How to Find Sources in the Hannon Library (Part 1)

The Len and Dixie Hannon Library at Southern Oregon University is small compared to many academic libraries, but its history collections are well-developed and cover most of world history. Students facing the task of locating useful and important source materials can find themselves confused and lost in a maze of books, journals, and reference materials.

Nevertheless, most student research will require at least some use of off-campus or electronic delivery of books and articles. The Summit Union Catalog Consortium, of which the Hannon Library is a member, can provide most of what you need from off-campus with only a few days wait. Items not held within the Summit system can be requested by ILL with delivery times in most cases of one to two weeks. Given the short academic terms at SOU, early planning and preparation in your research is a must.

Over the next several postings, I will present a number of ideas and suggestions to make your library research task easier and more satisfying.

Here is an outline of the library research process.

  1. Develop a list of search terms.
  2. Develop a list of search sources.
  3. Create a working bibliography.
  4. Sort your sources.
  5. “Mine” for Citations.
  6. Create Final Bibliography.

1. Develop a list of search terms. You will use these to search on-line in the Summit union catalog (which of course includes materials owned by SOU), and to search in printed indexes, bibliographies, and other finding aids. Suppose you are doing a paper on the Japanese internment during World War Two.  Here are some of the terms you will need to use:

  • Second World War
  • Japanese Americans
  • Japanese Internment
  • Japanese Relocation
  • Relocation Camps

Why would you need to use all these (and there may be more)? Because each of them applies to your topic, but each is slightly different. The first one, “Second World War,” is an overall subject that may or may not be useful. You would dredge up so much material that a narrower focus may be necessary. But remember this: “Second World War” will almost certainly be broken down into sub-topics on the computer or in a printed index. You might, therefore, find useful items under:

  • Second World War–Japanese Americans
  • Second World War–Japanese Relocation
  • Second World War–Relocation Camps

Worse yet, some catalogs or indexes may use “World War Two,” “World War II,” or “World War 1939 to 1945” instead of “Second World War.” How can you know? You will know by paying attention to each catalog’s or index’s organizational scheme and terminology. Is all this confusing and inconsistent? Yes, but if you have no tolerance for these variations and peculiarities, then you have no tolerance for research and you should consider taking another course or pursuing another  major.

One very instructive exercise is to try to find your topic in the Library of Congress Subject Guide located near the reference desk. Its four volumes contain a classification scheme used by the Library of Congress and most academic libraries. It represents a complete and expert systematization of knowledge, and it may be arranged in ways that surprise you. Keep this in mind: not everyone sees the world as you do, and knowing this will help you find materials you need.

In short, pay attention to how different catalogers and indexers do things, and conduct your search from as comprehensive a list of terms as possible.

To be continued in “How to Find Sources in the Hannon Library” (Part 2)