).
Each of the libraries in Pattee-Paterno have plenty of room for studying in the form of open tables and study carrels where you can do some studying by yourself or with friends. If you’re looking for a quiet place to study, most of the libraries have designated quiet study areas where you can work in peace. Some popular places in the library to study are the Paterno Family Humanities Reading Room and the Central Stacks.
There are also group study rooms available to reserve if you have a group project you need to work on. You can reserve rooms online through Penn State Event Management System after you’ve made an account, or by calling the Knowledge Commons or the library location of your desired group study room. Make sure you reserve early; the closer it gets to finals week, the harder it is to get a room.
If you need to use a computer, the library has got you covered. A lot of people head to the Knowledge Commons on the first floor, which means it tends to fill up quickly. If you’re having trouble finding a computer in the Knowledge Commons or other popular spots, check the library website or screens throughout the first floor for computer availability. If you just need to print something and can’t find an open computer, you can remote print from your laptop in the Knowledge Commons, as well as in various other libraries and computer labs throughout the campus. If you have an old VHS or vinyl record you want to use, the Music and Media Center has VCRs and turntables as well as cassette, CD, and DVD players.
Additionally, the Media Commons in the Knowledge Commons has post-production resources for media projects. It is also home to the One Button studio, where with just the press of a button (and a USB drive) you can start recording your latest project.
Borrowing from the Library
Books and CDs can be checked out for the entirety of the semester, while DVDs can be checked out for a week. Use the CAT to search for the materials you want to see if the library has them. From there you can request to pick them up at the Commons Service Desk or at one of the branch libraries. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the University Libraries system, you can use ILLiad to borrow materials from thousands of libraries across the globe by means of interlibrary loans. You can also borrow calculators, iPads, and laptops from the Commons Service Desk.
LionSearch lets you search across websites and databases for the research materials that you need. The CAT allows you to search for materials owned by the University Libraries, and WorldCat helps you find materials you can borrow through ILLiad. The library has also compiled numerous subject guides, as well as other helpful guides such as the Citation Guides. And if you’re having trouble finding what you’re looking for, you can always ask a librarian.
Course Reserves and Course Guides
One library asset you should take advantage of is course reserves. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on textbooks, you can borrow textbooks from the library for two hours at a time instead. A lot of popular general education courses have textbooks on reserve, so check the library website before heading to the bookstore. Most course reserves can be checked out at the Commons Service Desk; some may need to be checked out in the Music and Media Center or at a branch library.
Course guides are another library resource that can help make some of your classes a bit easier. Gen eds like ENGL 015 and CAS 100 have course guides; they provide specific databases that are geared more toward that course’s subject area, as well as other resources such as a Research Project Calculator and contact information for librarians that can help you with your research.