Finding library catalogs online is a big Catch-22. In order to find the catalogs, you must use the biggest catalog of them all—the Internet. Directories and search engines can help you find the available catalogs. When working with a search engine, take advantage of the Boolean operator AND to string together some words that pertain to the library you want to locate. For instance, you could use the following search string:
“Allen County” AND library AND genealogy
You might also take advantage of one of the free-form question search engines, such as Ask Jeeves at www.askjeeves.com, and pose a question such as
Where is the Allen County Public Library?
When working in a directory such as Cyndi’s List at www.cyndislist.com, you can do this in two different ways. First, you can look under the Library category. Cyndi’s List shows in alphabetical order those libraries that are online. Mind you, not all of these will have an online searchable catalog. Some may have information only about their location and hours of operation and tidbits about their holdings. Even if they don’t offer a searchable online catalog, at least you will have a link to check.
The other method, which I find easier and more likely to generate positive results, is to use the appropriate locality category for the library in question. For instance, to find out if the Allen County Public Library has a Web site, I would begin in Cyndi’s List by scrolling through the headings until I got to the United States category. While I could click on this, links to each of the states are in a chart on this front page.
The Allen County Public Library is in Indiana. Clicking on the Indiana link displays a list of links pertinent to Indiana. On this page the sites are further divided by standard headings such as Societies, Archives and Libraries, and so forth. You can either scroll down this page using your scroll bar, or you can click these heading links to go directly to the set of links you want—in this case click Archives and Libraries.
Clicking on the link for the Allen County Public Library will take you to its home page at www.acpl.lib.in.us. The Allen County Public Library is not just a genealogy library; it is a fully staffed county public library. It does put a certain importance on genealogy on the site, though. Having spoken with Curt Witcher, the manager of the genealogy and history department, a few times, I know he cares that genealogists and family historians are able to find useful information on the Web site. Not all public libraries will include Web pages devoted to genealogy.
One other method for locating libraries is to take advantage of a Web site that does nothing but compile a list of libraries with online catalogs. Such lists omit those libraries that may have a Web presence but have not put their catalogs online (see below for suggested sites).
With the Genealogical Library Master Catalog at www.onelibrary.com, you can simultaneously search 18 major US libraries on CD-ROM. This catalog ($39.50 for the three-CD set or $14.50 per CD) helps you find any publications about your family or their hometown, as well as learn how to access them through interlibrary loans or photocopy requests. The catalog consists of three CD-ROMs, each listing 100,000 genealogy books and manuscripts, including family histories, local histories and genealogical sources.
PC users with Windows 98 or higher and Macs users with a Power PC or newer can run the catalog. You’ll also need Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator; Net access is recommended, but not required. Order from (877) 234-3001. (For a complete review of the Genealogical Library Master Catalog, see the December 2001 issue of Family Tree Magazine.)
Look for online library catalog links on these Web sites:
- Libweb Library WWW Servers sunsite.berkeley.edu/Libweb
- LibDex: The Library Index www.libdex.com
- Gateway to Library Catalogs lcweb.loc.gov/z3950
- Library of Congress: State Libraries lcweb.loc.gov/global/library/statelib.html
- Directory of Genealogy Libraries in the US www.gwest.org/gen_libs.htm
- Library Links www.familytreemagazine.com/articles/librarylinks.html
Rhonda McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in New England research and computerized genealogy. She writes about family history for several publications and Web sites, and lectures frequently across the country. This article is excerpted from her latest book, The Genealogist’s Computer Companion (Betterway Books, $18.99).