How to Navigate the Secrets and Mysteries of the UChicago Libraries

A guest post by Bill Hutchison (MAPH ’12), an enthusiastic library patron, one of last year’s mentors, and a current PhD candidate in English at UChicago.  Bill will also talking with Matti Bunzl at today’s The Work of a Humanist: A Conversation with Matti Bunzl (PhD ’98).


Go towards the light!!


“Libraries raised me.”
—Isaac Asimov

The UChicago library system is—as it should be—a labyrinthine construct with countless treasures, secrets, and codes. Discovering what it holds and how to access it can be one of the great pleasures of graduate school. If you, like me, take tremendous joy from learning how to wield your library to your own wild, intellectual ends, take note: herein I will share with you some of my discoveries.


Recall, UBorrow, and BorrowDirect.
Never recall a book. Just don’t do it. There’s no need. You’re snatching a book out of the hands of another student—and god forbid if they see you with the book. You’re likely to end up in a recall war (in which you each get the book for two weeks before having to return it—it’s even worse when there are more than two people involved in the recall war). Instead, use UBorrow or BorrowDirect. You’ll get the books faster than if you recall them, in most cases, and books requested from UBorrow and BorrowDirect are immune from being recalled!


UBorrow books come from a consortium of regional university libraries. UBorrow books get here in 4-5 days, and you can keep them for 12 weeks. You can usually renewthem if needed and keep them for another month.

BorrowDirect, a recent addition to the UChicago library toolbox, gives you access to the libraries of the Ivies. They usually show up in about 4-5 days. BorrowDirect books are yours for twelve weeks, but can’t be renewed. (They can, however, be requested again.)


Scan & Deliver
This is the second most amazing service of the library, after the magnificent interlibrary loan system. Scan & Deliver allows you to request that the library scan a section of pages of a book in the stacks for you. Whether you need an article or a chapter or what-have-you, ask them for it. You’ll usually have it within three or four days. Then you’ll have your very own PDF copy! And you won’t have to write in library books like a jerk.

special collections

Special Collections
“What did I do today? Oh, nothing. Just looked through an original edition of Pride & Prejudice and checked out some original letters that James Joyce wrote. You?” Which is to say that the Special Collections Resource Center has an incredible collection of rare books, manuscripts, archives, and other materials. You can actually touch and use them for your research. It’s amazing.
Watch a Movie
The library also has a massive circulating DVD collection. When you finally freak out from work overload and find yourself huddled in a fetal position on your couch, remember: free movies!


More than the Regenstein
Don’t forget that the University has SIX libraries. Regenstein is the main one, but the Mansueto (space dome robot library) has a jillion volumes hidden deep in the earth, Crerar has an incredible collection of science-oriented materials (need a circulating volume on animal architecture from 1888? what about a circulating volume of the first English translation of Claude Bernard’s vivisection manual?), the SSA has scads of volumes of social theory and the like, and the law library has…well, I don’t know. I’ve never been in there. Law books, I assume. But you get the picture.
The library system at UChicago is like a big Swiss army knife. Once you figure out what all the tools on it actually do, it can be surprisingly useful. Explore it, talk to librarians, and figure out how to make the library open itself up to your curiosity.

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