Questus Libris: An Apocalyptic Survival Guide to Finding Academic Resources
A Personal Narrative by Heidi Garcia
The year is 2019. Amongst the wasteland of pilfered PDF files, Wikipedia cited as a reliable source, and budding academics struggling to find time for assignments fueled by draughts of coffee, the world of UNC is a perilous place. Parental guidance? None. Detailed assignment guidelines? No…instead: Creative Freedom. Plagiarism detection software lurks in plain sight. A constant reminder that Our Ideas Are Not Alone (not to mention someone has probably already written a book, podcast, serial, magazine run, newspaper campaign, grocery store ad, and phone book directory on your topic). In such a world, what is a student to do in the search for particular texts for their ENGL137 class?
Well, lucky for you, as a Senior, I have already stuck my neck out and learned how to survive this altered landscape and have created this handy 5 Step Guide to help you survive. May the databases be ever in your favor…
Rule 1 — Find a bunker and use it well. You need a home-base, somewhere that you can lie undetected and safe from the lurking Panic. Hoard your resources there and treasure them. Spend a lot of time there. Acclimate and become strong, that way when you go out, you can fight to right our perilous world. You may not know everything it contains originally, some of it will be more than you can handle at first, some of it may even be dangerous, but don’t run. This is the first beast you must tame. Don’t give up.
Rule 2 — Be Prepared. Take everything you might need but (there’s always a “but”) be careful not to weigh yourself down. Don’t collect every book on your topic, or download every free copy of Poe’s works, otherwise you will drown in the Sea of Information
Rule 3 — Watch out for pirates. Oh yes, here there be pirates. E-book pirates are especially rampant. Be wary of the tools you trust. Don’t just take any old sword and don’t just download any old version of the book you need. Old books, especially those that have been moved to the public domain are notorious for bad formatting, inaccurate translations, or abridged or edited versions that detract from the original work.
Rule 4 — Document EVERYTHING. You never know what wayward soul will come across your work and need it to survive themselves. Nothing is ever “just” a paper. We’re at a school of academic legends, treat every assignment as such!
Rule 5 — Find your tribe. Contrary to what the usual apocalypse narrative is (but consider who is still alive here (little old me)), you can’t do it alone. Find your team and keep them close. You need people to watch your back and teach you academic ninja moves.
But, what does all this look like in real-life?
Lucky for you, I am featured in this handy-dandy video of my own bunker-home-base, the Robert B. House Undergraduate Library:
This is my secret for navigating the perilous Sea of Information—and I’m sharing this deeply coveted secret as I prepare to depart one death-defying setting for another, a frozen tundra of flatlands and even more coffee. A place known as Dakota of the North—and where I accessed every resource for this class (minus the texts available through Sakai that our lovely professor provided us). I am a lucky soul, who has found each of the 5 Survival Steps in one place on campus. Within the library, both working there and as a user, I have been kindly counselled about making critical choices about sources, utilizing the library landscape and Library of Congress call number system, second opinions, textual guides, and advice on reliable editions, citation formats, and brainstorming sessions. Most of my best friends on campus are also there, offering me the support of friends, resources, information, and employment all in one convenient place!
Stereotypically for apocalyptic narratives, I have accumulated a deep fondness for this foreign landscape I have learned to navigate. A place that once seemed so overwhelming and out of my depth has become a place of comfort and community. A place that, when tasked with acquiring resources for ENGL137, I did not have to think twice about how I would proceed. Education, whether within my fictional apocalypse (I really had you going, right?), or not, is a true gift, and I feel not only blessed, but privileged to count you all amongst my AANT (Apocalyptic Academic Ninja Troupe). Thanks for fighting academic zombies and pirates with me. I’ll never forget you.
UNC University Libraries. R.B. House Undergraduate Library. UNC, 2019. Accessed 8 April 2019. https://library.unc.edu/house/