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Ramping Up Your Research: Tips and Resources for Historical Fiction Writers: Where's My Library?

Where's My Library Anyway?

Seriously, just ask Google to "locate the nearest public library".

If your library is really small, check for the largest public library in your state (usually in the main city).

Check their policy about obtaining a library card.  In many states, you can get a library card in any library if you are a resident of the state.

With your library card, you can now  access all the library electronic resources without leaving your home.  Just go to the library web site to see what is available:

What Does the Library Offer?

On the web you only find resources that are freely available.  Everything else will be available through your library, which pays for books, magazine subscriptions and databases and make them available to you. Here's a summary of the resources and services you can find in your library.

  • Friendly librarians with a lot of expertise:
    Librarians are expert searchers. They can save you a lot of time!
  • All the books published in the last 75 years:
    Only old books (out of copyright) are available for free on the web. For all the newer books, you need to go through your library. Everything we listed in the section "The Books You Need" for example, will be found in libraries. Unless you want to purchase them, of course....
  • Access to journals, magazines, and newspapers:
    You can often access the current issues of magazines and newspapers on the web, but not the older ones.  Your library will have access to older issues as well, which is much more useful for historical research.  
  • Powerful, searchable history databases:
    Most large public libraries will provide access to a few history databases useful to find articles on any history topics.
  • Online access to e-books and other digital resources
    With your library card, you will be able to access all the electronic resources at your library from the comfort of your home. That includes e-books, e-journals, databases, and digital collections.
  • Interlibrary Loan Services:  
    If your library doesn't have the book you need, you can use their interlibrary loan service to get it.  Most libraries offer this service for free to their patrons.  

Did You Know?

Did you know that many University Libraries are actually open to the public? Check out the ones near you.  They have fantastic collections and you can usually use the materials in-house, even though you might not be able to check it out.  


Quote of the Day

Google can bring you back 100,000 answers.  A librarian can bring you back the right one.

(Neil Gaiman)

Typical Resources in Large Public Libraries

  • E-Books
  • Encyclopedias and other reference books
  • Journals and Magazines
  • Historical Newspapers (usually the New York Times and the local newspaper)
  • History Databases (U.S and World History)
  • Digital Collections related to local history
    Examples:  Digital Maryland; San Francisco Historical Photos