Did you know many libraries collect unique, rare, or hard-to-find archival and primary resources? These are records you won’t find anywhere else, like this enormous 450-year-old book, these 1936 film clips and images from the fifth-deadliest tornado outbreak in U.S. history, mid-century photographs from an African American community in north Georgia, or newspapers documenting the burgeoning indie music scene in Athens, Georgia.
Your library has everything you need to explore family, local, and national history. Here are five quick tips for getting the most out of these free resources:
Define your question. Whether you’re investigating your family history or looking for primary sources for a history paper, defining your research question will help focus your search, ultimately making it faster and easier to find what you need. Try this handy research log to help you keep your eyes on the prize. While it’s geared toward genealogists, the form will be helpful to anyone exploring history.
Make contact. Once you’re there, don’t be afraid to ask questions of the library staff–that’s what they’re there for! If you’re working with special or archival collections, the librarian or archivist on duty may have some great suggestions for other resources to check out.
Dig in. Now comes the fun part. Be sure to revisit your research question and take note of which materials you’ve looked at–whether they helped answer your query or not. Keep track of items you want to come back to, jotting down call numbers and citations along the way. If copying original materials, remember to ask the staff for any reproduction, use, and citation policies.
And of course, have fun. Odds are you’ll discover more questions (and more than a few great books) along the way. History lives at your library!