For all the effort publishers, reviewers and writers put on the latest best-selling novel, the facts remain that many of us read about (and want) lots of other non-fiction topics. From history to gardening and even science, there’s a whole world to discover and download to our e-reader of choice. However, today’s fragmented marketplace and multiple methods of searching can leave the average user searching multiple sites and web pages looking for new titles to download.
WorldCat can help and there are a few other index sites as well, but today I thought it would be a great time to introduce one of the best ways to search for titles and topics: The Library of Congress Online Catalog.
Located at http://catalog.loc.gov, this online catalog can help you find lists of titles, topics, and quite possibly eBooks on your subject of interest. With 14 million records as well as “romanized” information on foreign language titles you are almost guaranteed to find something.
Not just for eBooks, the catalog contains all types of items and formats, ranging from links to external web sites, PDF copies of books, historic images and regular book information on titles old and new. Does this make it less of a resource for us eBook users? I don’t think so, because even if you can’t find an online eBook, you can still collate together a list that you can take to other sites and libraries and hopefully find that elusive electronic version.
The catalog’s search interface is deceptively simple, yet very powerful. Much like popular search engines, there’s a main entry box to get started with a quick search, yet don’t overlook the advanced options which include phrase searching, Boolean operators (my favorite!), and index searching among others. Using these options, the true power of the catalog becomes apparent. It’s not easy, especially compared to Google, but if you can get a handle on how it works, then you can have some measure of success.
Viewing your results can as equally informative but sometimes challenging. Search results can be skimmed and collated together into a list from which you can download to your computer (or device) or just email them to yourself. This is especially handy for general subject searching, helping to get a basic list of resources together on a favorite topic. At the title level, if you want more information, then it’s possible to sift through extended bibliographic data, even down to the MARC tags.
There are other catalogs to search while you are on the site. While not strictly “eBooks”, these resources can still be part of the experience and resources can be used on your device to some extent. These include the famous Prints & Photographs Online Catalog containing topics ranging from historic American buildings to cartoons and Depression-era historic photographs as well as the SONIC online catalog of audio resources contained in the Library of Congress.
So this is our quick guide to the Library of Congress online catalog. Next time you’re searching for something to read, remember this resource and stop jumping from site to site looking for your next eBook! If you’ve had a chance to use the catalog, let us know in the links below your thoughts. Good resource, bad resource? Or do you even have another catalog that would work even better?
Screenshot: LOC catalog