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College Libraries and Research: What to Expect

Adapted from the guide - Transitioning to College by Kent State University

Academic Libraries: What to Expect

Academic library refers to a library that supports a college or university.  Colleges and universities may have more than one library.  Find out how academic libraries are different than school and public libraries!

In the video below, first-year students, Jason and Emily, meet their mentor, Brian, a junior nursing major. Brian takes them on a tour of a typical university library and introduces them to some of the services available to them. 

Video Transcript

Most college and university libraries share these features.  Visit the library the first week of your freshman year to familiarize yourself with the facility, services, and staff.  Check your library's website for a list of all the services and resources they provide.


  • 24 / 7 Online access to resources
  • Reference help and research consultations  
  • Assistance finding materials
  • Research instruction classes and workshops 
  • Interlibrary Loan
  • Course reserves
  • Copiers


  • Books and ebooks 
  • Reference sources such as general and specialized encyclopedias, almanacs, and atlases
  • Periodicals (journals, magazines, newspapers) in print and electronic forms
  • Microforms 
  • Videos and films
  • Music and sound recordings
  • Photographs
  • Government documents
  • Maps
  • Media equipment loans (still/video cameras, iPads, iPods)


  • User Services or Circulation
  • Reference
  • Book stacks
  • Archives
  • Special Collections 
  • Periodicals (journals, magazines, etc.)
  • Silent or quiet study
  • Group study
  • Computer lab
  • Cafe

Most college and university libraries use the Library of Congress Classification System. You are probably more familiar with the Dewey Decimal System used by high school and public libraries. In the Library of Congress system, literature (fiction, poetry and drama) will not be shelved alphabetically by the author's last name. Novels and short stories are mostly found in the "P" section since this is the area for literature. Books written about specific authors are shelved near the original works.