Last week was National Libraries Week, a week dedicated to celebrating all things library! This year, the focus was on wellbeing. The University of Sussex library is a perfect example of an excellent library with a focus on students’ welfare in an educational sense. There are numerous members of staff just waiting to answer your questions and provide guidance where they can. There are numerous events, workshops and talks held at the library for a variety of different people and interests too.
Our library is a reasonably large building, designed to look like a literal book, spread across 3 floors. Each floor has a substantial collection of books, they are also divided up into different areas to study depending on the environment you like to study in. There are five main area types:
- Silent Study – Quite obvious but this area is for people who like to work in silent, there is no chatting and hardly any walking around in this area.
- Group Study – This also is obviously named, filled with large tables it makes it easy to collaborate, there are a few clusters of desk top computers scattered throughout this area. As well as a laptop check out service, this has come in very handy when I’ve not got my laptop and the computers are all taken.
- Individual Study – I’ve personally never used this area as they are small little individual desks in neat rows. It reminds me of something from Harry Potter but not in a good way.
- Group Study Rooms – These rooms are fantastic when you are working on a group work project! There’s a system to book the room online and it opens/closes with an individual pin that is sent to you. They have different sizes so depending on the size of the group and type of project there is something for everyone. However, these get booked up weeks in advance during assessment periods. If you are not in a focused mindset the study rooms can become a very easy place to get away with procrastinating.
- Computer Rooms – There are also several computer rooms around the library, but I personally don’t like working in those environments.
During assessment season in my first year I would always rush straight to the library! I would head straight up to the group study areas and sit at one of the big tables with my friends and spend an entire day there working on our assignments. Of course having breaks outside to refresh, but mainly because you aren’t allowed to eat inside and we’d all get hungry…
However, this became more and more difficult when more courses started having similar deadlines as the library would become extremely busy. Finding a seat after 10am became a struggle, trying to find a seat after 11am became difficult and if you arrived after 12pm you’d be lucky to find anywhere!
I had a simple solution; as someone who studies best at night I would just change my routine to going to the library in the evenings/nights instead. Due to the library being open 24/7 it became so easy to study and find a space to sit. All of the books that were being used in the day were returned, the group study rooms were often un-booked and it was just noisy enough that there wasn’t an eerie silence. I know going into my final year I will study in the library is at nights or on the weekend, due to it being a lot quieter and more peaceful.
The books are the main resource I use at the library, even though that sounds fairly expected. When it comes to textbooks I am completely old fashioned in the fact I need to have a hard copy of the book otherwise I just cannot retain the information or find it as easily. I borrowed my textbooks for second year from the library as I couldn’t justify the price of buying them myself as I wasn’t a fan of the majority of the layouts and they were normally only used for one module.
Although, without sounding too hypocritical, I do constantly use the enormous collection of online publications, such as academic articles and journals, that the library provides. When I’m writing assignments we’re always encouraged to use a variety of sources so I often find myself finding my articles and journals first before even looking at books. They are always so quick to access and are usually relatively short which makes them easy to read. All of the longer readings I have found always have an option to turn it into a PDF format to make it easier to read than an e-book.
I used the Library’s online catalogue as a way to start compiling my dissertation readings over summer. It has helped me to see what research is already out there, if my proposed research is relevant and narrow down exactly what it is I am going to do.
One of the best facilities is not actually technically the library, but is situated there! That facility being the John Smith Bookshop, it has all the stationary equipment you could ask for with a wide price range. Not only that but it sells quite a lot of the most popular books, I presume chosen by the number of students needing that book, at the lowest price on the market. If you find one that’s higher they will genuinely lower their price to that one. Without this shop, I would not have had the right calculator for my economics exam – yes I did buy it on route to the exam…
The Careers Centre is absolutely fantastic and dare I say, underused? The purpose is to have support and guidance from trained advisors on how to create a career. You can make personalised appointments, drop in or even send them an email. They are connected to local businesses to provide placement and internship opportunities exclusive to Sussex students. I used the careers centre to find my summer internship to complement my studies and had the most valuable experience.
I can’t not mention the library cafe to be honest! For me it is purely somewhere to get food and drinks to refuel or to eat what I’ve brought in. For so many people it is an ideal place to study, with lots of different varieties of seating too.
I will be forever thankful to have access to this fantastic library during my undergraduate degree. The only changes I would make is that they continue to add relevant and up-to-date additions, as well as added an extension to create more seating!