Librarians are just the job

November 20, 2014

As I sit in the Medical Library of the University of Cambridge pondering the outbreak of the Ebola virus, a librarian is giving skills training to two postgraduates, one postgrad is writing a paper and three others are surrounded by online resources with an IT expert alongside.

When “Hundreds vie for every early career position” (News, 6 November), it is vital that postgraduates are “informed and competitive”. If a student in the final year of a PhD is seeking a postdoctoral fellowship, their university library and its information scientists become a valuable resource.

Many students do not bother to visit their library. They (and weak supervisors) do not understand that to get that fellowship they need a good understanding of their wider field, the institutions that lead in their area, and at least some publication output. Librarians are good at helping with all three areas, especially steering novice authors to relevant journals and their submission requirements. So many fledgling authors become discouraged unnecessarily when they send a manuscript to the wrong publication, or when ruthless editors (like me) tell them that they have to follow a particular structure and house style.

The waiting period ahead of a PhD viva is a good time for students to network at conferences or special lectures, and a good subject library will advertise these (and even find out which are free to attend). So love your librarians…they are hoping that you will call.

Woody Caan
Editor, Journal of Public Mental Health

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