Navigating the campus library properly can pay dividends later

Thursday, July 30, 2009 | 12:00 p.m. CDT; updated 12:41 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 30, 2009

The main library at MU, Ellis Library, is home to a vast number of resources. 

It houses books, government documents, reference guides, compact discs, audio cassettes, videos, DVDs, phonograph records, rare books, comic books and more than 33,000 periodicals.

The building has five floors with stacks of these resources on four of them. The floors are further divided into east and west portions. And that’s only the main library.

The campus also has eight branch libraries with specialized holdings. Two off-campus depositories hold older volumes.

Altogether, the MU libraries house more than 3 million volumes and 6 million microforms. And that doesn’t include the online sources, with more than 100 databases, electronic journals and electronic books.

That’s probably the reason why, according to Shannon Cary, communications officer for MU Libraries, students are often intimidated at first by the vast resources and size of Ellis Library.

But you don’t have to be.

Ellis is the primary location for undergraduates to get the information for many of their assignments, so it's important to know about the available resources.

It's even more important to know how to use them effectively. Here is what students need to know to navigate the library system and use it as a quiet place to study.


Start with at the MU Library home page online, Cary said.

“You can find out the most you need from there.”

The library's Web site,, features information about all of the library offerings. Search catalogs are the most important point of reference when looking for a book.

The main search catalog for MU Libraries is called MERLIN. After clicking on the link, it takes you to a search engine. To find a book, just type in a name, and it will locate it for you on the shelves. You can also find books, periodicals, DVDs, music, CDs, maps and government documents through it.

If you can't find the books through MERLIN, there is also the statewide MOBIUS catalog. According to Cary, it can locate almost all the academic books in Missouri. If the source you need is at another library in the state, you can request the item to be sent over to Ellis. Best of all, it’s free of charge.


The next most important resources for students are the extensive online databases. Databases are collections of magazine, newspaper and journal articles. Students can find articles from current and past sources that are useful to the subject they're studying. The library Web site links to hundreds of databases divided into specific subject areas.

Cary suggested clicking on the popular databases link, found after clicking databases on the main page, because it shows the sources relevant to courses that freshmen take.

Library tours

The library has frequently scheduled tours throughout the fall semester for incoming freshmen. Students are guided through the various sections of the library, including the computer area, the stacks where the books are located and special collections. Tours also explain how to check out books and use the copying and printing facilities, Cary said.

Research assistants

Those still having trouble finding the resources they need can turn to research assistants for help.

Research assistants can be booked by appointment. If a student needs serious research help, Cary said, an assistant can be made available to them for an hour. All research assistants have expertise in specific subjects.

Computers, copying and printing

The library is equipped with PC and Mac computers, located on the first floor. Waez Faruque, an MU student, said that the computers available are quite convenient and useful.

For students with laptops, wireless access is available throughout the library. Those who don’t have laptops of their own can check them out for two hours at the Reserve Desk on the first floor.

Full printing and copying services are available next to the north entrance of Ellis Library. The printing fee is deducted from the student print quota through the Print Smart program.

According to the Print Smart program's Web site, students who are financially enrolled at MU receive a $35 print quota for printing on MU computing sites, including the library. They are automatically enrolled in the program at no extra charge.

Black-and-white printing at the library costs 10 cents per page and is deducted from the student's print quota. Photocopying in black and white costs 7 cents per page.

Places to study

You may think that the library, with its silence, space and upholstered seating, is the perfect location to relax and study. So does everyone else.

Faruque said the library is always busy, and Claire Brockmeier, a sophomore, added that it "gets pretty hectic during finals."

If you get there early enough, the library has several sections designated as student study carrels.

Several group study rooms on the first floor of Ellis are available for students throughout the semester. Students are able to reserve these rooms through the Web site as well as at the Reference Desk.

There is also upholstered seating and the information commons, where talking is allowed, on the first floor, and private, individual study desks on all levels of the building.

If you don’t find seats at Ellis, don’t despair. The MU Libraries system has study sites at its eight branch libraries.

Undergraduate students are able to access any of these buildings around the campus, including the journalism, engineering and law libraries.

Kassie Hyde, a sophomore, said that she often uses study areas in different libraries to avoid the busy periods at Ellis during finals.

Entertainment and special events

The library doesn’t have to be used just for research and studying.

“Something our freshman may not know about is the events in the library,” Cary said. They include lectures and concerts, as well as rotating exhibits. Students can also take a coffee break in Ellis at the Bookmark Café, located on the ground floor of Ellis.

Numerous events are held at the main library each semester, notably the  Chamber Music Series. The series features numerous musicians playing at the colonnade of Ellis Library for students and visitors to enjoy. The free concerts are held in the main hallway on the first floor of Ellis throughout the year.

Another series is held a few times each semester where faculty members give lectures on topics they are currently researching. There are also appearances by authors and book signings, Cary said.

Exhibit cases along the colonnade display items as diverse as sports and board games.

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Dorothy Carner August 7, 2009 | 5:31 p.m.

Great Article on the Libraries! Good Job, Shannon!

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