Five reasons every student should reach out to their subject librarian today

Being a student during COVID-19 is… different. Your living room is now your lecture hall, lab, or classroom, you’re getting acclimated to online/distance learning, you’re building project models on your couch, and like library faculty and staff, you’re striving to create a new normal.  

Since we’re all doing things we’re not used to, here’s another one you really should add to your list: reach out to your subject librarian.  

The University Library has over 30 subject librarians with expertise in numerous areas, including subject specialties, plus, they possess specialized knowledge and awareness of resources. They’re ready to help and are eager to play an integral role in your research endeavors.  

Here are five reasons (there are countless others) that today is the day you should reach out to your subject librarian: 

Note: The Find Your Librarian page will be most helpful in discovering the areas of expertise of each librarian. The list is organized alphabetically by subject area/Iowa State major, and a librarian is assigned to each one. 

1. Navigate millions of resources online 

    Librarians will help you overcome the perceived disconnect that currently exists between you and campus, by helping you discover and access materials no matter where you are. The library is more than physical spaces and books, and librarians can facilitate your access to available electronic resources and guide you to those that are the most credible and topic focused. With your NetID and password, you have around-the-clock online access to e-books, electronic journal articles, indexes, and databases. A consultation with the subject librarian will get you started.

    2. Determine the scope of your research 

      Librarians will help you focus on a research topic. Research begins when you ask your question and start to look for an answer. Librarians will talk with you about your topic and help you determine if the scope is appropriate for the assignment. If the topic is too narrow, it may be difficult to find enough information. If the topic is too broad, you will discover a glut of material and take valuable time sorting through sources. This will delay the start of your writing process. Librarians will talk you through it.

      3. Vet your sources 

        Librarians will help you determine if a source is appropriate for use in a college research project. Students read all kinds of things including books, social media, and blog posts, for example. Not all of these may be suitable to cite in a paper. Our librarians can talk over sources and whether or not they will provide the necessary information or if you need to look elsewhere for references. Your subject librarian can talk to you about what it means when an article is peer reviewed, and ways to determine if an author is really expert. 

        4. Properly cite your work 

          Librarians will introduce you to ways to manage your sources. They have expert knowledge in bibliography management software programs like EndNote, EndNote Web, Mendeley, and Zotero. As you conduct your research and make your way through the paper-writing process, it’s important to track your sources and properly cite your work. Librarians will guide you through these processes, and they can introduce you to the citation style guides commonly used or specified by instructors, like AMA, APA, and MLA.

          5. Experts in your discipline 

            You know you have something in common with your librarian because they have expertise in your discipline. Armed with a Master’s in Library and Information Science and maybe another in their subject specialty, they also have super skills with stringing search terms. Need to discover a primary source? Your subject librarian is one step ahead of you. Part of their job is to develop the library collection in specific areas, so they may have been the person who acquired the book or suggested the journal in the first place. They are aware of the best articles, indexes and databases. They are inherently curious with specialized research techniques. 

            Ready to contact your librarian? There are a number of ways to initiate a conversation. Our librarians are embedded in your Canvas classroom. You can click on the red live chat box on a library web page; it follows you from page to page. The Find Your Librarian page will connect you with your librarian via their email address.  

            Librarians are in their element at the library; however, the current normal means their interaction is between computers via a chat box, WebEx meetings and email. 

            Today is the day.