American Women's History: A Research Guide
Finding Books: Catalogs, Reviews, Etc.
Home Page | Last Update: 4/20/2003 | Suggestion Box

Library Catalogs

Choosing Library Catalogs

Strong women's history collections:

Library Catalog Directories:

Using Library of Congress Subject Headings

Most titles in a library catalog are assigned one or more Library of Congress subject headings. These headings are important because researchers can use them to create more effective searches. Researchers should become familiar with the following sources for guidance in the use of Library of Congress subject headings:

Dickstein, Ruth, Victoria A. Mills, and Ellen J. Waite. Women in LC's Terms: A Thesaurus of Library of Congress Subject Headings Related to Women. Phoenix, Ariz.: Oryx Press, 1988. 221p.

Library of Congress Subject Headings. 19th ed. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, Cataloging Distribution Service, 1996.

The following examples illustrate the importance of Library of Congress subject headings.

Keyword search of: employment black women
Catalog Record from search:

Title: Labor of Love, labor of sorrow: Black women, work, and the family from slavery to the present / Jacqeline Jones.
Publisher: New York: Basic Books, c1985.
Bibliography: Bibliography: p. 406-415.
Afro-American women--Employment--History.
Subject: Afro-American women--History.
Subject: Afro-American families--History.
Explanation: This record was found because "black women" appeared in the title and "employment" appeared in the subject field. However, this search would have not found books with "African American women" in the title. Notice that "Afro-American Women" appears as part of a subject heading. All books about Afro-American women, regardless of title, are assigned this heading.

Keyword Search:
Employment Afro-American Women
Catalog Record from Search:
Author: Clark-Lewis, Elizabeth.
Title: Living in, living out: African American domestics in Washington, D.C., 1910-1940 / Elizabeth Clark-Lewis.
Publisher: Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, c1994.
Subject: Women domestics--Washington (D.C.)--History--20th century.
Afro-American women--Employment--Washington (D.C.)--History--20th century.
This search retrieved all records of books about the employment of African-American women, regardless of the title.

Finding Essays/Chapters Within Books

Library of Congress subject headings indicate the subject of the book as a whole. They do not indicate every subject that a book covers. There are two methods researchers can use to address this limitation:

Method 1: Use keyword searching of library catalogs that include table of contents information.

Keyword search: black women chicago.
Title: Homework: historical and contemporary perspectives on paid labor at home / edited by Eileen Boris and Cynthia R. Daniels.
Publisher: Urbana: University of Illinois Press, c1989.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Contents-Note: Between home and factory : homeworkers in the state / Cynthia R. Daniels -- Black women and paid labor in the home : industrial homework in Chicago in the 1920s / Eileen Boris -- . . .
Subject: Home Labor--United States--History.
Subject: Women--Employment--United States--History
The subject headings indicate that the book as a whole is about home labor and the employment of women. However, the keyword search found "black women" and "Chicago" as part of a chapter title.

Method II

Essay and General Literature Index. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1934-. Also available on CD-ROM and online.
This index provides references to essays within books.

WorldCat: An International "Union Catalog"

Available online as part of OCLC's "FirstSearch" service, WorldCat contains over 32 million records describing books and other materials owned by libraries around the world. Use WorldCat to determine which books have been published, recently and in the past, about a specific topic. Each record in WorldCat indicates which libraries own a particular book. Ask at your local library to determine if you have access to this extremely valuable database. The following article provides useful suggestions for searching WorldCat:

E-Book Collections

History E-Book Project [online]. New York: American Council of Learned Societies, [2002-].
Check with your local library to determine whether you have access to this commercial database. See The History E-Book Project: A Bibliography of Women's History Titles for more information.

Book Reviews

Indexes to Book Reviews

America: History and Life. A Guide to Periodical Literature. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 1964- . The CD-ROM version of this index allows one to limit a search to book reviews. If limited to the printed index, use Part B: Index to Book Reviews.

Book Review Digest. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1905- . Monthly except for February and July with annual cumulations.

Book Review Index. Detroit: Gale Research, 1965- . Bimonthly with annual cumulations.

Reviews in Print Format

The list below includes journals which are considered standard review sources in history, or which focus specifically on women's history or women's studies. In addition, most other history journals include a book review section.

American Historical Review. Washington, D.C.: American Historical Association, 1895- . Five issues/year.

Choice. Middletown, Conn.: Association of College and Research Libraries, 1964- . Eleven issues/year.
Includes brief reviews of books appropriate for academic libraries. The "Topical Index" in each issue includes a "Women's Studies" section. See also:
MacLam, Helen, ed. Choice Reviews in Women's Studies, 1990-1996. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, 1996.
This invaluable collection of over 2,000 reviews is arranged by broad subject. Researchers can use it as a convenient reference to the broad range of books written about women; collection development librarians can use it to build a basic collection in women's studies.

Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women's Studies Resources. Madison, Wisc.: Women's Studies Librarian, University of Wisconsin System, 1980- .
Online description and sample sections:

History: Reviews of New Books. Washington, D.C.: Heldref Publns., 1972- . Quarterly.

Reviews in American History. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973- . Quarterly.
Some libraries offer online access to this journal through Project Muse.
Online description/sample issue from the publisher:

The Women's Review of Books. Wellesley, Mass.: Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, 1983- . Monthly (except August).
Online description from the publisher:

Online Review Sources

In addition to the sites described below, consult AcqWeb's "Directory of Book Reviews on the Web."

H-Net Review Project A major source for quality reviews in many fields of history. Reviews are written by members of the numerous H-Net online discussion groups.

Other Sources for Book Information

Books in Print

Books in Print. New York: R.R. Bowker, 1948- .
All libraries will have the printed version of this multivolume set. Some libraries also offer access to one of several online versions.


AcqWeb's Directory of Publishers and Vendors:

Bookstores Books:
A searchable database of over one million titles.

American Booksellers Association. "Member Directories" [online]. Available from

American Women's History: A Research Guide
Ken Middleton
Middle Tennessee State University Library