Get Schooled: How to Navigate the Main Library

13 Sep

The University of Arizona is an enormous campus. With over 40,000 students, it may be more populated than some of your hometowns. Navigating the campus can be extremely intimidating, and it’s totally understandable. Even as junior at the U of A, I still get lost roaming around campus trying to find my professors during their office hours.

The Main Library is one of the places I find most intimidating to navigate. The library, to me, seems like a dark and mind-altering labyrinth. It reminds me of the 1986 movie “Labyrinth.” If you haven’t seen it, I don’t blame you. David Bowie, mullets, synth music.  Need I say more?  But basically, this is how I see the library…

Scary right? This is why it could be intimidating. You might not be sure exactly where you are going, or what’s hiding around those dark corridors.

If you haven’t visited the main library yet, don’t worry—you’ll eventually spend a long, sleepless night studying for those chemistry or biology exams .

The library can seem terrifying, but once you know the basics, you’re good to go. Hopefully, after you read this blog, the library won’t seem like a twisted place only navigated by people who have a lot of time, and hairspray, on their hands.

Let’s start with the essentials.

How to check out a book: This seems so simple right? Everyone knows how to check out a library book. But walking in and seeing five stories of books can be intimidating. Where do you start? On each floor, there are service computers where you can access the online catalogue to find the call number for the book you’re looking for. The main catalogue looks like this:


The call number will help you find the book you’re looking for in the maze of shelves. Also, just as a side note, you can do this from home as well, and come prepared with your call number.

When you pull up the main catalogue, you have several options. You can search by “Books,” “Articles,” “Media,” “Keywords,” “Title,” “Author,” or “Subject.”

For example, I’m studying Middle Eastern and North African history, and I want to find a book about Syria (since Syria is a hot topic at the moment, I want to learn more about their history with the U.S.). I could type “Syria” in the search engine box. All of the possible results that the library has available will show up instantly.


If you need to be a bit more specific, you can refine your search. On the left side is where you narrow your search by category. Once you’ve found a book, the next step is to find the call number, which every book has. This is crucial since you need this number to find the book.

The call number will soon appear towards the bottom of the screen.  Once you have found the number you are ready take the adventure to find your book.


How to look for your book: Each floor of the library has a Call Number locators, usually near the elevators. You can always look online to see where the call number is located before you come in as well. If you have difficulties finding your call number the first time, DON’T WORRY. It takes practice. I still can’t find it on the first time, and often wander the aisles trying to find the right one. The main idea is to know which floor your book is on.  There are five floors in the main library, and here is a link to get a detailed map of each floor.

Checking Out: After finding your book you can go back to the second floor to check out your books. There are computer-like scanners located right in front the main entrance. To check out library books you will need your CatCard, so be prepared! If you need assistance checking out a book, just turn around, and the help/information desk is right behind the checkout computers. As a student, you can check out 75 books at a time for 21 days.  If you need the books for a longer period of time, you’re more than welcome to renew your books up to 12 times.

However, if you don’t renew your books within that time period there could be a fee charged to your account. Review the late fee policy.

Article & Database Catalogue: As a student, you have access to an amazing online catalogue that most people don’t know about. If you’re looking for primary sources for a research paper, or just a simple essay, this is an excellent resource. One of the greatest perks of the online catalogue is that you can use it from your personal laptop.

Reserving Quiet Study Rooms: Did you know you can reserve study rooms in the library? Study rooms are located in the Main library, Science Engineering library, and the Fine Arts library.  All you have to do is reserve on ahead of time. First, go to, click on the “Services” tab, and then click on “Study Space & Computing.” Then, all you have to do is click on “Reserve a study room.” You will need your NetId and Password.


Computer Lab: If your computer ever crashes, or you simply don’t have a computer for whatever reason, don’t panic, the UA has your back. In the Main Library, there is a computer lab available for your use. The computer lab is located on the first floor in the main library. Also, there are printers available in the computer lab. Unfortunately, there is a small fee to print, depending on how large your printing job is. If you need any further information, check out this link.

Phew…. That was a lot of information to take in at once, but it’s necessary information because at some point in your undergraduate career, you will need to take the plunge and visit the library.

The best part about knowing the basics on how to use the Main Library is that you can apply these skills in all the other libraries on campus. Yes, there is more than one library on campus. There are exactly five libraries on campus. The main library has more of a general collection, while the other libraries focus more one of area of study.

Check out:

The Science-Engineering Library


Fine Arts

and Other Libraries and Collections

It’s wonderful that the U of A has such an amazing collection of resources in all these libraries. With that said, I hope your next trip to the library won’t be too intimidating or confusing. Until next time, Wildcats. And remember, always BEAR DOWN!  Just remember to Bear Down quietly in the library – shhhhh!


–Valeria Martinez


One Response to “Get Schooled: How to Navigate the Main Library”


  1. Research Paper – Check! | Student Affairs Outreach - November 19, 2013

    […] start pulling resources. The library can be a bit intimidating, but you can always refer back to Valeria’s blog about using the library from earlier this year. She’ll walk you through […]

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