Digital libraries wasted

I would hazard a guess that quite a few USC students have bathed in the fluorescent glow of Leavey Library during the early hours of the morning the night before an important midterm or a project deadline.

But it was probably not to pore over forgotten tomes of literature, browse piles of yellow research papers or read a copy of Vogue magazine from the early 1900s — all courtesy of USC’s digital library.

In mid-July, USC added 33 new electronic resources to USC Libraries’ already extensive collection, which is easily accessible through USC Libraries’ E-Resources page. In July 2010, USC announced the purchase of 59 online resources, including subscriptions to several research databases.

Most students are, however, oblivious to the newest online resource additions. They also grossly underutilize the libraries resources — especially the very substantial number of e-resources and database subscriptions USC provides.

Students should take more advantage of the number of digital libraries that the university provides in order to have more success in their academics.

Often, students only frequent the libraries for a quiet place to study, to use a computer or to print. USC appears to be well aware of the evolution toward online resources and has continually updated its subscriptions to educational databases or purchased additional e-resources to encourage student research. Whether students use these resources, however, is another case.

Most students should make themselves aware that USC has 23 libraries, more than half of which are on the University Park Campus. Most USC students are completely inexperienced in using USC’s digital resources, more commonly relying on search engines for academic research, even when there is a wealth of resources at their fingertips through the USC Libraries.

From 2009 to 2010, USC had more than 900,000 e-books, e-journals and USC Libraries Digital Archive items, according to the Libraries. USC Libraries also processed approximately 20,000 electronic reference transactions, about 20 percent of the total reference transactions for the fiscal year.

Digital resource utilization might be underwhelming at the moment, probably because students are unaware of available resources, but USC has continued to expand its collections.

From personal experience, these articles and publications are often more in-depth, credible and thorough than those that can be found through a routine Google search.

The university must now make an attempt to further publicize the numerous online journals and databases so students can take advantage of these beneficial services that the university offers.

In their future career, students will have to research subjects related to their work more often than they might imagine. On the more professional levels, in fact, a basic search-engine query might not return any suitable results. Students should acquaint themselves with the databases USC subscribes to, most of which are common and highly regarded in the professional world.

Students should take full advantage of what USC has to offer and should familiarize themselves with USC Libraries’ online databases as well as their other resources USC Libraries might want to consider publicizing its collections more effectively so more students know about them. Perhaps then the next research paper or project might not require an overnight stay in Leavey.


Rebecca Gao is a sophomore majoring in global health and biological studies. 

4 replies
  1. Dan
    Dan says:

    Great article. As a science major, I need regular access to journal articles which would be prohibitively expensive to buy one by one. I have never encountered a situation where USC didn’t have access to the article, which is pretty amazing. You name it, they’ve got it. More people need to learn about it.

    Luckily, a couple of my courses have made a point of scheduling library classes. But I think USC orientations should include a required library education seminar. That way we’d ensure everyone would know about the resources at their disposal.

  2. Hugh McHarg
    Hugh McHarg says:

    Hello, Rebecca.

    I’m the executive director of communications and public programming at the USC Libraries, and we couldn’t agree more about the value of the authoritative research resources we provide, online and off. Thank you for this great call to action for our community.

    We offer several ways for students to begin finding and using the libraries’ subscription resources:

    Research guides by subject area:

    A complete guide to electronic databases:

    In-person and online research help:

    If anyone has questions or would like help finding or using any of the USC Libraries’ collections in print or online, we have many subject-specialists ready to help:

    Thanks once again for your excellent perspective on the importance of credible, scholarly resources to student research.

  3. Brian Helstien
    Brian Helstien says:

    I am part of a team which maintains the various subscriptions, linking programs and on campus & off campus access authentication mechanisms. There are literally hundreds of databases, thousands of full text books and journals available via the web to USC faculty, staff and students from anywhere in the world. While these resources may be under utilized by students, our access statistics show that there were more than 1.5 million used in the previous fiscal year (I haven’t yet finished statistics for the fiscal just concluded).
    We have worked with faculty to enable them to integrate these materials into their courses (and into Blackboard), we have developed targeted subject specific “LibGuides” with specific links to related materials available at and we do note about 3,000 logins to access these materials per day.

  4. Jim Sherman
    Jim Sherman says:

    Rebecca, your article is right on. I’ve just recently retired after 40 years as a librarian. The last few libraries I worked in were rich in academic electronic resources. Yet the students seemed to ignore them in favor of Google and other search engines, and Wikipedia, which several instructors told their classes was not recognized as a valid source. Seems almost wasteful to subscribe to these services which students seem to ignore. Hopefully, things will change. Great article!!

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