Libraries, especially ones you are not familiar with, can be a bit overwhelming at times. You don’t know where to start looking and seems like everyone around you knows what they are doing except you.
Well, don’t worry.I have ten tips on using the library to make your visit as easy as possible.
1. Go see the reference librarian. Usually my first problem when I go to a library is I do not know where to go. Well, the person who can tell you what you need to know is the reference librarian. They know the libraries collection very well and can tell you right away if their library has something that can help you in your research or not. They can also instruct you on how to use their library catalog.
2. Remember library ethics. Do not steal written materials; there are photocopiers and scanners available.
3. Learn how to use the library’s search system. Especially if you have never been to that library before, ask someone to assist you with the library’s search system. They will teach the certain key words you may need to help you with your search.
4. Learn to browse. Browse catalogues with books about your topic. Browse book shelves, pull out books and look at their table of contents to get an idea of what’s being covered. Also look at the video and audio collections. Also look into the reference room, there maybe books there that can also help you.
5. Surf the bibliographies (but leave your surfboard at home). Follow up on bibliographic resources or in other words look at the sources that other authors used. Since you are looking up resources that were relevant to that author, there is a good chance that is probably relevant to your topic as well.
6. Use the reference section. In the reference section you can easily find general information about your topic from dictionaries, biographies, almanacs, and other specialized reference material (such as specialized encyclopedias).
7. Search for journal articles and newspapers, not just books. Most libraries have magazines and journal articles on print, CD-ROM, or online.
8. Search for specialized sources using online and portable databases. WORLDCAT is the world’s largest online library catalog. If you start your research in time, you can issue an interlibrary loan (or in other words just borrowing a book from another library). Large libraries usually have a collection of databases on line or on CD-ROM.
9. Search for materials everywhere, and use interlibrary loans to get them. Through WORLDCAT you can see what books other libraries have and request to have it sent to your library so that you can use it.
10. Persevere and keep asking questions!!!! Keep consulting with your reference librarian as you continue your researching process.
I hope these tips helped and see you at the library!
Ali, Delaware Historical Society intern