A few things you might want to know about U of T libraries


Photo by Eva. S. on Flickr

So here you are, at U of T, it’s essay season and you need to do a research paper. Inevitably, the libraries around campus will be your best resource to help you write it. Here are a few basic things that you might (or might not) know about the libraries at U of T.

Borrowing Privileges

  • Loan periods differ from library to library and from person to person depending on whether they are undergrads, grads, alumni borrowers or faculty members. Make sure to check your receipts or online so you don’t incur overdue fines.
  • Maximum number of renewals also differ from library to library.
  • Exceeded your renewal limit? At some of the smaller libraries, they will discharge the book and check it back out again if there aren’t any holds. As for Robarts… well, you could try but don’t get your hopes up.
  • Haven’t paid your tuition fees? When you pay your tuition fees, your library privileges are extended until October 1st of next year. (This also means that you can technically check out books for one month after you’ve graduated). If ROSI hasn’t accepted your payment yet and you’re taking out a book, your due date will be shortened. Don’t worry though, it just means that you have to renew the books a bit earlier than usual. (If you’ve paid your fees that is.)
  • If you’ve graduated from U of T or have continued your studies at another university or you’re a student from another university seeking to use books from U of T libraries, go to Robarts and get a card that allows you to borrow books. You may need to pay a hefty fee although some universities will pay it for you. Please see the T-card office for more information. Also, if you’re alumni from a certain college, you may be able to get an alumni card that will allow you to borrow books from your college library ONLY. Go see the staff at those libraries for details.

Photo by r_r_h_tyc on Flickr

Using the Library

  • Don’t know where a call-number would be? Try checking the signs by the elevator. That’s usually where the information is. (Or ask at the desk.)
  • If there’s a book whose status is in library on the catalogue but not on the shelves, check the sorting shelves. If they’re not there and if you’re in a small library, ask at the desk and see if it was very recently returned. If that doesn’t work, some libraries will allow you to file a search request where they will try and look for the book for you.
  • Ok, so according to the catalogue, this book isn’t due back until about a month later but I really need it. What do I do?” Every person has the right to borrow a book for at least 2 weeks unless it’s a short-term loan/course reserve. After 2 weeks, books are subject to an item recall. So if someone has already got a book for two weeks and you need it, go to a librarian (preferably a member of the day staff rather than library student assistants) and request a recall and the person who has the book will be forced to relinquish it unless they want a fine. This is especially helpful when you’re in first and second year and EVERYONE is doing the same essay topics in a history or poli-sci class of about 200 people. Although since many people don’t know about the recall, you can also capitalize on their lack of knowledge by checking out resources early.
  • Food and drink policies are different at every library. Be sure to check them or you might end up finding yourself berated by a librarian, or worse, have your food taken away.
  • “Oh no! I returned a book to the wrong library!” Libraries can check out or discharge books from other libraries, HOWEVER if you return a book to the wrong library, one of two things will happen:

A) The librarian or library will be very nice and discharge the book, which will then go into an “in transit” mode where it cannot be checked out until it returns to its home library. Nonetheless, the only thing that matters is that the book is off your account and assuming you’ve returned it on time, you won’t get any fines. This is rather rare.

B) The librarian or library will place the book in a box without discharging it. The books will be returned to their home libraries to be discharged there. This process takes about 3 to 4 business days so if your book was due the day you returned it or a few days after, you might just incur some fines. This is often the case and Robarts is one of the libraries that consistently does this.

  • You can only place a hold on a book if the book is checked out. Priority is given to people who actually come in to pick up the book. Books from UTSC and UTM can only be put on hold if all the copies on the entire U of T St. George campus are check out.
  • There is so much to learn about the libraries, but if you ever need any help or have any questions, the librarians SHOULD be pleased to help you. If you’re a first year with tons of questions, I suggest you go to a smaller library to ask your questions.
  • Libraries are NOT RESPONSIBLE for lost or stolen items. Please aware of your belongings as ALL libraries at U of T have problems with laptop and wallet/bag thefts, especially at the beginning of the semester.

Photo from here

Research

  • Reference services are your best friend if you don’t know how to start your research. The librarians are there to help you find materials that could be helpful. At Robarts, there is a floor for reference with staff who should be willing to help you find materials for your paper. At the smaller libraries, there might be a reference desk near the front desk.
  • Some advantages of the Library of Congress organizational system for library books? Books on very similar topics will be grouped together. Sometimes you can try looking for sources by finding one book and call-number in the catalogue and then look at all the books around that first book on the shelf. However, beware of the OISE library because that library uses mainly the Dewey Decimal system (the system used at the Toronto Public Library).
  • Did you want a very specific book or author? Rather than skimming through a huge list of books and clicking about 5 filters on the left side of the screen after typing a query into the search bar, try putting the words in quotation marks. When you type in search terms without quotation marks, you do a keyword search, so the catalogue will pull up books with the search terms scattered about the title/subject/author. When you add in those quotation marks, the search engine will do an EXACT search where it will look for the term in that exact order in the title/subject/author.

Example: when you type advanced mathematics (without the quotation marks) into the search bar and search, your first two entries will be: “Mathematics (2 records)” and “Mathematics : grade 12 (advanced level) : a report card for Ontario.” However, when you type, “Advanced mathematics” (with quotation marks) and do a search, your first two entries will be: “Secondary school advanced mathematics : Student’s text” and “Reddick, Harry Wilfred, 1883-. Advanced mathematics for engineers, (3 records)“. See the difference?

Photo by ronnie.yip on Flickr

Fines

  • Have fines? Well, I can’t say anything that would make them go away but what I can say is to pay them at a library you like. Proceeds from fines go to the general upkeep of the library.
  • If you’ve returned a book and are absolutely sure that you’ve returned it BUT it says in the system that it’s still checked-out and you’ve checked the sorting shelves and the stacks numerous times, you can get a librarian to file a ‘Claims returned’ notice. The staff will look for the book but if it isn’t found after a certain period, you may be subject to paying the fine for book replacements. If you are going to contest a fine though, DO NOT PAY IT or the entire issue will be considered settled and over.
  • Returned a book ONE day late? Don’t worry, unless the book is a short-term loan/course reserve, you usually have a 1 day period of grace. That’s why it’s rare for people to have 50 cent fines.
  • Speaking of short-term loans/course reserves, did you know that fines for these materials are 50 cents PER HOUR over the due date?
  • Contrary to the urban legend, if you still have fines at the end of your last year, you can still graduate. You just won’t be able to order any transcripts until you pay your fines.
  • Lost a book? Lost book fines differ from library to library. At Robarts however, I believe it’s an automatic $240 charge. (Correct me if I’m wrong). Lesson: losing books = bad and expensive.

Anyways, I wish you all well and hope you survive essay season!

6 comments for “A few things you might want to know about U of T libraries

  1. Peter
    October 4, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    What library was that last picture from???

  2. Jasmine
    October 5, 2010 at 12:05 am

    Jess, you are my hero for writing this.

    And I believe that’s the Thomas Fisher Rare Books Lib.

  3. October 5, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Whoa Jess! THIS IS AMAZING!! I seriously didn’t know probably more than half of the stuff you wrote here. Did you do research just for this post or do you just know this from experience?

    AMAZING. THANK YOU!

  4. October 8, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    @Peter: It’s the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library

  5. nadine
    October 17, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    robarts lost fine is $145 regardless of the actual cost of the book. other libraries have their own set of rules. For example, trinity library charges you the cost of the book, plus a 45 admin fee.

  6. Ran
    April 17, 2011 at 2:00 am

    the last library is amazing

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