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MeLCat is a great way to access books, but you can use it to do more than just build up a bibliography. The Michigan eLibrary, or MeLCat, is a library system that provides content to Michigan residents and students. The eLibrary provides access to millions of books, movies, magazines, music, and articles with the touch of a button and some login information.

The best education is still found in the books– which often aren’t free. This is where MeLCat comes in. This database and interlibrary loan system contains millions of resources, so what you need can be in your hands within a week. It may take some searching, but you can find the occasional jewel.

Here are six smart ways you can use MeLCat:

1. You can find virtually any book with the MeLCat system

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MeLCat is connected to over 400 libraries in Michigan, each with their own collections. All of these books are available to Hillsdale students. The only media you can’t check out are rare books, dissertations, microforms, and prepublication articles.

Mossey Library offers us a wide variety of critical essays, historical accounts, and other intellectual texts, but it lacks some popular books, and often published works from the past 4 years. While we have a decent selection of movies, dozens of other libraries will have more cinema than we can store. Odds are that the media that you want is lurking in another library.

2. Checking out guilty pleasure items has never been easier

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Nervous about someone catching you checking out that chess game strategy book?  The only person that can see your nerdy joy will be the bored library worker, or perhaps your puzzled roommate.

3. Research obscure topics that Mossey library doesn’t cover.

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There is always more to learn that extends beyond your classes. Once I declared my major, I wanted to know everything about what I was studying. The whole world opened up to me once I began checking out items from MeLCat. I found books on obscure art and art genres that have only surfaced within the past two years. Learning does not always come from the classroom, but from a genuine interest and your own passion.

4. MeLCat has out-of-print books available

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As an art major from a college in the middle of nowhere, the closest I can get to the great works of the masters is reproductions in art books. Buying these large full-color books is out of the question, but MeLCat has a wide selection of art books that I could never see without access to other libraries. I might not ever be able to buy an obscure out-of-print book, but there is always a possibility that it is within MeLCat’s system.

5. Check out the books you are unsure about buying

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Each time you look at your Amazon Wishlist, you may find yourself dreaming of the day you can buy that $80 Van Gogh art book. You can at least gaze at its contents for a month. Buying books online can be expensive and a gamble for good content. Why not try it out and know for sure whether you want it?

6. Be curious, but not overbearing, when using MeLCat

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You can check out up to 50 MeLCat items at one time, but that does not mean you should. Checking out loads of books over-taxes the system, making it take longer for everyone to receive their books. I have always tried to check out a few, then send back a few. Be picky when checking out books, because you care about other students around the state, and your fellow Hillsdalians. Remember friends: MeLCat wisely.