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How to Get the Most Out of Your Library Visit

The importance of libraries, even in this digital age, cannot be underestimated. If you need to do research for your current work-in-progress (WIP), the library may be a good place to start. With trained staff and a wealth of resources (reliable ones) at their fingertips, a library and a librarian are a researcher’s best friend. However, there are a few things you can do prior to your visit to maximize your success. Man sitting on a stack of library books.

  • Make an appointment with a librarian. Some libraries will let you do this online. In the main library system, you can usually walk in off the street and have a librarian at your side, but with your smaller local library, that may not be the case, especially if there is only one person manning the desk. Making an appointment literally guarantees having an assistant for an hour.
  • Be prepared. Know ahead of time exactly what it is you are researching. Going in blindly with a vague, nebulous idea will be just an exercise in frustration and a big waste of time for both you and the librarian. Be as specific as possible about the topic that you want to research. At the same time, be open-minded; one topic might go off into a topic that you had not considered.
  • Use the main library of your county, if you possibly can. Their volume of resource is much greater. If not, your local library can get whatever you need on inter-library loan; you might just have to wait a few days for it.
  • Make a note of all references used. For two reasons, to give credit where credit is due and in case you have to go back and look at the original source again.
  • Try to go during an off-peak time if possible. Tuesday morning might be better than say a weekend or an evening.
  • Plan for more than one visit if the need arises.

However you decide to use the library, rest assured that it will not only be a treasure trove of facts for your WIP but will add credence to the edict: write what you know.

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