Students work in the quiet area of Ellis Library

Students work in the quiet area of Ellis Library.

COLUMBIA — Finding the perfect book or resource for your paper is sometimes like finding a needle in a haystack. Grace Atkins, the user engagement librarian with MU Libraries, explains the varied resources at Ellis Library, as well as many of the hidden gems throughout the building that can be extremely helpful for students.

Q: What are the most important things incoming students need to know about the libraries?

A: Navigating the website is No. 1. Then, obviously, knowing where the libraries are and knowing about eBookse-books in addition to the physical books, because we have so many eBookse-books now. Also, knowing what study spaces are offered and what kind of research services are offered at each branch, including Ellis.

Q: Where are the hidden gems that students may not know about?

A: One thing that comes to mind is our special collections. That’s where we have rare materials and really old text. The library does such a good job of bringing them into the digital age so students can get creative with them for projects.

Even if you’re not doing a course that’s specifically using special collections, there’s still some really fantastic stuff. There is currently an exhibit for "Hamilton," the Broadway musical. There are tons of documents referenced in the show. It’s so cool. The graduate student who created the exhibit went to see it in New York and brought back a playbill, so that’s there, too. There is also a surprisingly awesome comic book collection.

Another thing I should mention is our research assistants program, or RAP for short. You can schedule a small group or individual to meet with an expert, and depending on what you’re researching, you can meet with the library’s specialist on that topic.

Q: What should incoming students be prepared to know about recent budget cuts?

A: How we’re handling the budget cuts, especially how we’re handling the collection cuts. Usually, that’s something faculty and grad students pay a little more attention to because they’re doing comprehensive research. If they don’t have access to a certain journal, that compromises their ability to do that research.

What it’s going to mean for incoming students doing lower-level research and building to that higher level is that it’s going to take longer to get material. If we already don’t have access to a journal, they will have to request it through our system and it could take 24- to 48 hours, or up to a week if it’s a print resource.

It’s important for incoming students to know that if you start research the night before, you might not be able to get what would be the gem resource that ties your paper all together.

Q: Any other obvious ways the budget cuts are affecting the library?

A: The hours. We went from 24/5 to closing at midnight on weeknights. It's important to know when services are available. One thing we’ve done to try to make up for that is our virtual services will be practically 24/7. That’s huge, because if you’re in a crunch and you can’t find something, we can help you that way. Our IM service is underused, but it’s just so handy.

  • I'm a public health and safety reporter for the Columbia Missourian. You can reach me at or give me a follow @ElizabethLoutfi.

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