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American History: Books

Library Catalog Descriptions

Use these catalogs - in the order given - to identify books and e-books, videos, music scores and sound recordings, magazine and journal titles,* newspaper titles,* some government documents, and more...

The library catalog shared by Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin Colleges. Request materials from Colby or Bates using "CBB Request". To locate books within Bowdoin Library, limit your search to just Bowdoin materials; make a note of the location and call number. Access to e-books labelled "Colby Access" or "Bates Access" but not "Bowdoin Access" are not accessible from Bowdoin. Search tips: If you are looking for a specific book, search CBBcat by title or author. For searching a topic, start with a keyword search. When you find some relevant titles, check the subject headings to focus your search or find additional terms for subject searching.

Database of the holdings of academic and public libraries in Maine. MaineCat can also be searched from within CBBcat. Request using "Request This Item". About | List of MaineCat libraries

Extremely large joint catalog of holdings of libraries, primarily in the U.S. Before requesting, use "Find it @ Bowdoin" to determine whether the material is accessible via CBBcat or MaineCat. If not, use "Request this book via Interlibrary Loan".

*To find articles in journals, magazines or newspapers, please search our article databases.

Searching Library Catalogs for History

A catalog search usually begins with a keyword or subject search. History subject headings often start with a geographic heading, subdivided by subject and time. There are also subject headings for specific names of all kinds.


United States History, Civil War, 1861 to 1865
Depressions-1929-United States
United States, Social Conditions, 1960 to 1980
Temperance Societies Etc

A keyword search scans the words in the title, corporate author, and the contents notes.  Keyword searching is especially effective if you are looking for a name, using either very new or very old terminology, or searching for a slightly obscure topic which may have only a chapter written about it.  If you find a relevent book through keyword searching, check the subject headings in the catalog record to find other words or phrases for subject searching.

Browsing the shelves, once you have located the classification numbers for your topic, can also be an effective strategy for finding research material.

Navy recruiting poster,1917
National Archives and Records Administration

Full-text E-books

Strategies for finding e-books

Other sources for e-books

HathiTrust Best Bet
Over 3.7 billion full-text searchable pages from almost 6 million book titles and almost 300,000 serial titles. Hint: To limit your search to materials that you will be able to read full-text, check "Full view only" below the search box. Because Bowdoin College Library is not a HathiTrust member or partner, we can only "download single-page PDFs of all public domain works, full-PDFs of works made available under Creative Commons licenses, and full-PDFs of public domain works that are not subject to third-party agreements". Hint: Many items that we can download only a page at a time from HathiTrust are available for download as a full PDF at Internet Archive or Google Books (linked below). See Help or A User’s Guide to HathiTrust for more information.

Internet Archive
"Includes texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages." Note: Apparently, the full-text is not searchable. See Search Tips for more information.

Digital Public Library of America
"An all-digital library that aggregates metadata — or information describing an item — and thumbnails for millions of photographs, manuscripts, books, sounds, moving images, and more from libraries, archives, and museums around the United States." Note: Not all (any?) materials are full-text searchable.

Google Books
Books from all disciplines, many available full-text and full-text searchable. See Help for more information.

Library of Congress E-books
This guide points to some databases of e-books that may not otherwise be available.

Digital Book Index
"This index is intended as a 'Meta-index' for most major eBook sites, along with thousands of smaller specialized sites. [...] Digital Book Index provides links to more than 165,000 full-text digital books from more than 1800 commercial and non-commercial publishers, universities, and various private sites. More than 140,000 of these books, texts, and documents are available free."

Free Access to E-books and more during COVID-19

Available for a limited time only.

Also check the publisher's website to see whether it is providing free access to the e-book.

Also consult Publishers' Complimentary Content during the Covid Pandemic and our list at Expanded Access to Online Content.

JSTOR. "JSTOR and our publishing partners are committed to serving the scholarly community during this challenging time in which researchers are unable to access print monograph collections. Together, we are making a collection of ebooks freely available through June 30, 2020, for our academic and secondary school participants that do not license the ebooks through JSTOR."

Project Muse. "In response to the challenges created by the global public health crisis of COVID-19, Project MUSE is pleased to support its participating publishers in making scholarly content temporarily available for free on our platform. With many higher education institutions moving into an exclusively online learning environment for the foreseeable future, we hope that easy access to vetted research in the humanities and social sciences, from a variety of distinguished university presses, societies, and related not-for-profit publishers, will help to support teaching, learning, and knowledge discovery for users worldwide."

RedShelf. "To ensure that all students have access to their course materials amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, we're partnering with the publishing community to provide you with up to 7 free eBooks from participating publishers. (Program applies to students at non-profit, semester-based schools, and access runs through May 25th.)"

VitalSource "To assist students at disrupted semester-calendar schools who are losing access to course materials due to Covid-19 campus closures, the companies below agree to offer access to etexts at no charge to students whose classes have moved online from March 16 through May 25, 2020. Students will be able to access the expansive catalog of etexts from participating publishers through the VitalSource Bookshelf app effective immediately."

Lists of lists

COVID-19: Special Offers, Events, News, and Updates From Library Vendors, Publishers, Online Services, and Others by Gary Price at Library Journal

Vendor Love in the Time of COVID-19, aka Vendor COVID-19 Related Donations and Pro Bono Access by UIPO members


Interlibrary Loan

When a book is not available in CBBcat at Bowdoin, Colby, or Bates, search MaineCat to determine whether that network has the book you want. If so, click on "request this item."

If not, the next option is traditional Interlibrary Loan. Interlibrary Loan is also the first stop for all journal articles not available at Bowdoin. Through Interlibrary Loan, you have access to books and journal articles from libraries across the U.S. and in some foreign countries.

You can discover some of the available materials (not including journal articles) through WorldCat. Before requesting through WorldCat, use "Find it @ Bowdoin" to determine whether the material is accessible via CBBcat or MaineCat. If not, use "Request this book via Interlibrary Loan".

To use Interlibrary Loan, you must first register with the system and set up a user name and password. Then fill out a form with information identifying your book or article. (You do not need to know which library has the item you want; the Interlibrary Loan department finds a holding library on your behalf.) Articles are usually sent electronically, while books travel to Bowdoin in hard copy, usually within 5-10 working days. You will be notified when the materials arrive.

Interlibrary Loan & Document Delivery summarizes the Interlibrary Loan options.

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