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Life Hacks for Using the ISU Library

For new and experienced library users: learn how to get the most out of a visit to your library, including tips for finding the right librarian and ways to get in touch.

Find the right librarian

Whether you're a new student, an experienced researcher, or somewhere in between, the ISU library has librarians who can help make your research life easier. With so many librarians, it can be hard to know which one is the best fit for your question. Here's a quick guide to finding the right librarian.

decorative imageResearch topic help

Did you know that each subject that is studied or taught at Iowa State University has its own librarian? It's true! These librarians are experts at finding information in a particular field or subject area. They can save you time and money by helping:

  • Choose the right tools to find the information you need
  • Develop effective keywords and/or an efficient search strategy
  • Add materials that support your research to the library's collection
  • Get paywalled articles at no cost
  • Manage citations and references
  • Keep your files organized
  • Troubleshoot problems with search tools

You can find a list of librarians by subject area using the Find Your Librarian button on the library homepage, or by using the link below. This page is arranged alphabetically by subject and provides a name, office phone number, and email address for each librarian, plus a link to their appointment scheduler, if they use one. (If they do not use an appointment scheduler, you can request an appointment by email.)

decorative imageSkill-building help

ISU's librarians aren't just experts at finding subject-specific information. They also have lots of other expertise in areas like copyright, data management, locating difficult-to-find document types (patents, standards, technical reports, images, and so on), citation management software (such as EndNote, Mendeley, or Zotero), and more. Librarians can help you get started and build skills in all these areas and more. There is no consolidated list of which librarian can cover topics outside an academic subject area, but that doesn't mean there is no one who can help!

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One way to identify a librarian who can help with another topic is to look for a Research Guide on that topic. The guide will typically include information about who created it, and reaching out to that librarian is a good way to get started in that area. Search or browse guides using the link below.

If you still aren't sure who can help, or if you can't find a guide that covers what you need to know, you can always ask!

decorative imageAssignment & class help

If your research project is for a class assignment, your instructor may already be working with a librarian to provide research help for that assignment. In this case, check the Canvas page for your class. If you see the ISU Library Resources link in the navigation list for the class, click it. This page will typically provide a link to any course-related guides that have been developed, which will provide basic information on doing research for the class and contact information for the librarian working with your class.

If your class's Canvas page does not have this link, there may still be a guide for your course. Check the Research and Course Guides page for your course to see if there is a guide.

When all else fails, a good option is to reach out for the librarian for the subject your class is in. You can use the Find Your Librarian link below to find the librarian for a subject area.

decorative imageFor quick questions

Your question may not fall into any of the categories above. For example,

  • How do I check out a book?
  • How do I use the printers?
  • The link to ... isn't working, what do I do?
  • Who do I talk to for questions about...?

For quick questions like these, you won't necessarily need to track down a specialist librarian. Instead, you can ask at the Main Desk (if you're in the library building) or use our Ask Us! service. Using Ask Us! you can chat live with a librarian and get answers in real time, or send your question by email and get a response quickly--usually within a day or so. You can also check the Library's Frequently Asked Questions to see if your question has already been answered.

Have a question? ISU librarians are always available to help!
Read the guide to learn who to contact and how!