Introduction to the Academic Library

As a graduate student, there is a lot the library can offer to help you succeed. Unfortunately, graduate students are sometimes unaware of these services and resources until they are nearing the end of their academic programs. This chapter will help familiarize you with some of the ways Reed Library can support your graduate work.

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this chapter, you will be able to:

  • Identify services and resources available through the library
  • Recognize the purpose of various library discovery tools and the types of materials they contain
  • Navigate the library’s website in order to successfully locate a variety of resources
  • Identify and locate core databases in your discipline or topic area


There has been a paradigm shift in academic libraries over the last two decades. Moving from book-centered spaces to learning-centered spaces, libraries provide a suite of services and resources in response to the new ways in which users consume information today.

Did you know that library anxiety is a real and prevalent problem among students, including graduate students? To put it simply, library anxiety is the fear of physical library spaces and resources, which can often be seen as overwhelming and confusing. A couple of common symptoms of library anxiety include the fear of approaching a librarian to ask for help, and feeling paralyzed when trying to start library research. It is important to know that despite any fears you may hold, you are not alone.

Essential Services & Resources

Technologies, tools, and processes change quickly, and everyone is coming in with different levels of experience. You are not expected to know everything. It is the job of the librarian to provide support and help you navigate these spaces, resources, and tools. If you take anything away from this chapter, please remember that we are here to help.

Research Assistance & Library Support

Please do not hesitate to ask us questions! Questions or concerns can be sent to Additionally, there are also a number of other ways to get assistance. Here are a few:

For the most up-to-date information on library hours, please visit our homepage:

Library Discovery Tools

BPL – General Library – catalog area” by Boston Public Library is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Libraries provide access to an array of materials such as books and e-books; online indexes and databases; dissertations and theses; DVDs and CDs; musical scores, journals, magazines, and newspapers. At Reed Library, we even have an impressive collection of vinyl!

Traditionally, libraries depended on a finding tool called the library catalog, which told you what materials the library owned and where those materials were located. Catalogs contain basic information about each item including author, title, and publisher, as well as its location and call number. Library discovery tools take searching to the next level, helping researchers find a wider range of resources beyond the items the library owns.


Reed Library’s central library discovery tool is called ReedSearch, which is prominently featured on the Reed Library homepage. ReedSearch not only incorporates the traditional functions of a library catalog (helping you identify and find what we own) but also searches:

  • Articles from some of the library’s online indexes
  • Research guides and other digital content from the library
  • Open access web resources such as books from Project Gutenberg
  • Other items that the library doesn’t have direct access to, but which you can request through Interlibrary Loan (see below)
  • And more.

ReedSearch has a lot of useful features to help you find what you need. For starters, material types are labeled in your results list so you can instantly tell which items are books or articles, music CDs or scores, etc. Other helpful features allow you to cite sources you have found or put items you like in a list (simply click the pushpin icon) and then email those results to yourself. You can also log in using your Fredonia eServices credentials to save your searches and specific items to your Favorites for future use.

Library Databases

A database is an electronic system for organizing information. Journal databases are where the scholarly articles are organized and indexed for searching. Anyone with an internet connection has free access to public databases such as PubMed and Students can also search in library-subscribed general information databases (such as EBSCO’s Academic Search Premier) or a specialized or subject-specific database (for example, EBSCO’s CINAHL for allied health fields or ERIC for Education).

In the world of library databases, EBSCO, ProQuest, and Gale are three of the major industry vendors. While databases purchased through the same vendor will have a similar interface, the type of content you can retrieve will differ. For example, ERIC is the most widely used index for educational-related literature, while Environment Complete provides information in the areas of environmental science, agriculture, etc. The EBSCOhost interface essentially looks the same, but the scope of these databases is vastly different.

Library databases retrieve different types of information sets than the main library catalog (ReedSearch) or Google Scholar. There are different types of databases that include:

  • Indexes – with citations only
  • Abstract databases – with citations and abstracts only
  • Full text databases – with citations and the full text of articles, reports, and other materials

Why search a database instead of Google Scholar or your library catalog? Both can lead you to good articles BUT:

  • The content is wide-ranging but not comprehensive or as current as a database that may be updated daily.
  • Google Scholar doesn’t disclose its criteria for what makes the results “scholarly’ and search results often vary in quality and availability.
  • Neither gives you as much control over your search as you get in a database.

The reason there are so many is that the scope of each database is specialized to support the curriculum of various programs. Providing access to a range of materials is why libraries, including Reed Library, subscribe to a multitude of databases. If you feel overwhelmed and not sure where to start, please reach out for assistance.

To choose an appropriate database for your purposes, you need to have an idea of its scope. This is where our A-Z Database list comes in handy. Use the drop-down boxes on the A-Z Database list to filter to a specific subject area, database type (newspaper, video, eBook, etc.), and/or a specific vendor to help you identify an appropriate database to use. Each database has a description to give you some additional information about the scope of the content.

InterLibrary Loan

There may come a time when you identify a book or article needed for your research purposes that Reed Library does not own. Do not give up! Today, libraries are connected through vast networks with the ability to share all sorts of resources. Through a service called InterLibrary Loan, (ILL) what is available to you is expanded exponentially.

We recommend setting up your account early to take advantage of this free service as soon as you need it. Take a moment to set up your account now by following these steps:

  • Using your Fredonia eServices username and password log into Illiad to set up your account:
  • Once your ILLiad account is established you can start requesting items not available in Reed Library’s collections.

You can manually submit a new request by selecting one of the options from the “New Requests” drop-down menu.
You can also auto-populate a request while searching through Reed Libary’s databases. If you come across the “Get It” link while searching, for example, Practice in TESOL (2022), you can click to open the full item record.

From here, click the sign-in link in the green box to make a request.

  •  Access your requested materials
    • Please allow 7-10 days for processing book requests and 3-6 days for article requests, depending on the time of year and item availability.
    • Journal articles will be delivered to you electronically using your campus email account.
    • Books and other materials, such as videos, scores, DVDs, CDs, or microfilm will be available for you to pick up at the library’s circulation desk. For more information visit

The following next chapter will focus on specific information-seeking strategies. For now, keep in mind that selecting an appropriate database for your topic will greatly impact your search results, especially in terms of relevancy. Also remember, if we do not own a specific book or subscribe to a particular journal with an article you need, you can request these items through ILL.


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Fredonia Graduate Studies Research Toolkit Copyright © 2022 by Christina Hilburger is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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