Five Ways to Maximise Your Usage of Manchester Libraries!

by | Mar 5, 2024 | My studies, Student voice | 0 comments

Rory Bishop gives us five top tips on getting the most out of Manchester’s many wonderful libraries

Manchester has 24 public libraries. The John Rylands has over 250,000 printed volumes and one million pieces of archival material. The University Library holds over four million books and manuscripts, with an additional 41,000 electronic journals.

Understandably, this is quite overwhelming and knowing how to best use all the resources in as little as three years can be tricky. Over my three years at university I have found a few ways to (realistically) tackle this in ways that best use your tuition and help you take advantage of the sheer breadth of material at your disposal. Here are five of those strategies.

1. Request Books

When faced with so much material the idea of requesting more might seem somewhat counterintuitive, but it’s actually a great way to avoid wasting time on materials that might only be semi-relevant to your research. The university library offers to purchase eBooks for requested material, and physical books if the digital equivalents are unavailable. When swamped by so much material it is important to minimise time spent reading periphery material, so contacting the library and ensuring you have the most relevant material is crucial, especially for textbooks or key course materials.

2. Support Your Local Libraries

As an English and History student it is often easy to feel like I’m inundated in academic literature, resulting in an urge to sideline reading for pleasure. This neglects the range of great fiction books at the University Library. Local Mancunian libraries are also great sources of popular fiction material worth supporting. Of the two dozen in Manchester the Fallowfield Community Library, Didsbury Library and Withington Library are all accessible spaces near student accommodation and housing. These council libraries, including the central library, only require one regional library card and carry a range of material including cookbooks and graphic novels whilst also providing useful study space. Using local libraries doesn’t have to stop after university either because supporting your local library, Manchester or not, is invaluable to the community.

3. Make Use of eBooks

My single piece of advice for eBooks is to download them. Even if you don’t immediately read them, building a personal library of material helps you take advantage of a wide variety of academic content. Whether your interests are pop culture or counterculture, by saving any and all content of interest you can come back to it later, including after university. I have also found this incredibly useful when it comes to picking modules, dissertation topics and broadening general knowledge.

4. Inquire into the Archives

While not immediately apparent for those not studying History or an adjacent subject, Manchester has a very extensive range of archival material on local and national history! Many of these archives can be accessed through the Central Library, and some of them are digitised. They are a great way to specifically engage with local history, whether you’re a full-time Mancunian or temporary student resident. A notable example is the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE (Race Archives and Community Engagement) Centre, which has extensive documents on topics such as the 1981 Moss Side Riots and oral history collections on the 1945 Pan-African Congress held in Manchester.

5. Explore all the different libraries

It’s easy to find yourself spending all your time in the Campus library. Don’t let this keep you from looking around the others. The Central Library has a wonderful reading room, which is spectacularly silent if you need to knuckle down to do some especially gruelling work. It took me an embarrassingly lengthy amount of time before I visited The John Rylands Library and I am still yet to visit the Portico library, which I have heard great things about. Whether dropping in for a piece of cake at their cafes or to see their various exhibitions they are well worth devoting the time to.