How Do You Find a Book?

Here are some tricks that librarians use to find books.  I have non-fiction books in mind, but most are also applicable to fiction books.

  1. Get the correct spelling of the author and title. For this, Amazon search engine is more forgiving than the library catalog, so it’s a good idea to cut and paste from there.
  2. Westchester Library System, controlled Subject terms: Once you find a book in the catalog that looks like it fits your criteria, and you want to find more like it, click on the subject links. This is “controlled language” that has been sorted out for you, by librarians, by specific subject headings, so you get rarely false hits.
  3. If you don’t find what you want in our system, go to  You can click on subjects on worldcat, too, (see number 2 above). Worldcat will tell you what libraries in your area have a copy of the book you’re looking for.
  4. Interlibrary Loan service. Ask your Reference Librarian to get a book from outside the Westchester Library system (after you find it on Amazon or Worldcat).
  5. Get an ebook from our catalog. Read this article, “You Can’t Judge a Book by It’s Digital Platform”  to find out how to get an ebook from our catalog.
  6. Get an ebook from Google Books.  Google has scanned books, from title to index at the back of the book.  You may full text search them.  I mention the index because if you are looking for information on topic, it’s better to use the index than to full text search, because indexers, aka humans, have gone through the book for you to look for your topic under different names, and made sure that it is not the same words interpreted differently.
  7. Go to  Google Scholar.  Google Scholar is similar to Google Books, except that these books are “peer reviewed” (aka the kind that teachers like students to use in college).  Remember to check the index, even if it’s full text searching, because the humans who make those indexers find your topic under different names.
  8. Health Resources: Our Health Resources page, accessible from, has specialized databases on Chronic Illnesses, Disabilities, Older Americans, and Pediatrics.  These databases pull together many resources other than books, but the websites and articles are all vetted, and you can look at the websites and articles list of sources to get more books on the topics.
  9. Other sources: even if you use a site like Wikipedia, you can always check the source list and look for the books that they list as a source.
  10. Project Gutenburg  “offers over 53,000 free ebooks: choose among free epub books, free kindle books, download them or read them online.”
  11. JSTOR  journals, books, research reports, primary sources. This is a great resource particularly for History papers.  Make sure you register to use it to get the full benefit!!
  12. Novelist Plus Get a recommendation on what to read next.



Author: Michelle Harvey

Michelle spent many years as special librarian- serving the business community. She is the mother of three, all of whom have very different learning styles, and has been homeschooling since 2010. During that time, she has overseen the raising of chickens, keeping bees, and loving a Sheltland Sheepdog.

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