You’re getting ready to write a research paper. You’ve taken my advice and gone to the library. Now you are going find out how to use the library.
What type of library do you need? If you are a high school student you will probably use your school library, the public library, or maybe an academic library. A college student will go to the academic library at her college or university. But there are other kinds of libraries: private, research, specialized. You probably won’t need them at this point in your research.
The library has many resources for research. Books and other media are classified and shelved by different systems in various libraries. The Dewey Decimal system is used in school, public and small college libraries. The Library of Congress system is used in colleges and university libraries. The Superintendent of Documents system is generally used for a government documents collection at a library that participates in the Depository Library Program (FDLP). If you don’t know what system your library uses, ask a library assistant to help you.
Each item in the library will have a call number in one of the classification systems previously mentioned. Each item will have a unique identification number that is essentially an item’s address. If you have a few moments, take a walk around the library and look at the different call numbers.
Libraries have catalogues that will enable you to find what you are looking for. Most are now online and not in the drawers we used in the old days. You will enjoy searching the catalogue by keyword, subject, title, or author.
What will you find in the library? Books, journals, electronic media, documents, pamphlet, special collections. Let’s start with reference books.
Reference materials can not generally be checked out. These materials provide an overview of a topic including facts and statistics. Almanacsare annual publications with calendars, statistics, and useful facts. The World Almanac and Book of Facts is an example. Atlases have maps and charts. Dictionaries come in general and special versions. Encyclopedias provide the same type of overview and also will be all-purpose or specific subjects. The Encyclopedia Judaica is an example of a specialized encyclopedia.
Bibliographies are systematic lists of books and other works that cover a specific subject. Directories have lists of books, websites, and articles also on a specific subject. The 2009 Internet Directory lists websites, wikis, podcasts, forums, videos, blogs, virtual worlds and social networking. There are glossaries that define technical terms. You will find biographical dictionaries that are books or online.Who’s Who in America has been in print since 1899. There many other reference books like poetry indexes.
We have looked at many different types of reference books in the library. And don’t forget the nonfiction books and materials that are not reference and can be checked out. These are written by experts, such as scientists, scholars, and academics in a particular field. These materials discuss a particular topic in depth and provide citations to other sources on that topic. In the next article we will look at periodicals and electronic search media.