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last updated: 7/12/2010

Chapter 2

How to ask for help


What is it about raising your hand in class, approaching an information desk, or asking for directions? Some people are hardwired to avoid such perceived embarrassments at all costs.


1)      Don’t be shy. The libraries on campus are places where it’s definitely okay not to know the answers. (Don’t confuse libraries with classrooms, where your professors will expect much more from you, especially on test days.)


2)      Remember that you don’t even need to know exactly what to ask. Read your assignment and ask yourself what you think your instructor wants you to learn. Even though it might feel like you’re just jumping through hoops, there’s usually a point to it. Usually.


3)      Choose a method that’s most comfortable for you. Ask for help in any of the following ways:

·         phone

·         e-mail

·         online chat

·         instant messaging


4)      Face your fears. Face-to-face is often the best way to ask for help because sometimes a “back and forth” exchange needs to happen. This method is particularly useful if you don’t know exactly what you need.



Use the “Ask a Librarian” link on the IU Libraries Web site to connect with our librarians online. Or, text a librarian a question at (812) 671-0275.



How to find books in Wells Library


IU has one of the largest collections of books in the country. They’re not hard to find in branch libraries like the Education Library or Fine Arts Library, but first-time visitors to the Wells Library always want to know: Where are all the books?


1)      Make it your goal to find a book, not the books.


2)      Evaluate your options. You can go it alone and look in IUCAT, the online catalog, to find the call number and which library has your book. You’re probably better off asking for help at any library information desk. Either way, after a few adventures in the stacks, you’ll learn your way around.


3)      Know the system. Because this is a huge academic library, books are arranged using the Library of Congress ordering system, not the Dewey Decimal system used by many high school or public libraries. If you’re looking for fiction, for example, it’s not all in one spot.


4)      If you still just want to poke around, start in the Core Collection, located in the West Tower. This collection of high-interest and popular books is small, about 17,000 volumes, and materials are easier to find.



Explore the upper floors of the East Tower or any of the libraries on campus and you’ll find books. In the Wells Library alone there are over 4.6 million of them. Assuming an average of 9 inches per book, laid end to end, they’d extend from Bloomington to Washington, D.C. Or, if you’re headed west, to Council Bluffs, Iowa.


  IU has so many books they don’t all fit in the libraries. The Auxiliary Library Facility on the edge of campus holds about 2.7 million items, including books, manuscripts, and films.

To preserve the materials shelved there, the ALF is kept at a constant 50°F and 30 percent relative humidity—about the same environmental conditions as Mammoth Cave.


How to get started on an assignment


To research a topic, you have to know something about it… but what if you’re just beginning your research and you don’t know anything yet? It’s tough, but there are some good ways to get started:


1)      Ask your instructor, AI, or classmates to tell you what they know and go from there.


2)      Check your course readings to see if the topic is mentioned or described.


3)      After you find out some key words that represent the topic, try a general search in your favorite search engine to see what other concepts are related, the time period in question, the key people involved, and any other related information you can find.


4)      Write down some of the key ideas that you’ve identified.


5)      Go work out, take a nap, or sit in the sun to let your thoughts flow freely.


6)      Start thinking about what you know and what you still don’t know.


7)      Write down a few of your thoughts.


8)      Go to the libraries’ web site and select “Resource Gateway” to get started finding articles and books on your topic.



Popular go-to resources are not always the most reliable, although they’re often a place to get started. Anyone can post, edit, or change any entry in Wikipedia. That’s right, anyone. Even you. Use it with caution.



How to find a visual aid for a presentation or paper


Everybody knows about the power of images. (Admit it: You looked at the pictures in this book before reading a word of text.) Finding the right visual aids for your project can make the difference between an A and a B. Or a C and a D.



1)      Spend some time looking through Google images if you want, but who knows what you’ll get or what the copyright restrictions are. Don’t use the clip art in PowerPoint.


2)      Go to the AP Photo Archive, which includes images from the Associated Press. Photos there are topical, current, and have appeared in the nation’s leading newspapers. You can use them in your presentations.


3)      Find the AP Photo Archive through the IU Libraries web site. Go to the Resources Gateway or type “Associated Press’ in the search box.


4)      In the AP Photo Archive, type your search terms in the search box at the top of the screen.


5)      Click on the blue “Search” button. Be patient. It may take a while to load, but it’s worth it.


6)      Download the image to your desktop and copy it to your flash drive or e-mail the image to yourself.



The AP Photo Archive is an electronic library of the AP’s current photos and a selection of pictures from their 50 million image print and negative library. The Photo Archive contains approximately 700,000 photos, and is growing daily as hundreds of new photos enter the database each day from around the world.



How to finish your research so you still have time to have fun


It’s a known fact: nothing can ruin a perfectly good weekend like a project due on Monday. Another known fact: no amount of procrastination is going to keep Monday from coming after Sunday.


1)      Think of your assignment in two parts: research and writing.


You can party all weekend and start writing on Sunday night. Work through the night to finish by Monday morning. 

2)      Do the research early, as soon as you understand the assignment. Start now if possible.


3)      No, really. Start now.


4)      Find articles, e-mail them to yourself or print them out, and make sure you know how to cite them.


5)      Set them aside. Party with your friends.


6)      Every few days, read through your articles. Think about what you might write about. Later, when your classmates are just getting started on their research, pat yourself on the back.


7)      Read through the articles you found weeks ago and start forming your outline.


8)      Once you learn it's better to develop your ideas than to spend time researching, your job is half done. Good luck!


last updated: 7/12/2010