Using the Library

What this handout is about

The UNC Libraries offer many resources and services to help you with all types of research and writing projects. This handout will provide a brief overview of how to access information, both in person and online.

Where is the library?

There are actually many different libraries at UNC. These include Davis Library, the House Undergraduate Library (sometimes called the UL), the Health Sciences Library, and over 40 departmental libraries and special collections. For a complete list and a map of locations, go to

How can I get help using the library?

Academic libraries can be difficult to navigate, simply because of their size, the variety of services that they offer, and their sometimes complicated organization. Librarians recognize these challenges and are eager to guide you in using the library effectively. You can ask librarians for help through chat messaging, by email, by phone, or in person. From the library homepage (, click the “Contact Us” link, near the center of the screen.

The website offers a tutorial to introduce the library catalog, library services, and effective search techniques. They also provide a list of “How do I…? questions, some of which address specific aspects of library use. You can find links to both of these resources from the library homepage, near the bottom of the left side navigation bar.


How can the library help me with my research?

The library offers a number of ways you can get help. For a list of library services, visit the homepage, scroll down and click on one of the links under Research Help or Library Services.

Librarians are experts in finding information. They can help you find statistics and other data sets, primary source materials, photographs, DVDs, and many other resources. They can also assist you in using specialized databases, using citation tools such as Refworks and Endnote, and developing search strategies that will return the most useful results. Here are some ways you can get help:

  • In person: You are welcome to stop by in person to ask questions at any time. No question is too big or too small. In Davis, the reference desk is located on the left side of first floor, past the elevators. At the UL, the information desk is to the right of the staircase on the first floor. UL librarians also monitor the UL Design Lab and can help you use the technology available in the Lab, such as Photoshop and Dreamweaver.
  • Telephone and IM chat: You can call Davis Library at (919) 962-1151 or the Undergraduate Library at (919) 962-1355. You can also chat with a librarian through the chat box on the Contact Us page or through an instant messaging service such as AIM, MSN, Yahoo!, or Google Chat; just send a message to “davisrefdesk” or “undergradref.”
  • Email: You can email questions to the library by clicking on the Email link on the bottom left side of the UNC Libraries homepage. Typically you will get a response within 1-2 business days (or less!).
  • Individual consultation: You can set up an individual consultation with a librarian who specializes in your area of research. These appointments are similar to a Writing Center tutoring session in that you work one-on-one with a librarian on your specific project. She or he will ask you questions about your research topic, show you how to use topical or subject specific databases, and offer guidance on additional resources you may not know about.

How do I find stuff in the library and online?

All of the UNC libraries use the same online catalog, which means you can search in one place and get information about books, journals, videos/DVDs, maps, and archival materials all across campus. On the library homepage, type your search terms into the search box. You can search by keyword, title, journal title, author, or subject.

If you select “Advanced Search,” you have more options and can limit your search by library, format, language, and publication date.

You can search for articles within journals in multiple ways. The “Quick Article Search” option allows you to simultaneously search several databases which cover a broad range of journals. The “E-Research Tools” are databases which include subscriptions to a variety of e-journals. If you click on the “E-Research Tools” link, you can look for specific databases by title or by discipline. Or, if you know a you are interested in a specific journal, the “E-Journals” link allows you to browse through specific journals online by year and by volume.


The Library’s website also includes a tutorial on how to conduct library research. The section on searching for information will help you determine where to look for information; it will also help you choose the right search terms to turn up the information you need. Choosing and connecting search terms is more challenging than it might initially seem, and searching databases is not always the same as using a search engine like Google. The tutorial can help you navigate these challenges.

Can the library help me cite my sources?

The library has excellent resources for helping you cite sources in the proper format. For specific information, visit “How Do I Cite Sources?”

Citation builder
One of the tools provided by the Library is the Citation Builder. Select the format from the right-hand menu and fill in the information for each resource you need to document. The Citation Builder will show you how your works cited or bibliography entry should look in APA, MLA, or CBE/CSE. Using the citation builder is sometimes easier than trying to follow the models in citation handbooks; but be sure to read over what it produces before you turn in your paper. If you don’t have information for all of the required fields, you can enter a space or another character to “fake out” the program, but this will result in a citation with some extra or strange punctuation. It is always best to double check your citations using the official manual of your citation style.

Another great tool is Refworks. Writers who are working with a lot of sources (such as graduate students and honors thesis writers) should definitely check it out. You can use the Refworks bibliographic management program to save, format, and organize your citations. Refworks also allows you to produce bibliography lists and format in-text citations. You can directly import citations from online databases while you are conducting your research. Often, Refworks will also remember the link to the original article, so that you can keep all of your electronic sources organized in your Refworks folders. Refworks is a free product for UNC students, faculty and staff. To register for an account, learn more, or sign up for a training workshop go to or click on the Refworks link on the library homepage.

What else can I do on the UNC libraries website?

Here are some of the things you can do from library website’s homepage:

  • Request a book via interlibrary loan. If our libraries don’t have the book you are looking for, you may still be able to get it from another library in our area.
  • Request a book that is currently checked out. The person who has it checked out will receive a notice that someone else is interested; if she has the book checked out for longer than a month, it will be recalled.
  • Take an online tutorial. Click on “Tutorials” and “How Do I…?” for a list of topics, which include citing sources, finding materials, doing research in different academic disciplines, and evaluating information. There is even a page that will help you determine whether a source you are using is a scholarly journal, a trades/professional journal, or a popular magazine.
  • Find out about services for library patrons with disabilities, international students, and distance learners.

What is Google Scholar, and how can I use it?

Google Scholar is a subset of Google Web Search that enables you to search specifically for scholarly literature, including papers, theses, books, and reports. You should access Google Scholar from within the UNC Libraries website–you will be able to find more materials that you can view for free, instead of having to subscribe to the journal or magazine. By searching Google Scholar from the Library’s homepage, you will automatically have direct access, both on and off campus, to subscription articles already paid for by the library.

For more information about Google Scholar, visit

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