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Navigating the Main Library: Verity’s top tips for productive study, finding spaces, and more!

Navigating the Main Library: Verity’s top tips for productive study, finding spaces, and more!

Writing a post about how to use the library is not as straightforward as it might seem, because there are multiple libraries across the different University of Edinburgh campuses that are open to students and, depending on what courses you’re taking and where you attend your classes, you might find certain libraries are closer to hand or have the resources that you need. Most students, however, will use the Main Library in George Square at some point in their university life and, whether you love or hate the Brutalist architecture style, the building offers many facilities to students.

Main Library

Step #1: Getting Inside

But before being able to use them, you need to know what’s available and how to get access. To access the Main Library, either through the main entrance or via the Library Café, you to scan your student card at the automatic barrier gates. If you’ve lost your student card, the Main Library is also where you can come to get a replacement one. If you talk to the Facilities staff at the two-way desk beside the entrance gates, they can let you into the library so you can ask at the Helpdesk about getting a new student card.

Step #2: Borrowing a Book

Once inside, you’ll find the High Use Books section (HUB) at the back of the ground floor, accessible through another automatic gate. This section is for frequently borrowed books that are used as key texts for courses and are highly in demand. Since a lot of students need those books, they can only be borrowed for short time periods and the overdue fees are pretty steep! If you want to borrow one of those books for a longer time, there is often another copy available elsewhere in the library for a standard four-week loan.

Throughout the library, including in the HUB, you’ll find computers where you can search the library catalogue (DiscoverEd) and see if a book is checked out or on the shelf and for how long it can be borrowed. The catalogue also lets you find the precise location of a book within the library as each book has a shelf-mark (a code made up of numbers and letters) according to the Library of Congress shelf-mark system and by following the direction signs, you can find your way to the shelf where a particular book is located.

Step #3: Finding a Study Space

If you’re not looking for a book, the Main Library also has lots of study desks, including some reserved for postgraduates. There are empty desks where you can bring your laptop to work (you can also rent laptops from the ground floor of the library) and desks with a PC if you want to work at a bigger screen. The desks fill up in order of nicest first, so the individual desks with the scenic views over the Meadows will be occupied from first thing in the morning!

Main Library
The Main Library has a number of seats with views of Edinburgh in all its picturesque beauty

If you’re struggling to find somewhere to sit, try going to the lower ground floor as there are often free spots there even when the rest of the library is busy. For when you’re tired of studying and don’t want to queue for the café, there’s a lunch room tucked away on the ground floor where you can eat your own food and take phone calls.

Step #4: Discovering all the Services

The Main Library has plenty more services available too, from the software and equipment available in the uCreate space on the first floor to printers and scanners throughout the building to the Centre for Research Collections on the top floor where the rare books and archives are held. If you’re interested in careers in archives or heritage, the library sometimes has volunteering positions available for students. And the Careers Service can also be found in the Main Library, which would be a whole other post about all the resources they offer. Whether you’re new to Edinburgh or have been here a few years but never visited the Main Library, it’s well-worth having a look to see what is available that would be useful to you!

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