College Libraries 101: Who Can Go and What They Have

University Library: Portrait of Gifted Beautiful Black Girl Stands Between Rows of Bookshelves Searching for the Right Book for Class Assignment
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I love libraries! They are the best resource, and they are free—amazing!

College libraries are a resource that all students should know about.

Keep reading to find out what college libraries offer, who can go, when they are open, and what types of books they have.

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What do college libraries offer students?

  • Books
  • Newspapers
  • Academic journals and articles
  • Online databases
  • Citation guides
  • A place to study
  • Computers
  • Available printers

If your college library doesn’t have a resource that you need, they may be able to request it from another library through interlibrary loans.

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Can anyone go to a college library?

In general, most public colleges allow anyone to go to their library to study or read but restrict certain areas and require an account to check out materials. Private colleges are often more strict about non-students using their library.

Most college libraries (at least public colleges) allow anyone to walk in and study. Going to a college library (even a college that is not where you go to school) is a great place to study when you need a quiet place.

If you can’t go to a library to study, check out my tips for how to study when it’s noisy.

Keep in mind that different colleges have different rules. Depending on the college, they may:

  • Limit when non-students can go to the library (late-night hours may be for students only)
  • Limit how often non-students can go to the library
  • Require you to schedule a time and do not allow walk-ins
  • Only let students from other colleges come
  • Require you to be a guest of a student

There are colleges, such as StanfordOpens in a new tab., that allow non-students to pay for a library card and account.

Some colleges do not allow non-students to come.

Since college campuses (including libraries) have gotten stricter about who is allowed on campus, you should check with the library before you go.

Can anyone use a college library’s online resources?

At some college libraries, anyone can access their online resources or databases from the library. However, most colleges only allow enrolled students to remotely access their online resources, such as journals and peer-reviewed articles.

If you are a student somewhere else, most colleges have online databases that you can access from home.

Alumni may also be able to access their previous college’s online databases.

If not, check with your public library—some public libraries have subscriptions to online scholarly databases.

You can also look if the article is available online (possibly on the author’s website) or message the author of an article you want to read, and they may be willing to send it to you.

Borrowing books from a college library when you aren’t a student 

Most college libraries do not allow people that aren’t a student to check out books. However, some college libraries allow students from other colleges (connected ones) or local residents to check out books.

Local residents may need a public library card or other proof of residency to borrow books from the college library.

If you can’t check out books from the college library, your local public library may be able to use interlibrary loans to get the resources you need.

Are college libraries open 24/7?

Many college libraries are open 24/7, but students should check with their college library to see their specific hours.

What kind of books are in college libraries?

Public library in three floors with rounded shelves

College libraries have a large collection of non-fiction books, reference materials, and novels.

College libraries have books that support the topics covered at the school.

Do college libraries have regular books (novels)?

Most college libraries have collections (at least small ones) of novels, including some best-sellers and classics. These are important to teach literature.

You may find different novels based on the types of majors taught, for example, classic literature, Russian literature, and American literature.

The library may have YA novels and juvenile fiction for teaching majors.

Do college libraries have manga?

Many college libraries have at least a small collection of manga—the amount will vary depending on the college.

Why do college libraries not have textbooks?

Most college libraries do not have textbooks because many different textbooks are used, and they cannot afford recent textbooks for students to check out. It would be hard to organize, and too many students would want them.

If students rely on the college library for textbooks, they will often not have the textbook they need. If the due date is before the end of the semester, it would also be hard for the library to get their books returned.

However, college libraries sometimes have a library copy of some textbooks that you can read at the library but cannot check out. Though, often they do not have the latest editions.

How are books arranged in a college library?

Most college libraries arrange books using the Library of Congress Classification System (LC), which uses letters and numbers to group books. Books are labeled with a call number and arranged by grouping those with a similar topic together.

Now you know the basics about college libraries. Share the knowledge (and article) with your friends!

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