Last-minute Library

Left it to the last minute? Here’s the Library guide to overcoming 3 classic crises…By Karina Beck

So you’ve done it again, that assignment deadline or exam date has snuck up, and you’ve got no choice but to make a dash for the finish line. I could write a whole spiel on planning ahead, but chastising you on your time-management fail won’t really help at this point, so we’ll make that a topic for another post! So now that you’re here, what can you do? Here’s my advice on using the Library to overcome 3 very common problems you may encounter during the deadline dash…

I don’t have time to read everything on the list!

Maybe you’ve been issued a very long list of recommended module texts, or are faced with a myriad of Library Search results which you just don’t have time to fully work through now. Try the following…

  1. Double check your reading list – does it categorise items into core and supplementary sections or similar? If your lecturer has prioritised them you’d be wise to follow their guidance!
  2. Skim read introductions first – skim through the first paragraph of a book chapter or the abstract of an article before you commit to it – this way you can test its relevance to your topic first. Be strict with yourself at this point – the most interesting article might not be the most directly relevant one for your topic, nor might the shortest one.
  3. Go for variety – now this will naturally depend on your subject, but a couple of book chapters, a journal article, a case report, and a website will probably give you a more rounded view of your topic than just 5 print books, or 5 websites.

All the books are out on loan!

If you’ve left it too late, placing a hold may not do you any good now, but there may be other ways to get what you need…

  1. Seek alternative texts – There is almost always more than one book on a particular topic, one great way of finding these is to click on the subject headings for the book you originally wanted. These are hyperlinks at the bottom of the book record and these take you through to other texts categorised in this topic. Otherwise try keyword searches in Library Search, or seek advice from your Librarian.
  1. Check for e-resources – firstly, is there an e-book of the text you want? If not, perhaps now is the time to explore journal articles on your topic as you can get to these online at any time! Try clicking on the ‘articles’ tab in Library Search or Google Scholar for a start, or searching an appropriate database for your topic.
  2. Scan/copy the bit you need – if it really is a must have, check if there is a copy in short loan, or for reference only in the Library/LG, if you can’t actually take the book away with you, you may still be able to scan or photocopy the bit you need (5% or one chapter max under copyright law).

I’m too busy worrying to actually do anything!

Sometimes I’ve got so much to do and so little time that I can’t decide where to start – so I sort of freeze.  You need to find a way to get things started again…

(Nb. We all get a little panicked at times when deadlines loom and the following tips may help, but if you’re feeling like you need to seek some extra advice and support, don’t forget that there are specific Wellbeing Support Services on offer to help you.)

  1. Find the right space – it may be that a quick vent with a course mate and some reassurance is enough to make you bite the bullet, but if you find you’re spending most of your time doing just this, it may be time to seek out a quiet or silent study zone (floors 3, 4, 5 and the extension on 2).
  2. Start an ‘Up next’ list – when I’m feeling out of time, my brain helpfully sends me constant reminders of extra things I “should have looked at” or “ought to know” – it’s really tempting to get distracted by that thought and start rummaging through your old notes for it instead of finishing the task at hand. With an ‘Up next’ list, you make a note of it, carry on with your current activity (safe in the knowledge you won’t forget this extra one) and assess the list only once you’ve finished.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Whether it’s a friend, tutor or a member of Library staff, a problem shared is a problem halved (and often solved!).

Best of luck with your exams and deadlines!

Image: Hourglass/Nick Olejniczak/CC BY-NC 2.0

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