Finding your materials, part 5:
Use Amazon.com in conjunction with
. . . . . SEAL, WorldCat and online archives

Amazon.com is a VERY useful tool--especially when used in conjunction with your Library and InterLibrary Loan. Libraries tend to share their resources, so even a tiny local library that seems to have very little to offer usually will be able to request resources for you.

Your library catalog, and World Cat are exceedingly helpful in finding Library resources locally, and worldwide (WorldCat). But these catalogs don't have the same flexibility and power for identifying things you may want. Amazon, of course, wants to sell you things--so Amazon has a very high motivation (and budget) to help you find what you need!

To use Amazon strategically:

  • Go to the book section of Amazon.com and type in any search term that comes to mind--something you usually can't do successfully with less flexible Library databases. Be inventive, and phrase your searches in different ways. You'll get all kinds of results: some obvious junk, and some gems. For many of the gems you can use Amazon's "Look Inside" feature to check out the table of contents, the index and some the first pages. Remember that Amazon will mostly feature fairly recent books.
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  • Find something promising? Look it up in your local library catalog and in databases for other libraries: World Cat is helpful, and many regions have local library consortiums. Looking in the local library consortium database (ask your Librarian about this) will usually tell you if the item is in your Library's collection, and if it isn't the local library consortium database--or if you prefer, World Cat-- will tell you where the resource is. Remember that World Cat is very good, but won't always include smaller libraries that may be close by to you.
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  • If the source you want isn't immediately available:
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    • Check to see if it's available on one of the online archives listed in the Archives Online page of this Art Resources site. Look especially at the Digital Libraries - Art and Digital Libraries - General sections. Some sites, such as Open Library, have digital facsimile editions that you can either "borrow" right away, or get on the waiting list to borrow. Digital facsimile editions are of course very helpful as they feature pagination that is the same as the hard copy book.
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    • If you can't find the source in an online digital library, request it IMMEDIATELY through your Library's InterLibrary loan service. It will help to speed things along if you make a note of where the book you want is and to put the location of the book in the appropriate field of the online InterLibrary loan form--being sure also to mention where you found the listing (the local Library consortium database or WorldCat). If a library near you has the resource--be sure to note this in the appropriate spot on the online InterLibrary Loan form.
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  • It's important to move quickly--within the first few weeks of semester--to make your InterLibrary Loan requests. Typically it takes a week or two, sometimes three, for the book to arrive. Usually you can take the book home, but be prepared to photocopy as the loan period is limited--and sometimes the lending library requests a restriction of your local library use only.
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  • The resources mentioned in this section also appear as links on the Research page of the Art History Resources website.

© Jan Mainzer