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How to make the most of Carolina’s libraries

As classes get underway, Dayna Durbin, an undergraduate and teaching librarian at the R.B. House Undergraduate Library, shared advice about how to start the year right.

Dayna Durbin outside by the undergraduate library.
Dayna Durbin, undergraduate teaching and learning librarian, poses for a portrait on August 26, 2021, in front of the Undergraduate Library. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

The start of the academic year is an exciting time, but there’s also a lot to navigate, especially for incoming and transfer students adjusting to life at Carolina.

Part of that adjustment involves becoming familiar with — and knowing how to use — Carolina’s 10 libraries. Whether it’s Davis, the main library on campus, or one of the many specialty libraries, such as the Kenan Science Library or Sloane Art Library, there is a vast array of resources available for students to succeed academically.

But all those options can quickly feel overwhelming. “That’s very normal,” says Dayna Durbin, an undergraduate and teaching librarian at the R.B. House Undergraduate Library. “The fundamental thing to remember is that there are so many resources, there’s no way you can figure it all out on your own.”

As classes get underway, Durbin shared advice to help Tar Heels start the semester strong.

Librarians are there to help

The biggest thing Tar Heels can do is ask for help. After all, that’s what Carolina librarians are there for — and they love helping students find answers.

“Whether it’s with research or anything else on campus, reach out for help,” says Durbin. “The libraries offer a lot of ways to get help with research. We have in-person services desks. We have online chat. You can meet one-on-one with a librarian. There are lots of formats for finding help.”

Every library main desk houses staff to help students. “We love to work with undergrads and do that a lot,” says Durbin.

Each of Carolina’s libraries also boasts subject experts with deep knowledge of their respective areas. For undergraduates who are further along in their academic career or for transfer students who have declared a major, Durbin says, “I would recommend seeking out the subject specialist for your major and reaching out to them.”

Librarians don’t just find resources — they parse them

Even as students have become more media literate, it can still be difficult to navigate all the different types of resources at their disposal.

“Every year, I notice that students are a lot more fluent in searching the databases,” says Durbin. “That’s not really where they struggle. It’s more about understanding, like, what is a journal article? What is this thing, and how was it created? How do I read it? From the abstract to the conclusion, what is this thing I’m looking at, and how is it really different from a blog post?”

Librarians are there to help students understand the resources they find.

Carolina’s libraries aren’t just about books

There are countless resources — books, periodicals, journals, databases — at students’ fingertips, but the University Libraries also offers study spaces.

“Our study spaces are a really great resource, and we’re thrilled that all of our branches will be open, and students can come back into all of our libraries,” says Durbin, who encourages students to try the different libraries and see which ones work best for their needs.

“Think about your work style and how you work best,” she says. “Do you like it to be completely silent? Do you like more of a coffee shop atmosphere, with a bit more noise? Try different study spaces and find one that works best for your needs.”

Take advantage of the fun resources, too

Beyond all of the academic resources, the University Libraries also offers free access to an array of popular fiction and movies.

“We do have a new subscription to OverDrive, which is popular reading, so e-books and audiobooks,” says Durbin. “There’s a lot of great stuff there. We also offer streaming movies, which students can watch for free with their ONYEN.”

Check out the full list of libraries and their hours