If this is your first semester, it’s possible that you’ve relied on Google to complete most of your classwork up until now. (That might still be true even if you’ve been in higher education for a semester or four, but it’s never too late! This applies to you as well.)
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that there is a ton of great material available online. Plus, Google makes it easy to find something that will at least get the job done. (If that’s all you’re aiming for.)
But, there are two problems with that. (To say the least!)
The first is that along with all the excellent stuff, there’s also even more mediocre, and sometimes downright bad, information. Your job is to be able to tell the difference and to know what is appropriate to use in which contexts. This is a skill that you will strengthen throughout college, and the library is here to help you with that. (Get started with handy tools like the CRAAP Test and Touro’s “Website Evaluation in Action” video.)
The second problem is that, believe it or not, Google is not actually all-knowing. Besides things like getting images like this when I search “Madonna art” for my Renaissance art history course, Google also does not have access to the full collection of human knowledge. Not even close.
As undergraduates, the most troublesome gap in Google’s knowledge will be the rare and elusive “scholarly article.” This species has several aliases, including academic or peer-reviewed article. You’ll begin to spot them popping up on reading lists and in assignments from your professors.
The natural habitat for scholarly articles is, of course, the library. More specifically, in the subscription academic databases that we spend lots of money on so that you can have access to these special, high-quality sources of information. Not to mention, so that your professors, whose careers often depend on publishing in scholarly journals, can afford to eat. (And so the publishers can get rich – but we try not to think about that.)
But in addition to providing access to raw information, the library also helps to support the skills that you’ll need to succeed, as undergraduates and in life beyond school: things like reading and understanding complex texts, pulling out key points and gathering further information, writing clearly and persuasively, and – perhaps most importantly – harnessing the deluge of information that comes at you every day from your phones, the internet, television, and the world around you, to make better decisions, to solve problems, and to create things.
So hopefully all of that convinced you that there is at least some value in taking advantage of the resources provided to you through your library and your librarians. As far as logistics, we have ten sites in the New York Metro area. Whatever campus you’re at or wherever you live, hopefully there is a facility nearby.
But even if that’s not the case, or you’d just rather stay on your laptop in bed, all our online resources are available from anywhere you are. You just need to register once for an Off-Campus username and password, and you’ll be all set.
Like I mentioned, there’s lots of stuff available – over 120 databases full of news, magazine and journal articles, nearly 200,000 e-books, streaming video collections, and of course print books as well – but we also have a collection of tutorials on topics like finding and evaluating information, citing sources, avoiding plagiarism, and writing academic papers. We collaborate with your professors to offer library orientations and research workshops. We also offer GLL 105, a 2.0 credit course on information literacy and research & writing skills.
Lastly, if you’d prefer to get help individually or in person, our librarians are happy to speak with you. We’re available by phone, email, instant messaging. Or stop by to speak with the lovely folks behind the reference desk.
We hope to see all of you lots over the next few years. Welcome and best of luck!