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University libraries and the postgraduate student: physical and virtual spaces

Colin Beard (Freelance Consultant, Bournemouth, UK)
David Bawden (Centre for Information Science, City University London, London, UK)

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 29 September 2012




This study aims to examine the library/information issues affecting graduate students, both those on taught courses and those undertaking research. It seeks to focus specifically on their perceptions of the value to them of physical and digital resources and spaces, and how well their needs were being met.


An online questionnaire survey of students was complemented by a series of face‐to‐face interviews with library staff.


This group of students are different from undergraduates, whose information behaviour has more often been studied. They require silent study space, are enthusiastic book borrowers, and have limited interest in social media in the library. They have a strong requirement for digital resources and IT support, and are not inclined to ask for assistance from librarians.

Research limitations/implications

The study is limited to three English universities, although they are sufficiently varied in nature to make the results more widely applicable.

Practical implications

The survey provides evidence for librarians in universities and colleges serving graduate students as to the best form of provision, and for any library seeking to make best use of its space as resources become increasingly digital.


This is one of the few studies to examine the information behaviour and needs of advanced students. It contributes to the debate on the future of the library as place in a digital age.



Beard, C. and Bawden, D. (2012), "University libraries and the postgraduate student: physical and virtual spaces", New Library World, Vol. 113 No. 9/10, pp. 439-447.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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