Topics • Computer Search• Background • Computer searches are great, but they can be confusing. Libraries are usually afﬁliated or connected to other libraries (university • For some students, one of the biggest differences between high school and college is the amount and depth of research that is systems or county systems). For this reason, the computer databases will often list books that are not located in your local library. required for research papers. • For instance, your public library computer may give you a “hit” on a certain book. On closer inspection, you may discover that this • College professors expect students to be quite adept at researching, and for some students, this is a big change from high book is only available at a different library in the same system (county). Don’t let this confuse you! school. This is not to say that high school teachers dont do a great job of preparing students for college level research—quite the contrary! • This is actually a great way to locate rare books or books that are published and distributed within a small geographic location. Just be aware of codes or other indication which specify the location of your source. Then ask your librarian about interlibrary loans. • Teachers ﬁll a tough and essential role in teaching students how to research and write. College professors simply require students to take that skill to a new level. • If you want to limit your search to your own library, it is possible to conduct internal searches. Just become familiar with the system. • For example, you may soon discover that many college professors won’t accept encyclopedia articles as sources. Encyclopedias are great for ﬁnding a compact, informative accumulation of research on a speciﬁc topic. They are a great resource for ﬁnding the basic facts, but they are limited when it comes to offering interpretations of the facts. • When using a computer, be sure to keep a pencil handy and write down the call number carefully, to avoid sending yourself on a wild goose chase! • Professors require students to dig a little deeper than that, accumulate their own evidence from broader sources, and form opinions about their sources as well as the speciﬁc topics. • Remember, it’s a good idea to consult the computer and the card catalog, to avoid missing a great source. • For this reason, college-bound students should become familiar with the library and all its terms, rules and methods. They should also have the conﬁdence to venture outside the comfort of the local public library and explore more diverse resources. • Research is fun• Card Catalog • If you already enjoy research, youll grow to love special collections departments. Archives and special collections contain the most interesting items youll encounter as you conduct your research, such as valuable and unique objects of historical and cultural signiﬁcance. • For years, the card catalog was the only resource for ﬁnding much of the material available in the library. Now, of course, much of the catalog information has become available on computers. • Things like letters, diaries, rare and local publications, pictures, original drawings, and early maps are located in special collections. • But not so fast! Most libraries still have resources that haven’t been added to the computer database. As a matter of fact, some of the most interesting items—the items in special collections, for instance—will be the last to be computerized. • Each library or archive will have a set of rules relevant to its own special collections room or department. Normally, any special collection will be set apart from the public areas and will require special permission to enter or to access. • There are many reasons for this. Some documents are old, some are hand-written, and some are too fragile or too cumbersome to handle. Sometimes it’s a matter of manpower. Some collections are so extensive and some staffs are so small, that the • Before you decide to visit a historical society or another archive, you should become familiar with the way that archivists typically collections will take years to computerize. protect their treasures. Below youll ﬁnd some tips for understanding some common practices and procedures. • For this reason, it’s a good idea to practice using the card catalog. It offers an alphabetical listing of titles, authors, and subjects. • You may be required to put most of your belongings into a locker as you enter the room or building where special items are held. The catalog entry gives the call number of the source. The call number is used to locate the speciﬁc physical location of your Things like pens, markers, beepers, phones, are not permitted, as they could damage delicate collection items or disrupt other source. researchers.• Call Numbers • You may ﬁnd special collections materials by doing a normal library search with index cards, but the search process may differ from place to place. • Each book in the library has a speciﬁc number, called a call number. Public libraries contain many books of ﬁction and books • Some libraries will have all the collections materials indexed in their electronic databases, but some will have special books or relevant to general use. guides for the special collections. Dont worry, someone will always be on hand to guide you and let you know where to ﬁnd materials that sound interesting. • For this reason, public libraries often use the Dewey Decimal System, the preferred system for ﬁctional books and general use books. Generally, ﬁction books are alphabetized by author under this system. • Some material will be available on microﬁlm or microﬁche. Film items are usually kept in drawers, and you can probably retrieve either of these yourself. Once you ﬁnd the right ﬁlm, you will need to read it on a machine. These machines may differ from place to place, so just ask for a little direction. • Research libraries use a very different system, called the Library of Congress (LC) system. Under this system, books are sorted by topic instead of author. • If you conduct a search and identify a rare item youd like to view, you will probably have to ﬁll out a request for it. Ask for a request form, ﬁll it in, and turn it in. One of the archivists will retrieve the item for you and tell you how to handle it.You may have to sit at a • The ﬁrst section of the LC call number (before the decimal) refers to the subject of the book. That is why, when browsing books speciﬁc table and wear gloves to view the item. on shelves, you will notice that books are always surrounded by other books on the same topic. • Does this process sound a little intimidating? Dont be frightened off by the rules! They are put into place so that archivists can • Library shelves are usually labeled on each end, to indicate which call numbers are contained within the particular aisle. protect their very special collections! • Youll soon ﬁnd that some of these items are so intriguing and so valuable to your research that theyre well worth the extra effort.