When I say “Suzzallo,” what do you think of?
If you’re like most students, I would wager it’s a combination of grabbing a quick mocha from Suzzallo Espresso, being shown the reading room on campus tours, and rushing to print out a paper minutes before it’s due.
You know what item is mysteriously absent from that list? Checking out books.
When a simple Google search returns more results than the entire Suzzallo book collection, it sure makes libraries seem less relevant than they once were. It’s much easier to study by making a few keystrokes and letting the Internet open up at your disposal – all the while being able to keep Facebook open in another tab.
To make the fight to actually pick up a book even harder, online resources like JSTOR (jstor.org) and Project Muse (muse.jhu.edu) are free to UW students and compete with the information found in the library system.
Yet, there are major advantages to libraries that an entire generation of students may be cutting themselves off from.
I’ll admit, I was one of the non-believers — one of those who would write papers based off of what came up in top-10 search results. Then, last spring, I tried physically using the library for once.
I felt like I had jumped up an entire academic level.
The resources the UW library system harnesses are bountiful. Not only are there as many academic resources in person as online, but they are different ones. No longer will you turn in an essay citing the same sources as one-quarter of your classmates; you’ll have a unique take on the topic.
Furthermore, you gain access to a more accurate search engine than Google: librarians.
You might be thinking, “But I already know the Dewey Decimal System.” This isn’t third grade, though, and there’s much more to librarians than you may realize.
For example, did you know that almost every subject area of UW academics has its own librarian with extensive knowledge on that topic? He or she can recommend specific books and areas to research for the subject you’re writing on.
Librarians aren’t only useful for essay-based majors, either. Having trouble understanding the details of organic chemistry? There are books that might explain what you’re confused about differently than your textbook does.
And all of that is just assuming you stick to the UW’s libraries. The Seattle Public Library is a short bus ride away and harbors an additional variety of resources.
Libraries are going through tough times right now. The Seattle Times reports that the Seattle library budget is going to be reduced by another $3.7 million next year, further reducing their capabilities.
The UW libraries have been facing steady cuts as well.
Earlier this year, the UW library system had to cancel 2,600 subscriptions due to budget cuts. Last year, some UW libraries were merged together and consolidated. Seattle is one of the most literate cities in the United States. If our libraries begin to fall, how long before our title falls with them?
With midterms approaching, I urge you to try a new way of preparing for them: Use the library system. You’ll never know how useful it is until you try.
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