Skip to main content

Native American Resources from the Rare Book & Special Collections Division

Search Strategies

The Library of Congress Online Catalog is the main access point for the Library's collections, providing access to 18 million bibliographic records for books, serials, manuscripts, maps, music, recordings, images, and electronic resources in the Library's collections.

Search Strategies for Rare Materials

When searching in the online catalog, you can limit your search results to materials held by the Rare Book and Special Collections Division using advanced search:

Image of the online catalog search screen

Additional Search Strategies

When searching for materials related to Native Americans in the Library of Congress collections, and in other repositories, there are several strategies and to keep in mind:

  • Use specific tribal names, such as "Piscataway" or "Nanticoke".
    • Having trouble retrieving results?
      Consider variations in spelling ie. "Maliseet" and "Malecite". 
    • Retrieving too many unrelated results?
      Often tribal names are also used for geographic areas or features, "Piscataway" for example is also a township in New Jersey; try adding "Indians" to your search.
  • Narrow your results further with additional key words such as a state name or the name of an event or ceremony. 
  • Bring older rare materials to the top of your search results by sorting by "Date (oldest to newest)".

Please note: terminology in historical materials and in Library descriptions does not always match the language preferred by members of Native communities. When searching for older material, whether online or in printed guides, it is critical that you use both new and old search terms.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Using authorized subject headings can be helpful when searching in online catalogs. Subject headings include standardized topics, names, places, titles, and forms/genres of material. The linked subject headings below will perform searches in the Library of Congress Online Catalog:

Rare Books and Special Collections

Significant progress has been made in recent years to provide online cataloging records for the Rare Book and Special Collections Division's holdings. The phrase “Request in: Rare Book/Special Collections Reading Room” appears at the bottom of online records for rare books:

If the book is in a special collection within the division's holdings, an abbreviation of that collection name is part of the call number. Examples include "Kislak Coll" for the Jay I Kislak Collection and “Am Imp” for the American Imprint Collection.

Reading Room Card Catalogs for Unprocessed Materials

Special card files in the reading room still provide valuable access information for collections that have not been cataloged and for cataloged collections for which there are no records online. Other special files have provenance, inscription, and binding information on books from many collections.

The division's own dictionary catalog contains 650,000 cards that provide access to almost the whole of the division's collections by author or other form of main entry and, in some instances, by subject and title also. The card file was closed in 1991 and no cards have been added since then. It remains available in the reading room for access to those collections whose records are not yet online.

Other Resources

There is no single catalog that contains records for all items held in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Some items are found only in published bibliographies or divisional finding aids. The staff in the division can help locate and use these additional resources.