Monday, 5 May 2014

The Harry Potter Room, Puppets, and More: 8 Reasons to love the U of A Libraries

An academic library is integral to any post-secondary education, but sometimes students aren’t fully conscious of the wonders of these highly resourceful public knowledge chambers. Whether it’s the aptly-named and fantastical Harry Potter Room or access to the Bruce Peel Special Collections Library which contains one-of-a-kind documents and research projects, the U of A Libraries will assuredly tap into and expand your intellectual curiosity and academic potential. With the help of Chief Librarian Gerald Beasley, I have compiled a list of eight reasons to fall head over heels for our fantastic U of A libraries.

1. The Sheer Size of the Collection

The U of A boasts the second largest collection (over 11 million volumes) of any academic library in Canada, proving that the amount of literature waiting to be devoured for our educational and leisurely purposes is vast and diverse. Whether you need a monograph on Confucianism in early modern China or a copy of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, or anything else in-between, you will not be disappointed. The Campus St. Jean library even allows educations students to borrow puppets to be used with small children! These luxuries will undoubtedly allow you to acquire the best sources and material for your term papers, research essays, book reviews, and class projects — so take advantage of it!

2. There’s unprecedented access to public library systems

EPL Go @ UAlberta

If the U of A’s expansive repertoire doesn’t contain the text that you’re eager to read, don’t fret because they’ll be able to get it for you. Beasley explained that the university’s libraries are closely linked to the Edmonton Public Library system and other libraries in Canada and around the globe through the Inter-Library Loans and Document Delivery department. These services are often useful if you’re looking for leisurely, non-academic resources. There is an EPLgo branch located on the first floor of Cameron Library where you can use your ONECard to access the EPL’s collection for free.

3. Resources are just a click away

Soooooo many online databases

A vast majority of the U of A Library’s materials are available online through the NEOS catalogue as well as many other databases like Academic Search Complete and The National Film Board of Canada. The Library subscribes to hundreds of ebooks, ejournals, and databases, which include access to films, monographs, textbooks, and peer-reviewed articles. They also offer other services like access to “RefWorks” and other citation tools to help you complete your papers efficiently and correctly. In addition, all your library-related queries can be answered online via live chat services. You can also search for books and study spaces on eClass or find library hours. These resources are all available for free at — so take the time to familiarize yourself with the website!

4. They transcend physical boundaries

Puppets and Libraries = Yes

Libraries at UAlberta

The Harry Potter Room and Other Library Spaces at UAlberta

The U of A has eight major libraries on three different campuses — North Campus, the Augustana Campus Library and Bibliothèque Saint-Jean. The libraries on the main campus include the Rutherford Humanities and Social Sciences Library, the H.T. Coutts Education and Physical Education Library, Cameron Science and Technology Library, the John W. Scott Health Sciences Library, the John A. Weir Law Library and the Winspear Business Library. Abandon the notion that libraries must be confined to one physical location and visit any of these specialized libraries for all of your academic needs!

5. Diverse and desirable study environments

Unique Study Spaces in the UAlberta Libraries

Above all, I think a universal U of A experience entails studying, or cramming, in one of the many convenient study spaces located in each of the aforementioned libraries. The study environments are differentiated by noise level, from silent areas to common areas, to meet your most productive study atmosphere. Some are even open 24/7, usually during exam seasons. Our libraries also provide us with access to computers and group study rooms to help you complete your projects and assignments with ease.

6. Convenience: The Hold System

The Reserve Room - UAlberta Libraries

One of my favourite aspects of the U of A Libraries is the hold system available online. You simply browse through the catalogue for a book in the comfort of your home and place a hold to have it brought to any library you desire. You don’t even have to look for the book on the shelf, that’ll all be done for you by the wonderful library staff.

7. Access to expert Librarians

Tim Gunn Meme
Image courtesy of Academic Tim Gunn

The U of A Libraries have librarian experts for all academic subjects, with specializations in the fields of study offered by the university. These helpful individuals are especially resourceful when you’re looking for material on a topic that may be vague or highly specific — they’ll be sure to lead you on the right path in-person or through e-mail.

8. We get to shape what they look like

Building a Library... with Lego
Image courtesy of

Lastly, a significant factor in building a great library system is attention to patron needs and suggestions. Chief Librarian Gerald Beasley is eager to obtain feedback from students who access any of the library’s services in order to determine areas of improvement or to optimize popular resources. They want to wholeheartedly emphasize the role students and other users have in developing this unique library system, so don’t hesitate to share your thoughts. Contact information can be found here.


About the Author

Hey! My name’s Billy – a second year arts student still scavenging through the course catalog for that perfect major. I’ve recently developed a passion for journalism, professional writing and communications and hope to grow along with the team at YouAlberta. If I’m not engrossed in the latest episode of Big Brother you’ll probably find me being too emotionally invested in The Amazing Race or laughing at inappropriate jokes on the Internet.

When not feeding my reality TV addiction or scurrying to finish my latest assigned reading, I’ll be searching our campus for the most intriguing stories about diversity, academic success and the quirks that make our university the gem that it is. As a student communicator I hope to foster a stronger sense of community and belonging by sharing sentimental and inclusive stories to tap into the shared sense of pride we all uphold – I hope you join me!



  1. You don't mention the St. Joseph's College Library, but there is a picture of it above. One of the hidden gems on campus.

  2. The HT Coutts Education library also lends puppets, not just Bibliotheque St Jean! Staff are super friendly, no matter where I go on campus to find resources. If you're stuck, just ask the people at the desk. They may look busy but 99% of the time they aren't and they're more than happy to help you find what you need, online or in the stacks!


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