The Library of Congress Online Catalog is the main access point for the Library's collections, providing access to 9 million bibliographic records for books, serials, manuscripts, maps, music, recordings, images, and electronic resources in the Library's collections. The tips on this page provide strategies for locating rare materials in the Library's online catalog.
When searching for material in the Library of Congress Online Catalog, using the Library of Congress Authorities Online Catalog is a useful gateway to success. Authority records have the potential to save researchers a lot of unnecessary frustration. Here's why: authors are occasionally known by more than one name, or operate under a pseudonym. In order to create uniform and searchable records, catalogers choose one name as the official name by which to link all of the author's writings. This official name is called the "Authorized Heading."
Most people haven't. It is one of the names given to the area now known as New Jersey. Researchers working with material from particular locations may experience confusion and frustration, because the names used are often different than the names by which a place is known today.
Over the course of its history, New Jersey has gone by several names, making research potentially complicated. Originally inhabited by the Lenni Lenape (Delaware) people, many of the state's towns and cities have names derived from Native American origins. The region was first officially claimed for Holland by Henry Hudson in 1609 and dubbed "New Netherlands." These origins are still present in certain place names, such as Barnegat, a Dutch name meaning "breaker's inlet." Holland held control of the region until 1664 when England took over, renamed the area New Jersey, and further divided the region into East and West Jersey. In 1702, the two colonies merged into the royal Province of New Jersey; also known as Nova Caesaria. Understanding the origins of place names can be extraordinarily helpful when doing research, particularly the further back in time that you go.
In 1938, the New Jersey Writers' Project began compiling a catalog of the names of governmental and geographic areas in the state. In the end their list contained 930 entries, called the Origin of New Jersey Place Names (PDF 1.3 MB) External, which is available online.
Another useful resource for learning about place names in New Jersey is Henry Gannett's The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. United States: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1905 (PDF, 24.8 MB).
Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) are helpful when searching in the online catalog. Authorized subject headings include standardized topics, names, places, titles, and forms/genres of material. To get you started, the linked subject headings below will perform canned searches in the Library of Congress Online Catalog:
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:
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.
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.