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A university library can be overwhelming, so when you go to study for that test, you turn to class notes and textbooks instead of the library or other campus resources. But, your university library holds more than endless rows of books, and there are other on-campus resources available.

Whether you’re studying for a midterm or a big test like the MCAT, utilize the tools on-campus that students often forget about to set yourself up for success on your next test.

The actual books

Don’t worry–we’re not about to tell you to re-learn the Dewey Decimal System and go sifting through basement shelves. But, university libraries have online lookups and ways to find a book easily if, say, you need to do some research, or want to find a book about the specific test you’re studying for.

While many actual test prep books are typically not available in libraries as hard copy books, your library may have a subscription to ebooks and other online test prep materials. For example, Rice University provides students with ebooks and online test prep for common tests through the Fondren Library website.

“Fondren Library does not really collect much in the way of test prep material because the content books lend themselves more to ownership. However, they do have an abundance of online resourcing that they point students to, both graduates and undergraduates. Whether it’s people that are looking to take the GRE, the MCAT, or the LSAT, they have a bunch of online course programs,” said Katharine Shilcutt, Media Relations Specialist at Rice University.

Often, you’ll be able to request a book online or through you’re libraries front desk, where it will be pulled for you. While we don’t always want to page through these hard copies of books, when studying for something very specific or writing a final paper on a narrow topic, don’t overlook this resource–or be too intimidated to find the book.

Online databases

University libraries often have access to written works beyond what you see on the shelves. If you need one more source for that essay, or need to get the facts down in your study guide, this can be a good place to turn. Use your university library’s website to search through the online database. If you get lost, a librarian will be able to help you navigate.

Here, you can pull up PDFs of hundreds, even thousands of documents and texts that you can access for free as a student. The online versions are especially helpful as you can search through the documents based on keywords.

When you don’t know what you’re looking for

One thing that often deters students from searching for library tools is that they know the topic they’re working on, but don’t have a specific document in mind. Many university libraries have specific people to help with this. At the University of North Dakota, these people are called subject specialists.

Caroline Anderberg, Reference CSA Librarian at the University of North Dakota, explained that these subject specialists have advanced knowledge in specific academic disciplines. Students can find a specialist in the academic field they’re focusing on, and the specialists help students with their research and help them find appropriate resources.

Additionally, many university libraries give tutorials or workshops on utilizing library resources. For example, the University of Denver core freshman classes devote class time to understanding library resources. During these sessions, a librarian will teach the class how to search through the online database, how to request texts if they’re not currently available, what media products are available, etc.

This information may also be available online. Fordham University provides an online library guide that features video tutorials and instructions for using different library features.

Academic improvement programs

Universities also provide programs that allow students to work one-on-one with either a peer or faculty member to work towards their academic and professional goals. One of the most common programs for this is tutoring, where students can meet with peers or other university faculty for free tutoring. There may also be a more specific writing center at the library, where students can work with others on editing their essays.

Shilcutt shared that at Rice University, there is an on-campus program called the Center for Academic and Professional Communication.

“If a student has either an oral examination or a written paper or essay that they have to turn in for a class that will serve as their test, they can make up to 14 appointments per semester with the CAPC folks. They’re hour long, free sessions and the people who run the CAPC are professional educators,” said Shilcutt.


Universities also provide various academic enrichment workshops that help students with their academics in a variety of ways. For example, the Rice University CAPC puts on workshops every semester ranging from topics of building academic English vocabulary for non-native English speaking students to oral presentation skills workshops.

These workshops may be provided through the library, specific academic departments, career services, or other campus organizations. Find out about them through your university’s newsletter or website.

Universities are full of resources to help students excel in their academics, but they tend to fly under the radar if you don’t already know about them. Get to know your campus through the website, announcements emails and newsletters, and even just by asking your academic advisor, professor, university librarian, or career services department. Take advantage of the tools you have available to you as a student–after all, you do pay for them with your tuition.