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Library Resources for Students

This guide has been designed to help students use the Lexington Public Library to do homework and research projects. Students working at home and students planning to come to the library can benefit from this guide. You will need a library card to access some of the materials.

How can I prepare to do research at the library?

Have a clear idea of your assignment, even if you haven’t selected a topic. Know when your assignment is due, and what kinds of sources you will need (books, magazine articles, encyclopedia articles, etc.). Try to visit the library as early as possible to scope out what is available and see if you will need to request materials from other branches or libraries.


How can I get help?

The library staff is here to help you. They can show you how to use the catalogs and databases, point you to helpful materials, suggest how you might search to find the best sources available and talk you through your options. The librarians cannot do your homework for you, proofread your assignments or tell you what your assignment is.

Even if you are not at the library you can get help from a librarian. You can call telephone reference at (859) 231-5520 or use Ask A Librarian to get answers to brief factual questions ("When was Lincoln president?") or suggestions for your search.


Where can I find books to help me with my research?

The library’s catalog lists books and other materials in the library system. You can search by author, title, subject or keyword. By browsing through the books you find, you can learn general ideas about your topic through chapter headings and indexes. Other sources of information often can be found in the bibliographies or works-cited lists at the end of most books.

Once you select a book from the catalog, you can go get it from the shelves or place it on reserve if it is at another branch. In the Central Library, New and Popular books are located on the first floor. The second floor houses fiction, DVDs, audiobooks, music and the Young People’s Department.

The third floor is the Reference Department, which includes the database computers, periodicals and the Kentucky Room. The fourth floor is the home of non-fiction, oversized books, biographies and public computers.


What if the Library doesn’t own a book I need?

LPL has several resources to help you obtain the materials you need, even if they are not owned by the library. OCLC’s Worldcat is an online database that can search for materials in thousands of libraries worldwide. The Kentucky Virtual Library’s catalog collection will allow you to search the catalogs of many Kentucky public and academic libraries. Once you locate an item, you can use Interlibrary Loan to have the item sent to Lexington Public Library. (This usually takes a week or so -- one of the reasons it’s best to start your research early.)


Where can I find magazine and newspaper articles to help me with my research?

The library owns hundreds of magazines and newspapers in print and on microfilm. You can also use the online database EBSCO Host to search for full text and abstracts of periodical articles covering the fields of sociology, religion, psychology, education, agriculture, health and more.  If the library does not own an article you need for your assignment, you may be able to obtain it through Interlibrary Loan. (It can take a week or longer to get an article through ILL.)


Where can I find encyclopedias, literary criticism, biographical sketches, book reviews, statistics and other factual information?

The reference department contains all of these types of materials including:

  • General and subject encyclopedias
  • Vertical files that contain clippings and pamphlets
  • Biographical dictionaries with information about people
  • Almanacs and yearbooks that list annual events, statistics and interesting facts
  • Statistics of many kinds to support opinions and research


Can’t I just do all my research on the Internet?

Using the Internet for research can be tricky. Websites aren’t the best source of information for most topics. While there are a lot of good websites out there, many have problems. Some common problems with web sites include:

  • Bias - Some websites are put up by people who only want you to hear one side of the story. They may leave out information or distort facts to make you see things their way.
  • Timeliness - Some web sites may start out with good information, but never get updated, so their information becomes out-of-date.
  • Accuracy - Some websites contain information that is just plain wrong. Magazines and newspapers are usually checked over by editors and fact-checkers. Anyone can put up a web site, and the majority are not checked by anyone.


So where do I go to find good web sites?

Luckily for you, the library is always on the lookout for good web sites. We’ve collected and arranged a couple hundred of them by subject in our Internet Links section. There are a bunch more that we think will be especially helpful for homework assignments (for younger students) in our Homework Help section.

If you don’t find what you need there, the Scout Report or Internet Public Library are good, free websites for locating other websites with good information.

If none of the above websites work for you, you’ll probably want to use a search engine like Google or Bing. Not all search engines are created equal. Some place the results of sites that pay them higher than good sites that don’t. To find out how your favorite search engine compares, check Search Engine Showdown.


How do I cite my sources?

Check with your instructor to see which style guide you should use. There are several popular style guides, including The Chicago Manual of Style, APA Guide and others.  The library owns copies of these guides.


My report’s due tomorrow and the library is closed-Help!

There are resources available to help you, even when the library is closed. Almost all of the databases in LPL’s database collection can be accessed at home using your library card. You can use these databases to find magazine articles, reference book articles, pamphlets and facts. All you need to do is enter your library card number and PIN when prompted. Your PIN is usually the last four digits of your phone number.